‘Cheated’ Byo Councillor Bares Soul
…As Cllr Batirai's Election Saga Deepens
BULAWAYO: Losing Council candidate who is also a former city father, Gideon Mangena, says he is receiving incessant pressure from ward 24 residents to contest the election of Arnold Batsirai whom the former claims won the ward under controversial circumstances.
Batirai was sworn in as the city’s ward 24 Councillor last week.
“They say to me, Councillor we want you to represent us,” Mangena told The Citizen Bulletin in an exclusive interview Tuesday.
“Some of them come to me with their problems seeking my assistance but I tell them that you now have a new Councillor,” he said.
“Some of them are threatening to revolt because they say the new Councillor does not even stay in the ward,” Mangena claimed.
But ward 24 residents who spoke to The Citizen Bulletin in separate interviews said “we voted for our preferred candidate” and as such they will abide by their choices.
“Both candidates campaigned and we chose Batsirai because we felt that he will represent us better than the other Alliance candidate in Council, a voter who only identified himself as Collet said.
His sentiments were supported by another resident from Nketa who claimed that Mangena had represented the ward for two uninterrupted terms and as such it was time for him to give others a chance.
“We are grateful of his representation as a Councillor from 2008—2018 but for now we just want[ed] a new leader who will address our needs perhaps in a different way,” said Sehlule Moyo, a voter from Ward 24.
However, some residents with the backing of local pressure groups opposed to the election of Batirai ostensibly because he is an outsider “imposed to dilute the influence of locals in council affairs”, have threatened to demonstrate in support of Mangena.
According to records supplied to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for nomination, Batirai resides at house 416 Nketa 6 but Mangena claimed, in an interview, that the former does not reside in the ward.
Batirai was not reachable for comment at the time of publication.
Mangena who won the city’s best Councillor award for 2017 alleges that Batirai used unfair campaign practices to gain advantage over him including tearing his rival’s campaign posters and distributing a fake letter alleging that he (Mangena) had been fired from the party.
“In addition to tearing my campaign posters, he distributed a fake letter insinuating that I had been fired from the MDC Alliance — and he did this in the morning of the polling day in violation of electoral laws,” Mangena charged. “It is because of his actions that I lost.”
Mangena said he reported the matter to both the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. However, the matter is yet to be brought before the courts.
Batirai who recently drew the ire of Bulawayo residents by attending the swearing in ceremony of Councillors late and drunk recently refuted Mangena’s allegations telling the press that the later was just a “bitter loser”.
A communication sent to Mangena by MDC-T chief of party Sesel Zvidzai seen by The Citizen Bulletin distances the party from the letter allegedly dismissing Mangena on the eve of the polls.
Ironically, both Mangena and Batirai were nominated to contest for the ward under the MDC Alliance. But Mangena alleges that he was the only one who had been “officially” endorsed by the Alliance.
“I only discovered during the nomination process that another (MDC Alliance) candidate was contesting for the same ward,” Mangena revealed. I was shocked because in as far I was concerned then, I was the only (MDC) Alliance candidate.”
“I raised the issue with the party leadership (MDC-T led by Chamisa), particularly Gift Banda — the Provincial Chairperson — and they promised to address the matter but they did not until we went for polls,” he added.
Mangena claimed that besides Batirai’s “dirty campaign methods” which scuttled his election, he believed he lost because his nemesis' name was positioned on top of his on the ballot paper, a circumstance which he alleges made residents to cast their votes for the immediate Alliance candidate who appeared on top of the ballot.
The MDC Alliance swept all the city’s 29 wards with Mangena polling 2104 votes while his rival Batsirai won the ward with 2237 votes, just an advantage of just 100 votes.
Despite his narrow loss, Mangena believes that had there been fair play, he was going to romp to victory. As such, he hopes the courts will objectively determine the matter.
Mangena also enjoys support from some residents under the banner of Mthwakazi Republic Party — who have been calling for the ouster of Batsirai — although not necessarily on the basis of being elected under controversy — but on the pretext of his demeanour and being an outsider who is not original from the city.
Both PDP and MDC-T have chosen silent diplomacy on the electoral feud between pitting the two.
Although both parties have been sucked into the youthful Councillors’ drama, they have chosen only to comment about his conduct following his decision to attend the swearing in ceremony for Councillors drunk.
“We are investigating the matter…”, Edwin Ndlovu, PDP deputy spokesperson, told a local weekly publication this week, in reference to Batirai’s conduct.
His counterpart, Gift Banda, MDC-T provincial chairperson, told the same publication that “people should honestly consider the rights of the Councillor and the residents who voted him into office…”