The 2018 elections are gathering momentum judging by the pronouncements and activities being carried out by political parties. All political parties have already started canvassing with the most publicized event being the youth rallies by the President of ZANU-PF. Barring all the electoral chicanery that has become characteristic of elections in Zimbabwe, the 2018 elections are defining. Defining in the sense that the opposition enters the electoral race facing a fragmented ZANU-PF bruised by internal factionalism over which faction will succeed President Mugabe. This seemingly “weakened” ZANU-PF is giving the opposition confidence that it will win the elections.
Statements by opposition MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai that he will finish off ZANU-PF perhaps can be taken in the context of a fractured ZANU-PF , weakened by internal factional fighting, and perhaps from the fact that the MDC in 2008 won the elections on the backdrop of a socio-economic crisis similar to the ones prevailing in the country, coupled with the alleged “Bhora Musango” within ZANU-PF .
But fighting within ZANU-PF is not new. ZANU-PF has shown in the past that in spite of factional differences, it unites for a specific cause especially as it relates to winning elections. For example ZANU-PF has somehow convinced itself that it is fighting the Western ideology and western sanctions. It has the ability to re-invent itself and come up rallying around the one-centre of power as evidenced by its come back to win the 2013 general election, which, up to now, the opposition only has theories about how ZANU-PF won those elections.
The opposition on the other hand is banking on the strength of a proposed coalition that will likely bring big names like Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti and former Deputy President Joice Mujuru together in a grand coalition. But here’s the problem for the so-called grand coalition. At face value, the natural choice would be Morgan Tsvangirai on the strength that his party MDC-T commands a bigger following and that Joice Mujuru is just a name that used to command some respect within ZANU-PF. The by- elections in Mwenezi and Bikita are a case in point. But the leader of the united opposition is not cast in stone and may result in the still-birth of the grand coalition even before it actually materialises. That said, a united opposition stands a better chance against a united ZANU-PF.
In previous years, the continued decline of the economy played in the favour of the opposition especially in the urban areas. The frustration of the electorate continues to be there with the cash shortage being a sign of failure of government to address the macro-economic fundamentals. The promises of 2.2 million jobs, evidently unachievable, builds pressure on ZANU-PF to put a convincing spin that it has solid plans to take Zimbabweans forward. Such environments are fodder for the opposition, but faces a citizenry that is fatigued and tired of empty promises, and tired of politics of deception when they have been reduced to street vendors of second hand clothes. Casting a ballot is an opportunity for the citizen to reward or punish the politician and the deeds or misdeeds of their political party.
That excitement is not there anymore. This is obviously from a perspective of an urban dweller that may choose not to exercise the right to vote and exercise the option to stand in the cue at the bank for $50 or bond notes. The difference however is that in the rural areas voting may be compulsory, and the continued existence of the structures and infrastructure of violence makes it difficult for the opposition parties to mobilise support in those critical areas. It also makes it difficult for the rural folks to exercise their right to vote.
The reality is that 2018 elections could signal the death of opposition politics in Zimbabwe if the opposition does not secure the vote, and it’s just the reality we have to face. ZANU-PF is mobilizing heavily around the biggest constituency in the country – the youth promising to address their exclusion from both economic and political spheres. This is a constituency untapped fully with potential 7 million voters. Call it vote buying promising them land and resources to fund their initiatives, but it is politricks.
It is a tough road ahead for the opposition.