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Why ZANU-PF Wins elections

02 Sep 2023 at 10:43hrs | Views
Since 1980, ZANU PF has lost in two elections. They lost the 2000 referendum which forced the incumbent president to go with the old constitution albeit with later amendments which largely undermined the referendum results. Was this possibly the opposition's first mistake that compromised their opportunities in subsequent elections?  The second loss came in 2008, in an inconclusive presidential election which Morgan Tsvangirai won 47,8% against Robert Mugabe's 43%. Simba Makoni was the spoiler in this election with 8% which forced the political formations to go into a Government of National Unit. Even with a spilt ZANU PF vote the Movement for democratic Change could not break the 50% mark. I suppose this was because they did not have structures in rural areas.

The 2008 loss was on the background of a 231 000 000% inflation, empty retail shelves and widespread hunger and there was no social welfare to respond to this. Mugabe simply could not feed his people as he had done during difficult drought years in his 28-year rule. So, the spilt vote (bhora musango) hunger, inflation could be blamed for his first loss for the converted presidential office. As the current president observed in one of his campaign rallies, a loss was averted by his sharp legal mind which reminded President Roberrt Mugabe of a rerun close if no candidate amassed 50+% of the total votes. Tsvangirai had to settle for a Prime Minister in a government of national unit. ZANU PF survived because they had structures to effectively run and monitor election against all adversity. These structures had a history that stretches way back during the liberation war which propelled the party to power in 1980.

ZANU PF wins the rural vote because it has structures that mobilise and serve the rural population. Christopher Mutsvangwa alluded to this as he celebrated President Mnangagwa's 2023 victory. Mutsvangwa also said they look after their rural stronghold. In short Mutsvangwa was simply saying there are structures that cater for the social welfare of its rural electorate. The CCC needs to emulate other opposition parties like the Economic Freedom Fighters, Democratic Alliance in South Africa, their structures in all provinces have helped them strongly compete with the African National Congress during elections.

In 1979 on the eve of the 1980 elections, while most of the ZANU PF guerillas trooped to assemble points as part of the 1979 Lancaster House agreement, a big chunk of the 'comrades' remained in the villages conducting political education. This subsequently gave birth to rural structures like the Village and Ward Development Committees which were very popular in the 1980s. These committees were sympathetic to the ZANU PF way of doing things. Early indifferent relations with the traditional authorities (Chiefs, headman) were turned into cordial relations in the 1990s. The Traditional Leadership Act, traditional leaders' quota in Parliament and their renumeration all show cordial relations with the traditional institutions. On their part opposition parties sought to discredit these institutions as puppets of the government.  From the onset the opposition undermined the people's struggle for land which is the cornerstone of their livelihood and belonging. This alienated the rural voters because their relations with ZANU PF were embedded in the fight for land, a sovereign asset which many sons and daughters spilled their blood for.  In addition to these traditional institutions ZANU PF has strong part structures from the cell right up to the politburo, all this created a bonding which have stood the test of time. These people fight for their common interest land which binds them to their ancestors and generations to come. It is the land question the opposition needs to unpack for it to penetrate rural areas, for land is the glue that bind these people together. Land is their livelihood.

These rural structures have also delivered land based social welfare services. Food for work schemes of the 1980s were neatly tied to the land. All drought relief programmes, donor development programmes were done within ZANU PF structures and were land based. So even donors loved working within these ZANU PF structures until after 2000. The presidential input scheme, command agriculture, and other multiple input subsidy programs cherished by the smallholder farmers have galvanised support of the governing party. The opposition have responded to these programs with disdain, but with no clear alternative. In their 2023 manifesto the CCC seem to lean towards a market driven approach which has largely failed around Africa. Farmers are aware of this, and this has alienated the rural vote. The CCC might have banked on the Zambian model followed by the Hachilema government. In Zambia the Bill Gates funded agricultural revolution has been a disaster leaving farmers with a sense of betrayal which might have cost the then governing party votes. The circumstances are different. The opposition in Zimbabwe will have to find an alternative social welfare system for the rural population. To the rural voters' food hand outs and input subsidies are not vote buying gimmicks, they are social welfare and livelihood alternatives. For the opposition to claim otherwise will alienate voters.

Since independence the ZANU PF government have never had a robust urban social welfare system. The urbanites were left to fend for themselves. This has cost the ruling part votes. The urbanites were dependant on formal employment and hence quickly shifted to the opposition's promise to bring back white investors and attract bilateral/multilateral capital flows to create jobs. Since 2000 the opposition has been riding on this wave. Christopher Mutsvangwa's chilling warning of ZANU PF's intrusion into urban areas should send shivers into the opposition structures. If ZANU PF can find a social welfare system that works for the urban areas, this might mark the end of the opposition and a return to the 1980s/90s political status. There are opportunities of transforming the informal sector into a vibrant system that can win votes. The CCC needs to find a social welfare system that works in urban areas, they can not continue benefiting from protest votes and 'perceived hope' for a good Zimbabwe. For a party that is governing the urban councils the CCC must show that they can provide social welfare programs for the people. For now, they have nothing, neither are they delivering any services for the urbanites. 2028 is only five years away, and the party that strengthens its structures and provide none-existent social welfare programs in urban areas could walk away with a handsome victory. ZANU PF is lurking in the urban areas and if Mutsvangwa is to be believed then the CCC will have to fight for the urban votes it took for granted over the years.

Source - Moses Moyo
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