Calm before the storm: Why Zanu PF’s confidence is worrying

On the eve of elections in 1980, then Zanu PF leader, Robert Mugabe seemed uncharacteristically confident.


The run up to the elections had been fraught with violence and intimidation, with the colonial power, Britain, at one point, toying with the idea of postponing elections in some areas because the conditions were not conducive to free and fair polls.

There was a fear that Zanu PF would pull out of the elections if ever they were delayed in any area and this position was reinforced by Tanzania and Mozambique, the leading lights of the Front Line States.

Mugabe, then told the media, that he would accept any result — although he expected to win — and if he lost he would work hard to make sure he would win the next time.
A day before the polls, he left for Mozambique and ultimately Tanzania where he was when the results were announced.

Mugabe projected that he would win an outright majority, with 56 seats and instead he got 57, raising the ire of his political opponents, particularly Joshua Nkomo of PF (Zapu), who wondered how the Zanu PF leader could have been that accurate in his projections.

Nkomo raised the spectre of rigging in the polls and accused the British of being complicit, but he could not prove it. Ads

Fast forward 23 years later and Mugabe was his confident self again, hosting a press conference in 2013 just ahead of the elections.

He seemed calm and jovial before the elections, even being magnanimous to his opponents, which was uncharacteristic of Mugabe whose campaigns were usually quite tempestuous and always carried one threat or another.

When asked what would happen if he lost, Mugabe gave a response quite similar to one he gave in 1980, saying: “If you lose, then you must surrender to those who have won … We will do so, yeah, comply with the rules.”

Just as in 1980, Mugabe stormed to an outright parliamentary majority, leaving his opponents accusing him of rigging, but like the independence election, no evidence has been provided about the alleged chicanery.

We have all heard about Nikuv, but there is nothing quite substantive to prove the rigging.

The late MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai promised a dossier to prove the rigging, but pulled out of a court case where unimpeachable evidence on vote manipulation would have been presented.

A short five years later, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who sat at Mugabe’s side at that press conference in 2013 is now in charge.

Like Mugabe then, Mnangagwa is promising free, fair and credible elections and has called for a peaceful poll.

Maybe I am being too cynical, but it is quite easy to draw parallels between the 1980 and 2013 elections and draw inferences ahead of the 2018 polls.

In 1980, Mugabe had just pulled the rug under the feet of the coalition Patriotic Front and announced he would go it alone in the polls and in 2013, he had outmanoeuvred Tsvangirai and pronounced an election date without consulting his government partner and ignored all manner of protests.

The margin of victory in those two elections was quite staggering and left observers with more questions than answers.

In 2018, Mnangagwa seems to have borrowed from his mentor, with his campaign seemingly yet to start, while at the same time promising free elections, something not in keeping with how Zanu PF does things.

There should be something that is driving this confidence that Zanu PF will form the next government and the opposition should be wary about that.

Claims of vote rigging, if the opposition loses, will not carry, as this will be seen as a case of sour grapes.

And just like in 1980, there is fatigue with the Zimbabwe situation and the international community will be more open to working with Zanu PF and protestations about rigging will be noted, but probably swatted away.

Foreign nations will ignore internal issues and would be more focused on international ones, with their eye on how they can benefit from Zimbabwe coming out of isolation, just like in 1980.

The opposition may fill up stadiums and every open space, but it is now time for them to investigate what is behind Zanu PF’s buoyancy and calm before the election.
This is not to say they must stop campaigning, but their strategy should go beyond mass mobilisation and be premised on scientific research and intelligence of what their opponents are doing.

Without looking at these issues, the opposition may well be shadowboxing and will be in for a rude awakening in the elections.

It is reported that in 2013, MDC-T was impervious to research on Zanu PF’s electoral strategy and we know what happened then.

The opposition must not rest on their laurels and be inebriated by the success of their mobilisation strategies, but must get into the minds of Zanu PF and think like the ruling party so they have the ability to pre-empt their strategies.

Failure to do this and they would have only themselves to blame for their losses.

Zanu PF has learnt that violence and intimidation subtract from their legitimacy and are now running a campaign that is subtler and whose excesses easily fly below the radar.

MDC-T leader, Nelson Chamisa may draw bigger crowds and be a better orator than Mnangagwa by far, but as long as he does not dig into the subtleties that drive the Zanu PF campaign, then he is wasting his time.

