MDC-T loses ground in Bulawayo, but…

via MDC-T loses ground in Bulawayo, but… – Nehanda Radio Jan 8, 2016 By Ray Ndlovu and Mandla Tshuma

The year 2015 could go down in history as the most memorable one for ZANU-PF as it was able to claim seats in Bulawayo after more than a decade-long routing at the hands of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
By winning the Nkulumane seat in last month’s by-election, the ruling party now controls six Parliamentary seats in Bulawayo out of a total of 12.

Given the very low voter turnout during the Nkulumane by-election, the party still needs to find answers to a number of questions.

Why the poor voter turnout?

Is it a result of poor voter education or there is something brewing from underneath?

That ZANU-PF was going to have it easy in the by-elections was given. Its biggest opponent, the MDC-T, took the decision to boycott future polls at its last congress citing an uneven political playing field.

Tsvangirai’s party has said it would only take part in any future poll if there are electoral reforms. Before the MDC-T boycott, Bulawayo province had persistently proved to be a tough constituency for ZANU-PF to crack as it has largely been dominated by MDC-T for the past 15 years.

The opposition has celebrated the low voter turnout in the Nkulumane by-election as an indication of the success of its boycott strategy.

“We will continue with our congress resolution to refrain from participation in elections as long as there are no electoral reforms,” said Obert Gutu, the MDC-T’s national spokesperson.

The MDC-T was not alone in taking the decision to boycott polls.

Other opposition groups such as the splinter MDC led by Welshman Ncube, ZAPU led by Dumiso Dabengwa and People’s Democratic Party led by Tendai Biti have also taken a similar stance to force government to institute electoral reforms to level the electoral playing field that they insist is skewed in favour of ZANU-PF.

But opinion remains largely divided among political observers who fear the decision may only come back to haunt the opposition in the looming 2018 election.

“I don’t see the MDC-T regaining lost ground on their own unless they go into a coalition,” said political analyst, Anglistone Sibanda.

“Otherwise it’s the end of era for them considering their intraparty fights in Bulawayo and voter apathy that works in favour of ZANU-PF.”

Sibanda was, however, quick to point out that ZANU-PF could never be a dominant party in Bulawayo in a free and fair election contest and added that the trend in the metropolitan provinces in the past showed that the ruling party had just maintained its loyal support over the years, without necessarily gaining anything.

“Rather the opposition has failed the people resulting in voter apathy that ZANU-PF is capitalising on,” said Sibanda.

Sipho Nyoni, another political analyst said ZANU-PF’s victory in Bulawayo would be short-lived arguing that “Bulawayo people just have never identified” with ZANU-PF.

“The MDC-T’s regaining of lost ground in Bulawayo, come 2018, will be dependent on whether or not there is a new formation in the political sphere that will come in with a new wave and sweep the majority of the people from Bulawayo away,” said Nyoni.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) pointed to a number of reasons, which it said were to blame for the low voter turnout in last month’s by-election.

“The ZESN observer reports show that the turnout was generally low, with voters trickling in throughout the day. Most of those who turned out to vote were mostly women with a significantly low number of youths turning out to cast their votes. The low voter turnout for the Nkulumane by-election is consistent with trends during all the 2014 and 2015 by-elections,” ZESN said in a statement which added:

“These trends may be attributed to the fact that major opposition political parties have not participated in the by-elections and also the timing of this by-election, which coincides with the festive season, where people travel to different holiday destinations.”

Still these various schools of thoughts have, however, not taken the shine off the new Nkulumane Member of Parliament, Killian Sibanda who said his victory was “well-deserved” and showed that voters still had faith in the revolutionary party.

In the Nkulumane by-election, ZANU-PF’s Killian Sibanda got 2 161 votes, while Ngwalo Nyathi of the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe came a distant second with 680 votes and Sibusisiwe Mpofu of the Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe had 397 votes. The seat fell vacant following the death of MDC-T’s Thamsanqa Mahlangu. Financial Gazette