After learning that the recalled Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Members of Parliament had decided to reclaim their seats, ZAPU decided not to field any candidates for the five vacant parliamentary seats in Bulawayo.

CCC had initially stated it would not participate in the “muppet show,” which saw ZAPU declare it would run for the vacant parliamentary seats in Bulawayo to prevent Zanu PF from making any headway in the city.

CCC later changed its position and its candidates successfully filed their nomination papers at the Nomination Court, forcing ZAPU to withdraw at the last minute.

However, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) presiding officer Mavis Mudiwakure stated at the National Assembly Nomination Court held in Court 5 at Tredgold Magistrates Court on Tuesday that out of the 23 candidates who filed their nomination papers, five were unsuccessful because four failed to pay the US$1 000 nomination fees while one had fewer nominators.

ZAPU claimed its candidates did not fail to raise the nomination funds but instructed them not to go ahead and make payments after learning that the recalled CCC candidates had successfully filed their nomination papers.

“One of the major critical reasons why we were contesting this election is because we wanted to defend the city from Zanu PF. We do not want Zanu PF to benefit from these recalls. When we discovered the MPs who had initially won indicated their party was not going to be contesting, we started our processes of nominating candidates who were going to defend the space in Bulawayo, particularly at a national level,” said ZAPU Secretary General, Mthulisi Hanana in an interview.

“We were also having engagements with the affected parliamentarians behind the scenes. Now you realise these political dynamics keep changing until final nomination day. After seeing the affected MPs had decided to file their papers, we then resolved that our primary objective of defending the city is no longer worth investing in. That is why we asked our candidates to stand down.”

Hanana said ZAPU had one candidate in Beitbridge West who had already successfully filed her nomination papers before the party could communicate with her.

“This only applied to MPs in Bulawayo because the MP who was in Beitbridge had made the payments. At this point, she is going to be the only MP contesting because her payment had already been made and we could not make communication on time having realised that political dynamics had changed making us resolve at the last minute not to field MPS,” said the SG.

The SG added ZAPU’s manifesto ahead of the 2023 harmonised election was going “back to basics” with a focus on local issues, which is why the party fielded councillors in the vacant wards.

“Our going back to basics has always been the push for us to deharmonise elections so that people are able to prioritise their local issues. With these elections, in as much as they have a lot of political gimmicks around them, they give us an opportunity as the people of Bulawayo to engage each other on issues that directly affect us as a people, and those are localised issues at the local government level,” he said, noting that their councillors aimed to address these local challenges.

Hanana also explained ZAPU resolved to run for council because they had consulted with people who had given them the go-ahead.

“So we had to compromise one side and tow the centerline of people having their representation but at the same time acknowledging that we have local issues we must deal with. That is why we eventually decided we are going to field councillors,” he said.

“We feel this is an opportunity for the people of Bulawayo to have a feel of prioritising their local issues that directly affect them. We also thought it is easier for us to invest in this exercise because it also helps us to be in touch with the voter and build grassroot support for 2028.”

The ZAPU SG stated their participation in council would also be a litmus test for people to see if they understood the issue of election deharmonisation, which had ‘forced’ the party to contest in the by-election to focus on local issues.

“Remember at the top of it all, when we are to make sacrifices, we chose to sacrifice national elections because they have cost implications and also because over and above the cost, we feel as a party, we must build from bottom up and not the other way round,” Hanana summed.