HARARE – Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) President, Nelson Chamisa claims to be very positive about the year 2023, especially with the coming elections.
The party formed back in January 2022 has acquired a large number of supporters following its leader’s exit from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Chamisa came second in the 2018 elections posing a threat to ZANU PF and current country President, Emmerson Mnangangwa.
Chamisa believes these coming elections might go well for the CCC party. He made a tweet earlier today in caps stating that, “2023 BRINGS HOPE, DIGNITY AND CHANGE”.
“This (2023) year will be that year Zimbabweans become free, happy and prosperous. This time Citizens will WIN BIG and celebrate BIG”.
The year 2022 marked the birth of a new political party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change, which has outdone itself in terms of branding and publicity in just one year.
Two months after its formation, the party went on to contest in by-elections.
It romped home to victory and made a bold statement by claiming 19 of the available parliamentary seats and 75 of the 122 council seats, most of them in urban areas.
A brief background. In 2020, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that the MDC, which was the biggest opposition party then, led by Nelson Chamisa, should go to congress and elect a president.
Chamisa and his loyalists refused, hence all MPs and councillors who aligned with Chamisa were recalled from their posts by Douglas Mwonzora who became party president after going ahead with the judicially prescribed congress.
A total of 28 constituencies and 122 council wards were vacant by January 2022, through recalls but other office holders succumbed to Covid-19.
The by-election humbled Douglas Mwonzora, who held on to the MDC party, hoping to maintain its glory days.
Unfortunately all the candidates fielded under the MDC banner did not get anything beyond a hundred in the constituencies and wards.
This was the bold statement by CCC, announcing themselves as a force to reckon with on the political arena.
Although they scored big, the margins that ruling party candidates lost with were not too big to warrant the newly formed opposition party, a stronghold, especially in rural areas.
Unfortunately, the rural areas remained difficult terrain for them, with results as bad as opposition getting half or a third of the ruling party candidates.
Like in the Mutasa Rural District Council by-election, Zanu PF’s Barara Regina won with 1 080 votes while CCC’s Nyamururu Barbarah scored 408.
Although the party campaigned extensively, with President Mnangagwa headlining all rallies, the numbers at rallies were not indicating in the ballot box.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said Chamisa and his party ought to strategise beyond rallies.
“CCC will need to marry crowds with votes,” he said.
This was the trend among rural elections in the 2022 by elections and previous elections.
And in most cases, there is reduced participation of the electorate in by-elections than in national elections.
Voter turnout in the election was significantly low, ranging between 250 and 300 voters per polling station where over 800 people are registered to vote.
At the polling station where Chamisa voted, Kuwadzana 2 Primary School, just over 200 people out of 856 registered voters had cast their ballots by 5pm.
In these parts, they were beaten hands down, for example in the recent Mutasa North by election zanu pf’s candidate had 1400 votes, while ccc candidate had a measly 400.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, an analyst with the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), said the CCC should do more towards mobilising the rural vote.
“They have to improve their rural strategy,” Ruhanya said.
“Apart from Binga, you would realise that they lost Mutasa, they lost in Gokwe. So it appears that not much has changed in terms of their inroads into the rural areas. So the rural becomes a key area where the CCC must work, particularly addressing the issue of fear and patronage and the role of traditional leaders. Traditional leaders are supposed to be neutral,” he added.
Ruhanya added that the party must ensure it wins by large margins in its urban strongholds.
The party has many teething problems most of which can easily be cured but, they are taking too much time to fix.
For example the party seems to be a one-man band, with decisions being made by the president only.
Chamisa says the party only has the president, the spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere, the deputy spokesperson Gift Siziba and the citizens.
No one else holds a post besides these three.
This has evoked worry in the diplomatic world as they do not know who the party’s front runners are.
Not only has it affected the image, this leadership model seems to have fractured the party’s senior stalwarts.
Recently, Chalton Hwende, who used to be viewed as a close ally of Chamisa, took to Twitter to register displeasure on how “other party members” were denigrating his rural mobilisation efforts.
He then announced that he would be taking a backseat from party activities.
It seems this is the general feeling towards the party by other members.
They seem to have followed suit but without announcing.
Chamisa is on record as saying the absence of structures is a safeguard against infiltration, but there are no guidelines as to the conduct of members because there is no constitution and the one centre of power speaks more to dictatorship than to the democracy the party preaches.
After recalls from the MDC, some party members joined Zanu PF, including Blessing Chebundo of Kwekwe, who famously defeated Emmerson Mnangagwa in parliamentary elections.
The government has reacted to the CCC through escalated repression. The recent banning of a tree planting programme planned by the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change provides a microcosm of the 2023 campaign landscape, party spokesperson Mahere has said.
She told The Zimbabwe Mail that over 40 activities have been banned since the party’s formation in January this year.
“Over 43 CCC events, initiatives and meetings have been banned at the instance of Zanu PF since January when the citizens’ movement was formed. This is a clear sign that Zanu PF is in panic mode and running scared ahead of the landmark 2023 election,” said Mahere.
She added that the ruling party’s conduct is a reflection of growing unpopularity.
“They have lost all popular support. Zanu PF can never win a free and fair election in Zimbabwe.”
The CCC has had hurdles during the campaign and beyond, including two of their last two rallies for the year 2022 which were banned.
“Political parties must be allowed to campaign freely without interference as provided for in the constitution. There must be fair access to state media and political freedoms must be respected. Vote buying, abuse of the assisted voter process and all other electoral manipulation must stop,” she said.
“The citizens have unequivocally placed their faith in the CCC. Against all odds, we have demonstrated that we are a competent, credible alternative to Zanu PF. For progressive Zimbabweans who want transformation, opportunity and prosperity, we’ve demonstrated that we are the only game in town. Even the Afrobarometer report states that if an election were called today, CCC would win. We want elections, not war,” added Mahere.
In Gokwe, CCC supporters marched on and continued with the rally despite police water canons and tear smoke all over the rally venue. In Kwekwe Central, their candidate Judith Tobaiwa won despite bloody violence breaking out at the presidential star rally.
Mahere added that the bans were a show of strength of the party.
“We take these bans to be an indication that we are being effective in our strategies, showing up in places where it is uncomfortable for the regime. So for us this is a sure sign that we must strengthen our commitment to engaging in impossible spaces,” she said.
As the 2023 harmonised election beckons, the opposition could take a leaf from the by-elections of 2022.