Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bikita West: A Foretaste of Things to Come in Zimbabwe
January 24, 2017
Shingai Rukwata Ndoro
Correspondent, Zimbabwe Herald

AND THE WINNER IS . . . Cde Beauty Chabaya celebrates with fellow zanu-pf supporters after her thumping win in which she polled 13 156 votes

The Bikita West constituency by-election has come and gone. It allows for some pedestrian prediction for the 2018 general elections. From the media hype, the by-election was between the governing party, Zanu-PF, and the opposition party, Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF). As it turned out, it became an election between Zanu-PF and itself.Bikita West constituency is reported to have 18 800 registered voters and 17 000 voted in the by-election as follows: 13 156 voted for the Zanu-PF candidate; 2 453 voted for that of ZimPF, 343 voted for the one for the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), 801 voted for two independent candidates and 247 votes were spoiled.

In 2013, in the same constituency, Zanu-PF had two candidates due to unresolved differences at primary election and they individually scored 6 270 and 6 052 votes. This is a total of 12 322 votes for Zanu-PF in 2013.

In the just ended by-election, Zanu-PF’s candidate scored 13 156 votes, which is an increase of 834 votes from those of 2013. This represents an electoral growth of nearly 7 percent from 2013.

One of the independent candidates and who scored the least with 76 votes, Heya Shoko, is a ZimPF provincial official and a former Member of Parliament for the same constituency under the MDC. What this may mean is that our electoral system has not matured outside the umbrella of political parties.

For the ZimPF, despite other demographics, there are four blocks of voters:

1) “Confirmational” (oppositional voters from the MDC-T),

2) “Conversional” (taking from Zanu-PF),

3) “Independent” (non-aligned from the main parties) and

4) Some new voters.

For Zanu-PF, there are also four blocks of voters:

1) “Confirmational” (from its own pool of voters),

2) “Conversional” (oppositional voters by taking from MDC-T),

3) “Independent” voters (non-aligned from the main parties) and

4) Some new voters.

From a campaign point of view, ZimPF can be considered to have been seeking both the “confirmational” votes from the oppositional pool of voters and “conversional” votes from the Zanu-PF pool of voters.

From the Bikita West constituency figures, ZimPF dismally failed on “conversional” votes and did badly for the “confirmational” votes. Instead Zanu-PF collected an additional 834 votes from any of the blocks: oppositional pool, those who are non-aligned from the main parties or new voters.

What this shows is that ZimPF is fishing from the same waters as those of the MDC-T. Consequently, they are competing for the same “oppositional” voter.

For lack of multiple examples for a better factual and evidential conclusion, the results for Bikita West constituency strengthen the MDC-T position that it wants see ZimPF to prove its electoral gravitas and weight. In this by-election, one can conclude that it has completely failed to bring votes from Zanu-PF.

ZimPF has many high-profile rank and file members who were also high profile in Zanu-PF, yet they did not win the hearts and minds of Zanu-PF supporters in the by-election. This means that the Zanu-PF pool of voters is still intact and has not been affected by expulsions and departures.

From the Bikita West constituency numbers, one can casually confirm that the MDC-T fully controls the pool of oppositional voters. It’s like the MDC-T owns the “title deeds” over the lives, decisions and actions of oppositional voters and those who don’t support Zanu-PF. Otherwise, why did the oppositional voters not participate in the election fully? Is it just because their preferred party boycotted?

At the same time, ZimPF has failed to show that it has any shred of political capital to compete for the Zanu-PF voters. This means, even if the MDC doesn’t participate in the elections, most people who support it would stay away from the election and Zanu-PF would show disregard for such futile electoral boycotts and will easily win without strong competition.

ZimPF did not bring new votes fished from the Zanu-PF pool of votes and this therefore vindicates those MDC-T officials against coalition with ZimPF. This is because the basis of an electoral coalition is to combine votes and positions of strength. How can it be a coalition when MDC-T and ZimPF will be competing for the same voter instead of expanding the base?

The ZimPF political capital would lie in taking votes from Zanu-PF and the creation of new votes from independent and new voters. With the strength of such votes, it will have a say in coalition talks. For now, that ZimPF political capital is heavily diminished.

Anyone who thinks a coalition between MDC-T and ZimPF will defeat Zanu-PF is not being honest because figures don’t lie. Bikita West has provided a limited learning point. More by-elections may come before the 2018 general elections and the trend has to be monitored.

Without sounding bells of certainty, the future is made by today’s willful effort.

The author is an ordinary citizen eking out a living in Harare and who finds time to read, write and engage on civic matters. For feedback email, or Twitter, @shingaiRndoro.

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