Zanu PF rolls out election strategy

There is something impressive but vulgar about the architects of a strategy by which millions of Zimbabweans will be convinced to vote for a political party that has proved beyond all doubt that it lacks the capacity t

o change the fortunes of the country.

Zanu PF has started to roll out its political campaign strategy for the 2005 general election. It has not tried to disguise its desire for seats in Matabeleland where the MDC reigned supreme in 2000. It also plans to overturn the opposition’s leverage in urban areas to fulfill its quest for a two-thirds majority in parliament.

What does the party have to offer the electorate next year? The land, its trump card in the last two elections, won’t be a major draw card in the 2005 poll, especially to the urban voter.

Realising this, Mugabe’s regime has dished out largesse designed to oil the electioneering. That Zanu PF rigs elections is a fact because there are six High Court rulings to confirm that. Allegations of ballot box stuffing have been raised without evidence, but what has become apparent over the years is the party’s ability to rig the electoral process at all levels; from voter registration, delimitation of constituencies, to the appointment of electoral personnel and the campaign mode itself.

The apparatus to carry out this survival operation is on the roll. It got a test run in the Chitungwiza by-election where the party paid supporters for attending rallies. A clinic was set up in the constituency to treat patients free of charge. It was quietly closed down after the polls.

There was violence which claimed the life of an MDC supporter and there were allegations that bus loads of people were brought into the constituency to boost the numbers. All this is allegedly being replicated in Lupane.

Elsewhere in this paper we carry reports about goodies that President Mugabe will soon be serving to chiefs. We also report on the politics of food distribution and the not-so-transparent voter registration process that is in full swing in Zanu PF’s rural strongholds but is absent in towns. These factors give Zanu PF a head-start in its quest to garner the rural vote. We have yet to see the opposition Movement for Democratic Change’s strategy to counter this.

Last week state media ran pictures of traditional chiefs lining up to shake Mugabe’s hand. Like kindergarten kids waiting to receive candy from Santa, the chiefs accepted with glee news that they were now entitled to cars and that their homes would be electrified. They recently received a huge monthly package of $1,5 million in addition to other benefits accruing to them as traditional leaders.

They have already started to return Mugabe’s munificence. They last week passed a resolution at their conference in Masvingo that no one should challenge Mugabe’s candidacy for the party’s top post at the Congress in December. It is an understatement to say they have been bought over. They have become pliable instruments of Zanu PF to act as political commissars for the party.

There have been reports of chiefs compiling registers of subjects as they come to cast their ballots. They have no official mandate to perform this exercise but one can only guess that it is meant to tell the unsophisticated voter that “you are being watched over”.

The rural strategy should also take on board food distribution. It was reported this week that the government kicked out a Food and Agriculture Organisation team that was doing a crop assessment in the country. The government has also told aid agencies to wind up operations on the pretext that the country will receive a bumper harvest this year.

There are areas with grain deficits but these will be catered for through internal distribution structures, we were told. What guarantees do we have that the system will not be politicised to starve non-conforming communities and to bribe the stomachs of those in Matabeleland where there are perennial grain deficits?

There are more goodies on the cards. We recall in 2002 that school teachers were headed to the City Sports Centre where government announced the launch of a housing project for them. The government last year promised urban voters houses through a new home ownership scheme.

Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo said government was reviving the pay-for-your-house scheme with those interested now required to pay half the cost of constructing houses and flats. He said the scheme under the National Housing Delivery Programme aimed to acquire at least 310 406 hectares of peri-urban land to construct 250 000 housing units annually.

We have not seen much any evidence of property development as yet. In fact there was no budgetary allocation for that. But urban voters will once again be reminded that the project is at an advanced stage.

To complete the process, Zanu PF has total control over state resources to execute its campaign strategies. It has put in place laws that have been abused by the police to ensure the opposition cannot organise and address rallies without clearance. There is also a partisan media that has shamelessly demonstrated its bias towards the establishment.

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