The ace up her sleeve

 

In retrospect, it appears as though it was an easy victory; one that came on a silver platter.

But the margin of Zanu-PF candidate Cde Beauty Chabaya’s triumph in the recent Bikita West National Assembly by-election tells the story of her months of diligent campaigning. The journey started when the seat became vacant following the jailing of then MP Dr Munyaradzi Kereke.

Cde Chabaya entered the fray, becoming the only woman on a list of nine to square off in Zanu-PF’s primary election. Former legislator and popular musician Cde Elias Musakwa was tipped as the front-runner owing to his relatively impressive runs in previous polls.

Very few gave the 41-year-old businesswoman a chance to clinch it. Yet her tenacity and relentless campaign ultimately won her the sole ticket to the august House.

She told The Sunday Mail last week, “Being the only woman in the primary election put me at a disadvantage, and this was compounded by my relative inexperience. Nevertheless, I knew what I had set myself up for and was prepared for a bruising fight. I was contesting against eight male candidates in the primary. But that strengthened me; it gave me a push of confidence. During the campaign, I did not consider myself a woman competing against men, but an equal.”

Up her sleeve was an ace no other candidate had.

Born to a politically-conscious couple, she has Zanu-PF in her blood. Her mother is long-serving Zanu-PF Women’s League provincial executive member Cde Cecilia Sibanda, while her father is ex-Bikita West Ward 9 Councillor Cde Adam Chabaya, who served for 20 years.

The new legislator was campaign manager when her mother stood in the Bikita Senate election of 2008.

Though Cde Sibanda lost, that helped sharpen her daughter’s election campaign skills which she deployed to great effect nine years later.

Cde Chabaya said, “My parents’ political background positioned me for a fight. I was my mother’s campaign manager in the 2008 election, and when she lost, I tasked myself to fulfil her dream. We learnt a lot of lessons from that defeat and used them to put up a much better campaign in this election.”

In the primary election, Cde Chabaya polled 1 423 votes, with her closest competitor, Cde Musakwa, managing 540 votes. The by-election was yet again male-dominated, and some sections of the private media tried to make it look like the participation of Dr Joice Mujuru’s ZimPF party would hit the Zanu-PF candidate hard.

But Cde Chabaya remained unmoved, taking it all in one step as she began to gallop on to the campaign trail. Zanu-PF deployed massive political capital, with Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko visiting the constituency to drum up support.

Dr Mujuru, on the other hand, had problems convincing her opposition counterpart, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T, to help her candidate campaign.

Infighting and ZimPF’s apparent lack of appeal wrote off the party. MDC-T, long used to losing elections and knowing when a shellacking is on the horizon, stayed away from Dr Mujuru. Cde Chabaya, in the meantime, addressed massive rallies.

Destiny was coming on January 21 – election day. When voting closed, Cde Chibaya and her entourage headed to the constituency command centre near Nyika growth point.

Other contestants joined in the wait.

There was suspense; the stakes were high. Who would win it? The hours crawled by. Animated chatter broke out when Cde Chabaya’s phone rang. She immediately signaled her team to be quiet.

“Hello,” she hollered with a huge grin.

“Hesi muzukuru. . .Tangomiriraka. Where are you?. . .Let me see if I can find time, pamwe ndinouya. . .Okay, bye.”

She had just spoken to one of her rivals – ZimPF candidate Mr Kudakwashe Gopo – who was inviting her for a “friendly” braai while they waited for the election results.

“He sounded uncomfortable, I’m sure he knows by now that things are not well for him,” she told her merry band of campaigners.

She stormed to a crushing victory, polling 13 156 votes followed by Mr Gopo at 2 453 votes.

Cde Chabaya said, “We have won the election, but that is no reason for us to rest on our laurels. We need to hit the ground running and deliver upon the aspirations of the people of Bikita West.”

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