Mugabe is pushing for a referendum on the new draft constitution in March and elections in June next year.
In the past Zanu PF highly depended on the army, police and the intelligence service, as well as war veterans and its militias, to coerce Zimbabweans to vote for Mugabe and his allies but the party is now using both persuasion and coercion as a new strategy to woo voters, mainly in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s urban strongholds.
Mugabe has also taken his electioneering to churches. Recently he importuned the Johanne Marange sect in Manicaland to canvass for votes. Vice-president Joice Mujuru has also addressed the church members in Mashonaland Central, while Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has also been addressing churches.
Dressed in apostolic sect white robes, Mugabe attended the Johanne Marange Passover ceremony in July, in what political observers said was a desperate attempt to shore up his waning political fortunes.
It emerged that during the apostolic sect church gatherings, the Zanu PF leaders openly encouraged church members to support their party.
Zanu PF officials say the party was targeting the Apostolic (Vapostori) sect, with a membership running into millions, to register as voters and spread the party’s propaganda ahead of possible 2011 polls.
Zanu PF’s electioneering last week took on a new dimension with Mugabe giving Big Brother Africa loser Munyaradzi Chidzonga $300 000 in a move said to be aimed at wooing youths to rally behind his party which has lost ground to the MDC-T, mainly in urban areas. When Mugabe handed over the money –– whose source was not clearly explained –– it became clear he was trying to rope in Munya to his campaign. Munya said he would oblige and made it clearer this week he prepared to “serve the president.”
In an interview with the BBC’s Harare Correspondent Brian Hungwe, Munya said he was prepared to dabble into Zanu PF politics if Mugabe invited him. “He’s a great man, yes he has had his ups and downs, but if he invited me I would feel much obliged. I would be much obliged. I think that anything the president asks me to do, I will do.”
Political observers say Mugabe wanted to use Munya to catch the youth vote. Youths have long deserted Mugabe and Zanu PF and shifted their vote to Tsvangirai and the MDC-T.
The involvement of Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu, and Tsholotsho North MP Jonathan Moyo in the Munya saga exposed Zanu PF’s intentions. When Mugabe joined the fray, it became clear there was a political agenda behind their statements and feigned generosity.
Zanu PF has also roped in young musicians, including a 10-member group called the Born Free Crew, which released an eight-track album titled Get Connected. The album was produced by urban grooves artist Sanii Makhalima and was handed over to Mugabe during a national youth assembly meeting at Zanu PF headquarters three weeks ago. The tracks are loaded with songs praising Mugabe with a special appeal to the youths to be close to the ageing president.
“Stay connected panetwork naGushungo….VaMugabe ndevedu/Hatimbofa takavasiya (We will never abandon President Mugabe),” are part of the praise-singing lyrics.
The propaganda songs are being aired on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) television and radio stations, sparking a barrage of criticism from MDC-T, MDC and civil society.
It seems Mugabe and Zanu PF adopted South African President Jacob Zuma’s campaign style which included using artists and celebrated disc jockeys to appeal to the youths who constitute the largest voting bloc.
Sources say Moyo is behind the crafting of the new campaign gimmicks which emphasise more of persuasion than coercion.
Another Zanu PF mobilisation plot is to use the indigenisation policy to lure the youths and women to get votes before the polls, which civil society and MDC formations say should be delayed to allow implementation of electoral and democratic reforms.
Mugabe pushed for the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act that stipulates that indigenous Zimbabweans should own a 51% stake in companies operating in the country, a move seen as a plan by Zanu PF to grab assets and use them for campaigning to win elections.
Zanu PF’s national conference due in December in Mutare will be held under the theme: “Total control of our resources through indigenisation.” Recently, Mugabe reiterated the need for Zimbabweans to control natural resources, especially minerals in an apparent reference to diamonds being mined in Chiadzwa. Zanu PF could also get money from diamond mining companies in Marange to sponsor its campaign.
After realising that support was diminishing in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential runoff, Mugabe, who was defeated by Tsvangirai in the first round, used a campaign of violence and intimidation to retain power.