HARARE (Bloomberg) — Zimbabwe’s ruling party, which has retained power for more than four decades through a series of disputed votes, is undergoing a makeover by adding fresh faces to its lineup of lawmaker candidates to contest upcoming elections.
The move by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front — long-dominated by elderly war veterans who fought against colonial and White-minority rule — is aimed at increasing its appeal among an increasingly youthful electorate. The party’s nominee legislators include a flamboyant businessman, a former Oxford university professor, an ex-soap opera actress and a musician.
The upper echelons of the party will, however, continue to be dominated by its old guard, including incumbent leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 80, who will seek a second term in the elections that are scheduled for Aug. 23. His main challenger will be 45-year-old Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change.
These are some of the ruling party’s most prominent rising stars:
Widely known as Scott, the 44-year-old businessman is running for a seat in the national parliament and is spending $2.5 million of his own money to fix roads in his constituency to shore up his support. He became a councilor in the city council in Harare, the capital, a year ago, winning his post in the poor township of Mabvuku-Tafara — an opposition stronghold. Sakupwanya is known for his flashy lifestyle — he drives around Harare in a Rolls Royce Cullinan and a Mercedes Maybach, and has ties to Floyd Mayweather, serving as the African ambassador for the former American boxer’s The Money Team clothing brand. Better Brands, a company owned by Sakupwanya, is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest gold traders and is building a refinery in Bulawayo, the second-largest city. The firm was one of the main sponsors of a concert held in Harare last year that featured American rapper Rick Ross.
A former University of Oxford professor, Ncube was appointed as finance minister by Mnangagwa in 2018 to help revive an economy that fell into disarray during Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule — a brief he’s struggled to fulfill. While he initially remained aloof from Zimbabwe’s fractious political arena, he has risen within Zanu-PF’s ranks in recent months, joining its politburo and central committee and being appointed as its deputy finance secretary. The 58-year-old has now entered the electoral arena for the first time — he’s standing as a lawmaker for Cowdray Park, Bulawayo’s largest constituency. He will square off against Thokozani Khuphe, an opposition heavyweight and former deputy prime minister. Ncube has pledged to improve the delivery of basic services in Bulawayo and has presided over the roll-out of free Internet hot-spots, road rehabilitation projects, the drilling of water boreholes and the replacement of vandalized power infrastructure while on the campaign trail. He’s dismissed speculation that he may seek even higher office.
An actress and award-winning Afro-pop musician, Ndebele, 41, first indicated her interest in politics when she endorsed Mnangagwa’s presidential campaign in the run-up to 2018 elections. She went on to become the Zanu-PF Women’s League provincial representative for young women and in March announced plans to run for a city council seat in opposition-controlled Bulawayo. Over the course of her musical career, Ndebele has toured the globe, playing to audiences in countries including China, the UK, Russia and Canada, and she’s taken advantage of her popularity to bolster support for Zanu-PF among young women.
Tatenda Annastacia Mavetera
The 36-year-old became a household name after starring in Studio 263, a popular local soap opera in the early 2000s. She capitalized on her stardom to launch a political career and in 2018 became one of the country’s youngest lawmakers when she was nominated to fill part of a quota of seats allocated to women. She has frequently stood in as the Speaker of Parliament in the absence of Jacob Mudenda. Mavetera is a prominent figure in Young Women for ED, a ruling party affiliate that seeks to canvass support for Mnangagwa in the upcoming election. She is running for direct election to the national legislature in the Chikomba West constituency in the Mashonaland East province.
–With assistance from Gina Turner.