By-elections to test Zanu-PF's preparedness

20Nov 2021
The Guardian
By-elections to test Zanu-PF's preparedness

​​​​​​​The decision that our public health measures are sufficiently good, even though vaccination rates are still well below the minimum needed for a reasonable degree of herd immunity against Covid-19, to allow by-elections to resume early next year is welcome.

The internecine warfare in opposition circles, coupled with the normal problems of MPs and councillors resigning or dying, has meant that there is a swathe of communities without representation in Parliament or their local council, and in some cases both.

Regardless of the quality of the MP or councillor they are missing, and some were quite awful, they still deserve to have their voice heard.

Such a large batch of by-elections will also provide a number of tests of opinion.

As President Mnangagwa, in his role as leader of the largest political party, Zanu PF, has noted, the by-elections will show how much Zanu PF has managed to reclaim the urban vote with three solid years of progress under the Second Republic in sorting out the financial and administrative shortfalls of the past.

If everyone voted rationally, and assuming that the candidates put forward by Zanu PF continue to be good ones with a proper background in both their communities and the outside world, the party should do well.

But the "populist" element cannot be discounted. There are still a lot of people who think anyone against the Government must be good, even if they are having to campaign from a jail cell after being convicted of corruption.

This in fact is likely to be the biggest hurdle that Zanu PF will have to overcome. It can campaign on its record, and that is impressive in the way it has been sorting out the economy.

The Government has also been fixing infrastructure, having to get more into council territory at times such as when it took over urban transport and urban roads, as well as devoting the required resources to the farming communities who have been doing rather well recently.

The other set of tests will be establishing which of the two main opposition groups has the real support. The MDC-T, the official opposition in Parliament, has been sorting out its programmes and has largely joined the Government and the most other and smaller opposition parties in trying to help get Zimbabwe back on its feet.

Obviously it disagrees with the Government on a wide range of issues, which is why it is a separate party, but it presses its points within the Parliamentary system and can distinguish between national interest and a strong difference of opinion internally.

Thus we have the MDC-T backing the response to Covid-19, which is largely generated in any case by medical experts, and joining the general appeal to have all sanctions against Zimbabwe dropped.

Zanu PF manages pushing more first class candidates forward for political office by having a large, but formalised grassroots structure and running primary votes to get decent candidates to nominate for public office, people who have a standing in the world and who are recognised by their own communities as someone who can be trusted to at least be effective in representation.

On the other hand, the MDC-A appears to believe that its self-appointed leadership should be allowed to seize power through gimmicks and external pressures simply because, when they look into the mirror they see themselves as so wonderful. Looking behind the masks it is difficult to find much substance.

The sole policy appears to be to try and mobilise world opinion to wreck the economy, a curious policy for any political party that has any pretensions to one day becoming a government.

Thus most of the party effort goes into trying to create well-fed fake martyrs who are "victims" deserving of sympathy and, far more importantly, stashes of external cash that do not have to be accounted for, let alone audited.

So, along with what will probably be a group of independents or near independents representing minor parties, the by-elections are likely to be three-way fights between the candidate of a Zanu PF, already assured of a decent slice of the vote through the grassroots structures and who can campaign on Government record, a candidate of the MDC-T, and a candidate of the MDC-A whom no one knows and who will probably fake a disappearance and then complain no one loves them.

But as the President has pointed out, the batch of by-elections at least offer a mid-term test of opinion and will give both his party and the other parties a chance to see what has changed since the middle of 2018.

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