As Zimbabwe goes to the 2023 harmonized elections on the 23 of August, there is no indication of a considerable contestation.
This election is a potential advance auction sale of stolen goods; those with different views on the modus operendi of the opposition are labeled sell-outs. This is at a time when the economy is comatose and against the backdrop of one of the world´s highest inflation rates.
The cost-of-living crisis continues to be at the core of voters’ concerns, with businesses struggling to cope with crippling power outages and an unstable local currency that has lost its value by 86% between January to early June.
Several media houses and platforms indicate that the Zimbabwean state is divided. And there are very slim chances that the coming 23rd elections will be competitive and yield better results that can change the Zimbabwean democratic terrain.
People outside the presume of political parties are tired of the system. Continued violence intimidates CCC supporters and could discourage them from freely attending rallies, fueling voter apathy.
The history of Zimbabwe shows that the nation is traumatized; there has never been room for peace and stability; healing and reconciliation are still a dream to be achieved. Besides holding regular elections to promote the democratic development of Zimbabwe.
Transitional justice remains one of the critical pillars of healing the traumatized nation. The militarist forms of nationalist struggles and the state’s monopolization by the ruling party bred a new round of human rights abuses that have continued into the present period and threatened economic development.
Like any other elections held in Zimbabwe, the August 2023 elections will lead to extreme government debts increasing the current economic disaster. In the long run, the rollout of unsustainable welfare schemes is a common ploy used by ZANU PF to woo voters, especially in rural areas. Such manipulation would not work if the voters were rational and were likely to elect a government based on its long-term performance.
The AfroBarometer (2023) indicates that 83% of the citizens in Zimbabwe say they will vote for candidates whose policies they agree with rather than candidates who gave them gifts and money.
The 2023 elections in Zimbabwe are fast approaching; the citizens will have another chance to converge and change the government. But from whom to who has the capabilities and ability to change the status quo and transform the nation back into its glory days when it was the breadbasket of Africa?
How to change the bagging basket into a giving basket remains one of the typical questions in the academia and intellectual discourse in Zimbabwe. The critical factor and an impediment to achieving this is the impact of partisan politics and the toxic polarization of the people of Zimbabwe.
ZANU PFs project power to continually monopolize state power while denying political rights and opportunities to other political actors to compete for political influence and participate in policy dialogue. Just like Mugabe’s, the Mnangagwa regime continues with its intolerance of the opposition political parties, specifically the current CCC which has proved to be the only standing opposition as the country approaches the elections. The current regime consistently paid lip service to democracy and democratic elections, which he has manipulated to its advantage and that of his party, and the coming 2023 elections are not an exemption.
While the submission of AfroBarometer might not reflect reality, concerns are still rife about whether the general population understands the meaning of policies. There is evidence that emotional or psychological positioning strategies are at play in instilling fear in voters’ minds and competitive-driven positioning like suggesting voting for other political parties would be allowing or sanctioning the re-colonization of Zimbabwe. In politics, the periodic nature of elections produces surges of strategic and tactical activity. Terms such as campaign, battle, attack, and defense are standard in business; such rhetoric is continually employed in Zimbabwean politics.
Similarly, the CCC leader Nelson Chamisa’s supporters are strong adherents of the “Chamisa Chete Chete,” an ideology that assents to the view that nobody besides him can lead the opposition and develop the country. In other words, however, is the mentality borrowed from the ruling ZANU PF party, which asserts that it has a monopoly on ruling Zimbabwe and its leader and non-other one can lead the country. The MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora is out of the 2023 election equation as its popularity and support base are nonexistent; its survival is on disruptive politics against the CCC led by Nelson Chamisa.
The MDC Alliance and its supporters also throw around vacuous phrases such as the “Ngaapinde Hake Mukomana” slogans. For good reasons, it should be commendable for Mukomana to explain why he should be entrusted with the people of Zimbabwe and become the next President. His supporters’ response, together with the other leader, that if he gives and shares his plans, his enemies will steal his ideas is unacceptable and naïve.
The digital and social media platforms had become battlegrounds and platforms for fueling threats of physical violence and tribalistic and homophobic exchanges between people who disagree on political ideologies and affiliations. Although the role of digital media as an alternative form of participation through such activities as online petitioning, ‘‘clicktivism’’ and ‘‘hacktivism,’’ blogging, uses of social media for politics, citizen journalism, and the like are appreciated, political actors in their power project have abused it. Judging from past experiences from different countries in the global south, media popularities have never transformed into votes, nor had it been a measure of political support. This suggests that citizens must converge, arm up, and represent themselves against selfish and brutal political elites.
Factors to Consider Ahead of the 2023 Elections
- Rural Popularity: ZANU PFis aware of its popularity on the rural side. Hence, it increases its campaigning resources through various programs to support the rural populace. Thus, it increases its number of parliamentary seats at the expense of the urban, where they are not popular and have little scope for manipulating voters. Since 2000 ZANU PF realized they were losing the support of the rural population and liberation war heroes; it embraced farms invasion, which led Zimbabwe to be pulled out of the Commonwealth. On the other side, the opposition in Zimbabwe has a divided urban population that relies on political popularity and less support from the rural population. The opposition´s rural mobilization strategy is weak, which makes ZANU PF the darling of the rural population.
- Empowerment Discourse: In respect of crucial success factors ZANU PF as the ruling party in Zimbabwe since gaining independence in 1980, is credited with the empowerment of the black majority population, improving the agricultural capacity to the point of winning the award for “Freedom from Hunger” in 1986. ZANU PF has consolidated its credentials as the liberation people’s Party and branded all opposition as sell-outs. That ability, albeit aided by the use of force, epitomized the hegemony of ZANU PF in Zimbabwe.
- The Land Question: On the principle of strategy implementation, Zanu PF quickly moved to consolidate power in 1980 and turned their unpopularity in 1990 into a struggle for land. They have always projected a fair institution while systematically crippling the opposition. In all this, it is clear that they moved swiftly, constantly adapted to a changing situation, and continually deceived the voters through multitudes of empty promises and rigging elections. In most cases, they will not shy away from doing the unthinkable such as spilling blood in a violent land revolution, printing money under conditions of galloping inflation, and using the army to force price reduction in July 2007. The opposition on the other hand is not clear when it comes to the land question, there is no clear land policy that has been presented by the opposition over the years.One of the compelling reasons is the linkage of the land question to sanctions in Zimbabwe and due to the opposition foreign policy, it is hard to be clear on the land policy as to whether “white” minority farmers should be compensated for their land or there should be further expropriation of land which was redistributed through political links.
- Institutionalized Media Repression: ZANU PF, after realizing its unpopularity, the government enacted laws that have made it illegal for people to criticize the glaring failures of the regime. What is most disturbing about the Zimbabwean scenario is that the President representing Zanu PF is both player and referee in the political game, practically rendering ZANU PF the author of the rules, the protagonist in the arena, and the referee; no wonder rumors are rife that election results are determined before elections. Media coverage is always a determining factor when it comes to information dissemination and popularism propaganda. State media in Zimbabwe has for years been captured by the ruling party which makes it hard for the opposition to penetrate and being able to air out their political view on state-controlled media.
About the author: Gwaze Takudzwa is a contrarian political analyst, Development Consultant, and International Relations Expect who writes in his own capacity.