Zanu aims for two-thirds

The ruling Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe has set its sights on achieving a two-thirds majority in the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on March 31. The party’s secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, told the Mail & Guardian that “judging by the situation on the ground and the turnout at our rallies, the opposition presence in Parliament will be cut to 15 seats”.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has, however, hit back with claims that it will turn the tables on Zanu-PF in its traditional rural strongholds, particularly in the Midlands and Masvingo provinces, where MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been leading its campaign. MDC secretary Welshman Ncube claims they have been “drawing crowds of between 4 000 to 6 000 at rallies in rural districts”. The MDC is confident it will secure “no less than 70 seats” out of the 120 constituencies being contested.

“It’s an unpredictable election,” said Professor Henry Dzinotyiwei of the University of Zimbabwe. “A lot will depend on whether people will be enthusiastic to go and vote. Voter apathy in rural districts will work in the opposition’s favour, apathy in urban areas will benefit the ruling party.”

Both Zanu-PF and the MDC recorded more than 10 000 people at their manifesto launch rallies, held a week apart. President Robert Mugabe took a break from the campaign trail this week to celebrate his 81st birthday in Marondera, 60km east of Harare. He has spent the past few weeks criss-crossing the country addressing public meetings and donating computers to schools to woo votes in the provinces whose chairpersons were suspended after the controversial Tsholotsho gathering. MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi accused Zanu-PF of trying to buy votes by “donating computers when schools hardly had any textbooks and roofing material”.

Tsvangirai will be venturing into Mugabe’s home province of Mashonaland West at the weekend.

Axed former minister of information, Jonathan Moyo is gearing up for a rally on Saturday in Tsholotsho — where he will stand as an independent. Moyo, who was given his marching orders by Zanu-PF for registering to contest the seat, currently held by the MDC, is defiant of the ruling party’s decision to reserve the constituency for a woman.

On Wednesday, Mugabe laid into his erstwhile spin doctor: “The real Tsholotsho does not belong to this man.”

Speaking at the funeral of a former minister and Harare provincial governor Witness Mangwende, he said: “The chiefs there don’t even know him. When we asked the chiefs, they said we do not know this man. You are the ones who brought him to us saying he will represent the party.”

Moyo, revered by friends and reviled by enemies with almost equal intensity, was the man who reinvigorated Zanu-PF during the 2 000 election campaign with his sabre-rattling speeches and his heavy-handedness with the media and any other public critic of the government. After his dismissal from the party, he declared that he had saved Zanu-PF from collapse. “I did not join a Zanu-PF gravy train, but jumped from a sinking ship that’s heading for ground after its captain had been left alone by his crew.”

Zanu-PF’s Didymus Mutasa, while acknowledging that Moyo had helped ensure the party’s survival, dismissed suggestions that his departure would hamper its election campaign. “Moyo had lots of energy, ran around and worked very hard for the party, but no one is indispensable.”

University of Zimbabwe political analyst Eldred Masunungure is of the view that Zanu-PF and the government would be the poorer without Moyo, but noted that his own political prospects were “very bleak” outside the ruling party. He said Zimbabwe was rapidly “evolving into an entrenched two-party system with little or no room for independent politicians”. Masunungure said it is a “clear exaggeration to say he [Moyo] saved Zanu-PF from collapse”.

When Moyo was a Zanu-PF campaign manager in 2000, the party was struggling to deal with a deepening political and economic crisis after it had been shaken to its foundations by a shock electoral defeat in a constitutional referendum in February 2000.

Facing a grim future after the emergence of the opposition MDC in September 1999, Zanu-PF urgently needed rejuvenation and Moyo, a rabid critic of Mugabe in the past, stepped up to the plate. His first mission was to revive Mugabe’s failed totalitarian project, of the Eighties, with key elements including a de facto one-party state, a command economy and a virtually closed society.

Poll watch

  • Zimbabwe’s former information minister Jonathan Moyo has taken legal steps to stop his eviction from a government house. He has been given a two-week reprieve.
  • The MDC has been restricted from campaigning among Zimbabwe’s armed forces and denied access to their families.
  • The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation gave four minutes of coverage to the MDC election campaign launch and a two-hour slot to Mugabe to discuss Zanu-PF’s election promises.
  • Zimbabwean paper, the Weekly Times, was shut down last week for allegedly violating the country’s media laws. The Bulawayo-based paper had only published eight editions.
  • The Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP), a civil society organisation that claims to represent 12 000 war veterans, was in South Africa this week as part of a tour to former liberation fighters in the SADC region. It has distanced itself from Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF in the election campaign.
  • A new coalition of independent candidates emerged to contest the election as a united front. It has been formed from candidates expelled from the MDC and Zanu-PF.
  • The SADC Parliamentary Forum was informed that it will not be allowed to send an observer mission to monitor the elections. The mother body is, however, on the approved list, as is the African Union and the Non-Aligned Movement. The Commonwealth, from which Zimbabwe has withdrawn, the European Union and the United States, which recently branded Zimbabwe an “outpost of tyranny” have not cracked an invite. The invitations were sent out at least fifty days later than prescribed by the SADC protocol on elections.
  • Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions’ secretary general, Wellington Chibebe, appeared in court this week on charges of contravening the Public Order and Security Act in August last year. The case was withdrawn after the state’s key witness, a police officer, crumbled under cross examination.
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