Zanu-PF goes into the upcoming general election in Zimbabwe as the party to beat – but a lot has happened since former president Robert Mugabe was forced to step down in a military-assisted transition.
By James Thompson
A lot has also happened in opposition circles‚ with the death of Morgan Tsvangirai leading to a split in the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC-T). This split resulted in an MDC led by former deputy prime minister Thokozani Khupe and the MDC Alliance‚ a coalition of former MDC members from the original cast backdated to the party’s formation at the turn of the century.
Mugabe beat Tsvangirai in 2013 by clinching 61.09% of the presidential vote. The former president swept seven provinces‚ while the MDC-T only managed to win three: Bulawayo‚ Matabeleland North and Harare.
Zanu-PF’s biggest votes came from Masvingo (285‚806 votes)‚ Mashonaland West (277‚312)‚ Mashonaland East (320‚719) and Mashonaland Central (327‚455). In the Midlands it was a narrow win for Zanu-PF‚ which was also the case in Manicaland.
In the major cities where the MDC-T won there was low voter turnout‚ for example‚ in Bulawayo where the MDC-T got 89‚207 votes to Zanu-PF’s 31‚773.
With Zanu-PF’s landslide in 2013‚ the major lesson to be learned is simple: for any political party to claim victory‚ wins in Masvingo‚ Mashonaland East‚ Central and West will be key.
Wrestling those provinces from Zanu-PF could be a huge challenge for the opposition‚ despite the fact that internal Zanu-PF fissures resulted in the fall of Mugabe and his Generation 40 (G40) faction. Only last week‚ president Emmerson Mnangagwa raised concern that they might have challenges in Mashonaland Central.
“G40 is not ended‚ but I denounce them. However‚ Zanu-PF has the capacity of cleansing itself‚” said the president at a rally in Marondera.
The formation of a Mugabe-backed political party‚ the New Patriotic Front (NPF)‚ early this year sought to disturb the Zanu-PF vote in the Mashonaland provinces. Before the fall of G40 it’s leading lights such as Savior Kasukuwere‚ who at the time was Zanu-PF’s political commissar‚ led a campaign to get Zanu-PF supporters registered to vote. This was to strengthen Zanu-PF’s hold‚ but with Kasukuwere and others out of Zanu-PF‚ it remains to be seen if the people they urged to register will vote for Zanu-PF or preferred candidate Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance endorsed by NPF.
Another dynamic in the Mashonaland vote is Joice Mujuru of the National People’s Party (NPP) going into the election with a coalition called People’s Rainbow Coalition (PRC). Early this year Mujuru met with Mugabe who tried to convince her to pool resources and join a grand coalition that would wrestle the decisive vote from Zanu-PF.
The fear of Zanu-PF losing ground in Mashonaland is real. A fortnight ago‚ there was a walk out by supporters at a rally addressed by the president in Bindura‚ Mashonaland Central. But the failure to create a grand coalition could work in Zanu-PF’s favour.
The MDC-T split and Mujuru’s refusal to join hands with Nelson Chamisa and 21 presidential candidates is a gift to Zanu-PF in that disunity and disorder in opposition circles has always been fodder for the ruling party.
In 2013 there was a shadowy character in the presidential race called Kisinoti Mukwazhe who polled over 9‚000 votes. This time around the same kind of politicians total at least 19 and‚ based on the law of averages‚ well over 170‚000 votes could go to the party spoilers. Most of them come from areas where the MDC Alliance has a considerable following, such as Harare and Bulawayo where Zanu-PF is unpopular.
All said‚ the stars seem to be lining up in Zanu-PF’s favour.