Opposition parties should brace for a challenging poll against a renewed Zanu PF made up of younger and new candidates, who sprang surprises against party bigwigs in the just-ended primary elections, analysts have said.
By Everson Mushava
Zanu PF held primary elections early this week that saw the party’s old guards, who include politburo members Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, Christopher Mutsvangwa, Christopher Mushohwe and Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha, among others, losing the contest to younger candidates.
The victory of the younger generation was being viewed by analysts as the renewal of the party under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came into power following the resignation of his predecessor Robert Mugabe on the back of a military operation last November.
Analysts said the victory by new and younger candidates showed that people want change and this would present a huge challenge to opposition parties, especially the MDC Alliance, whose thrust has been on change.
Political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza said the fact that there were now some newcomers had to do with normal competition and the MDC-T should do something extraordinary to pull surprises against a renewed Zanu PF.
“The central control that used to be in place in the past is no longer there. Everyone is coming in, even from the Diaspora. The kind of due diligence is no longer there and it is everyone’s ball, that is why there were many candidates contesting,” he said.
“The MDC and all the opposition parties will have to do something extraordinary to deal with people who are viewed as newcomers.
“The polls show support for individuals recognised in communities, not party and political parties and there will be a real war on the opposition’s hands. The old guards were easy to beat because they were identified with Mugabe. This election is all about the youths versus the old and we can expect Mnangagwa to go the same way.”
Former Mbizo legislator, Settlement Chikwinya said the new candidates would not be easy to defeat and could resort to violence and intolerance.
“The new candidates will be tempted to default into youthful behaviour of overzealousness and intimidation politics, which is the Zanu PF DNA and default setting,” he said.
Another analyst, Farai Maguwu, said rebranded or not, Zanu PF used the power of incumbency — manipulation of the electoral system and State institutions.
“If these are not addressed, we won’t have any genuine possibility of a fair contest. What is happening in Zanu PF is realigning of the party with Mnangagwa loyalists,” he said.
Another political analyst, Gladys Hlatywayo said the renewal in Zanu PF was not a major factor, “as people look at the party as a system itself and to be honest, nothing much has changed, and it is still the same old Zanu PF”.
“When we want to make an assessment of the ruling party, we should look at the entire system. The dumping of the old guard doesn’t change the structure of Zanu PF as a system,” she said.
In terms of the low figures, Hlatywayo said Zanu PF used to thrive on nationalism, the pan-African discourse and the removal of Mugabe has left the party with an ideological crisis and its support base shrinking.
“The power bloc is shifting towards military soon after Mugabe’s military-backed exit and the soldiers are not able to mobilise, but command and this has affected the party’s power base,” she said.
Another political analyst, Ernest Mudzengi said the loss by bigwigs had always been the case, only that they were protected before.
“The said primary elections were purely a Zanu PF affair, which should not worry the opposition parties because the national elections will be a different ball game,” he said.
“People want representatives they identify with. I don’t, however, see the leadership renewal in Zanu PF having an effect on the opposition chances. The national election is a different ball game.”