Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Zanu (PF) dominates political landscape

Kennedy Mavhumashava
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Chronicle

Zanu (PF) again dominated the local political landscape with two landslide electoral victories but the unfolding bickering in MDC also hogged the limelight towards the end of the year.The ruling party scored a massive victory during the March parliamentary elections, by winning 78 of the 120 contested seats. Its main challenger, MDC managed 41, down from the 57 it held going into the plebiscite.

A University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Mr Eldred Masungure singled out the ruling party’s electoral victories and Operation Murambatsvina as key highlights of the year. He said although the clean up campaign, that the Government launched in May, was largely a developmental programme, it elicited a political response from Britain, United States and the United Nations.“The most important development was the clean-up exercise,” he said.

“Whether it was political or not depends on how you look at it. The Government said it was designed to stamp out criminal activities and bring about order. But the response to it, especially from the United Nations and the West, was clearly political.”

The Government launched the clean-up scheme in May and followed it up with a nationwide rebuilding exercise, Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle under which thousands of core houses, vendor marts and factory shells have been built and allocated to those who need them. The Government has made more than $1 trillion available for the massive project.

After the launch of clean-up campaign, the West criticised it and brought it to the attention of the UN. The world body obliged by sending its envoy, Mrs Anna Tibaijuka a few months ago. She toured the country and wrote a report that was critical of Operation Murambatsvina. A few weeks ago, the UN sent another emissary, Mr Jan Egeland, who like Mrs Tibaijuka came up with another adverse report. On elections, Mr Masunungure said they were characterised by peace.

He however said while the senatorial elections, held last month were a key political development they were marred by “unprecedented” voter apathy. “The atmosphere was calmer in both elections compared to previous ones.

But if you see that in some constituencies during the election as few as 5 000 people voted against average registered voters as many as 100 000, you will realise how poor the turnout was. That was unprecedented. But I think that the November election was more eventful outside the ballot box because of the intra-party conflict in the MDC.”

Results of the election showed that the ruling party sustained its recovery from the heavy losses of the 2000 poll by winning 43 of the 50 contested seats. Earlier on, it had won 19 seats unopposed after opposition parties failed to field candidates. Zanu (PF) won all the five seats in Matabeleland South and grabbed others in Matabeleland North, Harare and Chitungwiza, which were regarded as MDC strongholds.

However the plebiscite opened up deep divisions in the MDC after its leadership differed sharply on whether or not to participate. The party held a national council meeting on October 12, to decide whether to field candidates or not. The issue was brought to a vote and 33 officials voted for participation while 31 opposed the decision.

Party leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, who had previously advocated a boycott, rejected the outcome. That precipitated a split of the party into a pro-Senate camp led by secretary general, Professor Welshman Ncube and an anti-Senate faction, which Mr Tsvangirai leads.

Now, the British-backed party has almost collapsed with the factions operating from two different headquarters, each having established parallel structures ahead of its congress scheduled for next February.

The Upper House elections were preceded by the passing of Constitution Number 17 by Parliament. Among others, the milestone amendment provides for the establishment of a bicameral legislature and the finalisation of the land question. Vice-President Joice Mujuru marked her first anniversary in office this month after her election to the ruling party Presidium last December. Professor Heneri Dzinotyiwei, head of political think tank, Zimbabwe Integrated Programme said:“She has been in office for a year now.

We have seen similar developments elsewhere in Africa where women have risen to higher political positions. That happened in South Africa where the deputy president is a woman and in Liberia recently where a woman was elected president.”

An independent political analyst, Mr Augustine Timbe said the Government sustained its Look East policy with more benefits accruing to the country from many countries in Asia.“We saw a further strengthening of that policy.

Zimbabwe has hosted many high level political and business delegations from countries like China, Malaysia, Vietnam and others in Asia,” Mr Timbe said. “China has become the second biggest investor in Zimbabwe after Britain and is on course to matching London. A few months ago, the Air Force of Zimbabwe took delivery of jets from the Asian giant. The same applies to Air Zimbabwe. We have also seen China pursuing investments in many sectors of the economy such as mining, agriculture and energy. Iran is also coming in strongly.”

Turning to foreign affairs, Mr Timbe noted that President Mugabe has continued to defend and explain Government policies at international gatherings while SADC, African Union and the majority of UN members maintained their support for the country despite western pressure.

Mr Masunungure said the ongoing squabbles in the MDC are likely to result in a major “reconfiguration” of the local political landscape.“It is going to spill into next year and will significantly re-shape our politics. It will be a different Zimbabwe next year with a weakened MDC compared to the past five years,” said the political scientist.

He was dismissive of the United People’s Movement, a planned political party linked to former Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo. It is rumoured that the party may be “launched” before the end of this month.“Even if it is launched,” said Mr Masunungure; “I see it as a passing cloud. It will be a trivial political development and the party will not be a permanent feature in local politics, - if it is launched that is.”

However, the highlights of the year must also include the antics of Mr Egypt Dzinemunhenzva, leader of little-known African National Party.

Always sporting his light-coloured jacket on top of a maroon jersey with a huge and almost flapping collar, Mr Dzinemunhenzva amused television viewers ahead of the Senatorial elections with his daring, and sometimes overly basic understanding of national issues. The veteran politician and Mutoko villager was campaigning for the Chikomba senatorial constituency, making food shortages in the area, his campaign watchword.

Like on many occasions in the past he heavily lost. But he is likely to be back in the fray come the 2008 presidential election.

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