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Paul Siwela Profile - 2002-03-04

Little is known about the three smaller opposition parties in Zimbabwe - ZANU-Ndonga, the National Alliance for Good Governance or NAGG, and ZAPU. But analysts say they too have displayed qualities that could make them viable candidates for Zimbabwe's political leadership. Paul Siwela is a little-known but ambitious candidate. He is carrying the flag for ZAPU - the Zimbabwe African People's Union. Paul Siwela is not only the party's candidate, but also its secretary general. He says he's running on a Federalist platform. "Or any government that has some semblance of such idealism in it", he adds "which will allow that we have our country demarcated into five provinces. And each province being given its own budget has its own elected executive government, have their own judicial system up to the high court, have their own parliament to decide for themselves." Paul Siwela was born on January 24, 1962, in the western town of Victoria Falls. He began his primary education at the Bethesda Missionary School there. He then moved to Bulawayo, in Matebeleland, where most of his secondary education was through private studies. He is now a Marketing major in a postgraduate program at the Zimbabwe National University of Science and Technology. Observers say Mr. Siwela is ambitious. He takes pride in being the first person from Western Zimbabwe to challenge President Mugabe for the presidency. But his ZAPU party is mainly confined to Bulawayo, in Matebeleland, and parts of the Midlands. It is viewed as an ethnic-based party with no national appeal. In addition to the challenge posed by the party's limited reach, Mr. Siwela is now facing a challenge within the party itself. He's embroiled in a leadership battle with party president Agrippa Madlela. Mr. Siwela declared his intention to contest the polls on a ZAPU ticket only after Mr. Madlela pulled out of the race. When Mr. Madlela withdrew, he said the party would back the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai, to avoid splitting the vote in Matabeleland, which is also the political power-base of the MDC. But Mr. Siwela decided to run. And in the process, he has been accused of accepting funds from the ruling ZANU PF to support his candidacy, thereby undermining the MDC in Matebeleland Mr. Siwela has vehemently denied the charges and accuses the independent media of trying to promote the MDC. "The independent media is anti my candidature. And the only time they have to write anything about me, they'll look for anything negative. They'll blow it out of proportion and make me appear as a bad person in the eyes of the people". But political watchers in Zimbabwe say probably Mr. Siwela's biggest hurdle is his lack of visibility. They say only a few thousand people in his political stronghold of Bulawayo can even identify him in an uncaptioned photograph. A view shared by Mr. Siwela himself. "What I could say is that I don't know how influential you are. I don't know how many influential organizations you know, where you can introduce me to those people. Because this election is an event and a very exciting one where nobody knows, I am sure we're aware, even Robert Mugabe himself is not even sure he's going to win this election; neither can Tsvangirai say he's going to win this election. But of course we know the media is doing the best to project the two of them as the only contenders who are likely to win." But Mr. Siwela's first battle is to get enough votes to ensure he will not forfeit his $10 000 deposit paid to the electoral commission for his candidacy. Paul Siwela and his wife Ennliessi have three children.