As the much awaited crunch 2023 polls loom there is much debate as to whether the country should go through the elections or the state declares a seven year period without elections as suggested by catholic bishops.
By Kumbirai Mutengo
Elections are a yardstick of democracy but in Zimbabwe they have become a formality to legitimize power. The country is largely divided on tribal and partisan lines. The rural community largely supports the revolutionary party Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) and the in the urban areas the opposition Citizen’s Coalition for Change enjoys great support from youngsters.
In 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa won the presidential election against other 22 candidates who contested in the election including opposition leaders such as Nelson Chamisa and Lovemore Madhuku. The number of electoral candidates was extremely high and costly for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). It is incumbent that more Zimbabweans are now interested to participate in politics and form political parties. The beauty of democracy promotes multi-party politics but this has created briefcase political parties.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) recently introduced new fees for individuals and political parties participating in the 2023 general election. The ZEC spokesperson Jasper Mangwana announced that aspiring presidential candidates should pay US$20 000 for them to go through to the nomination court, US$1 000 for Members of Parliament and US$100 for councillors.
Opposition leader Douglas Mwonzora quickly endorsed the new fees by ZEC while National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku castigated the move and labeled it unconstitutional. It is acceptable that fly by the night political parties would cry out because of the exorbitant fees. The move by ZEC to increase the fees for participating in the 2023 election limits chancers who have no ability to change the fortunes of this country.
Every Zimbabwean citizen has the right to vote and the right to be voted for. However, it is important to understand that due to capitalism politics have been commercialized. Capitalism is an offshoot of white supremacy and in the global south as subscribers of pan Africanism ideology we have failed to implement an economic system that is indigenous to Africa Dating back to the Napoleonic era voting and candidacy was a reserve a for those who had a reputable amount property but when democracy was introduced in Africa the term “majority rule” took centre stage. There nothing called majority rule but power has been a reserve for a minority. In every political setting the minority which are the elites dictates whatever that needs to be done and plan the future for every generation.
The new fees introduced by ZEC come at a time when the traditional political parties in Zimbabwe the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and ZANU PF are going through with their congresses. The two political parties are canvasing for support ahead of the 2023 polls. The two political party’s support base is shrinking at alarming levels. All MDC candidates lost in the 26 March 2022 By- Elections which were a test to Douglas Mwonzora power against longtime rival Nelson Chamisa.
ZANU recently won the Gokwe Kabuyuni By-Election but lost in Bulilima. The Bulilima loss is a setback for ZANU PF who enjoys great support in rural areas. The revolutionary party ZANU PF is the only party that has a reputable number of members unlike other political parties that have supporters. It is different from being a supporter of a football club than being a member of a club. The party continues winning because it has consistent members of the party who actually benefit from party programs.
The October 2022 ZANU PF congress is a defining moment for the party and its participation in the 2023 election. The economy is underperforming and some of the government ministers are incompetent. The party at this stage is undermining the efforts by President Mnangagwa’s vision to be a middle income economy by 2030. The arms of the revolutionary party are not working timelessly to drum up support for the president and his vision. A political party is an institution that comprised by various departments that are supposed to model the vision of the moment.
The 7th ZANU PF congress is supposed to communicate what the party wants to do for the people of Zimbabwe and come up with a plan of how it intends to build Zimbabwe. However, there are arms of the ZANU PF party such as the Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology, trade unions aligned to the party and the Zimbabwe Congress Students Union (ZICOSU) that are completely silent. The whole purpose of the Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology is to teach the masses about pan Africanism and how the continent intends to fight all forms of imperialism .In the last five years the school of ideology has not being doing enough to build the party. These are some of the issues that need to be discussed prior congress. The school is supposed to certificate all council and parliamentary candidate ahead of the election such that the party minimizes conflicts during and after primary elections.
The 7th ZANU PF congress is an opportunity to mobilize new members into the party.There are a number of people who have potential and would like to participate in politics but fail to get an opportunity. These people end up forming political parties that have no structure and vision but show great potential. The party welcomed opposition figures such as Obert Gutu and the party can use such intellectuals to build the country. It is high time ZANU PF offer positions to promising opposition figures to join the party. The party’s support base in urban areas is extremely worrisome unless this congress is used to form coalitions with other political parties like what William Ruto did in the August election.
One can actually claim that MDC is almost dead. Morgen Komichi, Elias Mudzuri and Witness Dube cannot drum up the much needed support in urban areas unless there is an electoral pact with ZANU PF. Unfortunately, Douglas Mwonzora is no longer valuable to ZANU PF as he was three years ago. What can be of great advantage to Douglas Mwonzora is to form a coalition with opposition members such as Jacob Ngarivhume, Nkosana Moyo and Lovemore Madhuku and contest in urban areas.
