President Robert Mugabe, far from discrediting his former propaganda chief, may have inadvertently handed Jonathan Moyo the Tsholotsho seat when he told people in the area that the former information minister had refused to listen to him and his two deputies when they urged him not to stand as an independent candidate.
Moyo was the only independent candidate to win a seat in the just-ended parliamentary elections, won by ZANU-PF with 78 seats against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s 41.
Moyo’s victory was unique because he won in a rural constituency considered a stronghold of ZANU-PF, and in an area generally regarded as a bastion of the MDC.
The former information minister polled 8 208 votes, while Mtoliki Sibanda of the MDC polled 6 310 votes and ZANU-PF’s Musa Ncube, wife of provincial governor Cain Mathema, got 5 648 votes.
President Mugabe had vowed that there was no way Moyo would win in Tsholotsho.
The ZANU PF leader told a campaign rally at Tsholotsho Business Centre, a week before the elections, that Moyo had done a lot of terrible things – including allegedly meeting army commander Lieutenant-General Philip Sibanda on an unclear mission.
President Mugabe and Vice-President Joyce Mujuru had met Moyo for one-and-a-half hours to try to persuade him not to stand as an independent candidate but Moyo was adamant he would not budge.
“I advised him that the whole machinery of the party will fall on you and you will get demolished,” President Mugabe was quoted in The Chronicle daily newspaper as saying.
“You can never win against ZANU-PF . . . If we have Tsholotsho voting for Prof Moyo, where will Tsholotsho be going to – isolation or oblivion? Tsholotsho, of all places . . . the cradle of the revolution,” the 81-year-old leader said.
A political observer said while President Mugabe’s sentiments had been meant to de-campaign Moyo, they had actually propped him up.
“Like it or not, people in this region hero-worship anyone who can stand up to President Mugabe – and that is what Moyo did. He became an instant hero. President Mugabe became his trump card. I personally believe that if Moyo had stood on a ZANU-PF ticket . . . he would have been trounced by Mtoliki Sibanda,” the observer said.
But political commentator Lawton Hikwa said Moyo won because he poured a lot of resources and energy into Tsholotsho.
He said Moyo would probably have won the Tsholotsho seat even on a ZANU-PF ticket because he had split votes with Musa Ncube, which meant that the party could have polled more than 13 000 votes.
The observer, however, said while people appreciated what Moyo had done in Tsholotsho, they still had reservations about him.
“Moyo’s victory in Tsholotsho should not be taken to mean that he is popular in the region or even in Tsholotsho,” the observer said. “He has done a lot of untold damage to the region. He has isolated the region. The only good thing he has done for the region is probably to bring on the word sisonke on national television.”
Reggie Moyo of the National Constitutional Assembly said Moyo won because he started his campaign way back in 2002.
According to Reggie Moyo, the former propaganda chief used national resources to prop up his image but people from Tsholotsho thought everything that was being done there was being bankrolled by the sacked ex-minister and not the government.
“You would often hear people saying: ‘Nobody has done as much for us as Jonathan Moyo’, which meant he got all the credit for things he had done using state funds,” Reggie Moyo said.
He said Moyo also won because he ran a well-organised and concerted campaign and had the resources.
“He had the cars to drive up and down to Tsholotsho. Even his campaign posters were of high quality, better than those from well-funded candidates like those of ZANU-PF, for example. Most independent candidates – like Charles Mpofu, for example – simply pulled out because they did not have the resources,” Reggie Moyo said.
Mpofu, a former deputy mayor of Bulawayo who had intended to contest as an independent in Bulawayo South, pulled out of the race a day before the elections.
Observers said the only question that remained was whether Moyo would be able to continue with all the programmes he had initiated – such as scholarships to all schools in Tsholotsho – now that he no longer had access to state resources.