After trouncing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party in parliamentary and municipal by-elections last weekend, Zimbabwe’s firebrand opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and his Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party say there is no time to rest and have already started drumming up support for next year’s general elections.
By Frank Chikowore
Other opposition parties are also on the vote-grabbing trail in the countryside.
While the CCC has been banned by Zimbabwean police from holding campaign rallies in some parts of the country, Chamisa said it was encouraging supporters to register as national voters to ensure a landslide victory for the presidency and a two-thirds parliamentary majority.
“Every Zimbabwean must register to vote so we can complete the change in 2023. We are also going to push for key electoral reforms ahead of these elections and we are going to demand that Zimbabweans in the diaspora are allowed to vote because everyone has a right to participate in the country’s electoral processes,” said Chamisa.
“The liberation war was fought so that we have one-man-one-vote, one-woman-one-vote; we want to make sure we have more than six million people voting for us next year.”
Harare-based development practitioner Rawlings Magede said, while Zanu-PF and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had been unrelenting in not allowing a diaspora vote, the opposition should restrategise on the matter.
“They [opposition parties] need to redefine the diaspora target citizens in neighbouring countries, such as South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Citizens in these countries stand a better chance of voting in next year’s election,” said Magede.
“It is estimated that more than two million Zimbabweans reside in South Africa. For the opposition, it then becomes imperative to think around modalities on how these people can be registered to vote in the 2023 general elections. Although this has its own challenges, the fact that some political parties have branches or structures in some of these countries makes it easier,” added Magede.
Chamisa’s newly formed party managed to win 19 out of the 28 contested parliamentary seats and 61 percent of vacant seats in several local authorities combined.
The vacancies were caused by the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDCT party recalling legislators and councillors loyal to Chamisa after the Supreme Court ruled that Chamisa’s ascendancy to the presidency of the opposition party was unprocedural. Mwonzora went on to hold an extraordinary congress to formally replace Morgan Tsvangirai, who died just before the 2018 elections, barred Chamisa from party headquarters and assumed control of the party’s finances.
Smarting from a heavy defeat, with his party failing to get a single seat in the parliamentary and council by-elections, Mwonzora also vowed to correct mistakes so his party would win resoundingly in the coming elections.
“Our strategies going into the by-elections did not work and our messaging was wrong; we are going to convene meetings of all organs of our party to reflect on what went wrong and to rejuvenate our structures so that we will have an overwhelming majority come next year’s elections,” said Mwonzora.
The upcoming election is not only about Zanu-PF, the CCC and the MDCT but also other political players, including the newly formed United Zimbabwe Alliance and the Freedom of Rights Under Sovereign (Forus) parties – led by two distinguished businesswomen, Elisabeth Valerio and Manyara Irene Muyenziwa respectively. They are among 23 people who contested for the presidency in 2018 and will try for the top job again next year.
Valerio believes the time has come for new brooms to “sweep the rot” caused by Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF regime. She said there was a need for political and economic stability to restore confidence and trust in Zimbabwe.
“That starts with the national leadership and that is why we are building a new government; we need a completely new government in Zimbabwe,” said Valerio. “We have to stop looking for solutions from other countries and focus on homegrown solutions. This will pave the way for the revival of industries, increase focus on skills training and create more jobs. We will strengthen our economy by developing local products and services and we need to stop importing things that we can make here in Zimbabwe,” added the businesswoman-cum-politician who has promised to set up at least 30 companies in Zimbabwe by year-end in order to create employment for women and youths.
Muyenziwa said her party’s focus was on jumpstarting the country to join the global economy, eliminating corruption in all the organs of state, commercialising and mobilising the public sector.
“We are rooted in solutions-oriented economic transformation driven by innovation and development, mechanisation, industrialisation, global trade, transparency, accountability, superior logic and taking the people forward through participation,” said Muyenziwa while launching her 2023 election manifesto in Harare recently. “We are going to field candidates from the presidency, legislature and council elections; we are ready to govern,” added the Forus leader.
Election promises by opposition parties come at a time when businesses are closing shop and many people are losing jobs.
Mnangagwa, who came to power in November 2017 in a military-assisted transition, said his government would rejuvenate the country’s economy by attracting foreign direct investment through his international re-engagement drive, after years of international isolation under the Robert Mugabe administration.
“We are friends to all and an enemy to none; Zimbabwe is open for business and we will rebuild our country brick upon brick. We have noted phenomenal recovery of the mining sector, where investors have trooped in and revived abandoned mines. Going forward, let us deploy the mining sector’s capabilities to propel the realisation of our country’s Vision 2030, the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda and the African Union with regards to improving the standard of life of our people,” said Mnangagwa.
He said the mining sector had grown from $2.7-billion since 2017, when he assumed office, to $3.5-billion in 2020 and to $5.2-billion in 2021, and is expected to reach $8-billion this year.
Despite erratic rainfall, the president expects most people will be able to put enough food on their tables thanks to his Pfumvudza/Intwasa agricultural programme, which provides free inputs to farmers.
But former chief economist in the finance ministry Masimba John Manyanya said the government needed to do more to grow the economy.
“We need to boost our exports and reduce our import bill and create a conducive environment to do business. The prosperity of any country is based on good economic policies and political stability; this is what the government has to fix,” said Manyanya.
Zimbabwe is not spared fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The country imports most of its wheat from the two warring countries and may soon face bread shortages. Authorities have already hiked the price of fuel as a result of an increase in global oil prices, leading to local businesses adjusting prices of goods and services.
Despite the country’s poor economic performance, Zanu-PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa said his party would build on electoral gains in the parliamentary and municipal by-elections to romp to victory in 2023.
“We grabbed two seats that were in the hands of the opposition and, in constituencies where we won, we won with huge margins. We will continue with our people-centred and development-centred approach. The people believe in President Mnangagwa’s development programmes; they don’t want to associate with people who go to the West to ask for sanctions against them. What kind of leaders are they who want to make people suffer first so that they can lead? People want good lives,” said Mutsvangwa.
Zanu-PF did indeed gain two parliamentary seats from the opposition, but the CCC said the governing party used violence, intimidation tactics and food as weapons against it. Zanu-PF said the elections were free and fair. Daily Marverick