The Nelson Chamisa-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) continues to lose ground in Matabeleland, a region once considered the party’s stronghold in the early 2000s.
Until 2013, the MDC was a force to reckon with in Matabeleland with the ruling ZANU-PF continuing to lose every election in the region’s three provinces – Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo.
However, 2013 saw a major shift with ZANU-PF scooping all the 13 National Assembly seats in Matabeleland South while sharing spoils with the MDC in Matabeleland North.
The MDC however still maintained its grip on Bulawayo winning all the 12 seats.
In the 2018 polls ZANU-PF retained all the 13 seats but one, in Matabeleland South and went on to win eight National Assembly seats in Matabeleland North against the five won by the MDC.
In Bulawayo, the MDC lost one seat to ZANU-PF and retained eleven.
Of all the 38 National Assembly seats in the three Matabeleland provinces, MDC, which garnered 17, trailed behind by ZANU-PF, which won a total of 21 in last year’s plebiscite.
In all the by-elections held in Matabeleland since the 2018 polls, the MDC emerged losers.
In May this year, ZANU-PF ended its 19-year winless streak in Bulawayo council elections after winning the ward 28 (Cowdray Park) by-election.
The seat fell vacant in December last year following the death of MDC Alliance’s Hapson Nyasha Ncube.
ZANU-PF’s candidate Kidwell Mujuru polled 1 899 votes to romp to victory taking advantage of deep-seated factionalism in the opposition MDC camp which saw the party fielding two candidates Nomagugu Mloyi and Collet Ndlovu who got 1 229 and 221 votes, respectively.
In August the MDC lost to ZANU-PF in the Lupane East Constituency and two wards in Bubi and Nkayi districts in by-elections.
The MDC in September, lost to ZANU-PF again in the Mangwe by-election.
As if that was not enough, the party over the weekend suffered another defeat in the hands of ZANU-PF in two Tsholotsho Council by-elections.
MDC national spokesperson, Daniel Molokele this week attributed his party’s losses in the by-elections to lack of sound structures in rural areas.
“We don’t have structures in the area, no, not yet. In line with our recent congress resolution, we will be setting up polling station-based branches there soon,” Molokele was quoted as having said.
“Having been recently involved in the by-elections in Tsholotsho, Mangwe and Lupane East, I have learnt that there are a lot of complex issues that influence voting trends. The bottom line is these elections are not a popularity contest at all. There is a lot that still needs to be done to make our elections more about the electorate, especially in the rural areas. For now, it is all about systemic issues that clearly favour ZANU-PF.”
Mbuso Fuzwayo, a social commentator, told CITE the MDC top leadership was to blame for the losses.
“MDC does not actively take by-elections serious especially their top leadership,” said Fuzwayo.
He said should the party up its game; there were still chances of regaining lost ground in future polls.
“Chances of it (MDC) recovering are there, but they must be prepared to walk the talk, be an alternative to ZANU-PF rather than a competitor to ZANU-PF on corruption and marginalisation of Matabeleland. They must be seen fighting to protect Matabeleland.”
Thabani Ncube, another social commentator, said: “MDC people do not campaign in rural areas and as a result they are not known. Their leaders only pitch up when there is an election.”