Lessons from Zim 2018 elections

Source: Lessons from Zim 2018 elections | Herald (Opinion)

Christopher Farai Charamba Political Writer
Over a week ago, Zimbabweans all over the country stood in queues to cast their ballot in the harmonised elections.

The voting, separated into local government, parliamentary and presidential choices, was the opportunity for adult citizens to exercise their democratic right.

An opportunity that comes around once every five years.

Elections, the time where citizens make a political decision about who they cede their major political, economic and to a degree social decisions to for an lengthy interim period.

A plethora of potential representatives were made available to Zimbabweans.

Candidates at all levels featured familiar faces from established political parties like Zanu-PF and MDC.

There were new political parties contesting for the first time, breakaway political parties and independent candidates in their numbers.

To match the high number of contestants, Zimbabweans came out in their multitudes to cast their vote.

Out of a total of 5 695 706 registered voters, 4 847 998 turned up in the presidential election, an 85,11 percent turnout, the highest since 1980.

In 2013, the turnout was 59,24 percent and 10 years ago in 2008 it was a lowly 42,37 percent, less than half of what it was this year.

Last week was perhaps the least productive week the country has experienced this year, save for members of the Press.

Monday was a public holiday due to the polls, but the rest of the week was equally a write off as the nation eagerly anticipated the results from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

There were also many Press conferences of political parties, observers and ZEC that kept journalists on their toes and the nation somewhat occupied before poll results were announced.

Eventually they did come and in the parliamentary election, Zanu-PF came out on top with 145 seats to MDC-Alliance’s 63 seats with NPF securing one seat and independent candidate Temba Mliswa coming out on top in Norton.

In the presidential election, the contest was a lot closer.

President-elect ED Mnangagwa narrowly secured a victory with 50,8 percent of the vote, beating Nelson Chamisa who came second with 44,3 percent.

The margin was so close that had President-Elect Mnangagwa been short by about 42 000 votes, the election would have gone to a run-off.

There will be a lot more to extrapolate from this election once full statistics are available.

It will be interesting to see for example what percentage of young voters turned out. In the past, those under the age of 30 were a demographic that we under-represented in terms of those registered and those who voted.

From what is currently available, there is, however, enough to glean and analyse on the political climate in Zimbabwe.

A nation polarised

Perhaps the most glaring is how polarised the country is. Just over half the country voted for ED Mnangagwa and the other half chose another option, with most of those votes going to Nelson Chamisa.

There is also the rural/urban divide with Zanu-PF raking up the majority of its votes in the rural areas and the MDC-Alliance performing better in the cities and towns.

President Mnangagwa has come out to say that he is to be the president for all Zimbabweans and will work to prove himself to those who did not vote for him. This is the correct rhetoric, that one hopes he puts into practice.

It is the same sentiment that all the elected officials need to take into their term of office. Theirs is to remember that they were elected to be representatives of their constituencies.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done in the constituencies and nationally to bring divided interests and opinions to a common position that works for the collective interest of Zimbabwe.

No country for independents

Another lesson is that Zimbabwe functions on a two party system. This election was unkind to the independent candidates.

Aside from Temba Mliswa, who is not your typical independent, the rest suffered serious defeats, be it in council, parliamentary or presidential polls.

If one is interested in entering the political fray then their best bet is to join Zanu-PF or the MDC.

I cannot see a situation in which one of these two parties is not around in the next five years or is overtaken by a newcomer or by any of the breakaway contenders.

Without the solid base and structure of one of the two main political parties, this is the end of the road for the likes of Thokozani Khupe and Joice Mujuru.

In the presidential election, Khupe, who came third was still over two million votes behind Nelson Chamisa. I suspect that some of the 45 573 votes she received was simply because she kept the name MDC-T.

In fact, in the presidential poll, the 72 358 rejected votes came in third place if they counted for something official.

Mai Mujuru was in a distant seventh place, performing worse than Joseph Busha, Nkosana Moyo and Evaristo Chikanga. Parliamentary elections were no different.

Even incumbents like Jessie Majome in Harare West, running as an independent, no longer under the umbrella of the MDC-Alliance, lost to candidate who replaced her in the party, Joanah Mamombe and the Zanu-PF candidate George Mashavave.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of some of these candidates and political parties, what lessons they choose to take and how this will affect the participation of independents in the 2023 election.

A split vote

With the high number of parties and candidates in this election, it was clear that the MDC’s alliance project had in fact failed despite them selecting to add the word to their moniker. The election results further revealed this with the MDC-Alliance and MDC-T splitting the vote in no less than 12 constituencies.

In some cases there were two Alliance candidates who caused the split.

This was a situation born out of poor organisation, the imposition of candidates and a reluctance to conduct primary elections in the MDC-Alliance.

There was also a failure to find common ground with Khupe’s MDC-T, a point which Douglas Mwonzora conceded in an interview with the press last week.

One might argue that 12 constituencies would not have given the MDC a majority in National Assembly, but it would have denied Zanu-PF a two-thirds super majority and prevented them from having the unilateral ability to change the Constitution.

There are more lessons to learn from this election and it is up to the academics to conduct in-depth studies on the different aspects of this election.

Any and all information that they discover should be used to develop the Zimbabwean political space and finding the best ways to serve the Zimbabwean people.

The 2018 polls were one of the most interesting in Zimbabwe’s history.

Political parties would also be best served by conducting their own studies on this election to understand the current political environment to improve their position going forward


  • comment-avatar
    mazano rewayi 3 years ago

    What can we learn from a field of 23 presidential aspirants and 128 parties – is it that everyone wants to be the top dog or it’s that there is no space in the established parties?