PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party has reportedly chickened out of another potentially expensive round of parliamentary by-elections and instead resorted to “phony suspensions” of “rebel” party officials who under normal circumstances would have been expelled and recalled from Parliament, NewsDay has learnt.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Party sources yesterday also said the suspension route was adopted as a cost-cutting measure after realising that another round of by-elections would drain its coffers as the “witch hunt” of all legislators linked to ousted former Vice-President Joice Mujuru would have exposed nearly 100 MPs.
The sources said the party also feared the prospect of losing some of its key rural seats to independent candidates if it went ahead with plans to expel the so-called Gamatox MPs and recall them from Parliament.
The legislators were accused of fanning factionalism and conniving with Mujuru to overthrow Mugabe.
Zanu PF’s politburo last week expelled seven former ministers and suspended 13 MPs for periods ranging from two to five years, but it has since emerged that the “suspensions” were adopted as a smart way of circumventing a financially-crippling snap poll that would have drained both the party and government’s resources.
Instead, the party would now have to contend with only three fresh by-elections to fill the seats left vacant by the expulsion of former Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, ex-Mashonaland East chairperson Ray Kaukonde and Mbire MP David Butau.
“The politburo realised that the party, like all other institutions in the country, is financially troubled and would not be able to fund almost half a general election. You will realise that the by-elections caused by the MDC-T move to recall Renewal MPs is estimated to cost about $50 million. The country would need another $50 million or even more if Zanu PF followed the same route and recalled MPs while the parties would require more for campaigns,” impeccable sources said.
Zanu PF is currently seized with campaigns for 14 by-election seats that fell vacant after the main opposition MDC-T recalled its former MPs accusing them of crossing the floor to join the MDC Renewal Team. The by-elections, which have been boycotted by the MDCs, have been slated for June 10.
“It was, therefore, resolved that we would rather suspend these members, but let them hold their seats until the next general election, but they will not be allowed to take part in the 2018 polls.”
If Zanu PF had taken the route of expelling all legislators linked to the Mujuru faction, the axe would have fallen on several former key officials among them Nicholas Goche, Amos Midzi, Tendai Savanhu, Munacho Mutezo, Christopher Chigumba, Enoch Porusingazi, Callisto Gwanetsa, Chiratidzo Mabuwa and Tranos Huruba, to name but a few.
Contacted for comment over the issue yesterday, Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, however, said: “I would not be able to comment on issues of finances. The secretary for finance (Obert Mpofu) would know better. We suspended members from their positions and they will remain card-carrying members of the party. They were not expelled.”
Asked to explain what the suspension meant, Khaya Moyo became evasive, saying: “It means they are suspended from their positions and not the party, but they will retain their seats and revert to being ordinary card-carrying members.”
Khaya Moyo said the next politburo meeting would consider suspensions of more members mainly from Matabeleland North, South, Mashonaland West and Bulawayo where the likes of former Cabinet minister Francis Nhema, ex-deputy ministers Fortune Chasi, Sylvester Nguni, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, Paul Chimedza and Tongai Muzenda likely to be affected.