BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
If popularity on the soccer pitch could directly translate into political support, then Zimbabwe’s renowned soccer legend, Peter Ndlovu, has a good chance of winning the 2023 presidential elections after he was recently nominated leader of the newly-formed All People’s Party (APP).
Affectionately known as Nsukuzonke during his heyday at Highlanders Football Club, Ndlovu is now team manager at Mamelodi Sundowns FC in neighbouring South Africa.
He will not be the first African soccer player to venture into active party politics.
Liberian President George Weah, a former world soccer star of the year, got the most votes in the first ballot in his first contest for the presidential elections in his native land in 2005. However, he failed to secure a majority in Parliament.
There is also Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban who was a footballer who made headlines after he cancelled a Cabinet meeting to play a match for his local club Felcslut FC in 2001.
Although repeated efforts to get a comment from Ndlovu were fruitless, APP vice-president Sebastian Mubvumbi yesterday told NewsDay that his party was registered with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on October 31, 2019, but it had not yet done its official launch due to COVID-19 restrictions.
He said Ndlovu had been its leader although this had not been yet announced officially.
The APP said in 2023, Ndlovu would battle it out with the Zanu PF presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa, MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa, MDC-T’s Douglas Mwonzora and other presidential aspirants for the hot seat.
His popularity in the English soccer league, Mubvumbi said, was evidence that Ndlovu would be able to attract a huge political following.
“APP was registered with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on October 31, 2019, but it was still working out some internal strategies before its president (Ndlovu) could come back to Zimbabwe to take his full leadership role,” he said.
“Ndlovu, one of the greatest football players of all time was preferred to lead the party by a majority of people who call him the Flying Elephant. He has not disappointed as a soccer star. Whenever he is called for duty, he is always available, which makes him the rightful candidate to take Zimbabwe into transition.”
Mubvumbi added: “However, he does not have to give up his other commitments in South Africa in order to rush back home to assume his duties as president of the party. It’s not prudent for him to do so, not as yet.”
He said the former Highlanders and Zimbabwe Warriors soccer star was confident of 2023 electoral victory.
Mubvumbi said the APP wanted to change the current top-down approach where the elite dictated development issues to citizens.
“The party would be fully represented in the 2023 elections as it has supporters from grassroot level in all the provinces. They have started building structures and mobilising other supporters,” Mubvumbi said.
“The party’s name speaks about its desire to be a grassroot-oriented party; a party of the subaltern groups in as much as it is the party for all ethnicities, religions and classes. As 2023 beckons, there is not any other time ripe for the people of this great nation to share the same mood to change the current leadership which talks about you, but never to you.
“Zimbabwe cannot continue to be an underdeveloped country at 41 with a few elite individuals enjoying while the rest of the citizens were suffering.”
Ndlovu’s APP party says if it were to be given the mandate to rule in 2023, it would reduce the country’s 10 provinces to five and do away with tribalistic names and tendencies.