Scent of polls as new parties emerge 

Source: Scent of polls as new parties emerge – NewsDay Zimbabwe


WITH the general elections on the horizon, Zimbabwe is once again witnessing the formation of fringe political parties attempting the plunge in the political landscape largely dominated by Zanu PF and MDC Alliance.

The first election post the late former President Robert Mugabe-era in 2018 saw a record 127 political parties registering to participate in the polls, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

Less than half of the 127 registered political parties contested in the 2018 general elections and those that took the challenge performed dismally and some have since folded.

Zanu PF and MDC Alliance dominated both the parliamentary and presidential polls.

Zanu PF garnered 145 seats followed by MDC Alliance which had 63 seats.

The late Kwekwe legislator Masango Matambanadzo and Temba Mliswa (Norton) were the only independent candidates that managed to win seats.

In the presidential race, Zanu PF candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa had between them 95,1% of the 4,8 million votes cast, leaving 21 other contestants to share just 4,9% of the remaining votes.

Such domination by Zanu PF and MDC Alliance is a reflection of the country’s political spectrum, a polarised country dominated by two parties.

“In order to break this system, one needs to be fearless, issue-based and a political maverick with a lot of grassroots support,” political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said after the 2018 elections.

An Afrobarometer survey conducted by Mass Public Opinion Institute in April, 2021 revealed that Zimbabwe’s political landscape has not changed much from 2018, with citizens passionately divided between supporting Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance.

“If presidential elections were held tomorrow, one-third (33%) of respondents say they would vote for the Zanu PF candidate, compared to one-fourth (26%) who say they would vote for the MDC Alliance candidate. About four in 10 refused to answer, saying they would not vote, or saying they don’t know,” the report read in part.

With an unchanged political spectrum, Zimbabwe is, however, seeing the emergence of more fringe political parties.

Some of these new political parties are either a result of factionalism, an addiction to opposing the opposition or an attempt to feast on taxpayers’ funds through Mnangagwa’s Political Actors Dialogue (Polad).

Mnangagwa formed the Polad in 2018 where he regularly meets losing presidential candidates.

Recently, Polad principals called for the repeal of the Political Parties (Finance) Act and urged Parliament to introduce a new financing model to enable them to benefit from State funding.

Under the Political Parties (Finance) Act, any political party that secures at least 5% of the total votes cast is entitled to receive funding from Treasury.

But Polad argued that the threshold should be 1%.

“The current system of State funding of political parties does not promote the growth of a truly democratic multi-party system,” Polad’s position paper on electoral reforms read in part.

“It does not take into account all votes cast in a general election. It has a very high minimum threshold of 5% of votes cast and it does not consider votes cast for the President and for local councillors.”

But political analyst Rashweat Mukundu told NewsDay that there must be some requirements to be met for new political players to be registered.

“We need some guidelines and entry requirements that include for example that an aspiring candidate has some level of support across the whole country.

“We also need to avoid promoting political clientism as we are seeing in Polad that is incentivising people to form briefcase parties to get cars, and allowances as long as they back the policies of Zanu PF,” Mukundu said.

The disputed 2018 elections had 23 presidential candidates.  The losing presidential candidates of the fringe political parties who are part of Polad were given Isuzu vehicles by Mnangagwa in July.

A number of new political parties have also expressed interest to join Polad to enjoy the benefits that come with being a member of the Zanu PF cheerleaders’ club, as opposition leader Nelson Chamisa describes it.

But more political parties are likely to emerge next year with the country set to hold its next elections in 2023.

The question is does Zimbabwe really need all these new political parties?