The Zimbabwean political space has always been one full of drama, more-so during an election period. We are currently in election mode as the country heads for the crucial March 26 by-elections and the drama has reached a crescendo, with politicians from across the political divide sometimes making claims that can only be termed as ludicrous at best.
The three major political parties Zanu Pf, CCC and MDC Alliance are currently crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country in an attempt to woo voters to their side and fill in the vacancies that were brought about by the recall of MDC Alliance MPs and councilors by the Douglas Mwonzora led MDC T.
The MDC T recalled MDC Alliance representatives on account of them having “joined another political party” which was the then MDC Alliance led by popular politician Advocate Nelson Chamisa. In a strange twist of fate, MDC T leader Douglas Mwonzora is now leader of the MDC Alliance which he had said was another political party when he recalled the elected officials.
Advocate Nelson Chamisa now leads the newly formed Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), which has seen its rallies massively attended ever since its launch. Its inaugural rally was held at Zororo grounds in Highfield where thousands of supporters gathered and whose numbers were estimated at around 60 000.
The event was live streamed by Online Media house Deepleague Advertising and saw a whopping 19000 live viewers during Chamisa’s address. The event solidified his position as arguably the most popular politician in the country.
The Douglas Mwonzora led MDC had held its own rally at the same venue the previous week which was attended by a few hundred people. The Chamisa led CCC party supporters mocked Mwonzora saying he had addressed a rally of relatives, friends and party activists only.
As is to prove a point, the MDC went back to the same venue on Sunday 13 March for what it dubbed as its “star rally.” The rally saw a marked improvement in numbers, with various estimates placing them between 1500-2000.
However party Chairman Morgan Komichi claimed that the crowd had more than 62000 people, much to the amusement of journalists who were present & recording proceedings at the venue, including this writer. Komichi’s claim was clearly a ludicrous one by any standard and would have been taken as a mere joke had he not repeated it in interviews with the media.
Several buses and trucks were seen at the venue dropping off people in the morning and picking them up after the gathering. Some of the supporters who were interviewed by this writer claimed to have come from as far away as Nkayi in Matabeleland North while some said they were from Masvingo.
A number of people were spotted at Morgan Tsvangirai House which is the MDC T headquarters, allegedly waiting for payments for attending the rally. A man who was interviewed by one journalist claimed that they had been promised USD$10 each for attending the rally.
It’s worth noting that there wasn’t a single police detail at the venue, something that is in stark contrast to CCC rallies which are held in the presence of fully armed anti-riot police details and water cannons.
The Chamisa led CCC party has accused the police of harassment and favouritism. It alleges that the judicially reconstructed Mwonzora led MDC T is a creation of Zanu Pf meant to confuse the electorate and split the opposition vote.
A CCC rally slated for Rudhaka stadium in Marondera on the 12th of March was cancelled at the last minute by the authorities, much to the chagrin of its supporters who had gathered in large numbers to attend the event.
The ruling Zanu Pf party has also held its own massively attended rallies as it drums up support for its candidates. The ruling party has been accused by the Chamisa led CCC party of busing supporters from across the country to attend its rallies. The ruling party denies these allegations and simply says the numbers are an indication of its popularity. However, it’s rally in Tsholotsho was downgraded to a “clean-up exercise” after a poor turn-out.
In contrast however, Chamisa’s party held a well-attended rally in Tsholotsho, where the charismatic opposition leader promised to solve the issue of lack of national identity documentation for people in the area as well as the larger.
Of the three parties, only Chamisa’s CCC has had several of its rallies cancelled. It’s Binga rally which was initially slatted for Monday the 14th of March was cancelled by the authorities siting a lack of manpower as President Emmerson Mnangagwa was also going to address a rally in the area. Chamisa’s party then held a well-attended rally in Tsholotsho.
His party is expected to hold another rally this weekend in Mutare, as the by-elections draw closer.
The Mwonzora led MDC T has held low turn out events in some cases addressing meetings of 30 or 40 people such as the one held in Mashonaland West province. Mwonzora however claimed that these were mere by-elections and his party was conducting ward based campaigns while reserving big rallies for the watershed 2023 general elections.
He accuses the Chamisa led CCC of being infiltrated and sponsored by G40, the vanquished Zanu Pf faction most of whose head honchos are now in exile having fled persecution by the Mnangagwa led Zanu Pf government. Key members of G40 are Saviour Kasukuwere (former Local Government Minister), Professor Jonathan Moyo (Former Higher & Tertiary Education Minister), Patrick Zhuwao (Former Public Service Minister) among others.
Analysts have said that the by-elections are crucial as they will test the strength of Chamisa’s newly formed party while also being a referendum of sorts on the Mwonzora led MDC Alliance.
A political commentator who spoke to this reporter on condition of anonymity presented a more sinister plot to the by-elections. He reasoned that it was the ruling Zanu Pf’s way of testing the popularity of Chamisa’s party as the country heads for the make or break 2023 general elections.
He opined that the ruling party wanted to see the likely voter trend so as to plan for the 2023 elections delimitation exercise, where the party would know how to align political constituency boundaries favorable to it, as it would reduce the constituencies that seemed to favor the opposition while increasing them in areas where the voter pattern favored the ruling party.
Not spared the controversy is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which has come under fire for an opaque voter registration exercise and a disorderly voters’ roll which the opposition claims is designed to work to the advantage of the ruling Zanu Pf. ZEC denies the allegations.