‘Opposition parties must focus on rural electorate to win’ 

Opposition political parties must strategise how to influence the rural vote as Zanu PF tends to do well in rural areas, analysts have said.

The election outcome is always puzzling as analysts highlight there is no evidence that rural areas benefit more from government policies despite handouts during the election season, a strategy that the ruling has mastered.

On the other hand, Zanu PF has tended to perform poorly in urban areas where the opposition has dominated since 2000.  

“Due to hunger and lack of jobs in Zimbabwe, two economies have been created, that is the rural economy and the urban economy, which are not the same and each economy is standalone,” said Effie Ncube a political analyst in an interview with CITE.

“When people vote, they are influenced by their economy and both rural and urban folk have their own understanding of what an economy is. This, therefore, creates two groups of the electorate who have separate expectations in the election and vote differently.”

Therefore, Ncube advised political organisations to find strategies to communicate with both electorates.

“In most of the time, the opposition has managed to develop a message for the urban electorate, which has an urban economy and its own challenges while Zanu has been focusing on the rural electorate that has its own separate economy,” he said.

“So, there is a need for the opposition to find a connection for the rural voters, have a message that will communicate with both electorates because, in actual fact, we now have two nations in one country – one rural and other urban, one rural economy urban economy, one rural electorate one urban electorate.”

The analyst noted that politicians had to understand that the rural economy is agro-based, where people focused on breeding their cattle, farming, having seeds and fertiliser.

“People need water, a borehole and a dip tank next to them. These are the key things they want because instead of having jobs they depend on their cattle and fields to fight poverty,” Ncube said.

“The opposition’s campaign must focus on that particular aspect of the rural economy, to say what they will do better than Zanu in terms of improving rural people’s access to clean water, safe sanitation, access to agro-inputs and things that enhance their quality of life in the rural area.”

In urban areas, Ncube said residents needed basic service delivery and job creation, which Zanu had failed to provide.

“Zanu is not even talking about job creation anymore. That is why it is focusing on rural areas. It is talking about land reform, accessing mineral resources and so forth. The opposition needs to develop a message that reaches the rural voter, to say, ‘we are here and can do it better than Zanu’ because locals in rural areas think it’s enough if Zanu has given them fertiliser and seeds,” he noted.

“The opposition needs to step up and deliver a better sounding message to get the people away from focusing on fertilizer and seeds but into focusing on the future of the country as a whole.”

Critical Studies Scholar, Khanyile Mlotshwa suggested that since the emergence of the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999, the electorate became divided into urban and rural.

“The urban electorate has always been the MDC electorate and the rural electorate has always been a Zanu electorate. That was an impression created and this also came with this idea that there are more people in rural areas than in cities, which I find difficult to understand, maybe geography people will say it’s true,” he said.

However, Mlotshwa noted that the opposition was losing votes in urban areas due to the fragmentation of their political organisations.

“We can see there are shifts between the urban electorate. I don’t know how this is going to play out in the by-elections coming this month and the broader elections in 2023 but we always took it for granted that people are expected to vote for the MDC,” he said.

“As a result of the divisions that MDC has had the electorate has become divided along with those splinters within the MDC formation. Look at the split between Morgan Tsvangirai and Professor Welshman Ncube, other breakups led by Job Sikhala, Tendai Biti and Thokozani Khupe who was pushed out, so these end up confusing the electorate.”

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