Despite the economic hardships being experienced in the country, the rural electorate seems confident in President Emmerson Mnangagwa-led administration as shown by Zanu PF’s continuous wins in by-elections conducted so far.
The Zaka East parliamentary by-election held on September 21 is the latest result which has proven that the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC, which is the most formidable opposition party, still has a long way to go in efforts to break Zanu PF’s stranglehold on rural areas.
Zanu PF has managed to bag all the rural by-elections against the MDC by a wide margin, but the opposition party has also managed to consolidate its grip in urban areas.
The recent MDC defeat in the Zaka East national assembly by-elections is, according to Zanu PF, the death of the biggest opposition movement.
The Zaka East national assembly by-election saw four political parties going for the polls, with Zanu PF’s Clemence Chiduwa entering the race as a favourite.
Zaka East has never been won by the opposition and Chiduwa outshined MDC’s Derrick Charamba by a wide margin.
Chiduwa polled 7 119 votes against Charamba’s 1 518 votes while NCA’s Clemence Chavarika and FreeZim Congress’ Lazarus Mubango settled for third and fourth positions with 83 and 63 votes respectively.
About 15 000 people were registered to vote in the Zaka East by-election and voter turnout was about 55 percent, a typical trend in the history of by-elections across the country.
Both MDC and Zanu PF have blamed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) for the poor turnout after many potential voters were turned away due to a ‘compromised’ voters’ roll.
Many people, who had voted at their usual polling stations in the 2018 elections, found their names moved to distant polling stations about 50 kilometres away.
There were some cases of people from Benzi area finding that their names had been moved to Rudhanda.
Both Zanu PF and MDC accused Zec of connivance to disadvantage them but Zec said there was nothing amiss about the voters’ roll.
The electoral management body claimed it had only done a clean-up exercise to make sure that voters are allocated polling stations which are closer to their addresses.
“We are cleaning up the voters’ roll and we are allocating voters to polling stations which are closer to their addresses.
“If you stay in the Benzi area but you registered and put an address that is in Rudhanda, we will be moving your name to a polling station closer to Rudhanda,” said Zec Masvingo provincial elections officer Zex Pudurai.
Zanu PF Masvingo provincial chairperson Ezra Chadzamira said his party was unstoppable and will make sure that by 2023, there will be no opposition to talk about.
“We are very happy with the result we got from Zaka East. If you look at the margin it shows you that our people have faith in our party and its leadership.
“Zanu PF is doing tangible things while the opposition is busy pushing for the suffering of the masses. They know that they have no cards to play so they are holding on to the suffering of the masses card.
“President Mnangagwa is working hard to make sure that things get back to normal and once that is done, there will be no opposition to talk about. Chamisa and his party will be extinct by the time we get to 2023,” said Chadzamira.
The MDC defeat in Zaka East has caused serious divisions in the party with some accusing the national and provincial leadership of abandoning their candidate.
MDC national organiser Amos Chibaya is the only top party leader who came to campaign for Charamba, and he came just a few days before elections to address a handful of people who turned ward rallies.
Sources within the MDC said the party had resolved not to contest the by-election but Charamba was stubborn and was told he will not get any support.
“The party was in a catch 22 over Zaka East and national leadership did not want to contest because they knew losing was guaranteed. President Chamisa did not want to be involved in campaigning for the election because he did not want to be embarrassed.
“Gumbi was a better brand than Charamba but he lost over and over again so it was time to retreat and go back to the drawing board. Charamba insisted on contesting and was plainly told that he would not get any support and he was ok with it.
“He only got support from (former) Senator Misheck Marava. The party knew that going against Chiduwa who has vast was a futile exercise which is why they had decided to let it go,” said a source.