Zimbabwe Ruling Party Primaries Marked by Upsets And Mayhem

(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe’s ruling party saw some major upsets and raucous bickering during its primaries this week ahead of general elections due by August.

Senior officials including Oppah Muchinguri, the chairwoman of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, Industry Minister Mike Bimha and Chris Mutsvanga, an adviser to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, all lost the nominations in their constituencies, according to tallies released by the party on Thursday. Mutsvanga said in a letter to Zanu-PF that he rejected the results.

The primaries in some areas took place amid chaos after ballot papers arrived late or were delivered to the wrong locations. In several wards in Mashonaland West Province, brawls broke out and opposing sides threw bottles at each other, according to Jairos Wirirani, who went to vote in the small farming town of Raffingora, north of the capital, Harare.

“It’s not surprising that the old guard is falling,” Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said by phone from Harare. “We’re seeing a reconfiguration of politics in Zanu-PF, and by extension Zimbabwe.”

Approved Candidates

Before the resignation in November of Robert Mugabe, who ruled the southern African nation since 1980, Zanu-PF usually imposed approved candidates.

Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe as president and the head of Zanu-PF, said in an interview with the state-controlled Herald newspaper published on Wednesday that the disorganization in the primaries was a result of a bid “to root democracy into the party.”

On Thursday, he acknowledged complaints that police helped organize the voting process in some areas and told the Herald that the practice was illegal.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change will hold its primaries next week, a spokesman for the party, Luke Tamborinyoka, said by phone Thursday.

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