OXFORD University lecturer Phillan Zamchiya says opposition parties have failed to read the new political economy in Zimbabwe thereby affecting their political messaging and costing them last year’s July 31 polls won resoundingly by Zanu PF.
Zamchiya said opposition and civil society in Zimbabwe should understand the new political economy and avoid remaining stuck in the modernist approach to politics if they have to win elections.
He made the comments during the joint Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Election Resource Centre (ERC)-organised public discussion titled, July 2013 One Year On: Reflections.
“Opposition parties and civil society have remained stuck in the modernist approach to politics while Zanu PF has adopted a new approach which mixes the traditional and modernist approaches to securing power,” Zamchiya said.
He said the new political economy had altered the political terrain and political parties and civil society had to adapt to this or else the country would remain discussing the narrative of stolen election with “thin evidence” to back up the claims.
Zamchiya argued Zanu PF had used four new realities in the political economy that included the fast-track land reform, informal mining, urban informal sector and urban informal housing as tools for patronage to win elections.
“The fast-track land reform programme, whether we like it or not, created new 150 000 landowners which translates to over a million people who were resettled. This is to date the largest post-colonial Africa agrarian reform,” he said.
“The informal mining activities are supporting between two and three million people and Zanu PF used it for patronage purposes. For instance, for one to mine he had to be a party member or he supported party activities with funding.”
Zamchiya further illustrated that in urban areas Zanu PF took advantage of the emerging informal markets and informal housing schemes (co-operatives) to tap membership and control the urban vote. He argued the party, for instance, had redistributed the Mbare vending markets to people who held party cards and compelled them to be on the voters’ roll.
“The sum total is that one will see an upsurge of new voters in these areas and that Zanu PF was winning 80% of the vote from these constituencies.
“These figures have also been replicated in places like Mbare, Harare South and Chitungwiza where Zanu PF made significant inroads in July 31 polls,” Zamchiya said. “The opposition and civil society should not confine themselves to issues such as civil political rights, but should also engage on the new political economy.”