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Zim electorate compound Zanu PF’s mounting right-to-rule dilemma

Local News
Majority rule is a principle whereby a group with more than half of all voters’ mandate should be allowed to make the decisions for the larger group and the 1980 election results were thus, albeit some protests from other contestants, declared a true reflection of the will of the majority people of Zimbabwe.

IN March 1980 Zanu PF romped to victory following the country’s first majority rule polls held between February 14 and March 4 of that year which led to the April 18, 1980 declaration of independence from British colonial rule.

Majority rule is a principle whereby a group with more than half of all voters’ mandate should be allowed to make the decisions for the larger group and the 1980 election results were thus, albeit some protests from other contestants, declared a true reflection of the will of the majority people of Zimbabwe.

Fast forward to 2024, 44 years later,  Zanu PF is still in power.

But the 1980 “muted” protests have since grown much louder and practically being expressed by voters who are clearly questioning, by staying away from polls, the party’s continued reign over the southern African nation.

Two recent by-elections on April 27 highlighted the ruling Zanu PF’s mounting legitimacy dilemma after an average 13% of eligible voters turned up at polling stations to select new Members of Parliament for Harare East and Mt Pleasant constituencies.

While Zanu PF was ecstatic over what it described as “resounding victory”, declaring: “This triumph reaffirms the unwavering trust and confidence the people of Zimbabwe place in our party and leadership”, voter apathy is increasingly exposing the ruling party’s questionable claim to have majority support for its continued stay in power, if the disputes of the August 2033 polls are also thrown into the mix.

Zanu PF is still claiming majority support when it was voted for in the 2023 polls by about 35% of the country’s 6,6 million registered voters. The 2 350 711 people who voted for the party in the presidential vote, for example represent 14% of the country’s 16,6 million population.

The 2023 polls left a sour test in many mouths after local and foreign observer missions dismissed them as neither free nor fair following widespread reports of alleged intimidation and rigging which left many doubting Zanu PF’ claims to have, for example garnered the 2 350 711 votes against the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC)’s 1 967 343 in the presidential ballot.

Zanu PF, however, appears unfazed by the disputes which have haunted it ever since strong opposition to its rule emerged in 2000 when all five polls since then have ended in disputes which forced the formation of a Government of National Unity in 2009 following the highly controversial 2008 elections.

In Harare East and Mt Pleasant, Zanu PF’s claim to majority support was spotlighted after the ruling party was voted for by 6 738 people out of 77 932 registered voters in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s 2023 voters roll for the two constituencies, meaning that Zanu PF is riding on the mandate of roughly 9% of the two areas’ voters to claim legitimacy to rule.

Some are even suggesting that the party is now riding on donations to remain in power.

Posting on social media platform X, former minister in past Zanu PF Cabinets, Jonathan Moro said: “Zanu PF candidates romp to by-elections victory in Mt Pleasant and Harare East constituencies donated by [Fadzayi] Mahere and [Rusty] Markham.”

These donations came after self-declared opposition CCC interim secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu redefined the country’s politics by single-handedly handpicking and recalling dozens of legislators, senators and councillors elected through popular vote in the August 2023 polls.

Mahere and Markham resigned from Parliament in protest over the recalls and in solidarity with their leader Nelson Chamisa who quit the CCC claiming that the party he had helped to form in January 2022 had been heavily infiltrated by the ruling party.

Tshabangu’s recalls then triggered by-elections through which Zanu PF has managed to claim a parliamentary majority of 260 seats, against the opposition’s 80 in both the National Assembly and Senate houses, largely through donations from the CCC as a political organisation.

But to many voters this is far from being a true reflection of the will of the majority of Zimbabwean voters across the country’s constituencies where, for instance, voters stayed home during the December 2023 and February 2024 by-elections.

CCC stayed away from the April 27 by-elections, effectively endorsing the two parliamentary seats donation to Zanu PF by not fielding any candidates in a contest in which only three independent candidates lamely challenged Zanu PF.

“The voters stayed away from these sham by-elections because there is a lack of trust in Zec and the political leadership,” reasoned human rights activist Rashweat Mukundu.

“Voters cast their ballot on Zec and Zanu PF by staying away and the low numbers mean those elected have no political capital to legitimately represent these constituencies. While Zanu PF celebrates the outcome as victory the reality is that Zimbabwe is a laughing stock in the region and globally. This lack of political legitimacy of leaders translates to lack of trust in their policy propositions. What these by-elections have done is to undermine the standing of such State institutions as Parliament and the Judiciary.”

Yet the CCC appears ready and willing to go the extra mile and donate even more to the ruling party by gifting Zanu PF with the mandate to continue ruling the country without the majority of the country’s consensus after suggesting that the 2028 harmonised elections be postponed to allow Zimbabweans to see eye-to-eye on how the country should be governed.

Zimbabwe’s Constitution, however, does not explicitly provide for the postponement of national elections when they are due as the failed attempts to do so ahead of the August 2023 polls proved, unless there is a major natural disaster like an earthquake or disease outbreak like COVID-19.

“Musada kutamba nenyika seizvi (Don’t mess around with our country like this),” former CCC legislator Job Sikhala protested. “Hazvisi right (This is not right). People are closely monitoring this kind of madness. It is not right,” said Sikhala, continuing his resistance to Zanu PF rule after spending 395 in prison accused by the Zanu PF government of inciting public violence.

“The whole CCC episode will be seen as the most farcical suicide note in Zimbabwean electoral history,” concluded UK-based political professor, Stephen Chan.

“It’s an elite ‘eating and looting pact’ with absolutely nothing beneficial to the ordinary person or developmental needs of the people. Anything of that sort is a political party dictatorship and an affront to the rule of law,” opined Mukundu.

In the meantime, the face which had been viewed as offering hope for a better political future for Zimbabwe, Nelson Chamisa is sustaining his political crusade on social media.

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