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Zanu-PF 'supporters' walk out on Mnangagwa

by Staff reporter
11 Aug 2023 at 18:36hrs | Views
BY 8AM on Wednesday last week, Harare's usually bustling Mupendanhamo flea market was quiet and deserted.

Hundreds of its mostly youthful informal entrepreneurs had been directed to shut down and join thousands of Zanu-PF supporters who braved the chilly early morning weather to attend one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's final rallies before crucial elections in about 12 days.

Mbare's streets were a hive of activity, as many more flag waving and chanting Zanu-PF supporters flood the suburb's potholed streets, sporadically disrupting traffic in during the early morning rush hour.

They were heading to Freedom Square across town in central Harare, a place that has hosted Zanu-PF's most important rallies in recent years.

Still, many said Zanu-PF has always threatened to push out of Mupendzanhamo stalls traders who ignore it's rallies, and they were only attending to secure space at one of Zimbabwe's busiest markets.

Such lively scenes have been repeated across Zimbabwe during Mnanagagwa's whirlwind tour of provinces, as he mounts his second bid for presidency.

On August 23, he faces Nelson Chamisa, the youthful Citizens Coalition for Change leader in the battle for Zimbabwe's presidency.

Pollsters have predicted the race will be closely fought.

Unsettled by this threat, Zanu-PF has been sweeping through villages, towns and farming communities forcing ‘everyone' to attend its rallies.

"Each village has monitors who note anyone attending Zanu-PF rallies," one supporter told the Zimbabwe Independent at Mutawatawa on Saturday, where Mnangagwa addressed his biggest rally since beginning the campaign in Chipinge early July.

The rally attracted an estimated 200 000 supporters and, possibly, none supporters who only attend to secure protection.

"Once you reach the venue, you can turn back and head straight home.

No one will notice," said the supporter, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution.

"We woke up at 2 O' clock to catch busses from Chikomba. When we arrived here, the only thing we needed was to rest before we head back home," the villager said.

"Zanu wants people believe it has a huge base of supporters, hoping to attract more voters. For us, it has not been easy," noted the villager.

Mutawatawa itself sits at the heart of one of Zanu-PF's strongholds.

Mnangagwa acknowledged he was in safe territory in his key note address, rallying his supporters to continue with their tradition in order to key the opposition at bay.

But evidence of frustrations was also on show, as waves of supporters walked out in the middle of his speech, many of them soon after being pampered with bread, chicken, party regalia and bottled water – the goodies that the ruling party has been using to make fresh inroads.

National spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa recently denied these were vote buying strategies.

"We are a well-resourced party," Mutsvangwa said.

 "Giving food at our rallies (is) not vote buying. We are showing that we have the capacity as a party. You can't buy a person with a chicken, this is not realistic," he said.

Mnangagwa has had to finish his speeches after people have trooped back to hired coaches.

On Saturday, many left for their villagers as soon as the goodies were dished out before the President arrived.

Zanu-PF national political commissar Mike Bimha, has had a torrid time trying to bring order across rallies as disinterested supporters walk out.

The Independent has observed many supporters sleeping during Mnangagwa's addresses – the results of fatigue after travelling across provinces to show support for a party that has been blamed for ruining Zimbabwe's economy.

Attendance figures have been growing from around 60 000 in Bulilima, Matebeleland South to more than 100 000 in Zaka.

Zanu-PF estimates that 200 000 attended Saturday's rally.

In Harare on Wednesday, thousands of unemployed youths making a living at Mupendzanhamo had to forego a full day's earnings to secure their businesses.

A day before the rally, Zanu-PF's message was clear – everyone had to attend.

"All the people should attend without fail and party regalia will be issued to every person," DCC 6 coordinator for Harare province Joshua Gore said.

"All district secretaries for transport and welfare will collect 80 buses for each constituency from the DCC secretary for transport and welfare by 3 pm on Tuesday 8 August 2023. All MPs confirm that 80 buses are  at the constituency command centre by 5 pm today Tue 8 Aug 2023," he said.

Harare Metropolitan province which includes Chitungwiza, has 30 constituencies. Political analyst Vivid Gwede said some of the people attending Zanu-PF rallies do it simply because of expectations of adventure, goodies while some are frog-marched to the events.

"There is likelihood that some of those attendees will not vote for the ruling party or vote at all," he said.

" However, the ruling does have its faithful supporters who will vote for it based on personal gains through patronage, their attachment to the nationalist rhetoric, participation in captive state institutions or nostalgic family ties among other personal reasons," Gwede said.

University of London Professor of World Politics Stephen Chan, however, noted that it was impossible to forecast how much actual electoral support is present at a big rally.

"Many people might simply come for the spectacle, or free food and t-shirts, or simply to hide the fact that they intend to vote for the opposition.

"Attending the President's rallies could be a useful way of not being bullied by Zanu-PF cadres before polling day," Chan said.

Source - Zimbabwe Independent