Source: Will over hundred political parties survive the next five years? – Sunday News September 2, 2018
Vincent Gono, Features Editor
THE political season that climaxed with the watershed harmonised elections in the country is over and progressive minds are already focusing on how to revive the economy and make life tick while those that are retrogressive still cry foul.
This year’s election marked a historical democratic milestone in Zimbabwe as it had a multiplicity of political parties from where 22 presidential candidates emerged plus only one independent — Mr Brian Muteki.
Had five others not been disqualified for having papers that did not meet the nomination court criteria, they could have been 28 candidates all in all, at least according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec). The number of presidential candidates was not even a quarter of the number of political parties that were believed to be well over 100.
Compared to previous elections, the number was just too much and questions as to what had happened that was not happening in previous elections that had suddenly ballooned the number of political parties and that of contestants for the presidential post have been asked.
Notwithstanding the fact that some of the names of candidates and their parties were little-known in most parts of the country, they filed their papers and paid the required fee of $1 000 at the nomination courts. Most of the names were unknown while the parties they represent remained known in the media that announced them and little else. Some of the parties only featured at the nomination courts and one wonders where they were all this long making it relevant to question not only their sincerity but their seriousness as well.
In their excitement they probably thought politics was kindergarten playground where seriousness was taboo but that they were prepared to part with a fortune made the puzzle more complex, more vexing and even more interesting. Despite it being clear that the presidential button remained a contest between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance president Adv Nelson Chamisa they couldn’t forgo the urge to contest.
The results confirmed they were there to facilitate democracy as a system of government and nothing else as most of them fell by the wayside and demonstrated their lack of political clout. Political analysts posited before elections that the real race was between President Mnangagwa and Adv Chamisa, contestants who represent two extreme and dominant ends of our politics, President Mnangagwa belonging to the dominantly conservative populace of Zimbabwe and Chamisa the liberal leader of an enthusiastic generational consensus.
They said the 23 presidential aspirants were too big a number to reflect a healthy democracy and instead proved the extreme problems of an unguided democracy, adding that some candidates (from their image presentation which has an effect on electorate perception) were only interested in lodging their names in our political history as “those who once were on the presidential ballot”.
The numerous parties, they argued, suggested an unguided democracy that inspired many to assume the public mandate of national leadership, yet a wastage of political time for serious election issues and a bridle of confusion to the voters.
Some also argued that the increase in the number of political parties and presidential aspirants in the previous election could be interpreted to mean an increase in trust of the country’s electoral system in the aftermath of the November 2017 political changes.
“Indeed, an increase in the aspirants compared to before is a clear sign that all those people have gained trust in the electoral system. A comparative analysis of Zimbabwe elections shows us that an increase in electoral participation is a positive reaction to the existing system. One registers because they feel they have an equal and fair chance of winning should voters trust them,” said one political analyst.
“The most difficult thing to do however, is to keep a party together after defeat in an election. Despair, fatigue, finger-pointing, and even mistrust creep in and decimate parties. Resources to sustain the parties in between elections are a challenge. I do not expect the multiplicity of parties that contested the just ended elections to be there by 2023. They will die a natural death. Some of course will resurrect once the next elections draw near, some under new names but same characters.
“Coming to the MDC Alliance and its erstwhile splinter the MDC-T, the defeat by Zanu-PF in the general election was emphatic and deflating. I think this is the MDCs’ heaviest thumping by Zanu-PF in the general election. Now that Zanu-PF has more than two-thirds majority in Parliament, it is as good as the opposition does not exist. What can it do? Nothing, except maybe bickering and picketing. In a way, the major opposition has been further relegated into a pressure group. The MDC may never recover from this setback,” said Mr Methuseli Moyo, a political analyst.
Mr Moyo posited that Chamisa benefited from anonymous votes, votes that he can never bank on in future. He was very hopeful of a win, but the results came out the other way. His challenge now is trying to stay relevant and remain at the helm of the MDC Alliance. His rise to power was dramatic and chaotic.
“He literally jumped over Morgan Tsvangirai’s corpse to claim power through coercion. He was in the NEC through Tsvangirai’s mercy, and became VP — again by appointment by Tsvangirai. When the dust settles, his internal rivals will call for congress. And that will spell battles, physical battles in the movement. We are likely to have one more MDC. The MDC has a history of splitting whenever there is competition for leadership. The Alliance itself was built on the prospects of a win against Zanu-PF, a win which never materialised. Soon, things will fall apart,” he said.
Another political analyst Mr Michael Mhlanga said it was key to note that there was no stagnant policy framework or ideological identity in the pillars of our opposition politics both MDC Alliance and the smaller parties.
“However, considering the dismal performance of small parties in the just ended elections, I see no continuity within the next five years because they cannot afford to fund the daily administration that comes with political party business. They struggled to fund campaigns, what more a dedicated secretariat.
“More so, because their existence was a contest of popularity in the elections after crevices in opposition, the passing of election ceases the mandate of their existence. Again, issues of lack of ideology and strong policy framework that the citizens would continue believing in, the small parties remain with no verifiable membership that warrants their continued existence,” said Mr Mhlanga.
He noted that the past elections defined a clear political culture of not buying into smaller parties and independent candidates hence a proper audit by the smaller parties would prove that there was no incentive in masquerading as a ‘‘party’’ when the politics exhibit that it was a contest of bigger numbers.
Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) however, believed they were going to remain intact and even add more people in their party.
“Our party is a restorationist party, it is obviously going to remain intact, we have already held several strategic planning meetings and all our members have already pledged full support for the party. Before elections we announced that we were launching the Union of Mthwakazi Parliament that is now work in progress. We also announced that we will be having Mthwakazi’s International Lobby Committee. Recently we agreed as a party to set up vibrant party structures from branch level as well as encouraging our people to register to vote all these are programmes meant to keep the party structures intact and relevant,” said party spokesman Mr Mbonisi Gumbo.
Asked on their performance in the previous election, he said, “We pretty much happy that we participated in this election like we have previously said, for us it was for strategic purposes. We didn’t care much about the numbers though, if we had resources we could have won almost all the Mthwakazi seats,” he added.
Another party leader Mr Harry Peter Wilson of the Democratic Opposition Party believed they would keep their party intact and even grow it by having structures in the country’s ten provinces. Despite political drubbing, he said given the necessary funding they would compete fair and square with the traditional political parties.
Another political analyst Mr Jowere Mukusha however, poured water on the political parties’ assertions saying they should stop dreaming any bigger than what they have been shown in the previous elections.
“Keeping a political party intact for the next five years and having traditional or permanent supporters is not easy. That is why you see many political parties coming up towards elections. They come up a few months before elections because they cannot afford to keep the coffers of ideological purity in shape for a number of years.
“The issue of funding is a headache as well. Political parties are expensive to run. Oiling the political machinery is not easy, it needs strong funding and most small political parties have nothing to offer to those who have the money because their chances of winning are next to zero and therefore those with money will not want to invest in them,” he said.
Mr Mukusha gave the example of Dr Joice Mujuru’s initial Zimbabwe People First project that split several times in a very short space of time and went to elections as disjointed as ever saying right now the party could no longer be called a unit just like a stake of timber could not be called a ship.
He said by 2023 a lot would have happened where new political parties would have been formed while a lot others would have been swept away by the winds of political dynamism into the unforgiving but forgetful political dustbins of history.