Opposition political parties in this country are missing the point. While they have a right to moan and groan about the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s biometric voter registration (BVR) and a litany of other complaints, they are committing an epic blunder by taking their eyes off the ball.
Candid Comment: Brezhnev Malaba
Perhaps the problem is that in these parties many of the top office bearers are lawyers by profession. Lawyers are important — in fact, they are as important as everyone else — but it helps to guard against the tyranny of provincialism. When you are a carpenter, the hammer becomes the answer to all problems under the sun.
Zanu PF can only be toppled through massive political mobilisation. Everything else is wishful thinking. We can cite dozens of shortcomings, but for purposes of this column, let’s take a look at just one major weakness of the opposition: the failure to effectively mobilise young voters. Whether you agree with Zanu PF’s ideology or not, you cannot deny the fact that the party has a visible youth leader these days. Can you tell me, here and now, who the leader of opposition youth is? There is no viable youth brand. Nelson Chamisa, Solomon Madzore, Promise Mkwananzi, the late Tonderai Ndiraya and others played that role in the past, but they are no longer youngsters.
Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency says more than 76% of Zimbabweans are below the age of 34, and 35% of the total population is aged between 15 and 34. The Research and Advocacy Unit, an independent think-tank, reveals that only 8,8% of youths aged between 18 and 19 were registered to vote in the 2013 general election. In the 25-29 age group, only 51% were registered voters.
Everywhere I go, young people are telling me: there’s nothing to vote for. The 2008 elections are now a distant dream. But they still provide valuable lessons.
I remember those days vividly. The year was 2008 and I was working for state media, the nerve centre of “strategic communications”. For weeks on end, opposition supporters just sat forlornly and twiddled their thumbs, waiting in vain for the electoral commission to announce the presidential election result. The whole world was aghast; how could an election result take so long to announce? As it turned out, the MDC-T had outpolled Zanu PF but, bizarrely, instead of defending their victory, the opposition leaders decided to leave the country. Predictably, this proved disastrous.
The grotesque irony is that Zanu PF had more or less capitulated. Its fate appeared sealed at that point. Some ministers, including hardliners in charge of security ministries, trembled in fear as they pondered a life after gravy train politics.
Fast-forward nine years. From where I’m seated, Zimbabwe’s opposition movement is sleep-walking into a thorough drubbing in 2018. Zanu PF is dishing out free farming inputs to 1,8 million households and compiling the biodata of its members, an exercise which will no doubt dovetail with the electoral commission’s BVR platform. A year before the election, opposition parties are squabbling over non-existent coalition posts. If matters continue this way, the election outcome is utterly predictable.