ZIMBABWE’S financial services behemoth Old Mutual says the country risks a volatile political environment ahead of the 2023 general elections despite conducting relatively peaceful by-elections last month.
Political commentators say the rise of the Nelson Chamisa-led Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) and the new party’s performance in the March 26 parliamentary and local authority by-elections has raised the stakes for the ruling Zanu PF.
The by-elections saw CCC solidifying its position as the major opposition party in the country. Out of the 28 contested seats, CCC won 19, while Zanu PF won nine.
Old Mutual, in its quarterly economic report for the period ending 31 March 2022, said Zimbabwe’s political environment may deteriorate in the coming year as electioneering intensifies.
“The relatively calm post-election environment suggested electoral operations and equipment were fully functional. Political instability remains a key risk to year-end, as preparations for 2023 elections heighten,” the report says.
Zimbabwe’s past elections have been marred by violations, which have affected the credibility and fairness of the polls. Among the issues that have been under the spotlight in the past are issues of breach of electoral laws through vote buying, voter intimidation and violence.
In the run up to the March by-elections, the CCC and some civil society organisations expressed grave concern of the escalating political violence. Just recently, CCC member Mboneni Ncube was killed by Zanu PF activists during a campaign rally in Kwekwe.
According to a Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) February report, police and Zanu PF topped the list of human rights violators mainly targeting CCC supporters and ordinary citizens ahead of the polls. After Ncube’s brutal murder, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition wrote a letter to Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, the current Sadc chairperson, expressing concern over the deteriorating political and security situation, socio-economic conditions and livelihoods and shrinking democratic space in the country ahead of by-elections.
Chamisa also called for the African Union (AU) and Sadc to immediately act before Zimbabwe is plunged into bloodshed following the murder of an opposition party activist by suspected Zanu PF supporters in Kwekwe in February.
The country’s electoral management has set 23 April 2023 as the proposed date for the general elections. The commission, however, works with provisional dates as the actual dates can only be proclaimed by the President.