Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has allowed former opposition members to contest in this week’s internal polls, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa breaks with tradition, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.
Ahead of Zanu-PF’s primary polls set for Saturday, former members of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will be among the contestants.
Winners of the primary elections earn the right to represent Zanu-PF in crunch general elections expected in July or August this year.
Former G40 members, who were aligned to the late president Robert Mugabe during divisions in the party before the 2017 coup, have also been given the greenlight to contest in the primary elections.
Traditionally, Zanu-PF members returning from suspension after joining the opposition, or for other reasons only become ordinary card-carrying members.
They will not be allowed to contest for any positions until a minimum period of five years lapses.
Zanu-PF’s internal elections were initially slated for Saturday last week, but were shelved following an overwhelming response by aspirants, who want to represent the party in the senatorial, national assembly and council elections.
While the party received as many as 15 contestants vying for some constituencies and council seats, Zanu-PF insiders said concessions were being reached to reduce the numbers.
“There are areas where leaders have been overwhelmed, but there has been a trend in Zanu-PF where candidates reach consensus and pave way for each other,” a source said this week.
The Independent understands that concessions have been reached in several districts, including Gutu Masvingo, where Mines minister Winston Chitando and National Housing deputy minister Yeukai Simbanegavi were vying for the Gutu Central candidacy.
However, according to the final list released on Wednesday, Chitando will stand uncontested.
Simbanegavi will represent the party in the women’s quota for the district.
Zanu-PF national secretary for the commissariat Mike Bimha confirmed this week that there were challenges in some areas.
“The politburo went through the CVs,” Bimha said. “The instructions were clear that no CV was to be denied. Those meeting the requirements were allowed to contest. A decision was made to allow members from CCC and MDC as returnees to contest if they wanted to for any seats they so desired.”
The decision to let former opposition members to contest in the primaries would be a welcome development for members like Tongai Matutu, a leading official in the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC.