Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party strengthened its majority in parliament, Wednesday, by swearing in 17-new members to the House of Assembly, bringing the number of Zanu-PF parliamentarians in the lower chamber to more than 200 out of a total of 270. Sixteen of those sworn in were winners of the recently held June 10th by-election.
This number is likely to increase with the next batch of by-elections to fill five-vacancies due to death, as in the case of late Mudzi West legislator, Acquillina Katsande, as well as those expelled from the Zanu-PF party, including Mwenezi East legislator, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, Marondera Central’s Ray Kaukonde, and the late legislator for Epworth, Amos Midzi, who’s death was ruled a suicide. Before his death, Midzi had been suspended from Zanu-PF for five years, for his alleged ties to ousted former Vice President Joyce Mujuru, who was accused of plotting to overthrow President Mugabe.
New MP for Highfield West
Newly sworn-in legislator Psychology Maziwisa, a lawyer and Zanu-PF information director, is now the MP for Highfield West, a seat formerly held by Moses Manyengavana, who was among 21-members of the opposition MDC-Renewal Team, who lost their seats in a recall by the opposition MDC formation of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, because they broke away to form their own party, with former finance minister, Tendai Biti.
Maziwisa’s victory in Highfield West, makes him the first Zanu-PF candidate to win in the MDC stronghold in 15-years. He said he will serve his new constituency well.
“Its an opportunity now in my official capacity as a member of parliament for Highfield West to really bring about development in that constituency,” Maziwisa said.
All formations of the MDC parties boycotted the by-elections, citing lack of adequate reforms, to guarantee free and fair elections. Many reports leading up to the polls alluded to low voter turn-out, as a result of apathy, partly due to MDC’s call for a boycott, and fear, due to intimidation and violence.
Hurungwe West Violence Deters Candidate
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network or ZESN, labelled the by-elections as violent, especially in the Hurungwe West constituency of ousted Zanu-PF legislator, Themba Mliswa, who ran as an independent, but lost to Zanu-PF’s Keith Guzah. The chairpeson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission or ZEC, Rita Makarau declined to comment on the alleged violence in Hurungwe West, because the matter is before the courts.
As a result of the reported violence in Hurungwe West, Bhasiki says he will not contest his Mwenezi East seat in upcoming by-elections, as Mliswa did, citing fear for the safety of his supporters.
“Looking at the way they have harassed people in Hurungwe West, and persecuted and some maimed, killed,” Bhasikiti said, “it’s not necessary that I can cause my people to be subjected to such humiliation.”
Bhasikiti further argued that he should not have to contest, “over a mandate which they had given me. I’ll not do that,” he said.
MDC Renewal Team Ponders Loss to Zanu-PF
Meanwhile, the Zanu-PF victories in the recent by-elections, have left a sour taste in the mouths of many of the legislators who once held those seats. Take the case of former Dzivarasekwa legislator, Solomon Madzore of the MDC Renewal Team, who lost his seat as a result of switching from Mr. Tsvangirai’s party, on whose ticket he was elected. Madzore says he worries about the development projects he had lined up in his former constituency. He said he doubts that Zanu-PF, whose candidate Omega Hungwe won his old seat, will advance democracy.
“You realize that we have gone backwards as far as the democratization agenda of this country is concerned,” Madzore said.
With Zanu-PF promising to continue sweeping up all and any available vacated seats, many wonder if Mr. Tsvangirai and his party will ditch their election boycott, and participate in the next polls? Party spokesperson Obert Gutu, responded this way.
“Our position as fully enunciated at our 4th national congress last year has not changed,” Gutu clarified, adding, “there is nothing on the ground that has happened to make the MDC change its position not to participate.”
Opposition NCA Forges On
Other parties however, like the National Constitutional Assembly which contested in most of the June 10 by-elections, said despite low odds of winning, they will contest. The president of the NCA party, constitutional lawyer and University of Zimbabwe professor, Lovemore Madhuku, said while reforms are necessary for credible elections to be held, their objective currently is not to win.
“The purpose of our participation for now up to 2018, is to introduce the NCA as a political party to the electorate,” Madhuku said. “It’s not about winning these elections.”
For years a host of European countries have Zimbabwe’s elections, which they have termed violent, chaotic and blatantly tilted in favor of President Mugabe. However, many African leaders and observer groups, have praised the elections as credible.