Feedback: Twitter @nqabamatshazi


  1. some grain of truth here and there in this write up and one thing which the youngest in charge must also know is that during the voter registration days there did zero to mobilse youngsters to register and it would be folly for them to think people will just vote for them from nowhere and the suspicion is that majority of registered voters are zanupf supporters, ED and team are not worried with the numbers at Khamisa shows and there obviously have a thing or two up their sleeve

    1. i think @eliasha you did not understand the writer’s point….becuase your comment is on the exact things the writer acknolegdes are happening but the oppoesition needs to go one gear up….he talks of investment in research and putting themselves in the thinking of zanu pf to unearth zanu rigging strategies….this is the point. if you are well read and a fun of social media, you will note that even Jonathan Moyo speaks abt the same where the game is played not in the ballot box but in logistics and electronic space. The opposition must study and research more on these…ndozvirikurehwa nemunyori

      1. you did not equally understand my message which bordered around support of the writers contribution but on the same note also highlighting the other shortfalls of the main opposition and stressing that team ED are relaxed because of other hidden weapon which there know will make them romp to victory.

  2. Maturity and inexperience is what we are witnessing. Who do you put your money on Nqaba?

  3. Where the river is deepest it makes the least noise. The opposition is preoccupied in secondary affairs, ups and downs in a presumably (premature) celebratory mood unaware of what their chief competitor may be cooking behind the scenes. They are silently mastering your ‘loud’ campaign network to learn when and how to hit. Let us not place the cart before the horse.

  4. Murimi Wanhasi

    Comment…Do u remember “Zey dont call me die-hard for nothing!”,well,”They dont call him Ngwena for nothing”.Watch and learn as the crocodile strikes.

    1. #EDHasMyVote

  5. Matebele Warrior- Chamisa is our leader

    For sure the opposition must be very careful , something is happening behind closed doors

  6. It’s quite understandable for people to still have fears of a zanupf revival in the present day, especially after it has ruled us for so many decades. But the truth of the matter is that the glory of zanupf is long gone & nothing can ever bring it back from the graveyard

  7. Unzo wekwa Zvimba

    well written article,Kudos

  8. Great article. But people of Zimbabwe let us be practical. Do you think ED, Chiwenga and CO risked their lives staging a coup to remove Mugabe only for them to rule for 6months? Do you expect Chiwenga after retiring from army just to be fired and go n farm and be called former VP?. No way, hell will freeze before that happen.

  9. Mhofu YeMukono

    Very insightful advice which the opposition must take heed of now rather than later. Alumina nzeve ndewako.

  10. Those ZANU of leaders are all corrupt ,they are now acting like they are clean but they were eating together ,they should not rule


  11. for starters Gwena is not a good public orator and thats why he has shunned a head to head battle with Chamisa. Secondly Ngwena is letting the youngster run his mouth and make all the possible mistakes. The only simple thing that he will do when campaigning is show the people where he has been and what he has been upto, expose the Chamisa lies and theatrics. And by then the MDC train will have run out of steam.

  12. Very true remember the days of Grace she was saying all sorts of words like what Chamisa is doing but Ngwena was quiet as if nothing is happening but chii chakazoitika kuti vanhu vazare kuma rally a chamisa is another stratege iyoyi so that he become relactant achiti ane suport be careful

  13. Comment…samaita u r vry corect the chiwengas n company ddnt surenda thei influencial post kt umwe mnhu auye apunde panyanga they r lukin bynd naelections tht r prepared to d anythn saka mfana ngambo parker dzungu rake

  14. Newsday is 2013 really 23 years after 1980 of 33 years??????

  15. I believe ED is in full swing campaign mode already. It’s not about excitable crowds in a stadium, it’s about working to try and resolve bread and butter issues. In all fairness ED is working hard on that front although admittedly results are yet to manifest in our pockets. It will be a waste of time for him to be in a stadium or engaging in a useless public debate now when I need a job, food on my table, cash at the bank etc. To be running his mouth on bullet trains, airports, Nkomo’s stick, Jabulani Sibanda would be irresponsible and immature. No prices for guessing who is leading in the race for my vote at this stage!

    1. That job and cash will only materialise when you get rid of him not keep him

  16. Chamisa has been winning his Kuwadzana parliamentary seat ever since he was even 18 years more immature than he is now while ED was eternally losing Kwekwe & eventually had to seek refuge in some rural constituency

    1. And what has he done for Kuwadzana since he was 18?

  17. The registration of supporters and recording of voter slip serial numbers is where the rigging will take place. Common perception is the exercise will be used to intimidate voters but I have a feeling something more sinister is being planned with this information.

    1. I thought Zimbos were educated. I think it’s an insult to suggest that the majority of Zimbos believe someone can see what they do inside that cubicle, certainly kwedu hatina kupusa kudaro!