The MDC for the first time is operating at the mercy of ZANU PF and it is the only opposition party that can afford to field candidates in the 2023 elections. Unlike the Citizen’s Coalition for Change that focuses on buying cars to the Change Champion in Chief which is supposed to be used to channel development and the US$100 million election budget by the MDC should be used towards developmental projects that empowers the urban population and youth.
The MDC party like ZANU PF is also going to conduct a congress but it has lost most of its members to CCC. The party should actually go through a rebranding process and change its logo and colours. The opposition party should be accommodative to everyone who wishes to participate in opposition politics. It is quite unfortunate that the MDC will fail dismally if it does not rebrand and mobilize more people into the party. The 66% vote by MDC President Douglas Mwonzora claim is unrealistic as both MDC and CCC cannot gunner enough votes to get a two thirds majority in parliament. Despite the fact that ZANU PF losses in urban constituencies it losses with a reasonable margin that is not more than 60%. This makes it impossible for ZANU PF to lose the presidential election. As it stands just like the 2018 election the opposition is divided and the new fees would limit the number of participants.
The MDC is supposed to work very hard that it gets at least 30 seats in parliament otherwise it has become unpopular. It should focus more on building a coalition with other opposition parties. Unfortunately, the party lost Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to CCC but politics is not limited to the labour movement and student body, there are residents in urban community who seek better services from the city fathers. It is important for the party to train its candidates of what is expected of them in council, parliament and senate. For the last two decades MDC failed to run councils because the elected members do not even know what is supposed to be done.
Without a shred of doubt the storm that has taken over the country in the name of Citizen’s Coalition of Change (CCC) can never be underestimated. Nelson Chamisa has been in the political circles for a long time but then it is important to note that it is not easy for him just like Morgan Tsvangirai to takeover this country. Chamisa is the preferred successor of Morgan Tsvangirai but his type of ‘Mango’ politics won’t lead him anywhere. He is playing defensive politics while sacrificing others like Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole.
Morgan Tsvangirai led from the front and when he realized that this country is a straight jacket like General Zvinavashe said he agreed to form a government with the late Robert Mugabe. Nelson Chamisa refused to be part of the dialogue process which would try to resolve the issues currently affecting the country. The economic situation in Zimbabwe is totally political because of ‘jecha’ politics which is extremely immature. The opposition after the 2018 election created false need to hoard goods in Zimbabwe and shop owners intentionally inflated the prices which fuelled food shortages. We cannot run away from the fact that Mthuli Ncube made a wrong move by re-introduction of the Zimbabwean dollar without proper due diligence but the economy would have collapsed if the 2% tax was not introduced.
The Citizen’s Coalition for Change is a political party comprised of young people who desire a better Zimbabwe. The generational consensus among Zimbabweans is that we need to transfer power to the next generation. Within ZANU PF Generation 40 tried to transfer power to the younger generation but it was short-lived. Young need proper training and understanding of where the country is going and the National Youth Service is one ideological apparatus meant to train young people about the heritage of Zimbabwe.
What democracy entails is that people can actually vote CCC. It is a political party in Zimbabwe but people must know a party cannot be run without a constitution and vision. There is more to an election other than votes. A normal and legitimate organization goes through a congress which is supposed to define the ethos of the party and founding leadership. Unfortunately, CCC is a one man band that survives on the popularity of Nelson Chamisa. There are no due processes whenever a leader is incapacitated in the case of Nelson Chamisa when Job Sikhala attributes better leadership qualities than the incumbent.
The 2023 Zimbabwe general elections coincide with Nigerian election where Atiku Abubakar is more likely to win the election. The power of incumbency entails that the incumbent has the highest chances of winning an election. William Ruto proved the fact that Raila Odinga might have been the most popular candidate but incumbency gives one a chance. The opposition in the name of CCC has a lot to do in order to win the hearts and minds of the people taking the cognizance of the fact that they operate on a limited budget.
The Zimbabwean political landscape has always been unpredictable. The revolutionary party ZANU PF is allegedly divided ahead of congress. Insiders within the party say that there is camp within the party that is pushing for General Chiwenga to takeover but Saviour Kasukuwere sympathizers like Sybeth Msengezi are the one causing commotion in the party. It is rather unclear whether Saviour Kasukuwere and the Generation 40 are coming back to ZANU PF or joining the opposition.
Saviour Kasukuwere is a potential threat to Nelson Chamisa and he enjoys great support within ZANU PF structures and actually can cause a split within the party as the former National Political Commissar. President Emmerson Mnangawa should be aware from any threat from the Wabantu Movement ahead of the 2023 elections. Previous projects by the G40 faction failed to materialize including the National Patriotic Front (NPF) and the People’s Party (PP) led by Walter Mzembi. It is uncertain as 2023 awaits!