from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – IF the rhetoric emerging from the ruling party in response to the by-elections outcome and a declaration by its biggest rival that it will be the next government are anything to go by, Zimbabwe appears headed for the same tension that has characterized the country leading to general elections.
Another disputed outcome cannot be ruled out in a country synonymous with violent, deadly elections.
The 2023 poll is projected to be a two-horse race between Nelson Chamisa and current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa as well as their respective parties- the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), and Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), in power since 1980.
Last weekend’s by-elections were seen as a dress rehearsal for next year’s general election.
The opposition, CCC, formed three months ago, dominated with 19 seats out of a total of 28. ZANU-PF won the remaining seats.
Addressing media at the post-election press conference in the capital Harare, ZANU-PF spokesperson, Chris Mutsvangwa, was abrasive.
He reiterated long running accusations the opposition were puppets of the West for purposes of imperialism.
“In London they use opposition to reclaim our land back. They (opposition) should cut the umbilical cord with the white men,” Mutsvangwa said.
Mutsvangwa added, “We used the bullet to create democratic process not a as a way to state house.”
Such imagery has been the hallmark of ZANU-PF’s campaigns.
Zimbabwean military generals have previously declared they would not recognize a president who did not have liberation war credentials.
Ironically, Mugabe was overthrown in a military coup in 2017 after years of infighting within the ruling party.
At the press conference in Harare, Mutsvangwa maintained ZANU-PF’s position on its rivals and its stance on the West and the United States (US).
“Democracy is not taught by America. The opposition should not continue to cavot with right wing lords who hunger and hanker for the time when Zimbabwe belonged to them,” the liberation veteran said.
Responding to the by-elections outcome, Mutsvangwa said, “ZANU-PF is pleasantly relieved it has kept and solidified its traditional support in the traditional rural bastions.”
“The party of the Zimbabwe revolution is most delighted that it made fresh inroads in MDC-CCC urban strongholds. What is foolhardy is to see CCC and its embattled leader Chamisa celebrating a consolation price.”
An information technology minister in the unity government (2009-13), Chamisa was buoyant at the performance of his party.
“We are putting the nation and world on notice. We are the next government in waiting,” Chamisa told journalists in Harare.
“Nothing will stop us from forming the next government,” the leader, a former chairperson of the MDC Youth Assembly and party spokesperson, said.
Violence blamed on the ruling party preceded the by-elections.
Police, long accused to be partisan, barred some CCC campaign rallies and arrested opposition supporters spotted wearing yellow, the colours of the newly-formed party.
At least one supporter was killed after individuals suspected to belong to ZANU-PF gained access to a CCC rally.
The rally to launch CCC at Zimbabwe Grounds in the Highfield old suburb, Harare, was held under stringent controls.
The party was barred from “busing” supporters, toyi toying (picketing) and convoying of vehicles.
Law enforcers mounted roadblocks on streets leading to the venue.
While no major incidents, save for some reports of intimidation, were reported on election day, there were some issues around the voters roll and voter turnout.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) reported that the voter turnout was 35 percent.
Meanwhile, the by-elections in Zimbabwe are the final nail into the coffin of a prominent brand that fought among the most brutal dictatorships in the continent.
Beset by a series of vicious infighting, dispiriting splits, legal battles over the rights to the name and infiltration by the ruling party, the end is nigh for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), 23 years after its iconic formation.
Already in shambles ahead of this poll, which it contested under the MDC Alliance, disaster was inevitable for the brand found under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai (now late).
The polls have catapulted the CCC, led by Tsvangirai’s erstwhile disputed successor, Chamisa, as the biggest threat to the stranglehold of ZANU-PF were a result of new leader of the MDC Alliance, Douglas Mwonzora, recalling number of parliamentarians elected during the 2018 general elections.
At the just-concluded poll, MDC Alliance performed dismally, failing to win any seat.
The poll outcome represented arguably the lowest point for the MDC brand since it first participated in elections, the 2000 parliamentary elections where it won 57 of the 120 elected seats, with 47 percent of the popular vote.
That outcome was the biggest threat to ZANU-PF’S dominance and would culminate in years of polarization violence against Tsvangirai, party legislators and supporters.
The death of Tsvangirai, in 2018 from cancer, also created ructions in the party, not least the emergence of Chamisa as his successor, ahead of co-deputies -Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe.
“A party that stood for the working class, students and the poor man has been turned into a laughing object by a few greedy individuals—sad,” Richard Tsvangirai, the deceased’s son, stated this week.
MDC began after the People’s Working Convention in early 1999 and immediately led an opposition to the referendum that critics said would further entrench dictatorship in Zimbabwe under then-president, Robert Mugabe (now late).
The referendum defeat and the legislative elections heralded the loosening grip of Mugabe and ZANU-PF on power.
This weak, in typical aggressive semantic, the ruling party revealed in the “death” of its longtime rival.
“The reality is that MDC is finally dead,” the party stated.
“This animal was used by the West to reverse our land reform programme,” the ruling party aligned ZANU-PF Patriots stated.
The former liberation movement accused the MDC of being a project by Western nations to effect regime change in the Southern African country.
“MDC leaders supported imposition of evil sanctions,” according to ZANU-PF Patriots.
Western nations slapped Zimbabwe’s regime with sanctions at the turn of the millennium over alleged electoral fraud and human rights violations.
ZANU-PF argues the sanctions were the West’s vindictiveness after the government expelled white farmers, who owned a majority of the commercial land years after independence from Britain.
“MDC is a black spot on Zimbabwe history,” alleged the Patriots.
ZANU-PF was after the 2008 election, which Mugabe lost to Tsvangirai and the parliamentary majority lost to MDC -Tsvangirai, forced into a coalition government with the opposition, including the splinter MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara.
The polls were held three years after the first of numerous MDC splits.
The factions would reunite to contest the 2018 poll, when Emmerson Mnangagwa was elected president amid a legal challenge by biggest rival, Chamisa, citing vote rigging.
– CAJ News