Village Rhapsody: Inside the long-awaited by-elections

Some civil society organisations and other stakeholders have been calling for electoral reforms before the by-elections can be held, but their demands have not be heard and, with elections dates proclaimed, there is no going back on the elections.

BY EVANS MATHANDA President Emmerson Mnangagwa proclaimed March 26, 2022 as the date for the much-awaited by-elections to fill vacant seats in the National Assembly and local government. But the elections, much as they have been a source of great anxiety for politicians, keen to settle scores and prove themselves, have also been dismissed by some electoral watchdogs and civil society as time and money wasters.

Recently, the new and little-known opposition Zimbabwe Socio-Economic Democrats party (ZSD) called on all political parties to boycott the March by-elections on the grounds that they were poorly planned and would be unnecessarily costly for the country. After all, they argue, the by-elections have already been delayed.

Some civil society organisations and other stakeholders have been calling for electoral reforms before the by-elections can be held, but their demands have not be heard and, with elections dates proclaimed, there is no going back on the elections.

In 2020, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) suspended the holding of by-elections due to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Covid-19 regulations that prohibited huge gatherings to curb the spread of the pandemic. By-elections were supposed to take place in not more than 90 days to fill the vacant seats, according to the constitution. While the move came rather late, allowing the electorate an opportunity to exercise their democratic right and to be represented is commendable.

There have been concerns raised by some stakeholders in relation to 2021 registration statistics recently shared by Zec. The electoral commission initially announced that only 2 951 people had registered to vote, an indication that few people were able to register in the continuous voter registration process in the last three years. The figures have however since been changed, sparking uproar over the transparency of the electoral body.

Some have said on Twitter that the figures released by Zec were an elaborate plan by Zanu PF to rig the forthcoming election with Election Resource Centre (ERC) attributing it to lack of transparency and credibility on the part of the commission.

The fact that voter registration, primary polls, nominations and campaigns are in progress constitute the election cycle. Currently, there are over 100 by-elections due for National Assembly and local authority seats, most of which fell vacant following the recall of Members of Parliament and councillors by the opposition MDC-T Douglas Mwonzora’s party.

Mwonzora went on to write to Zec seeking to bar the Nelson Chamisa-led political party from using the acronym MDC, but Zec said the commission was not in a position to bar MDC Alliance from using the name.

Part of the letter reads:

“The party held its Extraordinary Congress on the 27th of December, 2020 where I was elected the substantive President of the Party. By virtue of the Composite Political Agreement signed on the 5th of August, 2017 and subsequent meeting of the MDC Alliance; I assume the leadership of the MDC Alliance.”

It seems there is a lot of confusion since President Mnangagwa proclaimed the date for by-elections and a number of events took place in a short space of time. Last week MDC-T leader Mwonzora suspended his deputy first vice-president Thokozani Khupe pending investigations into various allegations levelled against her. Ironically, Mwonoza’s letter to Khupe was addressed as MDC-T not MDC Alliance yet he recently wrote to Zec claiming that he was the leader of MDC Alliance party. But how can he assume the presidency of two political parties?

If the late Morgan Tsvagirai was to be resurrected today after five years, he would struggle to put together the fragments of his party.

Some critics have described Chamisa as a leader who has no political plan ahead of the forthcoming 2023 elections. Should Chamisa opt to change the party’s name? If so, how are they going to mobilise people across the country for new party name awareness.

This might be a staged drama meant to confuse and frustrate voters ahead of by-elections and the 2023 general elections expected next year.

Chamisa’s silence on the party’s name has left some of his followers uncertain of the direction their party was taking. Earlier this month he however assured his followers to get ready for victory.

“Get ready for victory. We have heard you, we listened and it shall be done as per your command and demand. Timing and strategy is everything. The new way. The new wave. It’s time for change. Let’s teach them a lesson. You’re the game changers and we’re unstoppable.”

Should Chamisa’s followers expect him to drop the bombshell of a new party name or it was just a political statement?

And, across the political divide, it is still not clear why President Emmerson Mnangagwa fired his State Security minister Owen Ncube, a few days after he proclaimed the March 2022 by-elections.

It is said that President Mnangagwa’s allies had warned him that the party would lose dismally in the forthcoming 2023 elections if Mudha was not immediately removed from the critical ministerial position that he held, given his behaviour.

  • Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity. For feedback email: [email protected] or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19

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