Parliamentary candidates endorsed by Sengezo Tshabangu in the recently concluded by-elections reported facing extensive smear campaigns and insults from members of other parties, adversely impacting their performance in the polls.

As a result, one of Tshabangu’s candidates claimed he was forced to report fellow party members in the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) to the police for name-calling and tampering with his electoral messages.

Tshabangu fielded candidates for the five vacant seats after recalling the elected CCC MPs who were then barred by the High Court from contesting, but only two of these were successful, while the other three seats were won by Zanu PF.

The two CCC candidates who won were Charles Moyo with 1 632 votes in Mpopoma-Mzilikazi and the other Tendayi Chitura Nyathi who polled 1 648 votes in Lobengula Magwegwe.

However, these Tshabangu candidates claimed they were subjected to a massive disinformation campaign by fellow CCC party members, who manipulated electoral posters and urged voters not to vote at all.

“As far as challenges are concerned, we faced a lot of decampaigning from our rivals within our party in CCC,” said Vusumuzi Chirwa, who was running in Cowdray Park in an interview with CITE.

Chirwa received 1 560 votes losing to Zanu PF’s Aurther Mujeyi who received 1 765 to be the Cowdray Park MP.

Chirwa stated there was only one CCC, but accused some party members of acting as if there were now two CCC parties, with one led by Tshabangu.

“There is only one CCC, I want to make that clear. CCC is led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He’s my president and is the president of CCC. There is no other CCC,” he said, claiming he was one of the initial candidates who had expressed interest to run for Cowdray Park before the national elections.

“I am here because someone was recalled. There are no two CCCs and there was one candidate in the beginning, the legitimate and official one, which was me – Vusumuzi Chirwa.”

However, Chirwa narrated that following the recall debacle, they faced numerous challenges from within the party.

“There was a lot of smear camping as people were told all sorts of lies about my candidature. The truth is people in Cowdray Park know I have always been an opposition member from time immemorial. but what we saw in the lead up to by-elections is violence in nature. There was editing of my posters, tempering with the electoral posters to read that voters must not vote at all,” he said.

“That is criminal and is cyberbullying, which I condemn.”

Chirwa claimed the disinformation campaign targeting him became so bad that he eventually went to the police and opened a case.

“I reached a point where I had to report some of the criminals behind that to the Law and Order Section of police, hoping the law will take its course. This affected us a lot in our campaign as people were saying wrong things,” he said.

“We are clear and I’m clear right now that the CCC president is Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He’s the only president and there is no other CCC. This is one single party.”

Chirwa went on to say the ‘disgruntlement’ that people were witnessing was “side drama” caused by other party members.

“We stepped up and I came in to fill a vacancy that arose in Cowdray Park following the recall of a former MP,” he said.

Another Tshabangu candidate, Ambrose Sibindi, who ran and lost in Nketa Constituency, agreed that he was subjected to a barrage of insults.

“As you know in CCC we had challenges. I experienced some people who passed some very derogatory marks towards me as a person,” he said.

“I managed these by not responding. Eventually, the public will see I am mature, I am a leader. Eventually towards the election because I was not responding the remarks died down.”

Sibindi received 1 439 votes but was defeated by Zanu PF candidate Tawanda Albert Mavunga, who received 1 550 votes.

According to Sibindi, “information and talk circulating that people should not vote” affected attendance.

“People were not flowing in as we were expecting. There was a bit of apathy. However we all know by-elections in Zimbabwe are always like that,” he said as he lamented the poor turnout in the by-election.