‘Dearth of opposition politics kills democratic discourse’

Promise Mkwananzi

The death of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) with the ruling Zanu PF party claiming all seats post-August 2023 harmonised elections is threatening the democratic discourse in Zimbabwe, analysts have said.

In various interviews, political commentators and actors this week bemoaned the country’s gravitation towards a one-party State.

Zanu PF is seemingly devouring the opposition parties since the general elections last year dominating by-elections held since December last year.

The Zimbabwean electorate has been left disillusioned by the political turmoil after self-imposed CCC interim secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu recalled more than 20 opposition legislators, virtually aiding Zanu PF towards a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Zanu PF took two more seats from the CCC after the by-elections held in Harare East and Mt Pleasant last weekend.

According to Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), voter apathy marred the by-elections.

“The voter turnout in both by-elections was very low with Harare East constituency recording a turnout of 15,2%, and Mount Pleasant constituency recorded an 11,6% turnout,” Zesn said.

“Members of the public are encouraged to fully utilise their constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights by, among other things, participating in voting when elections are conducted.”

Zanu PF has made inroads into Harare province where the opposition parties have dominated since 2 000, claiming seats in Parliament.

Political analysts who spoke to NewsDay bemoaned the dearth of opposition politics after the recent by-elections.

Mass Public Opinion Institute director Eldred Masunungure said the post-2023 elections developments in the political arena signalled a full-scale regression to the post-Unity Accord decade.

He said the decade between 1988 and 1999 represented a period when Zimbabwe was effectively a de facto one-party system.

“Zanu PF (then) enjoyed a supermajority in the then one-chamber Parliament. Though this is happening within a de jure multi-party constitutional framework, having a pliant opposition is still inimical to democratic governance and entrenches the practice of a rubber-stamping Parliament rather than encouraging robust debate in the Legislature,” he said.

Masunungure said the opposition in Zimbabwe had become more of an appendage of the ruling party that routinely agreed even on matters that is at variance with the public interest.

“In short, it’s dark days in Zimbabwe for critical democratic discourse,” he said.

Professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies Stephen Chan said Zanu PF had achieved its objective of creating a strong one-party State.

 “Zanu PF has accomplished its aim of creating a dominant party State, with a tame or ineffectual opposition held up to the outside world as evidence of democracy.

“It is the Singapore model and it has been achieved by faulty elections and judicially-aided sabotage. I do not expect any effective opposition fight-back against this state of affairs in the near or medium-term future,” he said.

Another political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya described the situation as “pretty ugly”.

“However, just like (former President Robert) Mugabe’s obsession with one party state-ism in the 1980s and 1990s, ED's will eventually collapse.

“The ‘opposition’ is not an institutional or personal phenomenon. No, it is a national collective ethos embedded in progressive Zimbabweans. The phoenix of opposition will rise again, hopefully, not violently,” he said.

However, CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi said they would never allow Zimbabwe to become a one-party State.

He said the opposition movement would soon announce a programme of action to restore legitimacy in the country.

“We will never allow a one-party State to subsist in Zimbabwe. We are seized with rebuilding the authentic alternative on the ground following the hijacking of the CCC by Mnangagwa using Tshabangu.

“In the coming days, weeks, and months we are going to unveil a political programme of action to demand Zimbabwe to return to legitimacy, competitive and multiparty democracy,” he said.

But Zanu PF director for information, Farai Marapira, defended the current political arena in Zimbabwe.

“Our democracy has never been healthier than it is now. Zimbabweans are now voting based on results and not the on basis of hatred with dominant opposition politics.

“If anything, the current results in the by-elections show that our politics have matured. Voters are now voting for sound politics and ideas.

“If the opposition does not shift from the politics of hate it will continue to sink into the abyss,” he said.

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