Last week saw Matabeleland civic groups launching “EkhayaVote2023” to contribute towards a “high voter turnout through extensive voter education campaigns.”
“Ekhaya simply means home, we are mobilising citizens in the Matabeleland region to participate in the upcoming entire electoral processes,” the civic groups said in their preamble.
“This is a localised campaign and the name Ekhaya drives a message that promotes every citizen to think about Ekhaya – home – in the next elections. It seeks to promote an electoral grassroots approach.”
The “EkhayaVote2023” seeks to mobilise virgin voters to register to vote after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) warned that Matabeleland risks losing a number of seats in the next delimitation exercise – the redrawing of electoral boundaries. Bulawayo currently has about 258 000 registered voters, far below the minimum threshold. Zimbabwe last carried out a delimitation exercise in 2007 ahead of the 2008 general election. Zec will conduct a delimitation exercise in 2022 as provided for under section 161 (1) of the constitution.
“EkhayaVote2023” voter registration awareness campaign is not limited to Matabeleland. The clergy, political parties and human rights’ groups, including the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR, have also launched similar campaigns encouraging the public to register to vote in the 2023 elections.
ZADHR’s campaign, titled #ParticipateEngageInfluence, is directed at both doctors and nurses, who the association says do not often take part in civic processes. A number of voter registration awareness campaigns running under various hashtags were launched recently ahead of a Zec mobile voter registration blitz which was supposed to kick off on 6 December and run for six days.
Zec has postponed the voter registration blitz, but normal voter registration at its offices continues. Zec has not announced whether a second blitz that was expected to commence on 28 December and to run for 35 days, is still on. Voter registration is provided for in section 17A of the Electoral Act.
While civic groups and other stakeholders are running voter registration awareness campaigns, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and main opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa have also been conducting whirlwind tours across the country.
Mnangagwa has been holding mini rallies on the sidelines of state occasions almost every week while Chamisa terms his electioneering activities “Citizens’ Convergence for Change” in rural areas. Chamisa’s whirlwind tours have been disrupted by suspected Zanu-PF activists and sometimes met with violence.
Recently, Zanu-PF’s central committee expressed concern over Zanu-PF’s inroads in rural areas, long perceived to be ruling party strongholds. Mnangagwa is set to square off with Chamisa in the 2023 elections. He narrowly beat Chamisa in the disputed 2018 elections. Mnangagwa received 50.8% of the vote against Chamisa’s 44.3%.
Political analysts argued that the shift to election mode, several months away from the 2023 polls, is a sign of problematic politics.
“We are seeing a number of things that really manifest an election season, which is quite problematic given the fact that really we are under two years away from an election, particularly for Zanu-PF which has to be focusing on governance instead of preparing to be re-elected,” Bulawayo-based political analyst Effie Ncube said.
“We have a problem really with our politics. It is election-minded and not governance-oriented. Political parties, in this instance Zanu-PF, always focus on elections and do not focus on governing the country properly.
“It does not focus on stabilising the currency and the economy, ensuring the rule of law and respect for human rights. It does not even focus on electoral reforms and the implementation of the 2013 constitution.”
Mnangagwa has said by-elections for the vacant 133 local government and parliamentary seats will be held during the first quarter of 2022. The seats fell vacant following the recall of MDC Alliance legislators and councillors in 2020.
But Health and Child Care minister Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Vice-President, indefinitely suspended by-elections via Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020, citing Covid-19 risk. On 16 November, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) petitioned Parliament to summon Zec and the Health and Child Care ministry over the suspended by-elections.
In the petition to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, CHRA said the continued suspension of the polls was unconstitutional. CHRA cited section 67 and 158(3) of the constitution which gives every Zimbabwean the fundamental right to free, fair and regular elections for any elective public office. But analyst Rashweat Mukundu argued that Zimbabwe has an “over-politicised society suffering from lack of good governance”.
“If elections are not concluded to the satisfaction of all parties, to that extent, we never really get out of the election mode because the legitimacy question will be still hanging,” Mukundu said.
The country’s elections have produced disputed outcomes since 1980. Main opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa insists Mnangagwa rigged the 2018 elections.
“By all indications, Zimbabwe is already in election mode, which is good to the extent that it refocuses us on the questions of leadership and its capacity or lack thereof to deliver, but the negatives of this never-ending electoral mode are that it takes us away from the fundamental developmental issues that are affecting our society,” Mukundu added.
“Instead of the ruling party and government addressing the socio-economic needs of this country, already decision making and resources are being channelled towards electioneering and, with that, the tarnishing of the image of the country . . . the ultimate strategy to ending this never-ending focus on elections is to have a clean election.”