THE ruling Zanu PF faces a tough challenge as it locks horns with the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in tomorrow’s by-elections, which were delayed by two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both parties have been drawing large crowds during campaigns and there are 28 parliamentary and 122 council seats up for grabs, of which 105 are being contested tomorrow.
Of the vacant seats, the majority of them are in urban and semi-urban areas previously taken by the MDC Alliance.
The polls will be a litmus test for President Emerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF, which is facing the Nelson Chamisa-led CCC.
Political observers say the by-elections are a yardstick for political parties to measure their prospects ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.
The polls will be held to replace the late legislators and councillors and those who were elected on the MDC Alliance ticket but were recalled due to political disputes.
Political analysts this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that the CCC was likely to dominate Zanu PF in urban areas.
Zanu PF, according to analysts, is likely to retain its Chivi South, Murehwa South, Mberengwa South, Marondera East and Mwenezi East constituencies. Constituencies such as Epworth, St Mary’s and Tsholotsho South would be too close to call considering the current political dynamics.
The race could be close in Gokwe Central where Zanu PF’s Victor Matemadanda narrowly beat MDC Alliance Lisias Mutegwe who is representing the CCC party.
In an interview, Zanu PF political commissar Mike Bimha put the fate of the elections in voters’ hands.
“Our campaign was just to make people choose between what we believe is progress and retrogression. So, we are happy we made that appeal. The choice is theirs.
“Our plan was to tell them what Zanu PF stands for, what it has done and future plans. The choice is theirs, whether they receive it or not. I can’t tell but we did our job. The choice is theirs, whether to move with us or to move with those who want to take us backwards,” Bimha said.
CCC secretary general Charlton Hwende yesterday said while his party had unresolved issues with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), it was expecting a clean sweep.
“We have issues with Zec over the voters’ roll and we are demanding that they release the final register. We have instructed our lawyers to engage them,” he said.
“It is our right and we expect the final voters roll to be made available to us because there are fears that they are trying to manipulate.
“We are, however, expecting a clean sweep come Saturday night because our president has been campaigning extensively across Zimbabwe. Our candidates have also campaigned vigorously. Our door-to-door campaign was very effective,” he added.
Meanwhile, the bickering between the CCC, Zec and the Zimbabwe Republic Police has continued to be the main highlight of the pre-election environment.
To date, the police arrested campaigning CCC members while it also barred five of its star rallies in Gokwe, Marondera, Binga, Masvingo and Epworth.
Politically motivated violence reared its ugly head during the campaigns with both Zanu PF and the CCC supporters fighting.
Political analyst Stephen Chan said Zanu PF was using the by-elections, in part, as a testing ground for their prospects ahead of the 2023 elections.
“It is doubtful they can continue in such a fashion under the watchful gaze of international observers. Zanu PF will probably revise and refine their tactics depending on how well Chamisa’s CCC performs in the by-elections,” Chan said.
“So, at this stage, there is no guarantee that suppressive tactics next year will be as roughshod as what we see now.”
It has also emerged that women are struggling to contest in the elections with only 15% of the candidates in the by-elections being female.
In the national assembly elections, 16 out of 118 candidates vying for the 28 seats are seeking election while for the council seats, there are 76 female candidates against 291 male candidates.
Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence executive director Sitabile Dewa said: “By-elections in Zimbabwe have generally been low key with fewer people turning up to vote but if the crowds we saw in the last few weeks is anything to go by, the stakes are high and the election will be competitive.
“Unfortunately, the current wave of violence has not spared women with long term effects of women shunning to actively participate in political processes as both voters and candidates.”
She said government should also put in place mechanisms that protect women candidates from cyber bullying, online violence and revenge pornography which discourages women from freely utilising the internet platforms for campaigning.