The 2023 poll: A general election like no other before

By Professor Jonathan Moyo

Zimbabwe’s 2023 election, the tenth since the first in 1980, is turning out to be an election like no other before. With 30 days to go before polling day on 23 August, the usual hustle and bustle that has typically characterised previous election campaigns is conspicuous by its absence. 

Reports from various parts of the country say a visitor from Mars would be hard pressed to tell that three major elections [local government, parliamentary and presidential] are due in the country in a month’s time.

While there may be competing explanations of this situation – many of them related to the depoliticization of the public sphere resulting from the November 2017 military coup which pushed political activism in the country to the margins of public discourse – the one explanation that stands out like an eyesore is that the political opposition in Zimbabwe today is characterised by a state of weakness not seen in the country since independence in 1980.

This weakness explains or manifests itself in the following telling ways.

First and foremost, there’s no single political opposition party in Zimbabwe today which has a nationwide structural presence that matches that of the governing Zanu PF.

For example, in Bulawayo province there are nine political parties contesting the parliamentary elections, and one independent, but only Zanu PF and CCC fielded candidates in all of the province’s 12 constituencies; therefore, the other parties are not worth writing home about.

Tellingly, CCC – which styles itself as the main opposition and the government-in-waiting has no constitution, no structures, no offices, no bank account, no office bearers besides its leader, Advocate Nelson Chamisa and three others who are his sidekicks, namely Fadzayi Mahere who acts as spokesperson, Gift Siziva, who deputises her, and Amos Chibaya who doubles as the political runner or political mobiliser cum organiser.

It is one of the most intriguing features of Zimbabwe’s 2023 general election that an opposition party without a constitution and without a structure takes itself as the leading champion of constitutionalism and the democratic alternative to the status quo. 

The irony is palpable, and mind boggling.

When the Nomination Court sat on 21 June 2023, to process candidates for harmonised general election, the damaging consequences of CCC’s lack of a constitution and structures played out in public view when triple and double candidates were nominated in the party’s name in 10 out of 29 wards, and three out of the 12 constituencies in the province. 

To make this bad situation worse, CCC failed to submit its nomination papers of all of its 10 candidates for the Bulawayo metropolitan province and 12 of its constituency candidates have been sued for allegedly submitting their nomination papers out of time and therefore illegally when the Nomination Court had closed after 4 pm – between 5 pm on 21 June 2023 which was the nomination day, and 3 am the next day on 22 June 2023, which was not part of the nomination day.

Not having structures created difficulties in having signatories in Bulawayo to sign of nomination papers for the party’s candidates, as the approved signatories were with Advocate Chamisa in Harare; while not having a bank account meant that informal and thus unreliable channels had to be used to transfer the nomination fees to the candidates from Harare to Bulawayo, with the result that the candidates did not receive the funds on time and thus ended up running around at the last minute to raise the USD 1000 nomination fee per candidate, which most managed to put together very late well after the Nomination Court had closed.  

This fiasco was emblematic of the unprecedented state of weakness and lack of general election readiness gripping the opposition in Zimbabwe.

When the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) published the full list of nominated 2023 harmonised general election candidates on 30 June 2023, it became self-evident that for the first time in 2023 years, the pool of candidates fielded by the political party that says it is the main opposition and the government in waiting lacks the requisite depth and quality for ministerial material.

The manifestly poor quality of CCC’s pool of parliamentary candidates has dented public confidence in the party’s claim to be a government in waiting. This has been compounded by Advocate’s Chamisa’s widely reported stance that the parliamentary and local government elections [candidates] are not as important as the presidential election [candidate] which, to him, matters the most. 

For CCC, the harmonised general election is only about putting Advocate Chamisa in office, in 2028 as 2023 is increasingly a pie in the sky.

As a result, CCC’s campaign has not only been about the presidency but it also has been about Advocate Chamisa himself as the manifesto of that campaign.  

Consequently, CCC has not put forth an election manifesto with alternative policies, in fact the party has no policies. Again, this is unprecedented and has not been witnessed before for a political party that styles itself as the main opposition and the government in waiting going into a general election with no alternative policies, no election manifesto and a manifestly poor pool of parliamentary candidates as prospective ministers.

It is no wonder that the 2023 harmonised general is one like no other before.

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