ZANU PF, which lost its parliamentary majority in the 2008 elections for the first time since Independence, is honing its voter-mobilisation strategies by crafting a gamut of approaches in a determined bid to avoid defeat in the next do-or-die elections.
Report by Wongai Zhangazha
The plans come hard on the heels of a strategic High Court victory by President Robert Mugabe allowing him to postpone the holding of by-elections until March 31 next year, when he plans to subsume the by-elections into general elections through the backdoor.
Mugabe’s party has come up with a new plan to mobilise housing co-operatives, community-based organisations and even burial societies to secure votes. This is in addition to infiltrating churches and communities through development projects and using diamond proceeds to wage a fierce campaign for survival. Security forces are the backbone of the whole strategy.
Zanu PF held a mobilisation committee meeting on Wednesday chaired by secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa at the party
headquarters in Harare to discuss ways of seizing control of lost ground through a series of tactics, some bordering on vote-buying. The committee is dominated by politburo members, including Zanu PF commissar Webster Shamu and women’s league head Oppah Muchinguri, among others.
Sources said Zanu PF is taking nothing for granted despite recent opinion surveys suggesting support for its main rival MDC-T had plummeted from 38% in 2010 to 19% this year, while its (Zanu PF)backing grew from 17% to 31% over the same period.
Senior Zanu PF officials told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday the meeting was intense and resolved to come up with measures to support housing co-operatives, set up community banks, embark on environmental cleaning campaigns and mobilise resources.
It also resolved to work in consultation with the Chinese Communist Party, Tanzania’s Chama cha Mapinduzi and the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) to wrest control of government.
In addition to the strategies mooted on Wednesday, Zanu PF is already using soldiers — blamed for the bloody pro-Mugabe campaign in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential run-off — to mobilise support to boost the party’s campaign, mainly in Manicaland and Masvingo where the MDC-T holds the most seats.
The military, the main force behind the party, is already on the ground campaigning for Mugabe and Zanu PF. Several high-ranking army commanders, including Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, Major-General Martin Chedondo and Major-General Trust Mugoba — who are the second layer in the chain of command behind Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga — have publicly vowed to fight for Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Chedondo has been reported as saying: “As soldiers, we will never be apologetic for supporting Zanu-PF because it is the only political party that has national interests at heart.”
In July the Independent revealed that tensions were running high in faction-riddled Zanu PF over the militarisation of the commissariat, where officials with security backgrounds were accused of forming parallel structures resembling those of the politburo to undermine the role of certain party bigwigs, while propping up others as part of Mugabe’s simmering succession battle.
Former Central Intelligence Organisation, police and army officers are gradually tightening their grip on Zanu PF, while party structures are also teeming with cadres from security backgrounds.
Sources said Shamu on Wednesday expressed concern at the high levels of poverty and suffering saying he feared that, if not addressed, could lead to his party’s defeat.
Shamu told the committee, which used to meet on Mondays but now meets on Wednesdays, he would ask Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo to release residential stands for the party to develop housing co-operatives for its supporters.
“Shamu was pleased that Nehanda Housing Co-operative near Dzivaresekwa Extension has successfully gone according to plan and said there was a need for more co-operatives because Zanu PF had gained about 175 000 members through them,” a senior politburo official who attended the meeting said. “However, the party is worried that some members of co-operatives are not Zanu PF members or registered voters.”
Shamu told the committee Zanu PF currently has 775 000 members, but would like to emulate the ANC of South Africa and other parties that have higher levels of membership. He further expressed disappointment Zanu PF had lost 3 000 Budiriro stands to MDC-T recently.
“The MDC took 3 000 housing stands in Budiriro from us, right under our noses, but these stands belonged to Zanu PF,” Shamu told the meeting. “However, come time for the allocations, it’s the MDC that takes over. Chombo needs to be tasked on this matter and it has to be taken seriously.”
Shamu’s sentiments could explain the alleged political motivations behind the latest clashes between Chombo and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, with the premier accusing Chombo of sabotaging his party via council projects to garner votes for Zanu PF ahead of elections.
Last week, Chombo instructed Harare City Council to halt a 3 000-unit housing project in Budiriro and ordered an investigation into how the tenders were awarded by council, while also threatening to fire over 30 MDC-T councillors on graft allegations.
The Budiriro project is a public-private partnership between council and financial institutions Old Mutual and Cabs.
During the Wednesday meeting, Muchinguri spoke strongly on the establishment of environmental strategies to mobilise and pressure building societies to give loans to the party’s supporters to build houses.
“The MDC-T councils have failed to bring cleanliness in our cities and towns right round the country,” said Muchinguri. “If you look at Harare, it’s very dirty. MDC-T has made Harare extremely dirty. For us, I say let’s take responsibility and take advantage of this and come up with environment-friendly strategies; clean-up campaigns in towns and cities to bring back some sanity. I am sure that will be able to gain us some support since the MDC-T has failed.”
Ironically, Harare was even filthier and chaotic when Zanu PF was in power during the hyperinflationary era, leading to outbreaks of diseases, mainly cholera which killed more than 4 000 people.
Muchinguri also wants Zanu PF to mobilise burial societies and ensure everyone in Manicaland is a member. According to the sources, she believes that if individual members of community banks deposit at least US$50 each, they can function like micro-financial institutions.
Muchinguri also said Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere should step up the empowerment programme to complement these other tactics to deliver votes.