After a long day of campaigning, Zim PF's Kudakwashe Gopo (left) meets with Independent candidate Heya Shoko at Musimiki Complex at Nyika Growth Point on Sunday afternoon. They briefed each other on the ground rules as the by-election campaign intensifies. Pic TellZim
If we were in the United States of America (USA), Bikita West would have been a swing State where the electoral result is unpredictable. Bikita West is never predictable, and with just a week before the by-election on January 21, 2017, none of the six candidates battling for honours has so far shown an upper hand.
But who really stands a better chance among the six candidates – Beauty Chabaya of Zanu PF, ZimPF's Kudakwashe Gopo, Madock Chivasa of NCA, Tanyaradzwa Terence Makumbo of the Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe (PDZ), independents Heya Shoko and Innocent Muzvimbiri?
Chabaya had a major boost last week when Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa attended and addressed her rally at Nyika Growth Point. But there were two developments which took place during and soon after the rally which show that she is not an obvious winner.
Firstly, Mnangagwa bluntly indicated that he didn't know Beauty all along except her parents but her name was brought forward by Saviour Kasukuwere, the national political commissar.
"Ini Beauty ndanga ndisingamuzivi; ndaiziva baba vake namai vake asi zita rake rakauya navaKasukuwere ndikati kana ari iye adiwa nevanhu veBikita bvazvakanaka (I didn't know Beauty all along but her parents; Kasukuwere however, brought forward her name and I said if she is the one whom the people of Bikita West want, then there is no problem)," said Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa's statement was pregnant with intra-party political cues – the point being that Kasukuwere and his Generation 40 (G40) colleagues have imposed Beauty Chabaya on the people.
A thorough investigation showed that Team Lacoste faction, which pushes for Mnangagwa to replace the soon to be 93 years old President Robert Mugabe, is against Chabaya and might vote against her.
The Vice President might have descended on Bikita but his statement clearly disassociated himself from Chabaya and whatever results that would come out of January 21 election. Mngagwagwa was clear that he do not know her – the statement which Team Lacoste is riding on, justifying their 'Bhora musango' intend.
Secondly, Chabaya distributed around 2 000 T-shirts during the Mnangagwa rally but, surprisingly, the T-shirts were nowhere to be seen four days after the rally. In a tour throughout the constituency by this reporter on Sunday, he managed to identify only three people wearing Chabaya's T-shirts across the whole constituency and this is very unusual especially for the ruling party, Zanu PF.
People interviewed by TellZim News however, revealed why people were not publicly wearing Chabaya's T-shirts.
"Chabaya was imposed by G40; she doesn't come from Bikita West. She got married somewhere in Mashonaland and it is her parents who are from Bikita West - we did not know her all along and she just came specifically for the by-election. We cannot and will never vote for a tourist politician. No one is interested in wearing her T-shirt publicly – in fact the majority are using them as night wear," said a disgruntled Zanu PF supporter.
Chabaya is however, riding high on G40 support and it has to be seen if the faction can propel her to victory. The majority of Team Lacoste faction seems to hold Gopo in higher regard though.
The Gopo/Chabaya scenario is however, similar to the July 31, 2013 situation when Zanu PF had literally two candidates – Dr Munyaradzi Kereke and Elias Musakwa.
Musakwa was the official Zanu PF candidate while Kereke was sort of a 'rebel'. Interestingly Kereke outmatched Musakwa with over 7 000 votes against 6 000. The 2013 results clearly showed that the Bikita West people were trying to put a message across; that is, they don't tolerate an imposed candidate. Gopo might be the biggest beneficiary of the disgruntled Zanu PF supporters considering that they once worked together before he was unjustly fired from the party and joined ZimPF.
Gopo might win protest vote in Ward 5, which is Musakwa's home area because the electorate is bitter with the manner Musakwa lost in the controversial primary elections.
But Gopo, too, is not a saint – he has some skeletons in his cupboard which might disturb his ascent. It emerged that Gopo's mentor; retired Colonel Claudios Makova is not a darling for Bikita West people due to his alleged involvement in political violence during the 2001 by-election and 2008 elections. Thus Gopo's close association with Makova might derail his ambitions come January 21.
Makova, however, is said to be the darling of Ward 12 where he reportedly electrified the whole ward and this means Gopo would have an advantage there. Ward 22 where Gopo comes from also supports the former Zanu PF youth. Another section from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) also supports Gopo and this might give him added advantage over Chabaya. As it stands it is a 50-50 affair between Chabaya and Gopo.
Shoko is also not out of the equation. He has a sizeable following from his former party MDC-T and ZimPF. In 2013, Shoko garnered close to 4 000 votes and all he needs to do is to re-activate these people so they can vote for him again on January 21. He also managed to win support from ZimPF supporters who are against Makova and Gopo. By the way, some ZimPF supporters alleged that Gopo was imposed by Makova, and as a result, they threaten bhora musango (which would help Shoko to score).
The former Bikita West MP is moving around with key MDC-T members who are campaigning for him, and it seems like they have managed to win the hearts of many especially in Wards 10, 9 where he comes from and 5 as well as 13.
Shoko, however, is facing stiff competition from Muzvimbiri who is also fishing in the same MDC-T fish pond. Muzvimbiri is said to be moving around with the MDC-T district chairperson soliciting for votes. The Bikita Minerals worker also enjoys the sympathy of Roman Catholic Church members where he once held a powerful provincial position. If he managed to get support from Roman Catholic and MDC-T then he might spring a surprise. But how many Catholics might be in Bikita West who can propel him to victory? Maybe 1 000 at most. Muzvimbiri is not very popular with the electorate – maybe he is a dark horse.
Chivasa does not act like a real politician – it appears, for him, it's a hobby to contest. If elections were to be judged by the number of posters pasted then Chivasa would have won unopposed as his face is almost everywhere in Bikita West. The real Chivasa is, however, not known and his chances of winning are zero. But with Bikita West, anything is possible!
The little known Makumbo is probably there to add numbers. Even his party PDZ is not known in Bikita. This reporter doubts if Makumbo will be able even to field all election agents.
Conclusively, the real battle is among Chabaya, Gopo and Shoko. The trio has equal chances of winning and it is not over until it's over.news