Zanu People First — an offshoot of the ruling Zanu PF party — has reportedly sponsored candidates to contest in the forthcoming June 10 parliamentary by-elections as independents.

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BY OBEY MANAYITI

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Endai Mugomeza for People First

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The development could put Zanu PF to the test for the first time since the expulsion of key party members on trumped-up charges of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe, as the new outfit’s officials warned of a bruising battle at the ballot box.

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The faction — believed to be fronted by ousted former Vice-President Joice Mujuru — is made up of mainly disgruntled current and fired Zanu PF senior officials.

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Although Mujuru has remained silent over her alleged links to the new political formation, the group’s spokesperson and ex-Zanu PF publicity secretary Rugare Gumbo yesterday confirmed the development.
\nGumbo added that at the moment the candidates were not receiving any material support from the party although they had been allowed to work as one entity under the Zanu People First tent.

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He, however, declined to name the candidates operating under the outfit’s banner.
\n“We don’t think there is any problem in contesting under the People First umbrella. It is their democratic right. If there are youths who want to contest under us, then what’s wrong with that? Let them contest and we are happy about that,” Gumbo said.

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As of yesterday, Zanu People First had reportedly taken on board six candidates in Harare, one from Chikanga-Dangamvura constituency in Mutare, one in Kwekwe and several others in Bulawayo.
\n“In Harare, we have six candidates. We have others in Bulawayo, Mutare, Kwekwe and Headlands,” one of the members, who declined to be named, said.

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“We are making sure that per every constituency we have a candidate. We will come up with common campaign material, symbols and message so that there is uniformity. We are just campaigning as one.”
\nThe official said: “Notably the majority of the candidates are youthful and it is common knowledge that we were all affected by the purge in Zanu PF in one way or the other.”

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Top Zanu PF cadres — including 16 Cabinet ministers, their deputies and provincial executives — were guillotined by the ruling party and government together with Mujuru on allegations of plotting to assassinate Mugabe in the run-up to last December’s congress.

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Following the sacking of nine provincial party chairmen and provincial committee members, Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere has been travelling the length and breadth of the country setting up new structures.
\nThe purges have continued following no-confidence votes against perceived Mujuru allies, labelled “Gamatox” and either suspended or expelled from party structures.

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Axed former Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman and Hurungwe West independent candidate Temba Mliswa confirmed the development, adding the new coalition also encompassed disgruntled former MDC-T MPs.

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“There has been an understanding that we must fight together. This is a coalition of independent candidates because some are not from Zanu PF,” Mliswa said.

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Mliswa vowed that the forthcoming by-elections would not be a stroll in the park for Zanu PF as the independents’ coalition had covered a lot of ground. – NewsDay