Bikita West: Was the MDC-T vote silent?

Zanu PF’s resounding victory over the opposition in the much-talked-about Bikita West by-election has birthed a new political conundrum that has left many a political analyst bewildered.

Source: Bikita West: Was the MDC-T vote silent? – NewsDay Zimbabwe January 24, 2017

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The election was crucial in that it served, somehow, as a litmus test for Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF), a party that may have been underrated or overrated in the political world. Many theories abound on ZimPF, but no one could really ascertain the magnitude of the party’s popularity or influence. It was speculation throughout; ZimPF itself could have overestimated or underestimated its clout, but the by-election, which came about following the jailing of former legislator Munyaradzi Kereke, may have been the awaited masterstroke that provided a much-needed glimpse into the popularity matrix of opposition politics. It is quite telling that all the opposition votes combined in this election could not even creep to near a quarter of Zanu PF’s 13 000-plus votes.

The opposition, namely, ZimPF, NCA and the independent candidates, were trounced beyond belief — the win was convincing. Nonetheless, it cannot be ignored that there were reported acts of violence that preceded this election yet we must also not be blind to the colossal margin of loss suffered by the opposition even in light of the disagreeable prospect of political violence having been a factor in Zanu PF’s victory. Zanu PF’s proclivity towards crudely whipping voters into line is well-documented in Bikita.

In fact, Bikita West was one of the first districts in Masvingo to have voters beaten when it voted for a Movement of Democratic Change candidate, Amos Mutongi, in June 2000. And after Mutongi succumbed to cancer a few months into his victory, war veterans’ leader Chenjerai Hunzvi led a terror campaign thumping the people back into line.

For a period, Bikita resembled a war zone and many fled their homes to neighbouring South Africa. There was massive displacement and as a result, Claudius Makova, who had polled 7 441 votes in 2000 against Mutongi’s 7 726, went on to garner 12 993 in the by-election against Boniface Pakai’s 7 001. Again, the seat went back to the hands of the ruling party. In that breath, it can be said that one of the major lessons to emerge from this by-election is that violence is a factor and that voters can be whipped into line. Isn’t it a mystery that voters can all of a sudden decide against a candidate they voted for a few months earlier? Such has been the Bikita West story. The recent development brings a new twist and many insights to what might likely be the decisive factor in 2018.

A few weeks before the by-election, there were a number of factors that presumably militated against a Zanu PF victory. Whispers say the people of Bikita West had already started calling the People First candidate, Kudakwashe Gopo, “honourable” in anticipation of an opposition victory. Victory had been mentally handed to the ZimPF candidate. What further aided to Zanu PF’s woes was the fact of the imposition of a highly unpopular candidate in Beauty Chabaya against the wishes of the people of Bikita.

Chabaya, though born in the district, was married elsewhere, hence, was generally not seen as fit to be a proper representative for the constituency. She, nonetheless, garnered a strong 13 156 votes against the nearest rival ZimPF candidate, who got 2 453 votes.

Now that Zanu PF has romped to victory against every other opposition minus the MDC-T, the all-concerning question is: Was the MDC-T vote silent in last Saturday’s votes? And if indeed it was silent, how much of the MDC-T’s influence was missing in this election? Can people read much into this by-election result? Can it be safely said that these elections carry a semblance of what lies in store for the people of Zimbabwe in 2018? Is this a distortion, a grotesque picture of real reality?

The MDC-T, it would appear, would be the necessary game changer if its silence and lack of involvement in this particular election would amount to anything. Its call for electoral reforms may be very logical after all. The election may be a vindicating factor to the MDC-T’s call for electoral reforms before participation. It is also strongly believed that by not openly calling for its supporters to rally behind Mujuru, the MDC-T has intelligently been able to gauge ZimPF’s political influence, a factor that could be very crucial in deciding who leads the proposed coalition.

Zimbabwe, after all is said, desperately yearns for a new dispensation come 2018 and it would appear only a plurality of parties may be the only way towards achieving the desired result. At this stage, the opposition, perhaps, needs each other more than at any other time if it dreams of upsetting the incumbent party next year.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 6
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    I suppose it’s possible, just, that the voters knew that it does not matter who won the election as zanu would still be in charge and if they did vote against zanu they could expect reprisals. Better to let zanu think that they will support them again next year and they will be left alone, only to surprise zanu at the election

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    When you are hungry and without nature tells you to go where the hand feeds you. It applies in all of life – survival – even though in your heart of hearts that you know your boss is a hanger on and a criminal in this case but a basket of maize pips does the trick – There is no way one can dislodge Zanu from the rural areas. The people know no different and their lives are absent. What has changed in 36 years – nothing – so what’s going to change in the next year – nothing!

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    Mazano Rewayi 5 years ago

    These figures are revealing. (1) in 2000 in the first round total voters is 15,167. In the 2nd round just, five months later, the total is 19,994. A whooping 4827 (32%) new votes, all for Zanu PF. The rigging is out of this world. (2) In 2017 a total of 15,609 people voted, a mere 442 more than in 2000 1st round (meaning just 28 new voters per year over 16 years!). The voters roll IS in shambles, or it’s just non-existent. From this, I think the MDC has a point but then how do we deal with the situation?

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    Roughly 13,000 votes out of some 15,600 votes for an unpopular candidate suggests strategies and tactics with an effectiveness on the scale of the 2013 elections. If the opposition used this by-election to update their dossier on Zanu’s current methods, they may just stand a slim chance (united) to counter them without the required reforms, next year. Otherwise the 2018 election will be business as usual.

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    Enochmavimbi 5 years ago

    l think Save votes went ZANU way to show Teurai that u don’t hv votes so u can’t lid collation. just my thot

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    Ngoto Zimbwa 5 years ago

    Even if the opposition, in whatever guise, wins the next contest, who is to say zanu will accept defeat? (Remember the 73% for Morgan in 2008?).
    With the exception of Khama, the regional leaders have shown themselves to be in bed with zanu. So no help from that quarter.
    Its been mentioned that 2018 might turn out to be business as usual and it will be, if the opposition sleep-walk into these elections.
    Something else completely radical is called for if we are to be rid of these people infesting our country