GWERU, Zimbabwe, (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa promised economic prosperity and an end to corruption as he launched his party’s campaign on Sunday for national elections set for Aug. 23.
Chamisa, who leads the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), is running against 80-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has led the ruling Zanu-PF since a coup ousted Robert Mugabe in 2017.
The 45-year-old politician, lawyer and pastor launched his “For Everyone” campaign in the city of Gweru, about 300km east of the capital Harare, vowing to fix the country’s unrelenting economic crises.
Chamisa lamented the lack of development in the country, saying there was little to show after 43 years of democracy.
“All we see is poverty, unemployment and millions going to the diaspora,” Chamisa told thousands of supporters gathered at a stadium in the city.
Supporters clad in the party’s yellow regalia braved chilly weather to attend the rally following sustained efforts by the police and judiciary to ban opposition party rallies.
“They have been banning our campaigns, but no one will ban us from people’s hearts,” Chamisa said to thunderous applause.
Chamisa promised to deal with endemic corruption and misuse of the country’s resources by the ruling elite, adding that the mineral-rich country should benefit all.
This is Chamisa’s second bid for the presidency and first under the banner of the CCC, which launched early last year.
In 2018, he became Zimbabwe’s youngest-ever presidential candidate, narrowly losing to incumbent Mnangagwa in the disputed poll.
Chamisa said his party would remain vigilant against electoral malpractice. “We will not accept a rigged election this time,” he said, promising other reforms including improved salaries for the civil service.
The upcoming general election is expected to be close, with both Mnangagwa and Chamisa enjoying support across the country.
Chamisa plans to take his campaign to the countryside in an effort to win over historically Zanu-PF voters.