  18. Ngwena vs 117 opposition parties. Watch the Bullet Train derailed by a Crocodile

  19. Even more telling than Zanu PF’s current calm, is the brazen confidence they had in nominating an unpopular, nonagenarian Mugabe as their candidate for 2018 (before the fall out with Lacoste and subsequent events). Whatever “recipe” they had in mind for cooking the MDC-goose in support of Mugabe will now surely serve to cook it for Mnangagwa. The recipe has to be exposed or countered.

  20. nqaba advise yako its more of fear hausikunzwa kuti nerooooo vakati electoral reforms uye kuti command element of zdf must pleage alliance to to the constituion and zec must be independent the soilders deployed must be removed from civilians and zbc must cover sound basically what mugabe did was to use his power to force voters to vote for him.chakaita mugabe arambe aripo kuti mazezuru aiiti ngaatonge kusvika madhongi abuda nyanga nyanga dziye dzabuda manje saka isu mavota tinofanira kutoita kuti munhuwese avothere nerooooo full stop

  21. Good to see G40 journos like Matshazi facing up to the inevitable and occasionally dealing with facts. This must have been written lump firmly stuck in throat.

  22. ED can try to be calm, but what i know he is not as wise as Mugabe. G40 was behind Mugabe rigging. This time it is the opposite. ED has created a lot of enemies who will out win him. A lot is happening apart from rallies.

    1. u r lying actually itx Lacoste team hu where the power behind Mugabe not G40 vana vazuro

    2. If Mugabe was wiser he would still be president. He was outsmarted hands down!

    3. My friend Zanu-PF might have internal problems but when it comes to retaining power they unite

  23. nutty professor

    this writer deserves a nobel prize for this article. well said. there definitely will be a lot crying from the opposition side when they lose. instead of doing their research they will be crying foul

  24. Haiwawo G40 hapana zvawataura. Tangisa. However I have a problem neapo parikunzi mfana uyu Chamisa “maybe drawing bigger crowds”… How can you compare Chamisa’s “bigger” crowds with ED who is yet to start campaigning?

    1. Nomacebo Khumalo

      big crowds do not mean that people will vote for the candidate. Abantu liyabazi nje. for all i know ZANU supporters attend rallies more than opposition supporters. True the Champs boy ungathi ulamawala kakhulu. Engineer Mudzuri would have been a better candidate. Mark my words.EMPTY VESSELS make ………

  25. You can not deal with the same people and expect a different outcome… ( Zanu-pf will always be Zanu-pf) …those that think otherwise are wishful thinking,I remember in 2013 presidential elections although they (zanu-pf) won by a resounding victory of 2/3 majority 61.09% and MDC 34.94%… there was no “national celebrations”(whatsoever) from any district by zanu-pf after they rigged the 2013 elections with the help of Nikuv.

    The Country was in a somber mood (personally it was sad to observe) …. this time 2018 the youths are in the ‘driving seat’ and rest assured they expectation are high for change!!! i can assure you without victory there is going to be violence…Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

    I’ve observed as I walked through our towns and Cities of Zimbabwe and noticed that about 85% of the poeple that are so-called “Vendors”or street walkers are within and below (Generation 40)….

    My Observation of Emmerson Mnwagwa is that his part of the “elite group of thugs” that have stolen national wealth for self gain… And who used and is still using the remaining “white minority” to enrich themselves from bending TAX rules, in order to profit companies…

    Secondly, he does not have the majority of Zimbabwean “POVO” at heart .. if you look at his activities in the last four months or so (i) he only surrounds himself with this elite Business community, Muslim community, White community… at no time in 4 or 5 months has he shown ‘heartened emotion’ to the suffering Zimbabweans!!!….. the closest his gone to this (JOBS,JOBS,JOBS)..

    The majority of people that worship him fall in this group including (Britian and EU).. but by now they realise Zimbabwe is now a “Military state”….. EDiots!!!!

    Nelson Chamisa, clearly stated “ZIMBABWE will be (ungovernable) if they do not win the elections (if not) free and fair (and rightfully so)… meaning – whichever way you look at it a problem is coming!!!….

  26. Comment…ngesiNdebele sakithi sithi inkuzi ikhethwa ematholeni makhumalo yiyo le dadewethu sekhethiwe umfana thulubheke sizowanyathela amadimoni ayi Zanu nenduna yawo engumbulali umnagagwa,Chamisa has my vote akujiki!

  27. Comrade van Dame!

    You know, I was trying to figure out what zvimaAyini zvemarasha zviya zvekuita mbiri, zvihuta, gango and Chamisa have in common… Now I know. They’re all fads originating from Harare meant for the gullible to benefit a small motley lot for a short period, only to stop when the duped figure out what happened to them, then it dies down while the injured are licking their wounds! Watch this space!

  28. zanu pf is huge well oiled machine never underestimate it plus no rigging has ever been proved I support stability

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