The by-elections, widely regarded as a dress rehearsal for next year’s General elections, saw the CCC winning 19 out of 28 parliamentary seats which were lost through recalls instigated by MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora.
The CCC’s win has sent shockwaves across the political landscape, at a time the state had gone for broke to see the demise of the opposition in Zimbabwe.
Despite several attempts to silence its voice, the opposition CCC emerged as the most credible challenge to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in next year’s polls.
Launched in January after a long battle for the party name and assets won by MDC-T leader Mwonzora who also claimed the MDC-Alliance name ahead of the by-elections, the CCC has revived hope in opposition politics.
Mnangagwa’s regime, first working with Thokozani Khupe and later Mwonzora, had gone for broke in a plot to destroy the MDC through seizure of party assets and recalling the party’s legislators and councillors with the aid of the courts and Parliament.
The former MDC-Alliance secretary-general has since 2019 pushed to scuttle the
alliance forged before the 2018 national elections, while propping up Mnangagwa.
Last year, Mwonzora aided Mnangagwa to effect constitutional amendments. Mwonzora supported constitutional amendments when 11 of his senators voted for the Constitution Amendment (No.2) Bill, which gives Mnangagwa imperial powers to handpick judges and remove the running mate clause.
Described as a sad milestone in Zimbabwe supposed democracy, the Bill further plunged the country into pariah status.
The collusion between Zanu PF and the MDC-T also had become apparent during the military-assisted takeover of Morgan Tsvangirai House headquarters from the MDC-Alliance, then led by Nelson Chamisa after the Supreme Court judged that Khupe was the legitimate leader.
Mwonzora’s collusion with the ruling party was also revealed when he recalled 12 MDC-Alliance legislators in 2020, who were considered as radicals.
Stripped of its headquarters, legislators and party name, the MDC-Alliance was headed for political demise.
But despite the widely documented onslaught on the opposition, the CCC managed to win 19 seats out of 28 triggered by Mwonzora’s recalls.
Chamisa emerged the biggest winner, with his gamble to change party name paying off.
Enjoying public goodwill, which has seen the diaspora involved in funding its campaign, the CCC’s win is a major plus, going into the 2023 polls.
Now with 19 representatives in Parliament plus other legislators who were not recalled although they are technically MDC-Alliance legislators, the CCC will seek to be a moral voice in the House of Assembly although Zanu PF still maintains a majority.
The CCC’s win comes against the backdrop of a torrid time on the campaign trail.
In the run up to the by-election, a CCC supporter, Mboneni Ncube, was killed during a campaign rally in Kwekwe after he was stabbed to death by Zanu PF thugs, while dozens were also injured in a fresh wave of violence.
Ncube was killed days after Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga — former military chief — said the opposition should be crushed as “lice”.
On the campaign trail, hundreds of CCC supporters were teargassed and assaulted by police while several were arrested.
The popular CCC campaigner Madzibaba VeShanduko was brutalised in central Harare for wearing party regalia.
The party suffered unprecedented police clampdown on rallies, with four campaigns banned by authorities.
“We are on this March to a two-thirds majority. The citizens did very well. We lost our supporter, Mboneni Ncube, most of our supporters were beaten across the country. One of our candidates in Mash Central had their homestead destroyed.
We had problems with the electoral commission, around the voters’ roll,” Chamisa said on Monday.
However, more needs to be done to mobilise voters, make inroads into the rural areas and consolidate the urban voter.
Zanu PF still a force
Although it cannot be considered a big winner, Zanu PF garnered two new seats previously occupied by the opposition, namely Epworth and Mutasa South.
Zanu PF has proved that its rural strongholds have remained loyal to the party although there were reports of voter intimidation by local chiefs.
The by-election showed that Zanu PF remains intact and a force to reckon with going into 2023.
The party also pumped money into constituencies like Binga North, where villagers received bicycles and other trinkets but failed to win. However, the party made significant strides, a situation that the opposition must be wary of.
Observers maintain that Zanu PF’s ability to make inroads into opposition territory is worth celebrating for the ruling party.
But after spending lots of money on rallies, bussing supporters and campaigning with trinkets, Zanu PF’s investment does not tally with its nine seats.
Zanu PF failed dismally in its bigger state-run project to smother the threat posed by Chamisa. The project included the use of several arms of the state, including the judiciary and legislature, while state security agencies and other opposition parties were also activated, but to no avail.
Chamisa took Zanu PF by surprise by rebranding and that proved to be an ace up his sleeve.
The biggest loser was Mwonzora whose candidates garnered zero votes at some polling stations.
Despite seizing the MDC-Alliance name, headquarters, political funding and recalling parliamentarians, the polls revealed Mwonzora is presiding over a shell.
Like the legendary Titanic, the MDC-T brand is headed for a ruinous iceberg.
The iconic party, born more than 20 years ago, which mounted a serious challenge to former President Robert Mugabe, will from here sink into oblivion after failing to win a seat or garner a considerable amount of votes.
The MDC-T’s failure in the by-elections shows a massive failure of the state operation to annihilate the opposition.
Mwonzora said he would “bounce back” – – but many believe he is now damaged goods and tainted beyond redemption