HARARE – New entrants to the presidential race in Zimbabwe have set their sights on new voters as well as those who are undecided.
By 10 June last year, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said there were 5 804 975 registered voters in the country.
The figure is expected to rise slightly once a 10-day voter registration blitz starts on Friday.
It will be the last before the elections.
The Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust (ZEAT), an election support civic group, blamed political parties for not doing enough to get new voters registered.
This despite both Zanu-PF and the biggest opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), urging their supporters to register as voters.
In its drive, Zanu-PF is targeting five million votes while the CCC believes new voters will help it dislodge the ruling party.
A new kid on the block, Robert Chapman of the Democratic Union of Zimbabwe, has been crossing the country pitching his aspirations for highest office.
In one of his many addresses, he said: “Our people are tired of living in poverty, tired of looking to leave the country. We want to reach high and achieve our dreams right here in Zimbabwe. I am running for president because prosperity is possible.”
Many dismiss him as a passing fad, but others think he is making an impact by dismantling voter apathy in a country where past general elections were largely a two-candidate race despite having as many as 18 candidates on the ballot paper.
But Chapman said there were many undecided voters whom he referred to as “the silent majority”.
“Many Zimbabweans have given up on political dialogue due to its serious toxicity and lack of depth on national issues.
“We hope our positive campaign ignites many of the silent majority to participate in these elections,” he added in one of his Twitter engagements.
In January, David Coltart of the CCC noted with concern while Chapman had the right to contest for the presidency, it would divide those against a Zanu-PF victory, before openly inviting him to join the CCC.
Initially, Chapman claimed he had intentions of working with the party but was told he would play a “goat-skinning” role.
Another politician who has built his stock in the past five years is Jacob Ngarivhume of Transform Zimbabwe (TZ).
In 2020, he was arrested for organising a clean-up campaign and has regularly called out the ruling party’s shortcomings.
Part of his message was urging opposition groups to unite against Zanu-PF but now he has changed his tune.
Ngarivhume will be running for president and is also targeting the undecided voter.
“To the fringe voices with a burning desire for action, let’s do this together. In me, you have an ally,” he said.
The leader of the biggest opposition party in the country, Nelson Chamisa, lost narrowly to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a disputed election in July 2018.
In his second attempt, it is a high-stakes game but his critics said he was not doing enough to convince the public he was the best choice despite being the most popular.
During a press conference in Harare on Thursday, Chamisa added contrary to what his critics said he had a master plan.
“We are sophisticated, they don’t know what we are up to. Zanu-PF is panicking,” he said.
Chamisa also claimed a Zanu-PF victory in a free and fair election was impossible because the party specialised in vote rigging.
“Zanu-PF don’t believe in campaigning, they coerce, we are different from them, we prepare to win, and they prepare to rig,” he said.
Elections are expected on a yet-to-be-announced date in August this.