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Opposition ‘silenced’ for by-election vote

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Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers / Taken October 24, 2023. The Zimbabweans in South African led by Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) march to DIRCO to present a petition against the elections in Zimbabwe that were held on August 23, 2023.

By AFP

Zimbabwe will hold nine by-elections today with opposition candidates largely absent as President Emmerson Mnangagwa cements his control over the mineral-rich nation.

A political crisis has been growing since a group of MPs with the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) had their seats declared vacant. A court ruled on Thursday that most of the CCC contenders could not stand in today’s election.

Barring a Supreme Court reversal, the ruling Zanu-PF will now pick up some easy seats as it moves closer to changing the constitution. “The overall effect of this in terms of undermining any hope for Zimbabwe of democracy right now, is very clear,” said Nic Cheeseman, a professor of African politics at the University of Birmingham in Britain.

The crisis was sparked by a letter laden with spelling mistakes penned in October by Songezo Tshabangu, a little-known politician claiming to be the CCC’s interim secretary-general. Addressed to the Zanu-PF parliamentary speaker, it stated that 15 CCC legislators elected in a bitterly contested August election had ceased to be party members and should lose their seats. CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, 45, protested that Tshabangu was not a CCC member, the party had no secretary general and had not expelled an MP.

The speaker ignored him and ordered the by-elections, except in one seat where Tshabangu had misspelt the name of a lawmaker. Zanu-PF has denied causing the turmoil even though it has the most to gain. In Mabvuku, a Harare suburb that will vote today, only a few electoral posters were visible and there were few signs of the impending election.

“I won’t be surprised if Zanu-PF wins. There is voter apathy. People are just tired, so we can just wait and see,” said Gladmore, 28, a resident who gave only his first name. The CCC candidate is the only one spared by Thursday’s court ruling that struck the eight other party candidates off ballot papers.

Zanu-PF is 10 seats short of the twothirds majority in the 280-member parliament needed to amend the constitution. Analysts believe it wants to remove a two-term presidential limit. This would allow Mnangagwa, 81, to counter any challenge to his leadership from inside his party or the opposition.

The term limit was introduced in 2013, after long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was forced to accept a power-sharing government with the opposition. – AFP