MDC Alliance boss Nelson Chamisa, has suffered a major blow in his bid to form a winning, all-embracing grand coalition after other opposition leaders filed their papers at the Nomination Court yesterday to contest the youthful politician and President Emmerson Mnangagwa in next month’s eagerly-anticipated presidential election.
At the same time, history was made, as for the first time in post-independent Zimbabwe there will be female presidential candidates — three of them — taking on their male counterparts for the right to occupy the most powerful political office in the country in the July 30 plebiscite.
With the MDC Alliance’s endeavours to narrow the list of competitors in the presidential race now dead in the water, the poll will be heavily congested — with about 20 hopefuls having put their hat in the ring for the right to lead Zimbabwe when the Daily News went to print last night.
Former vice president Joice Mujuru, as well as the leader of the splinter MDC faction Thokozani Khupe and the little-known Violet Mariyacha joined Mnangagwa, Chamisa and at least 14 other presidential hopefuls on the ballot paper.
Mujuru, who is the leader of the National People’s Party and the Rainbow Alliance, had been expected to join the MDC Alliance at the last minute together with Khupe — whose running feud with Chamisa had appeared to have ended until the revelations that he was in talks with the National Patriotic Front (NPF), a party backed by former president Robert Mugabe and his much-disliked wife Grace.
Many Zimbabweans, including political analysts, civic society leaders and student movement heads, had consistently said the country’s opposition stood a better chance of finally ending Zanu PF’s dominance of local politics by fielding a single candidate against Mnangagwa in next month’s crucial polls.
The political analysts who spoke to the Daily News last night said the MDC Alliance was likely to rue its failure to put aside its differences with other opposition leaders, particularly Mujuru and Khupe.
“It’s a tragedy for democratic change in Zimbabwe that we have so many presidential candidates. The real battle is between Chamisa and Mnangagwa and those who will help to decide this race are Mujuru and Khupe, and perhaps (Nkosana) Moyo.
“They are likely to play the same role as that played by Simba Makoni against (the late opposition leader Morgan) Tsvangirai in 2008. It’s sad.
“You can’t thus talk of an effective grand coalition when Khupe’s outfit is out. She arguably has better numbers than some principals in the MDC Alliance who are bringing only their single vote to the Alliance. It’s a real tragedy.
“With Mnangagwa’s administration said to have started rigging the poll, the opposition has also now rigged itself out by its failure to swallow their pride and coalesce.
“Divisions in the opposition, in addition to Zanu PF’s alleged rigging, will be one significant factor leading not only to their loss but inability to mobilise against a stolen vote post poll,” political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said.
International Crisis Group senior consultant Pier Pigou also told the Daily News that Mujuru and Khupe had the potential of splitting votes in the presidential race.
“Their candidacy will take some of the opposition vote … the critical question now is how much and whether their combined support will assist Mnangagwa over the finishing line in the first round … Chamisa needs all the support he can get.
“Given there are no prospects of either Mujuru or Khupe winning this election, one must ask what they hope to achieve in the circumstances. It is, however, disturbing that neither of the main candidates have significant diversity amongst their candidate pool,” Pigou said.
Apart from the female trio, Mnangagwa and Chamisa’s rivals will include Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity (ZIPP) leader Blessing Kasiyamhuru, Noah Manyika from Build Zimbabwe Alliance, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) leader Daniel Shumba, Mariyacha of the United Democracy Movement, Elton Mangoma and artist Bryn Mteki, who will stand as an independent.
The others are Progressive and Innovative Party of Zimbabwe (PIPZ) leader Tendai Munyanduri, Langton Toungana, Evaristo Chikanga (Rebuilding Zimbabwe Party), Divine Hove (Nationalistic Alliance of Patriotic & Democratic Zimbabweans), Peter Gava (United Democratic Front), Lovemore Madhuku (National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Timothy Chiguvare People’s Progressive Party of Zimbabwe (PPPZ), Maxwell Shumba (ZimPF) and Nkosana Moyo of the Alliance for the People’s Agenda.
All the presidential candidates had to pay $1 000 each, as per the dictates of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
After submitting his nomination papers, former Zanu PF MP and Masvingo chairperson, Daniel Shumba, dismissed any prospects of him participating in a grand opposition coalition — confirming that he would field candidates in as many constituencies as possible, while also ambitiously declaring himself as the country’s next president.
“No doubt I will be going to State House after July 30, but we have approached the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission expressing concern at the intimidation of our candidates.
“In Masvingo, our candidates were receiving threatening calls from either Zanu PF or State Security agents. Our people were even afraid to come to the Nomination Court,” Shumba said.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who submitted papers on behalf of Mnangagwa, said Zimbabwe had opened up its democratic space, which had allowed many people to participate in the elections.
MDC’s chief election agent, Jameson Timba, told journalists earlier that he had no doubt that Chamisa was going to win the forthcoming elections.
“From the list that has been successfully nominated, I see none other than Nelson Chamisa being the next president of Zimbabwe,” a confident Timba said.
Mteki, a singer and sculptor, incredulously told journalists soon after filing his papers that he was not going to campaign until the voting day.
“I am not going to campaign or do anything after this process. I am simply going to chill at home until the voting day,” he said, adding that if voted into power, he would use his “influence” to bring development to locals.
Mariyacha said she had high chances of winning the elections and become the country’s first female president.
Meanwhile, there was tension at the magistrates’ courts, where the lower courts were receiving nominations for aspiring MPs and councillors.
This saw police coming out in full force to snuff out trouble among disgruntled aspiring MPs and councillors, who had either been disqualified or controversially barred from participating in the Zanu PF and MDC primary elections.
In the capital, the Harare Magistrates’ Court was a hive of activity as candidates and supporters from the main political parties swamped the usually quiet complex.
Most of the aspiring legislators arrived there with bodyguards, with controversial deputy Finance minister Terrence Mukupe arriving with at least eight heavies.
The Daily News also heard yesterday that while the Ambrose Mutinhiri-led NPF was fielding as many candidates as possible across the country, the party had now joined the MDC Alliance — where it got five constituencies.
NPF secretary-general Shadreck Mashayamombe duly filed his papers under this arrangement and will be the MDC Alliance candidate for Harare South.
Next month’s national elections have generated a lot of interest among both ordinary Zimbabweans and ambitious politicians alike, with many people anticipating a close contest between Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance, as well as between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.
The polls themselves will be the first in the past two decades not to feature Mugabe and the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai who lost his valiant battle with cancer of the colon in February. Daily News