Picture: AFP – Supporters recently gathered to listen to Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) address them outside Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera where the party was banned from hosting a by-election campaign rally in the stadium, in March last year. The election this year in the country is a mixed bag of hopes, fears, and despair, says the writer.
By Dr Omololu Fagbadebo
THE 2023 election in Zimbabwe will hold between July and August, according to the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), Priscilla Chigumba.
What is not certain, however, is the actual dates of the general elections.
In preparation for the election, the ZEC suspended all pending by-elections, in line with the requisite constitutional provisions. Section 158 (3) of the Constitution stipulates that by-elections would be suspended if they fall within nine months before the general election. The last general election in Zimbabwe was held on July 31, 2018.
This year’s election comes with its hopes, fears, and despair. Unlike the 2018 elections, three political parties will be contesting for control of the power of the state: the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) led by
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), led by Nelson Chamisa, and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Douglas Mwonzora and Morgan Komichi as chairperson.
The election remains a battle against traditional political strong- holds that would mean a lot to Zimbabweans.
The country is in dire need of a change as the economic situation becomes worse with high unemployment biting harder on the teeming youth population. This has made the heat of the opposition more real, with a likelihood of another round of post-election political contestation and violence.
Chamisa will be contesting on the platform of the Citizens Coalition for Change, a new political party that he formed in July after he lost the legal battle over the manner in which he took over the leadership of the MDC in 2018.
Chamisa is a challenger to the old political order that has plunged the country into a series of economic woes. In addition, the new MDC will also want to assert its relevance given the split that put the opposition movement into disarray last year, with the judicial removal of Chamisa as the leader and the formation of the CCC.
The fear of the emergence of Zanu-PF looms large as citizens groans under economic hardship that is largely attributed to mismanagement and corruption. While sanctions by the West have not helped the situation, public perception is an indication that using sanctions as a scapegoat is an attempt to cover up the monumental cases of deliberate stealing of public resources by the ruling party.
Hence, the fear of a continuation of economic woes should the Zanu-PF wins the election.
The hope of a new dawn is the expectation of the younger generation who have been longing for a new Zimbabwe filled with job opportunities with good leaders as the managers of the national economy. To this sector of the population, the emergence of a younger political figure, in the person of Chamisa will mean much for the rising hope.
In the 2018 election, Chamisa’s MDC put up a spirited fight against the Zanu-PF with 2.15 million (44.3%) of the total vote cast. Notwithstanding the formation of the CCC, Chamisa proved his popularity among the youth with a good showing in the 2022 by-elections even though it lost two formerly held positions in the parliament.
The divided opposition movement is a source of despair. There is no doubt that the crisis in the MDC that led to the formation of the CCC would have implications on the prospects of a more formidable opposition in the 2023 election to unseat the ruling ZANU-PF.
Indeed, some analysts have noted the slim chance of a truly competitive election based on the strengthened power of the Zanu-PF and control of the electoral process.
The formidable opposition championed by Chamisa in 2018 might not be repeated this year even though Zimbabwe needs such a cohesive force to convince citizens, especially in the rural areas, the stronghold support base of the Zanu-PF, that the country’s destiny depends largely on their support for the opposition during the election.
Zanu-PF relies on rural votes to upstage the opposition composed of more enlightened urban dwellers. With the division in the opposition movement, Zanu-PF is likely to retain its position, and the 79-year-old Mnangagwa will have another five years in power. But the tide could change provided the opposition movement acts together in oneness.
The 2023 election in Zimbabwe is crucial for the country to remain a theoretically democratic society. And the Zanu-PF will not hesitate to deploy its machinery to retain power but the opposition, especially the 44-year-old Chamisa of the CCC, will put up a fierce battle.
It’s a fight for the future of a country that has been besieged by the culture of dictatorship since 1980 when it gained independence.
Public institutions and structures have been networks of corruption with a failing economy under an external debt burden of more than $10 billion (about R167bn). At 280% inflation and 930 Zimbabwean dollars to one US dollar, citizens are in excruciating pain and agonies.
A new government under a new political platform is a better hope for the country.
Fagbadebo is a Research Associate at the Durban University of Technology, South Africa.