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Preliminary report on Chiredzi parliamentary by-election
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)
February 16, 2007

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Executive Summary
The Chiredzi South parliamentary by-election, which the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) will be observing, will be held on the 17th of February 2007. The by-election will be held following the death of the then Member of Parliament Aaron Baloyi in September 2006.

Four candidates will contest this election These are: Callisto Gwanetsa of ZANU PF, Immaculate Makondo of the anti-senate MDC, Nehemiah Zanamwe of the pro-senate MDC and the United Peoples’ Party (UPP) Miyethani Chauke. Whereas The Herald and other media reports have portrayed Gwanetsa as a retired soldier the president of the council of chiefs Chief Fortune Charumbira, at a ZANU PF campaign meeting at Chilonga Primary School, disclosed that he is still a serving soldier. Makondo is a local businesswoman while Zanamwe once stood as an independent candidate in the same constituency during the 2005 general election. Chauke is based in Masvingo where a telecommunications company employs him.

Gwanetsa was chosen to represent ZANU PF after winning a primary election in which he beat three other candidates. Makondo was chosen to represent the anti-senate MDC without going through a primary election. She lost the 2005 election to Baloyi while on the united MDC’s ticket. Although Chauke is based in Masvingo Chiredzi South is still his rural home.

While the election campaign has been peaceful Chief Fortune Charumbira has allegedly made disturbing comments in which he has threatened opposition supporters with eviction from the constituency should they vote for the parties of their choice.

The alleged statements by Chief Charumbira are unconstitutional, illegal and in gross violation of human rights. These statements violate the following laws and regional and international standards. The Constitution of Zimbabwe section 23 protects all citizens against discrimination on the various grounds, one of which is political opinion. It is also a serious criminal offence in terms of section 134 of the Electoral Act to use undue influence to induce or compel any person to vote or refrain from voting. The Administrative Justice Act provides in section 3 that administrative authorities have a duty to act lawfully, reasonably and in a fair manner. The SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections require political tolerance and freeness and fairness in the electoral process. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides in Article 24 that every citizen has the right and opportunity to have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country, without distinction on the ground of political opinion and without unreasonable restrictions.

The ZANU PF candidate has argued that it would be prudent to vote for him arguing that the relations he already enjoys with government would make it easier for him to address the constituency’s problems. The use of food as a campaign tool has also been a central issue in this election. Chiredzi South is a drought prone constituency that often relies on food aid from organizations such as World Vision. The Grain Marketing Board also sells maize to villagers who can afford to buy it. The food shortages and the high illiteracy levels have left the electorate prone to political manipulation.

Tribal issues have also dominated the election. Almost eighty percent of the constituency is Shangani while the remainder includes the Karanga. Of the four contestants only Gwanetsa is Karanga while the others are Shangani. Chiredzi South has traditionally been a ZANU PF stronghold. ZANU PF’s supporters might therefore be in a rare catch 22 situation in which they might have to decide whether to choose party or tribal allegiances. This is the first time that ZANU PF will be fielding a Karanga candidate in this predominantly Shangani constituency.

The stakes in this election are high for both the ruling party and the opposition. In view of the constitutional amendments that are likely to be made if ZANU PF is to proceed with its harmonization of elections plan, the party will require every seat to be sure of getting the two-thirds majority. Meanwhile the opposition will also aim to win the seat to enhance their chances of frustrating such amendments. It will also view such a win as the beginning of the end of ZANU PF dominance in the rural areas and this might invigorate their campaign for elections to be synchronized in 2008 or 2010.

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