Brenna Matendere/Pamenus Tuso
Harare/Bulawayo—Pedzai Sakupwanya, a gold miner and ruling Zanu PF politician, has gained a bad-boy tag after the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) singled out his Mabvuku-Tafara constituency for pre-election violence.
Sakupwanya who is popularly known as Scott won the seat uncontested in by-elections that were held on 9 December after his Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) rival, Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi, was disqualified by the High Court on the eve of the polls.
The by-elections in eight constituencies—most of them in southern Zimbabwe—were declared after the self-imposed interim secretary general of CCC, Sengezo Tshabangu, announced that the affected legislators and councillors who had contested and won in the 23-24 August harmonised elections had seized to be party members.
The High Court ruled that the recalled legislators could not run again on a CCC ticket since they had seized to be members of the political formation on the basis of Tshabangu’s recalls.
In its latest report, ZESN described the by-elections as generally peaceful, but flagged Mabvuku-Tafara for notable violence.
“In all of the eight (8) constituencies in the southern region of Zimbabwe, ZESN volunteers and members observed that the environment was largely peaceful and calm.
“However, in Harare’s Mabvuku-Tafara constituency, ZESN members reported the political environment was characterised by tensions between Zanu PF and CCC supporters emanating from the alleged abduction of three members of the CCC, torture and the subsequent death of one of CCC activists,” noted ZESN in its by-elections report.
ZESN also said the subsequent death of CCC supporter, Tapfumaneyi Masaya, further heightened tensions between the ruling party and the Nelson Chamisa-led opposition party.
“ZESN members and volunteers reported that Zanu PF campaign teams moved around the area asking people why they did not vote for Pedzai Sakupwanya in the August 23-24 harmonised elections.
“They carried with them, copies of the constituency voters’ roll during their door-to door visits, imploring the electorate to vote for their candidate. This was, however, found to be an intimidatory campaign strategy,” adds the report.
In the run-up to the by-elections, Masaya was abducted by yet to be identified persons. His body was later identified in a mortuary at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
Sakupwanya splashed big money on his Mabvuku-Tafara campaign during the general elections, hiring a US boxer, Floyd Mayweather, for a reported million dollars as part of his election lobby.
The politician, who was a Zanu PF councillor in Ward 21 in the same constituency, was, however, beaten by Kufahakutizwi in the main elections.
The gold dealer, who emerged from obscurity as a domestic worker and used his gold deals and links to the ruling elite to earn fame, has been linked to high-level violence in the past.
Local civil society organisations from Manicaland province at one accused him of running a terror campaign against his business rivals in Penhalonga, reportedly using hired hands to torture them.
The incidents were captured on video.
George Charamba, the presidential spokesperson, was at one time forced to disown Sakupwanya and warn him against namedropping President Emmerson Mnangagwa as his ally at the goldfields.
Just before its report on the by-elections, ZESN had produced another tracker that damned the main polls for having been conducted without requisite reforms.
“The elections were held in an environment without meaningful electoral reforms. In 2022, the Zimbabwean government made some amendments to the Electoral Act through the Electoral Amendment Bill such as removal of the driver’s licence as proof of identity.
“ZESN believes that the Bill addressed nominal and administrative reforms whilst ignoring pertinent reforms that could have a direct bearing on the transparency and credibility of elections in Zimbabwe. The amendments that were made to the Electoral Act left out a host of substantive electoral reforms that stakeholders had been calling for,” reads part of the report.
International election observer missions that include the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the European Union and the African Union noted some gross violations, with the CCC calling for fresh polls.
The SADC has, however, since described the elections as free and fair, despite its stinging report after the polls.
Meanwhile, NewsHub established that the CCC candidate for the Nketa seat in Bulawayo, Obert Manduna, was forced to go into hiding ahead of the by-elections.
He confirmed to this publication that he had been facing severe threats and harassment from unknown people.
Manduna had won the Nketa seat during the August elections but his tenure was cut short by the Sengezo recalls.
He was subsequently barred from contesting since, technically, he had been recalled and could, therefore, not stand again in the by-elections.
Gift Siziba, a CCC spokesperson, said Manduna was being followed by strange cars sometimes totalling six.
Siziba claimed that some unidentified people were planning to cause his arrest on trumped up charges so as to frustrate his campaign.
Opposition candidates and supporters have in the past reported cases of them being framed by rival politicians from Zanu PF.
“We know the tactics of trying and derailing us. Manduna tried the door-to-door campaign and these individuals were on his case, claiming he did this and that,” said Siziba, who was also accused of defacing campaign posters.