By Thelma Chikwanha
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF are heading for defeat in the July 31 general election, according to political analysts.
Ibbo Mandaza, director of Harare-based think-tank Sapes Trust told the Daily News on Wednesday that Mugabe faces defeat because he has since lost control of the rural communities where he previously enjoyed popular support.
“Zanu PF’s social base which was the rural base has depleted over time especially given the socio-economic problems over the last 20 years,” Mandaza said. “It is clear that these problems are daunting Mugabe and cannot be solved overnight.”
While the increasingly unpopular Mugabe was forced on Wednesday to deny accusations that he was attempting to steal the vote at a Mutare rally, Mandaza said the octogenarian’s rigging machinery would not be able to help him out this time as Zimbabweans were fully aware of the machinations.
Mandaza said 60 percent of the newly-registered votes will vote against him.
Tobaiwa Mudede, the Registrar General of Voters, told a news conference this week that 747 928 new voters were registered by the close of the voter registration exercise that ended on July 9 and that 6.4 million people are registered to vote on July 31.
Mandaza said Mugabe, the world’s second oldest head of State, will also be weighed down by his advanced age.
“There is no way Zimbabweans in their right minds are going to vote for a 90-year-old president,” Mandaza said.
“The age liability also exposes Zanu PF’s failure to deal with succession, let alone leadership renewal where we have a situation where an 89-year-old is standing as presidential candidate in the wake of Kenya whose president (Uhuru Kenyatta) is 52 and Tanzania’s (president Jakaya) Kikwete is 63. The average age is about 57 years. Most post-liberation movements have managed succession well.”
Shakespear Hamauswa, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, also predicted a Mugabe loss, saying Tsvangirai’s penetration into Zanu PF strongholds was bound to sway votes away from the Zanu PF strongman.
“In 2008, Tsvangirai polled almost 50 percent of the same votes Mugabe received in those provinces and because of the new voters, Tsvangirai will likely get more votes,” Hamauswa said, adding Zanu PF retains control of only three out of the country’s 10 provinces.
Hamauswa said Mugabe’s Zanu PF will also have to deal with protest votes from victims of the 2008 post-poll political violence.
“People who were beaten up will seek revenge through the ballot box. Those who were beaten up and their relatives will engage in a protest vote,” Hamauswa said.
He added: “The youths which consist about 60 percent of the population will not vote for him because they need change. Mugabe is no longer in charge of his own political party and the vigour he had during his earlier days is no longer there and everyone is talking about change.”
However, Charity Manyeruke, another political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, predicted a Mugabe win on the back of the youth vote.
“He will win because he has the support of the youths owing to his policies like the land reform, indigenisation and economic empowerment which have benefited the youths which consists of the majority of the population of the country,” Manyeruke said.
“His age will not have any bearing because people like a president who is democratic, a shining star on the continent who has stood against neo-colonialism and imperialism.”
Davison Gomo, an affirmative action activist, said the people of Zimbabwe had an emotional connection with Mugabe and Zanu PF.
“Zanu PF is inextricably linked to the birth of a new and independent Zimbabwean nation and that history is irremovable and wishing it away in search of power, is political folly of the worst order,” Gomo said.
“It is almost impossible to gain power by denying the role and importance of the liberation struggle and even going as far as to denigrate the war veterans.”
Gomo said “there has been a relentless effort from powerful European nations and the USA supported by local political outfits to bring about regime change under the pretext that Zimbabwe is a failed state.” Daily News