Connect with us

Support The NewsHawks


Electoral politics in Zimbabwe: The 2023 elections and beyond



This is an introduction to a newly-released study titled Electoral Politics in Zimbabwe, Volume I: The 2023 Election and Beyond by Esther Mavengano and Sophia Chirongoma, academics at Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo and Midlands State University in Gweru respectively.

THIS critiques the culture of political violence in three phases: the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial epochs.

Reflecting on how elections have been conducted from when Zimbabwe gained political independence in 1980, the contributors pay attention to how the three stages, pre-election, during elections, and after elections, have been riddled with hate speech, political violence, intimidation, and gross human rights violations.

The role of electoral institutions such as the Constitutional Court also form part of the discussions in this chapter.

The contribution of human rights organisations, human rights activists, and the advocacy of the civil society in the observance of democracy, transparency, and upholding basic human rights during the electoral processis another dimension covered in this volume.

In essence, the clarion call raised by the contributors of this volume is that the Zimbabwean electorate, key among them, political elites, and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) should work together to ensure that the 2023 harmonised elections are not fraught with violence, intimidation, and electoral irregularities.

The values of peace, unity, and solidarity among the Zimbabwean citizens are the recurring themes yearned for by the contributors of this volume.

While the government of Zimbabwe purports to upholding the principles of democracy, good governance, as well as conducting free, fair, and transparent elections, contesting political parties, independent candidates as well as supporters of election candidates have often queried either the electoral processes or the outcome of the elections.

The hurling of hate speech, threats, and violence between electoral candidates seems to have taken center stage not only in the Second Republic; rather, it can be tracked back to the First Republic.

The ongoing hustling and tussling for electoral support between competing parties has become the main cause of hate speech which is aptly described by Mbembe (2006) as the ‘grammar of violence,’ where the political contenders exchange accusations, counter-accusations, and disparaging exchanges.

The use of technology, particularly social media has made the dissemination of information faster and more efficient. As the information technology becomes widespread, political elites have turned to using the cyberspace as a mode of communicating with the electorate.

As noted by Chirongoma and Mutsvedu (2021), reverberated by Ponde-Mutsvedu and Chirongoma (2022), the widespread use of information technology has also exacerbated incidences of cyberbullying and the spreading of false information.

In the context of Zimbabwean politics, particularly, the electoral environment, the authors of this volume illustrate how the use of information technology can be perceived as both friend and foe.

This is illustrated in the chapter by Mavengano and Moyo which brings out the polarisation between ‘Varakashi’ (destroyers), denoting supporters of the ruling party Zanu PF and the Nerrorists (Nelson Chamisa’s loyalists), who engage in a war of words via the cyberspace.

As noted by Chitando and Tarusarira (2017), the ruling party Zanu PF is on record for bragging that only those who participated in the Chimurenga war of liberation are worthy of aspiring to take up the Presidential office. 

Hence, the rhetoric ‘Zimbabwe Ndeye ropa,’ denoting that national independence, was gained through bloodshed on the warfront.

Since Zimbabwe is said to have been born through the barrel of the gun and the blood of the war heroes is the seed of national independence, all those who are aspiring to run for the presidency, especially, the youthful politicians like the aspirant Nelson Chamisa, leader of the main opposition, CCC are constantly reminded that such aspirations are a pipedream.

On the other hand, the main opposition leaders and a handful of independent candidates are resolute that while war credentials are appreciated and respected, they should not be the ultimate defining factor for one to qualify for political leadership in the contemporary Zimbabwean context.

 They contend that one’s leadership qualities and commitment to uphold democracy, good governance, and implementing positive change and transformation should also be considered as important factors in qualifying to win the support of the electorate.

Peering into the 2023 harmonised elections, this volume seeks to offer some insights into creating a level playing field where the electorate have the freedom to use the ballot box to choose political parties and political representatives of their choice without fear or favour.

As the presidential race for the 2018 elections reached its peak, the key presidential contenders, Emmerson Mnangagwa representing the ruling party Zanu PF, and Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the main opposition party, MDC-A intensified their electoral campaigns.

As they conducted campaign rallies nationwide, they made several promises, drawn from portions of their election manifestos.

Some of the promises were also inscribed on huge banners, displayed in public spaces, especially along the main roads both in urban and rural areas.

One of the promises made by Mnangagwa was a commitment to ‘Delivering the Zimbabwe you want.’

Herewith, Mnangagwa was piggybacking onto some of the key concerns raised by the Zimbabwean religious leaders in 2006, when they delivered the document, ‘The Zimbabwe We Want,’ which summarised their key concerns, particularly bemoaning human rights abuses, poverty, and hyperinflation. In promising to deliver ‘the Zimbabwe you want,’ Mnangagwa was vowing to exercise servant leadership.

He was also committing to remain true to the calling of a ‘listening president,’ one who is keen to addressing all that which was missing in the lives of the electorate and ensuring that all their basic needs were met.

In the same breath, Mnangagwa pledged to heed the wishes of the electorate by declaring that “The Voice of the People is the Voice of God.”

Such a pledge raised the hopes of the electorate who were made to believe that
the “New Dispensation” would respect and honour their hopes and aspirations (Chimininge, 2019; Takudzwa, 2022). Cognisant that the bulk of the Zimbabwean populace, more than 75% of the population identify as Christians, the presidential contender appealed to the electorate’s spirituality by invoking the name of their deity and assuring them that their voices would be heeded. 

Five years after these promises were made, the bulk of the Zimbabwean population are still awaiting the fulfillment of such promises. These unfulfilled promises reverberate the point raised by Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Ruhanya (2020), echoed by Mamvura (2021) who restated that it is futile to replace the sitting head of state, without implementing a complete upheaval of the governance system.

Such a status quo is akin to the biblical teaching whereby Jesus cautioned his disciples about the futility of putting new wine in old wineskins (Mark 2:22).

On the other hand, one of Chamisa’s 2018 presidential campaign catchphrases was ‘Behold the new!’ In this case, Chamisa was appealing to both his youthfulness and the new governance policies which he had in store for the Zimbabwean citizenry.

Herein, Chamisa was alluring the electorate’s imagination, where new blood usually comes with fresh and innovative ideas.

He also promised to launch the SMART agenda, an acronym standing for Sustainable and Modern Agenda for Real Transformation.

Being alert to the fact that Zimbabwe was and continues to reel with an unbelievably high rate of unemployment, currently estimated at over 90%, Chamisa promised to implement the ‘Jobs Agenda-Munhu Wose Kubasa’ (Everyone must go to work).
This raised high hopes, particularly for the youth, among whom the majority have never been formally employed.

Even though Chamisa lost the presidential race, several of his ministers are parliamentarians and those who voted them into power are yet to see these promises being delivered.
Peering into the 2023 presidential election, Chamisa has maintained his campaign diction and tailored it to the forthcoming election as “Behold the New: 2023 Election.”

As the gap between the haves and have-nots continues widening, the bulk of the population, which is languishing in poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, erratic power cuts, and the shortage of clean and safe water, especially in urban areas, continues to lament “Not yet Uhuru!”

They are pinning their hopes on the 2023 harmoniaed elections, where they are crossing their fingers that whoever they vote into power will ensure that all the unfulfilled 2018 election promises will eventually be made good by the incoming government.

*About the writers: Esther Mavengano and Sophia Chirongoma are local academics.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *