EDITORIAL COMMENT: Zimbabwe People First political miscalculation

Source: EDITORIAL COMMENT: Zimbabwe People First political miscalculation | The Financial Gazette January 12, 2017

THE Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) party, led by former vice president Joice Mujuru, will test its popularity by participating in the Bikita West by-election on January 21.
Following Temba Mliswa’s “giant-killing act” in the Norton by-election last October, there appears to be a misplaced belief among opposition political parties that the ground is now ripe for the total annihilation of the ruling ZANU-PF, which is far from being the case.
What seems to be lost to these opposition parties, including ZPF, is that ZANU-PF has always fared badly in urban constituencies since the advent of the MDC in 1999, except in cases where its rivals undermined themselves by splitting their votes like what happened in Norton in 2013.
Also, Mliswa has remained a hugely divisive figure in ZANU-PF in spite of his dismissal from the party in 2014. He still enjoys support across the warring ruling party factions, including among ZANU-PF’s paratroopers — the war veterans — hence President Robert Mugabe’s party was not able to confront its competitors in the Norton by-election as a cohesive force.
Ahead of the Chimanimani West by-election last November, ZANU-PF was able to put all that behind them by winning the seat resoundingly and this trend is certain to continue in the coming week, for the following reasons: Firstly, ZANU-PF has maintained its vice-like grip on rural constituencies, which no opposition party in Zimbabwe has attempted to undo. In the absence of electoral reforms, the ruling party has combined its use of coercive instruments, vote buying and the power of the incumbency to successfully shut out the opposition from rural constituencies.
Secondly, very few voters are likely to risk persecution by ZANU-PF by either campaigning for its rivals or being seen to be in support of them in an election that would not make a dent on the status quo in the sense that President Mugabe’s party already enjoys an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly that cannot be impacted on by the outcome of the Bikita West poll.
Thirdly, until the next harvest in April, people in areas that were worst affected by the 2015/16 drought, including the whole of Masvingo region, would desperately need the governing party to be able to access food aid. Doing anything to the contrary for the people of Bikita West would be akin to biting the hand that feeds them because ZANU-PF would surely respond by relapsing into its usual vindictiveness of denying them food handouts as a way of punishing them for voting for the opposition.
Against this background, it is the height of political immaturity for ZPF to contemplate a win in Bikita West, even after roping in MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, as has been suggested by the local media.
It would have been better for the party to pass by-elections and aggressively push for electoral reforms ahead of the 2018 polls, whose outcome would be significant in determining the direction the country would take.
Losing the Bikita poll would simply play into the hands of ZANU-PF, which is dying for some form of political capital to weaken the advancement of ZPF. A loss in Bikita West will also weaken ZPF’s momentum by fomenting disillusionment among its supporters.


  • comment-avatar
    Nyoni 5 years ago

    I beg to differ here. While some points are relevant the outcome of the Bi election can also be an eye opener for all the world to see. The chicanery that ZANUPF is used to should push all opposition parties to demand a fair playing field in the next elections.
    The opposition parties can not sit on their behinds and expect any meaningful change from a rogue regime. This is fact. Further while ZANUPF has a grip on the rural voters , why are the opposition parties not addressing this problem?
    If the urban voters are voting for the coalition would it then not be pragmatic to enter into negotiations with the Chiefs ensuring they receive a fair deal once the regime is gone. If this has been done already then the idea must be mooted again . Somehow it feels the “opposition ” is pandering to ZANUPF and if fear is the issue here then the next elections will fall into ZanuPF ‘s hands

  • comment-avatar
    Mazano Rewayi 5 years ago

    Participation in Bikita West is not about winning, it needs not be. It’s all about preparation and testing resolve. The ZPF needs to step up and start organising effectively for political contests. Organising “meet the people” rallies is too easy because apart from police clearance there is little else blocking the way. Campaigning for a seat unleashes the Zanu machinery and any serious party needs to test itself against this, especially in the rural areas. The test will be brutal but that is as it should be if the opposition is to properly strategise for the 2018 vote. Advocating for electoral reform is futile – in a way we are in the UDI era, only confrontation will resolve our problem as Zanu will not reform itself out of power. Better be prepared than jump into an inferno in 2018.