March 26 by-elections drive final nail in the MDC’s coffin

Its leader, Douglas Mwonzora still believes the party will rise from the ashes after the battering from the recently held elections. The party’s failure to secure a single seat in all contested areas paints a gloomy picture.

TENDAI MAKARIPE THE names, Morgan Tsvangirai, Gibson Sibanda, Welshman Ncube, Fletcher Dulini Ncube and Isaac Matongo have been immortalised in some sections of Zimbabwe’s political discourse. Against all odds, they formed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999, a vibrant political party that mounted the first serious challenge against Robert Mugabe.

Openly declaring to challenge Mugabe was by no means an easy feat but the MDC, under Tsvangirai, was determined.

One year after its formation, the MDC won 57 seats in the 2000 parliamentary election, compared to Zanu PF’s 62.

In the coming years, the opposition’s popularity continued on an upward trajectory. This was evident in the party’s performances during plebiscites.

Despite several splits, starting with the one in 2005, the MDC maintained its space as the dominant opposition outfit in the country. Not anymore!

The just-ended March 26 by-elections have all but placed the final nail on the MDC’s coffin.

Its leader, Douglas Mwonzora still believes the party will rise from the ashes after the battering from the recently held elections. The party’s failure to secure a single seat in all contested areas paints a gloomy picture.

Analyst Jethro Makumbe said MDC is now dead in the water.

“The MDC as an emblem of opposition politics in Zimbabwe is gone, never to rise again. What remains now are a shameless bunch of political cuckolds fawning over Zanu PF trinkets,” Makumbe said.

Another analyst Lazarus Sauti concurred with Makumbe saying: “The co-optation of the MDC into Zanu PF signalled the end of the brand that was created and maintained over the years by Morgan Richard Tsvangirai.

“The performance of the MDC in the by-elections put the final nail in its coffin. Douglas Mwonzora destroyed that party. He finished it.”

While the MDC has been left to lick its wounds, its nemesis, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Nelson Chamisa is in a celebratory mood.

CCC leader Nelson Chamisa

CCC won 19 out of the 28 national assembly seats with the remaining nine seats going to the ruling Zanu PF party, which still enjoys a parliamentary majority. The recently launched political outfit also won 75 council seats out of the 120 that were up for grabs.

“The citizens are very clear. They have made a bold statement that they believe in the CCC. We are marching towards a two-thirds majority come 2023 election,” Chamisa told a press conference earlier this week.

However, this victory should not be seen as a guarantee for another win in the 2023 election.

“The performance of CCC is significant and recognisable. However, the party needs to work hard; it needs to mobilise grassroots support. Winning the by-election does not guarantee to win in next year’s national elections,” Sauti added.

While the CCC basks in the glory of election victory, a fundamental reality stares the party in face; statistics have shown that a significant number of youths did not participate in the elections.

Whether they were not registered voters or chose not to participate in the process is something the opposition has to find out and come up with a concrete strategy.

Drawing large crowds during campaigns is one thing and having voters casting their votes in your favour is another thus parties have to strategise on how to convince the youths to participate in the electoral process.

Another political analyst Tinos Jujuju said: “Inclusive political participation is not only a fundamental political and democratic right but is also crucial to building stable, peaceful societies and developing policies that respond to the specific needs of younger generations.

“For young people to be adequately represented in political institutions, processes, and decision-making, and in particular in elections, they must know their rights and be given the necessary knowledge and capacity to participate in a meaningful way at all levels”.

The ruling Zanu PF party, however, believes the CCC’s victory is just a fluke and poured water on conclusions that the Chamisa-led party will cause an upset come 2023.

Zanu PF secretary for publicity Chris Mutsvangwa said over two decades of neglect of citizens by the opposition invited the wrath of long-suffering urban citizenry at the expense of Nelson Chamisa and his party.

“The electoral jury is out. Come the 2023 harmonised elections, Zanu PF envisages an electoral tsunami that will drown the foreign spawned opposition and its reliance on alien sponsorship,” Mutsvangwa said.

“President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa has a reason for a measure of smugness. His hopeful message of urban renewal is hitting the tuneful chords in our towns and cities. The urban appeal of the mantra Zimbabwe Is Open for Business is energising entrepreneurial flair.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

He said incessant dog fights within opposition handed the ruling party a propitious chance to pick more national assembly seats thus boosting its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Analyst Gibson Nyikadzino said the biggest winner in the just ended by-elections was Zanu PF.

“When you look at the national total vote, the difference between Zanu PF (nine seats) and the opposition (19 seats) is 1 400 votes. So in nine constituencies, Zanu PF showed that it has the capability to mobilise in opposition strongholds,” Nyikadzino said. “Zanu PF members have an appetite to vote as compared to members of the opposition which works in the ruling party’s favour. Additionally, Zanu PF offers more in terms of ideological persuasion as compared to the opposition.

“The nyika inovakwa nevene vayo (a country is built by its owners) mantra has been appealing to people yet the opposition is a party that does not belong to any ideological inclination,” he added.

Nyikadzino further noted that in 2023, Zanu PF will continue to make inroads into opposition strongholds.

Another key take-away from the election is general voter apathy and analysts believe this exhibits lack of trust on elections and electoral processes by Zimbabweans.

“A lot needs to be done by political actors, Zec (as the referee), political watchdogs like the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network and Election Resource Network, and the media to conscientise citizens, build trust, and stimulate interest in political and electoral processes,” Sauti said.