ZANU-PF gleefully greeted the expulsion of 17 former MDC-T MPs from Parliament yesterday and attention immediately turned to the high-prize, Tsholotsho North constituency, one of just a handful Zanu-PF failed to win in Matabeleland during the July 2013 elections. “Jonso bring back our constituency. Bring it back home!” Zanu-PF’s national commissar, Cde Saviour Kasukuwere, demanded on Twitter in a message directed at Professor Jonathan Moyo, who narrowly lost the seat by 664 votes to the MDC-T’s Mrs Roseline Nkomo.
Mrs Nkomo, who polled 4 827 votes to Prof Moyo’s 4 163, was one of 17 MPs and four Senators who peeled away from the Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T to form the United Movement for Democratic Change (UMDC) – a coalition with the Professor Welshman Ncube-led MDC. Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party petitioned the Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda to expel the MPs, claiming they had fallen foul of rules which bar lawmakers elected on a party’s ticket from “crossing the floor” – that is joining another party. Adv Mudenda granted the MDC-T its wish yesterday, effectively setting the stage for 17 by-elections. Zanu-PF sees this as an opportunity to consolidate its huge parliamentary majority and few victories would give the party as much satisfaction as reclaiming Tsholotsho North.
Responding to Cde Kasukuwere’s challenge, Prof Moyo said on Twitter: “Copied Cde National Commissar. This is a case of a lost but found constituency.”
In the 10 Matabeleland North constituencies, Zanu-PF lost only in Tsholotsho North, Nkayi South and Hwange Central. The party had a clean sweep in Matabeleland South, winning all 13.
Bulawayo, though, was a tough nut to crack – yet Zanu-PF could gain an unlikely foothold if the MDC-T and the UMDC carry out their threats to boycott the elections.
Five seats are up for grabs in Bulawayo – Mr Bekithemba Nyathi (Mpopoma Pelandaba), Mr Samuel Sipepa Nkomo (Lobengula), Mr Reggie Moyo (Luveve), Mr Albert Mhlanga (Pumula) and Mr Gorden Moyo (Makokoba). The axed MPs have a tough decision to make – stick with the party’s boycott directive or break ranks and contest. A boycott would deliver the seats to Zanu-PF. Mr David Coltart, a member of the UMDC, observed: “Given that the MDC-T say they’re boycotting by-elections, are they happy to hand these seats over to Zanu-PF? One thing is crystal clear from Twitter – both Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere issued deliriously happy tweets about the move. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.” The UMDC yesterday appeared determined to fight Adv Mudenda’s ruling in court. Former MDC-T secretary general Mr Tendai Biti, now a key figure in the UMDC, was yesterday not ready to entertain talk of by-elections. His Harare East seat was also declared vacant. “The ruling is clearly political and is borne out of the relationship between Tsvangirai and Zanu-PF. We’re obviously going to challenge this in a court of law,” said Mr Biti.
Prof Ncube, one of two interim leaders of the UMDC, told The Chronicle last night that if it got to it, they would not contest any by-elections. “No, we’ll not contest. We’ve not contested in a single by-election since the 2013 elections, whether for council or Parliament and we’ve said it several times that we don’t want to take part in any by election,” said Prof Ncube.
Should the MDC-T or UMDC rethink their positions and contest, two other marginal seats – other than Tsholotsho North – could be closely fought. In Harare East, Mr Biti garnered 9 538 against 8 190 for the Zanu-PF candidate, while in Dzivaresekwa Mr Solomon Madzore won by less than 1 500 votes after he managed 6 591 against Zanu-PF’s 5 402.