Thursday, January 26, 2017

Editorial Comment – Bikita West: Key Lessons in Zimbabwe Body Politic
January 24, 2017
Zimbabwe Herald

The just-ended by-election in Bikita West where Zanu-PF and its candidate clinched a landslide victory, is fraught with lessons for the country’s politics.

Beauty Chabaya polled 13 156 votes against her closest rival, Kudakwashe Gopo of Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF), who managed only 2 453 votes. Never mind the usual self-serving noise, especially in the media, the election was held in a largely peaceful environment which even the opposition-leaning election stakeholders have acknowledged.

The best won.

Happening so early into the year, we believe what happened in Bikita West could provide key insights into the configuration of Zimbabwe’s body politic and pointers to prospects among major political players in the country.

Bikita West was the first official contest by ZimPF led by former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who was kicked out of the ruling Zanu-PF party in 2014.

She got a rude awakening.

Not that any serious watcher of politics in this country expected ZimPF and its lightweight candidate to win. However, the huge margin separating the top candidates and the fallout now taking place in ZimPF speak volumes about what Dr Mujuru is bringing to the political table.

Granted, Zanu-PF is stronger than any other political party in the country — it can win any election, if a contest were called today.

However, Dr Mujuru and her party have been crucially exposed. As statistics show, ZimPF has not done anything to eat into the traditional support base of Zanu-PF as was widely speculated.

It will be recalled that during the 2013 harmonised elections, Zanu-PF fielded two candidates in the constituency who got 6 270 and 6 052 respectively, translating to 12 322 votes cast for Zanu-PF which went on to win the seat in spite of the divided vote.

The weekend result shows that Zanu-PF has retained its supporters and managed the luxury of increasing its pie. The idea that ZimPF would “poach” Zanu-PF supporters, including war veterans, because of “impeccable war credentials” assumed to be held by Dr Mujuru has been exposed for a fallacy.

One can even surmise that, from the premise that ZimPF failed to eat into Zanu-PF’s support base, that can only mean that it derived its support from the traditional opposition. The MDC-T and MDC scored 3 863 and 415 votes in Bikita in 2013.

Whether that support was rented or represents a shift in allegiance remains to be seen. We are not also lost to the fact that the MDC-T, which is abstaining from elections, did not officially support Dr Mujuru. She was up to her own devices and the by-election has sown discord in her party with members haggling over the decision to participate.

The correct reading of this is that ZimPF feels embarrassed because the halo around its leader has been removed. It does not help matters that this happened at a time there is much talk of an opposition coalition, especially between ZimPF and MDC-T.

A particular sticking point has been on who should lead the proposed coalition, with supporters angling for their leaders. Bikita West effectively deflates the ego of ZimPF, with their MDC-T counterparts revelling in the former’s loss.

Yet it can be posited that even if the two parties had joined hands Zanu-PF would still have won it clean. All this shows that Zimbabweans have confidence in Zanu-PF as the governing party; significantly pointing to the reality that the party will again win the general elections slated for next year.

This should not lull the revolutionary party.

Rather, it should continue working hard for the people of Zimbabwe to whom it owes so much. It is common knowledge that people lose sleep over the state of the economy: from fiscal and monetary issues, infrastructure to social services. That is the essence of Zanu-PF’s campaign message in 2013, that translated into Zim-Asset.

It’s only January 2017 and a lot of work has to be done by Government, even if the ruling party does not appear to be in any danger of losing to the disparate and clueless opposition.

Serving the people should be a priority for Zanu-PF and that must not be taken for granted or have their cause lost in needless internecine squabbles.

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