The quick answer is, Yes it can. Zimbabweans are increasingly demanding that they get something for themselves during the campaign rather than depend on promises of what a party will do after winning the elections.
Although the Movement for Democratic Change argues that it lost the 2013 elections because the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front rigged them, money could also have played a key role especially during the campaign period.
According to the book: Why Mugabe won (the 2013 elections), one MDC-T activist who described himself as a roving polling agent complained: “The MDC failed to pay polling agents. Why? Some of the polling agents can change at any time if you don’t pay them. I was out in the field for six weeks but I got nothing from the party. I had to find money myself.. Why is the party not coming with resources? All the parties were given money by the government, the treasury. If they don’t have money then where do they get for these expensive cars?……
“People said, if you don’t give us money we’ll quit.”
Another said: “The MDC is from the people by the people. It is supported by everybody here. It is a democratic party and everybody needs democracy. They need democracy, but first they need food on their tables.
“I asked a man why did you vote for ZANU-PF? He said they brought food, community share ownership- this for them is development. The MDC talks devolution.
“ZANU-PF has delivered real change and improvement to people’s lives and that’s true. The MDC dismissed the empowerment and indigenisation programme. The 10 percent delivers schools and clinics and roads. It’s ZANU-PF that is doing that and the MDC is talking about human rights and respect for the law. That’s academic, it doesn’t put bread on the table.”
An activist in Bulawayo said: “I think both MDCs don’t understand their own voters. If their voters ask for sadza, they bring tea……”
MDC activists from Matebeleland said: “They have no money- the MDC campaigns are not funded. MPs get about 200 T-shirts if they are lucky, 500 posters and $300… The MDC candidates walk…..People think that you have nothing and will steal…….
“The MDC manifesto said it would create jobs. People bought that. But they didn’t bring things. They were saying they would create jobs but they could only do that if they won. ZANU-PF gave food now. People who are not politically mature want food now. Between human rights and money, people will choose money.”
ZANU-PF already has a head start over the MDC as the country heads for the 2018 elections. According to the Sunday Mail the government has disbursed $9 million to the two parties with ZANU-PF getting $6 126 633.17 while the MDC-T received $1 873 663.83.
ZANU-PF has been preparing for elections even before Robert Mugabe left. It bought 365 campaign vehicles last year.
National political commissar Engelbert Rugele said the party had ordered 15 million T-shirts, 15 million caps and two million wrappers for women.
“We want to paint the country with our regalia so that out of every three people you meet‚ two will be in ZANU-PF party regalia,” he said.
Philani Moyo of Fort Hare University told the Times: “We are likely to see ZANU-PF out-spending other political parties on regalia‚ campaign vehicles and a sustained media blitz in terms of visibility.
“I foresee ZANU-PF being miles ahead of the MDC Alliance/People’s Rainbow Coalition by the end of May. Whether that will translate into votes will be known once election results are announced.”
One activist, however, told one of the authors of Why Mugabe won: “Food and T-shirts made a difference” in the 2013 elections.
“Ten years ago you would not see a youth wearing a ZANU-PF T-shirt and cap- now it is usual. That has an impact- it gives people the impression that ZANU-PF has people.”
According to another activist: “If there is a sea of green T-shirts, you begin to feel isolated.”
The only question is: Has the MDC learnt its lesson?