WITH eyes focused on yet another election, Zanu PF is once again trying to woo urban voters who have spurned the party since 2000.
Zanu PF leaders –– President Robert Mugabe, his deputies Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo and chairman Simon Khaya Moyo –– have openly told party supporters that they regretted being part of the inclusive government. They have also said it was no longer working and would inevitably collapse.
A collapse of the inclusive government, which Zanu PF is pushing for despite the expressions to the contrary at international forums, would presage another election for which the party has been preparing since mid last year.
The party’s appetite for elections was whetted by its presumed successful mobilisation of the people during the constitutional outreach programme, though it was laced with intimidation and violence as reports by civic society organisations which shadowed the exercise showed.
Riding on the wave of this transient success, which Zanu PF strategists and sympathisers acknowledge should not be used as a dipstick to measure levels of support, the party has turned focus on the urbanites, the traditional base for opposition parties.
Zanu PF continues to build its election campaign around the removal of sanctions and the party has crafted a petition to attract two million signatures against the embargoes they argue were responsible for the economic downturn that almost caused an implosion two years ago.
The mobilisation of the signatories, reminiscent of the “million-man march” organised by war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda on the eve of the 2008 elections confirming Mugabe as the party’s presidential candidate, could be a ruse as the intention is to corner the opposition which has been quiet on the removal of the measures.
Apart from the removal of sanctions, land continues to be the centre of gravity for the party and like almost a decade ago when the campaign was hinged on the catch phrase “The land is the economy, the economy is the land” Zanu PF has claimed the success in agriculture was a result of the agrarian reforms.
Another mantra that the Zanu PF campaign appears to sing is indigenisation of the economy and empowerment which, though supported by an Act of parliament passed five years ago, had been shelved only to be dusted down by the gazetting of regulations almost a year ago.
While the move towards causing a total breakdown of the Global Political Agreement started as a shrill voice last year becoming bolder after the constitutional outreach programme, it is the move towards the urban areas which has surprised many.
Zanu PF used the outreach as a crowbar to prize open the urban territory and using the leverage they had gained, they primed their campaign on a propaganda campaign with songs aimed at the youths in the urban areas.
This strategy has significantly changed as Zanu PF is now mobilising urban dwellers to stand up against the Harare City Council dominated by MDC councillors.
The Harare City Council’s sin was to slash the maize crop in high density suburbs, something that has always been done over the years.
Graciano Mkodzongi, an analyst at the Southern Africa Political and Economic Series (Sapes), said these were indications that Zanu PF was going for broke preparing for elections.
“They want to force an election,” Mkodzongi said. “They are in full gear preparing for the elections and they are saying the chances of them winning so far are high. This has been made worse by the fact that there has not been a strategy to combat this by the MDC.”
Mkodzongi said Zanu PF has also been using the presidential input scheme and the constituency development fund (introduced last year) to campaign.
University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political science lecturer Charity Manyeruke said all parties were preparing for the next elections and their responses to issues such as sanctions were aimed at making an impact on the people’s lives.
“Every party has to ensure that it has supporters and what we are seeing (in Zanu PF) is appealing with the urbanites and trying to be relevant,” said Manyeruke.
By mobilising people to demonstrate against the slashing of maize, Manyeruke said, Zanu PF was seen as supporting the people’s cause.
“Food security is a critical issue,” Manyeruke, who is a lecturer in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies said. “It thus raises questions why the maize was slashed and this is all about the politics of hunger.”
It was unprecedented that urban dwellers can stand against a city council as in most cases, as was the case with Operation Murambatsvina when thousands of houses were destroyed as they were seen as illegal structures — the people are cowed.
Another analyst, Eldred Masunungure, who is also a lecturer in the same department at the UZ, said there was nothing wrong in political parties trying to garner support but it was the methods employed by Zanu PF which raised eyebrows.
“The methods are unacceptable in a normal political situation; for example the demonstration against the city council was violent,” said Masunungure who is also a professor of political science. “Any observer would think that Zanu PF had planned the demonstration to be a violent one.”
Masunungure, who is also the chairman of the Mass Public Opinion Institute, said the violence witnessed during the demonstrations could signify a violent campaign even though no elections date was announced.
Mkodzongi said Zanu PF wanted the elections even if the constitution-making process failed as they could still go to the old one or use a presidential declaration to call for a plebiscite.