By Margret Chinowaita

I have participated in the Zimbabwean elections as a voter from the year 2000. I was not eligible to vote earlier because of my age, but I witnessed elections in the 1990s as a student. Voter apathy was mainly recorded as citizens shunned elections because the ruling party was a de facto one-party state.

Opposition Political parties such as ZUM headed by the late Edgar Tekere a former ZANU PF Cadre existed once in the 1990s. It made a mark with the youth but did not go far in shaking the ruling ZANU PF. Opposition parties came and went, but none posed any serious threat. Come 1999, the Movement for Democratic Change was formed under the formidable force of Morgan Tsvangirai. Citizens participated in elections in their numbers in the year 2002.

I participated with the promise of change. I have been participating in elections since then, with the same results, the ruling party winning. The story of Zimbabwe elections under the late President Robert Mugabe and the first republic is known. Voters were intimidated, food was used as a weapon to control voters in rural areas, and naked violence was employed to control the mind and soul of the voter. It was instilled in voters that no other party will ever win elections in Zimbabwe expect ZANU PF.

The ruling party had the state apparatus on its side in the form of media, police, intelligence and the whole system of government. It was difficult to differentiate between the state and the ruling party. We are in the second republic led by President ED Mnangagwa.  This republic came through the joys of many Zimbabweans. Most celebrated when Mugabe was removed, paving way for the new regime. The new dispensation came with many promises, including that of free and fair elections.

The year 2018 was a test of the new, but I felt robbed because the results seemed skewed to the ruling party that had much stake in Zimbabwe Election Commission. I don’t want to go on about the negatives in Zimbabwe’s elections but to mention that elections cost money, and it seems the ruling party dips into the state coffers while the opposition is left to dip in shallow pockets. We can argue that the opposition should be wiser, fundraise more and run elections.

I am bothered by that statement that is usually repeated that the opposition would never win elections in Zimbabwe. This has been repeated so many times that the ordinary people buy it, defeating democracy, ostensibly practised in Zimbabwe.

I worry because the late Morgan Tsvangirai garnered many supporters, filling his rallies to the brim, but never won an election. ZANU PF would have full rallies in rural areas, and it would win elections. I want to argue that with the vast state machinery at their disposal, ZANU PF would be able to preach its gospel effectively to all corners of the country. Maybe the ruling party’s ability to reach the rural areas remain its mainstay. So instead of the opposition blindly labelling the ruling party as election thieves, it should soberly take stock and strategize fast for the 2023 elections.

This weekend’s by-elections would be a test of the actual elections. Nelson Chamisa of the CCC moved around the country on a campaign trail, succeeding in commanding numbers. The opposition should take stock after the 26th of March elections to ascertain whether the myth holds that no party will win in Zimbabwe elections except the ruling party.

A dangerous accession that can be ignored at the opposition party’s own peril.  Chamisa spoke passionately about how Zimbabwe belongs to everyone, how anyone can rule it and bring development. The politics of Zimbabwe need numbers and clear-cut strategies to make it.

ZANU PF cannot just be dismissed, given election history in Zimbabwe. The ruling party has over 50 years of existence it has been in the game longer, it has tried everything from robust media campaigns, use of security in rural areas, intimidation and abuse of state apparatus, indeed Chamisa’s CCC is very young, but it can learn from Zimbabwe’s election history and that of neighbouring counties such as Zambia.

The young leader needs to build structures that will cascade down to ward level and to make sure that the nation’s mindset changes and grasp the idea that anyone with ideas and strategies can rule Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is for everyone.

Cover Image: File/Africa Blogging