LOVEMORE Madhuku’s new political party faces its first political test in the Bikita West by-election amid internal differences on whether or not to participate in the looming poll following Munyaradzi Kereke’s expulsion from the National Assembly.
Last Thursday, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, declared Bikita West vacant after ZANU-PF disowned Kereke, who stood and won on its ticket in the July 31 polls against the party’s preferred candidate, Elias Musakwa.
The declaration has given rise to the need for a by-election in Bikita West which offers a possible introduction for Madhuku’s National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) into the rough and tumble of Zimbabwean politics in the aftermath of last month’s decision to transform the pressure group into a political party.
Madhuku remains the new party’s interim leader until a substantive executive is chosen at the inaugural congress slated for March next year.
Indications are that the candidates have already been lined up for key positions.
The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ)’s executive director, Takura Zhangazha, has since resigned from his current job and is tipped to contest for the position of secretary-general in the new organisation.
Zhangazha confirmed he will leave the VMCZ on November 30, and added that he has always been an NCA member but was evasive on eyeing the secretary-general’s position.
“As for speculation over my joining the NCA, I have been a member since 1997 and intend to continue being a member in the future. So I will register to attend the NCA’s inaugural party congress as a member until such time I am allocated other duties,” said Zhangazha.
The question on whether or not to participate in Bikita West has since emerged in the NCA with one group being of the view that Kereke won fair and square and participating would be plunging the new organisation into ZANU-PF’s factional fights.
The anti-poll group contends that the party must first build its structures throughout the country and then wait for its official launch and congress where party leaders would be chosen, before contending with elections.
NCA’s director for information and publicity, Blessing Vava, said a decision on whether or not to participate would be reached at a meeting on October 27, but they were ready to contest.
“We are discussing that at our taskforce meeting slated for October 27, and we will come up with a position, but as a party we are more than ready to participate in that election. The party will be launched in March next year at the inaugural congress,” said Vava.
The NCA, according to Vava, would hold another indaba “for those non-NCA members who are willing to be part of the interim taskforce. This group includes some of the comrades we have been working with especially during the referendum.”
Sources this week said the NCA spokesperson, Madock Chivasa, who hails from Bikita would be a top contender to land the party’s candidacy should a decision be taken to participate.
Asked if he would stand in Bikita West, Chivasa said the decision rests with the party.
“I was born and grew up in Bikita. If chosen, I am more than ready to work for the people of Bikita as their Member of Parliament,” said Chivasa.
This is not the first time that a by-election has been held in Bikita West following a general election.
In the June 2000 general poll, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won the seat, but its representative passed away less than six months later, triggering another by- election.
Subsequent voting took place in January 2001 and ZANU-PF reclaimed the seat.
The poll was, however, marred by allegations of violence and intimidation where war veterans’ leaders Joseph Chinotimba and Chenjerai Hunzvi (now late) were central in ZANU-PF’s campaigns while Job Sikhala spearheaded the MDC’s campaign.
Sikhala, now MDC99 president and an NCA ally, said he would be back in Bikita West, which is near his rural home to campaign should his new allies decide to field a candidate.
“I have fond memories of the constituency, where l battled against the Chenjerai Hunzvi led ZANU-PF campaign during a by-election in the early 2001 where l was spearheading the campaign to retain the constituency. We matched ZANU-PF pound for pound until they resorted to blackmail and arrests and fought a vicious war at Nyika Growth Point and attempted to arrest me, where l resolved to flee into the mountains and launched Operation Mountain Top, where l campaigned from mountains every evening,” said Sikhala.
“It is a constituency, not far from my home. We are in Gutu seated at the boundary, a stone’s throw from Bikita.
“We do almost everything together…This time l will go back to Bikita to campaign for a candidate of my choice.”
But as Madhuku and his allies plot their next move, some observers have pointed out that the challenge today in Zimbabwe was not about forming new parties as they will lead nowhere against ZANU-PF’s dominance, but to coalesce for them to make an impact.
Madhuku’s new political party is tipped to get most of its membership and support from disgruntled MDC-T and MDC members, with no much impact on ZANU-PF.
Last week, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general, Japhet Moyo, said the labour movement was instrumental in the NCA’s formation and it was wrong for anyone to transform it into a political party.
He said those involved should have left the pressure group to pursue their own interests adding that the mushrooming of opposition parties would lead Zimbabwe nowhere.