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'Mnangagwa no saint, but Chamisa sleeping on duty'

by Staff reporter
05 Aug 2023 at 21:41hrs | Views
WITH three weeks before Zimbabwe holds general elections on August 23, there is already a sense of déjà vu among those following the run up to the polls.

This week, leading analysts said they were concerned that President Emmerson Mnangagwa's ruling Zanu-PF could be manipulating electoral processes behind the scenes, to extend its 43-year hegemony.

But some also believe that the Nelson Chamisa led main opposition, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has flopped in its bid to fend off Zanu-PF shenanigans, which has helped it maintain a full grip on Zimbabwean politics.

Chamisa's 'strategic ambiguity' plan, a fairly new concept in local politics, left many wondering what the youthful politician was up to when he announced it.

Those sceptical about his strategy have been exonerated, seeing how the concept has boomeranged, sparking off confusion in and out of the party.

Yet despite his school boy blunders, Chamisa remains popular in the opposition's urban strongholds and in some rural communities where he has drawn large crowds on his campaign trail.

In the fight for presidency, Chamisa will fight it out against an incumbent who combines his ability to master trends, vast experience, State machinery and apparently an unlimited budget to maintain power.

The police, according to Chamisa have blocked more than 160 of his rallies, while the judiciary has become the latest thorn in his campaign.

Zimbabwe's courts are still to decide the case in which 12 of his House  of Assembly candidates were barred from contesting after allegedly filing nomination papers after the deadline on June 21.

Mnangagwa has denied allegations that he is riding on the power of incumbency to interfere with the courts.

"I am nowhere near the court," he said recently.

"I have never taken anybody to court, so if they are making such allegations, it means they do not have much education."

Arguments over who will be ruling Zimbabwe after August 23 are getting complex, with some scholars believing Mnangagwa may get a rude awakening in this month's polls. Still, some say Chamisa's game plan has not been up to scratch. Academic and political commentator Alexander Rusero agrees that Zanu-PF will not leave anything to chance.

"Zanu-PF is not a political saint," he said.

"It has never been one right from its inception in 1963. However, it is important to take stock of the opposition's administrative deficiencies and incompetence. The narrative of the court case in Bulawayo has been reduced to a narrow depiction of Zanu-PF shenanigans yet CCC slept on the job."

"They were supposed to know better how any political protagonist would capitalise on the confusion of rivals," Rusero told the Independent.

Stephen Chan, a world politics professor at the University of London said the ruling party had carefully spotted flaws in CCC's camp and moved with speed to exploit them.

"The Bulawayo 12 is a case in point," Chan told the Independent.

"The 12 could easily have filed (their papers) well ahead of time. Zanu-PF took advantage of the fact that the candidates filed close to the deadline and raised legal challenges as to the exact nature and timing of the deadline.

"If the CCC appeal against nullification fails, that's 12 seats lost and 12 seats surely gained by Zanu-PF," Chan added.

"This raises the possibility that, even if Chamisa wins the presidency, he may have to deal with a Zanu-PF parliament. Having said that, so far, the Zanu-PF machinations seem not to have diminished what seems to be the popularity among electors of Chamisa himself. The opinion polls suggest that."

Another political analyst Vivid Gwede said Zimbabwe's courts were turning into a key factor in elections.

"Due to the high level of litigation the courts are becoming a player in this election. Unfortunately, the decisions they have been making seem inclined towards barring Mnangagwa's opponents from participating in the elections.

"Add to this, the number of CCC rallies banned by the police, then you cannot escape the conclusion that the playing field is tilted because of capture of key institutions by the incumbent," he said.

Gwede, however, argued that Chamisa cannot be blamed for the disqualification of his candidates.

"In terms of disqualification of the 12 candidates, it is difficult to see how Chamisa can be blamed when even Zimbabwe Electoral Commission admitted that they submitted their papers on time," he said.

United Kingdom-based analyst Masimba Mavaza, however, blamed CCC for the chaos.

"On the 12 Bulawayo candidates, they submitted their papers to the Electoral Register at 16:01. This was clearly after the appointed deadline. The submissions were rightly disqualified on the basis that they were late submissions.

"These individuals and their parties are playing hard and fast with the concept of electoral fairness. For a start, they are demanding the bending of the rules in their favour, but where it suits them, they project themselves as advocates for astute compliance with rules and with fairness."

Mavaza accused CCC for failing to understand reasons behind the requirement of a deadline.

"The underlying principle behind a deadline is democracy and fairness in electoral processes," he argued.

"The deadline marks the beginning of the election process, which culminates at the ballot box. The whole train of events, from the submission of candidature papers to voting is strictly regulated and must be marked by transparency and fair play."

Source - the independent