BULAWAYO — Last week’s harmonised elections have seen the Welshman Ncube-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Dumiso Dabengwa’s ZAPU emerging the biggest losers in the contest after the two political parties failed to garner a single seat in the House of Assembly.
President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF won 160 out of 210 Lower House seats, accounting for over two thirds Parliamentary majority followed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, which garnered 49 seats while one constituency, Mudzi South, was clinched by an independent candidate, Jonathan Samkange.
For the MDC and ZAPU, it was a sad story as the two parties had formed an alliance days before the plebiscite but could not get a single seat even in their perceived strongholds of Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
This was despite the massive campaign rolled out by the MDC in Matabeleland and the Midlands since its elective congress in 2010, which saw Ncube taking over leadership reins from Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
The party, which had won 10 House of Assembly seats in 2008 was expected to make inroads especially in Bulawayo, but that was not to be.
All the 12 Bulawayo National Assembly seats and 29 council wards were retained by the MDC-T.
The MDC’s secretary for legal affairs, David Coltart who had been tipped to beat MDC-T’s Thabitha Khumalo in Bulawayo East also narrowly lost by 19 votes.
ZAPU, which participated in the polls for their first time after pulling out of ZANU-PF in 2008 had a false start.
The party could not field candidates in all the constituencies across the country owing to financial problems. In constituencies where they had representation, the party lost dismally including its bid for the presidency.
The question that then comes to mind is what is next for the two political parties if ever they are to be relevant in the country’s politics.
The MDC, which has described the situation the party finds itself in today as “trying times of extreme national anxiety” has said it was premature to comment on the way forward.
“The MDC leadership has deliberately refrained from speaking prematurely on the outcomes of the election until such time that we have all the facts,” said the party’s spokesperson, Nhlanhla Dube.
“The MDC leadership is studying the official results and reports from its candidates, election and polling agents from across the country with a view to making a comprehensive statement and drawing parameters for the way forward.”
Dube, however, said the party “felt extremely let down by an election outcome that is clearly difficult to comprehend.”
Political analyst, Janet Zhou, said the MDC and ZAPU lost last week’s polls owing to their manifestos that failed to appeal to the voters.
“Their manifestos were not clear on issues that matter to the citizenry such as practical ways of dealing with economic matters,” said Zhou.
“It also could be that the voter was looking for a broad-based political party that would in a way guarantee total political change.”
Zhou added that in rejecting the two political parties, voters did not want to unnecessarily divide votes.
“I think the reason why MDC and ZAPU lost is because they are still viewed as regional parties pursuing ethnic and regional politics,” said another political commentator, Thomas Sithole.
“The parties that have claimed to be more national than them have given them that tag and unfortunately it looks like it’s working as a political strategy to discredit them.”
Sithole added that the other reason behind ZAPU and MDC’s loss in the polls was that the majority of Zimbabweans felt the two parties did not have the capacity to govern and “take them to Canaan”.
He also said it appeared Zimbabweans were now inclined to a by-partisan system of Parliament such as that prevailing in Britain and the United States hence the voting for ZANU-PF and MDC-T.
Sithole also argued that opposition parties must unite into one political party if ever they are to make an impact in future.
The MDC-T lost all the 13 Matabelelands South seats to ZANU-PF, in a development attributed to the imposition of candidates who had defected from the rival MDC.
In Matabeleland North, the MDC-T won six out of 13 National Assembly seats, one of which is Tsholotsho North where ZANU-PF candidate, Jonathan Moyo, who lost to wife to Water Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, Roselene had requested for a recount although Roselene’s lawyers successfully challenged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in the courts to rescind the decision.
ZANU-PF, whose Matabeleland North election campaign was spearheaded by Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, scooped seven constituencies in the province.
Bulawayo province rejected ZANU-PF completely, becoming the only major city where President Robert Mugabe’s party failed to garner a single seat.
The issues of the alleged marginalisation, de-industrialisation, and perennial water shortages, among others have been some of the problems synonymous with Bulawayo which ZANU-PF has failed to address since independence in 1980.
Political analyst, Dumisani Mpofu, said ZANU-PF failed to get any votes in Bulawayo because the indigenisation drive which it was using as a campaigning tool has not benefitted people in the city.
“Bulawayo is very clear on how ZANU-PF operates and their election manifesto was promising to indigenise and empower people. This is a not a new concept for the party as the indigenisation drive was started long back and there has been no prominent characters in Bulawayo that benefitted from the programme to become the likes of Phillip Chiyangwa and Supa Mandiwanzira,” said Mpofu.
“Since 1980 it can be concluded that ZANU-PF has never found favour from the people of this region as they have always voted for an alternative party first being ZAPU and now MDC-T.”
Alfred Ncube, a political analyst, said ZANU-PF failed to bring something new in their manifesto to try and convince the people in the region to vote for the party.
“ZANU-PF has been central to marginalisation, underdevelopment and the de-industrialisation of Bulawayo. People in the city do not like ZANU-PF and its policies.
“During the land reform, the party imported people from other regions to resettle in Matabeleland at the expense of the locals,” he added.
“The manifesto that the party delivered during campaign came with the same rhetoric and tired policy proposals. The electorate in Bulawayo had hope in a new government without ZANU-PF being in the equation.”
Thomas Sithole, another political analyst, said the Bulawayo electorate had taken upon itself to become the spokespersons of the rural Matabeleland electorate by virtue of being more informed.
“The urban electorate has taken upon itself to become the spokespeople of the rural electorate, where the marginalisation, lack of development of the regions and past Gukurahundi atrocities seem to be the issues that have swayed the urban vote to the MDC-T as a protest vote on behalf of the rural electorate,” he said.