HORDES of Zanu PF supporters thronging the ruling party’s headquarters last Wednesday could be a harbinger of scenes likely to dominate the political landscape in the next four months to t
he election in March.
Zanu PF’s belief in mobocracy was manifest at the party headquarters where a hired crowd was transported in Zupco buses from various centres. This reflects, observers say, President Mugabe’s fascination with crowds.
He uses them to fathom grassroots support and to demonstrate political muscle to the opposition, which seldom has the opportunity to do the same.
Mugabe had earlier promised that there would be “crackers” at the Wednesday politburo meeting following upheavals in the ruling party over the nomination of the second vice-president. Expectations were that Mugabe would crack down on the camp headed by Zanu PF’s secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa who was seen as the other challenger for the post.
Hordes of party supporters were bussed into the capital in a display of solidarity with Joyce Mujuru’s nomination to the powerful post of second vice-president as mooted in a 1999 party resolution to have a woman in the top four hierarchy of the party. Mnangagwa’s camp allegedly tried to scuttle Mujuru’s nomination reportedly through an unauthorised meeting convened by Information minister Jonathan Moyo in Tsholotsho to push for Mnangagwa’s candidature.
After Mugabe threatened to crack the whip on dissenters, Mnangagwa came out in the papers claiming he had merely been invited by Moyo as a guest of honour at a school prize-giving ceremony.
Moyo defended himself in this Wednesday’s Chronicle, accusing his detractors of behaving like George Bush and Tony Blair.
The power struggles in Zanu PF still rage on and were expected to feature prominently at the party’s congress currently under way in Harare.
In a way the behaviour of ruling party supporters captures their mood in the build up to next year’s general election. Mugabe told a top leadership meeting in Bulawayo last week that the ruling party had to deal with issues of internal divisions and dissent as part of its march to victory in the March election.
Zanu PF will be launching its election campaign at the ongoing congress in Harare. The aggressive Zanu PF youth militia demonstrated last week that it is thirsty for action once again.
On the other side of the political divide, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has come under a barrage of criticism from some quarters for embarking on a whirlwind world tour to pursue his diplomatic offensive. The electorate on the other hand is uncertain of the MDC’s position on next year’s polls.
The MDC has said it will not participate in next year’s elections unless Mugabe implements “genuine” electoral reforms.
However, the threats by the MDC as well as the other opposition parties have not been enough to stop Zanu PF from forging ahead with preparations for elections.
Government is pushing for the adoption into law of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Bill and the Electoral Bill, which it claims will reform the electoral framework in compliance with the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) guidelines on the conduct of democratic elections.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa last week said the ruling party was already engaged in preparations and would not be deterred by threats of a boycott by the opposition.
“We are forging ahead with the reforms whether the MDC threatens boycott or not,” Chinamasa said. “The elections will be held and Zanu PF is preparing. If the opposition parties boycott, then it will be their problem.”
MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said the opposition party would hold a national council meeting at the end of the year to review the situation and make a decision on participating in next year’s polls. “We are currently engaged in efforts to appraise the international community on the situation in the country,” Ncube said.
Suspended war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda believes Tsvangira’s trips overseas show the MDC has no confidence at home.
“It’s clear the MDC knows that it cannot successfully campaign at home and win the elections. That’s encouraging on the part of Zanu PF because we are going all the way to victory,” Sibanda said.
MDC national youth chairman Nelson Chamisa defended the international diplomatic initiatives by Tsvangirai and insisted that his party was doing enough at home.
“People who accuse us of failing to campaign at home are suffering from lack of information. The struggle is waged from many fronts. International support is very critical hence it is very logical to engage other countries,” he said. “It’s not only Tsvangirai who campaigns on the local scene. The MDC is on full-throttle at the grassroots levels. As we speak, rallies and other forms of campaign are going on all over the country.”
Chamisa added that although the decision on participation in next year’s elections was yet to be finalised, the opposition party still needed to remain relevant.
“We are a political party that has to remain alive whether we participate in next year’s election or not. We have to remain relevant as a democratic force,” he said.
Social commentator and political analyst Professor Gordon Chavunduka said the MDC faces a serious dilemma.
“Most people wanted the MDC to participate in the elections but they still acknowledge the serious flaws that characterise the electoral framework,” Chavunduka said. “People’s hopes are with the MDC, but the MDC has to make pragmatic decisions to avoid engaging in a losing cause. I don’t see anything wrong with the MDC leadership going to the international community because it is necessary to gain support from outside the country.