HARARE – Zanu PF legislators who lost in the recently-held primary polls are becoming rebellious in their attitude in the National Assembly which could force the ruling party to rely on the whip system to push through its legislative agenda.
The party primaries, held between April 29 and May 3, saw several sitting Members of Parliament — including Cabinet ministers — failing to proceed to the eagerly-awaited general elections due either in July or August, after tripping and falling at the first hurdle.
The list includes Mike Bimha, Christopher Mushowe, Nyasha Chikwinya, Abednico Ncube, Douglas Mombeshora, David Chapfika, Washington Masvaire, Ricky Mawere, Tendai Makunde, Ladislous Ndoro, John Holder, William Dhewa, Mathias Siqhoza Ndlovu, Matrine Mudau and Luke Masamvu.
A variety of malpractices unravelled during the emotive polls, among them inordinate delays in supplying voting material to polling centres, vote rigging and violence, which forced the party to sanction re-runs in 14 constituencies.
Emotions have been running wild ever since the chaotic primaries, with some of the aggrieved parties threatening to drill holes into Zanu PF’s chances of extending its rule at the forthcoming national vote.
The disgruntlement has spilled into Parliament, where more than a third of Zanu PF’s sitting MPs are licking their wounds after failing to proceed to the next round of voting, thus creating fresh challenges for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s party, which has a packed legislative agenda ahead of it.
Crucially, Zanu PF is trying to rally behind its lawmakers to forestall amendments to the Electoral Act being pushed for by the main MDC opposition party to level the electoral playing field, currently skewed in favour of the governing party.
Zanu PF is therefore having a torrid time in reining in the rebellious lawmakers who now feel they have very little to gain from advancing its agendas after losing the discredited internal polls.
Last week, some of the losing legislators, among them Zindi (Mutasa South), Holder (Zvishavane-Ngezi) and Chapfika (Mutoko South) stole the limelight from their MDC counterparts who normally torment Cabinet ministers with stinging remarks and hard-hitting questions.
During question time mid last week Holder, who lost to little-known Dumezweni Mpofu received wild cheers from MDC and Zanu PF legislators for his no-holds-barred contributions.
He grilled Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa over the biting cash shortages roiling the financial sector, and his contributions set the tone for an eventful week.
Holder alleged that Mnangagwa’s government had done nothing in its first 100 days in office to ease the cash crisis, which has resulted in bank clients spending long hours in queues in order to access their money.
But even after spending those punishing hours, most banks have restricted withdrawals to $20 per day.
“Could the minister please update this House on the issue of cash problems, especially in the country, in the banks? What is government doing to ease the cash process?
In his response, a visibly irritated Chinamasa, said MPs must take the lead by embracing plastic money, such as credit cards, to avoid the queues and lead by example.
But Holder could not be intimidated by Chinamasa’s inference that he was not modern. He changed his line of questioning by taking the Treasury chief to task over revenues generated from Zimbabwe’s vast mineral resources.
He said while the country prides itself of robust mineral wealth which includes chrome, diamonds, gold and all sorts of minerals, it has nothing to show for because the cash situation has remained acute.
He was also critical of the relevance of the current arrangement whereby artisanal miners are paid the bulk of their earnings (70 percent) in hard currency, and the remainder in bond.
Chinamasa said much of the revenue received from mineral exports was being expended on importing essential imports such as fuel and electricity.
“I am very grateful to Holder for his question because it affords me an opportunity to explain very basic economics,” he said, tongue in cheek, before dismissing Holder’s logic as “very unreasonable”.
The response, however, failed to satisfy the clearly agitated legislators who had now teamed up with their MDC counterparts in throwing brick-bats at Chinamasa.
Chapfika, who lost to David Shumbamhini in Mutoko South, blasted Chinamasa saying: “What we are discussing here is an important issue and you are hiding behind a finger and becoming technical.
“In other words, the minister is condoning the practice of illegal cash deals on the basis of technical issues of demand and supply. It takes us back to the (former central bank governor) Gideon Gono era and the minister needs to be serious because this is not a technical issue, but a policy issue,” said Chapfika.
Zindi, who also failed to make it during the primary elections after losing to Misheck Mugadza in Mutasa South, blasted government, saying it was doing very little to deal with money-changers.
She said it boggled the mind that money-changers could be seen everywhere in town and in every city with no action whatsoever from government.
Zanu PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke confirmed there were some discontented lawmakers from his party who are now using the National Assembly to vent out their frustrations.
Matuke said instead of taking their personal wars to the legislature, the MPs must use party structures to air their grievances.
“Of course, they are disgruntled, but it was a democratic process, which was done by the party. They must complain to the party, not to show their disgruntlement in Parliament,” said Matuke.
“They must not be emotional on these issues because out of many people in every constituency in, one is chosen to represent people. If they think it was not proper and it was not fair, they must engage the party,” he added.
Political analyst told the Daily News last week that it was inevitable that MPs who lost will continue to respond in various forms, including defecting to Zanu PF’s rivals.
He said the MDC was likely to encounter the same situation once it is done with its primary polls.
“Zanu PF is a cult-like institution where you have to follow the leader’s line to continue to benefit. The MPs who lost in primaries are likely to respond in various ways: Some will defect to other parties, some will remain loyal to Zanu PF in anticipation of being accommodated in other roles in party and government once Ngwena (Mnangagwa’s nickname) wins the presidential polls,” opined Maxwell Saungweme.
“Because most of them are career politicians, they are unlikely to rebel and face recall from Parliament. We are also going to see a fall out from MDC-T primaries. So this will affect both parties in a way. It’s a problem on either side of the divide. It must worry both MDC-T and Zanu PF — the main contenders in the poll,” he added.
Political analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said it was not wise for those who lost in the party primaries to turn against their party if they still hope to work with Zanu PF in future.
He therefore ruled out an outright rebellion saying most of the MPs who lost primaries will “do nothing much in terms of rebelling against the party”.
“They will not consider principles but bread and butter issues. Plus it is normal for the fallen to come back in future. Again, their party will find space for them if their party wins. The only source of challenge is that everyone is seeing the downfall of ED,” said Hamauswa. – Daily News