The use of Nelson Chamisa’s face as an election symbol for the recently launched Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) political party, was a “genius” marketing move, political scientist, Professor Jonathan Moyo has said.
CCC was formed on the eve of the Nomination Court ahead of the March 26 by-elections to settle a dispute over the use of the name, MDC Alliance, which the rival opposition party the MDC-T was claiming.
The fight of MDC Alliance was, according to analysts and even CCC members, part of state-sponsored attacks to decimate the opposition and if Chamisa was to change the party name, it would have made it difficult for voters to know the new name.
“The thinking was if MDC Alliance changed its name, rebranded the election symbols and came up with a new symbol, it would be difficult or unfamiliar to the average voter. It would require investment to market but the Nomination Court produced has a popular symbol for the new party,” said Prof Moyo during a Twitter Space hosted by CITE on the aftermath of the Nomination Court: By-elections or Mini-General Election.
Prof Moyo clarified that in Zimbabwe, political parties did not register but their election symbols are registered and subject to approval by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
“There are a host of election symbols that are prohibited and yet in fact one of the interesting consequences of this Nomination Court is that it is the one that approves election symbols,” he said.
“A genius act by Chamisa has in fact been the use of his portrait as part of election symbol. This is the most visible famous portrait, especially in the wake of his showing in the 2018 election where he broke the two million voter barrier and some of us who looked carefully into elections are aware he won those elections.”
Therefore, Prof Moyo, said the newest party in the country has the most popular symbol, as both urban and rural folk knew Chamisa.
“I don’t think many people are as familiar with the Zanu PF election symbol as people want to imagine. It’s been there during the whole period of Zanu PF’s existence, since 1980. While they changed from a jongwe (cock) to the Zimbabwe Great Monuments, the election symbol in all these years was Mugabe’s face. That’s the symbol people knew, they did not look for these Great Zimbabwe Monuments, it is not that familiar. Mnangagwa’s face is worse,” he said.
The political scientist squashed sentiments that using one’s face as an election symbol was occultism, saying critics were trying to piggyback on this concept of a cult to criticise CCC.
“It’s interesting to observe the state media is finding it difficult to criticise CCC they tried to allege it had betrayed self by using the raised index finger of ISIS, the terrorist group. They didn’t even know that was used in Islam. One had hoped it would create a whole narrative about CCC as a terrorist group of some kind. It didn’t even last for an hour, then the next complaint was the election symbol is cultist,” he said.
“Can you imagine if you were to counter suppose Mnangagwa’s face against Chamisa’s face,” adding “there were not many political leaders who were courageous enough to use their faces to carry their political parties.”
These symbols, said Prof Moyo, were interesting as far as identifying political parties, as they set them apart besides their policies.
“Ideology and what the party is offering the electorate are traditionally the most important in elections but not in this election. In this election, one most important question revolves around the consequences of the Zanu PF instigated recall of MDC Alliance MPs and councillors and everybody has understood this has been about Mnangagwa versus Chamisa,” he claimed.
The former minister argued the above sentiment was clear after the 2018 election with the way the Constitutional Court conducted itself after Chamisa challenged the presidential result.
“In fact (Chief Justice Luke) Malaba disgraced himself with the way he handled that election petition. The events of August 1, 2018, and January 2019 all point to Mnangagwa’s nervousness to his illegitimacy looming large,” Prof Moyo said.
“It’s obvious that security arms sympathetic to Mnangagwa wanted to turn tables and contain the illegitimacy issue for Mnangagwa by creating an illegitimacy crisis for Chamisa and they found a willing Supreme Court to do that in the form of a judgement it produced in March 2020. For nearly two years, the impression created in the public was ‘Mnangagwa was ok’ and the ‘one not ok is Chamisa’ and this is where Mwonzora became a more potent instrument.”