Political lessons for the opposition from an unlikely source

The past week was dominated by news of the popular Radio Zimbabwe Coca Cola Top 50 list, which saw veteran musician, Leonard “Karikoga” Zhakata, setting a new high by occupying pole position including the clinching of second and third place gongs.

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This was despite the fact that, for the better part of the year, no one, primarily in the urban areas, would, as a general thing, identify with Zhakata’s music. It remains a perplexing conundrum to music connoisseurs how the artiste could have such a “landslide victory” amassing over 250 000 votes ahead of immensely popular contemporary musicians such as Jah Prayzah, whose album went platinum from day one and whose song, Mudhara Vachauya, reached anthemic proportions, even weaving its way into the succession tiff besetting the ruling party, Zanu PF.

Many popular contemporary artistes, quite strangely lost out; songs so popular that one would hear them played as soon as they land at Zimbabwe’s main airport were trounced in votes, leaving a very bitter taste in the mouths of many, who still believe the popular radio competition was rigged in favour of Zhakata. As has been noted elsewhere, Zhakata is the kind of artiste, who struggles to command a decent audience and cannot fill the Harare International Conference Centre as Jah Prayzah, for instance, has done repeatedly. Very few, particularly the urban voters, knew Zhakata’s song, which claimed top spot and, all too often, such fans were left wondering what had hit them and their beloved artistes.

Lessons can be drawn from this scenario vis-à-vis Zimbabwean politics. This musical competition script is not alien to the country’s politics. The script carries all the hallmarks of the frosty relations that have characterised election time between Zimbabwe’s main opposition MDC-T and the ruling party, Zanu PF. The script has played out time and again; at the announcement of election results everyone drops their jaws in bewilderment as to how a perceptibly popular party, as seen at rallies, is toppled by a party, which, on the surface, had the majority of citizens cursing it. All too often the opposition has pointed to massive rigging by Zanu PF, indeed, one cannot throw out the aspect of rigging, but if there is an inescapable truth, as much as many may loathe Zanu PF it is this: Zanu PF, has registered voters at the grassroots — the party simply has more registered voters across the country than the opposition in this country has combined. Whether through vile means the ruling party has ensured that its supporters are not mere regalia and paper supporters, but actual registered voters and this is what determines who triumphs in politics. It is the party with the registered voter that deserves to win.

There is a world of difference between party supporters and registered voters. A party with registered voters will walk over a party with millions of unregistered supporters. Popularity at rallies and on the streets does not translate into real countable votes that are necessary to change the complexion of an election. Zanu PF’s support base is anchored in registering voters. Millions of supporters not transmuted into voters are a fallacious runaway horse. Zanu PF’s support base is concrete. They don’t leave anything to chance. They pull everything, even if it means crudely involving headmen to ensure everyone is a registered voter. Zanu PF will, if need be, use crude methods, but at the very end they emerge victorious.

The opposition is failing to harness its large reservoir of support. The opposition has many supporters, but one would be surprised to learn that most opposition supporters are loud mouths, who are not registered to vote. These are the very people, who are quick to want to know the result of an election, yet they don’t vote. Some huge constituencies in Harare appallingly had a total of 654 voters in the last presidential election. A constituency with thousands of people having less than 700 voters indicates apathy and a lack of concern. And these are the areas that need to be tapped into, but we have an opposition that as much sleeps on the wheel. The opposition in Zimbabwe must understand that things such as social media and thousands of supporters at rallies are highly misleading. Real strength is to be found in the party with the most registered voters. This ought to be common sense, but we have the opposition falling in the same ditch year in, year out and seemingly not picking their lesson, The opposition always feels robbed at the announcement of results, but without taking time to self-introspect. Many will recall the “Red Monday” rally held by Morgan Tsvangirai at the “Freedom Square” just before the last presidential election. Indeed, there was a sea of red signifying huge support for the opposition leader.
Disappointment was to follow a few days later after results were announced. Like I highlighted, one can never underestimate the prospect of results being tampered with, but winning an election is that simple: it’s the registered voter who counts.

That said, one can clearly see that Zimbabwe is as much a victim of the opposition’s lack of strategy as it is a victim of misrule.

Learnmore Zuze writes in his own capacity. E-mail: lastawa77@gmail.com

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