HARARE – Impending by-elections are piling pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa as they are already widening divisions in his Zanu PF party and complicating his plans to extend his rule beyond 2023.
A fortnight ago Mnangagwa told his supporters in Chimanimani that by-elections would he held in the first quarter of next year without giving any dates, but Zanu PF insiders said there was no consensus in the ruling party on whether to go on with the polls.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga suspended by-elections last year citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Critics accuse Mnangagwa’s government of hiding behind the pandemic to delay the polls at a time when Zimbabwe’s neighbours have safely organised elections.
There are over a dozen vacant parliamentary seats and hundreds of local government posts created by the mass recalling of MDC Alliance elected representatives by the Douglas Mwonzora led MDC-T in controversial circumstances.
Zanu PF insiders disclosed that Mnangagwa’s indication that by elections were imminent has triggered fissures in the ruling party, which is divided along factional lines.
A faction loyal to Mnangagwa is said to be opposed to the by-elections, hence the dithering in proclaiming dates.
Mnangagwa is said to be opposed to by-elections because they will likely dislodge Mwonzora in Parliament as they are allegedly plotting together to have a unity government, citing an economic crisis that warrants suspension of the polls for over seven years.
But a camp loyal to Mnangagwa’s deputy, Chiwenga is said to be in support of the holding of by-elections.
“Mnangagwa is making public statements that by-elections will be held due to international pressure but he does not want the polls to be held,” an insider said.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources disclosed that Mnangagwa did not want the by-elections, describing his announcement as a sign that he was succumbing to international pressure.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba was not picking his mobile phone when reached for comment.
Charamba last week claimed the opposition was making calls for electoral reforms to scuttle the holding of elections, adding Mnangagwa was poised for a massive victory.
Twelve of the by-elections will be held in Harare, an MDC Alliance stronghold.
In June last year, Mwonzora secretly met Mnangagwa at State House where he made proposals to have elections suspended and commencement of dialogue through Parliament.
In October, MDC-T national chairman Morgan Komichi called for postponement of elections claiming without reforms, they will produce another disputed poll.
He said the suspension of elections would pave way for dialogue between his party and Mnangagwa over electoral reforms.
The 2023 elections, he said, would be “a waste of time”.
Mwonzora’s spokesperson Lloyd Damba yesterday denied allegations that his leader was plotting with Mnangagwa to suspend elections indefinitely.
“We do not fear getting into an election with a nameless party and an individual but we fear the debilitating economic crisis, the erosion of pensions and poverty and disease in this country as well the toxic politics of this country,” Damba said.
“Otherwise we are fully prepared for all elections and we know we will win.
“On the GNU (with Zanu PF), we are in the middle of consulting our party organs and members on the position on dialogue, and what comes out of that dialogue is a result of the dialogue process.”
Chiwenga last week said he supported a change of the constitution to make Mnangagwa a life president but sources said he was forced to make the statement as a way of absolving himself from allegations of leading a faction. – The Standard