By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
Research into recently held by-elections in Chimanimani and Mangwe by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has shown that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s campaigns in both wards were “low key” compared to those of the ruling ZANU PF.
In its report, the ZESN has established that, unlike the MDC, ZANU PF sent senior party officials to preside over rallies in both wards, with Senator for Chimanimani, Monica Mutsvangwa and the ZANU-PF National Political Commissar, Victor Matemadanda making their campaign vibrant.
Last week, Zanu PF enhanced its grip on the rural vote after retaining the Chimanimani Ward 16 council seat in a by-election with its candidate Charles Chinamira amassed 1 589 votes against MDC’s Erasmus Brightwell Murada who got only 231 votes.
On the same day, ruling party candidate Ndlovu Onthibile won with 339 in Mangwe against opposition’s Phuthi Sindisiwe who lost with 201 votes.
ZESN report has accused the opposition party for “low key” campaigns and failure to comprehensively deploy its agents in both wards.
“While ZANU-PF and MDC-Alliance contested both by-elections, only ZANU PF campaigns were more visible. ZESN observers reported that MDC Alliance campaigns in both wards were ‘low key’.
“ZANU-PF campaigns on the other hand were reported to be more vibrant. The party’s rallies were addressed by senior party officials.
“For instance in Chimanimani ward 16, Senator for Chimanimani, Monica Mutsvangwa and the ZANU-PF National Political Commissar, Victor Matemadanda and the Member of Parliament for Chimanimani East Constituency, Joshua Sacco addressed the rally that was held at Duri Business Centre
“On election-day ZESN observers reported that polling stations opened on time with all the essential polling materials and due processes were followed in accordance with laid out procedures.
“ZANU-PF comprehensively deployed party agents in both by-elections, while the MDC Alliance only did so in Mangwe. In Chimanimani the MDC Alliance only had party agents at two of the 5 polling stations where ZESN had static observers” read the report.
MDC has been finding it difficult to win the rural vote with and it admits that it is supposed to up its game to dislodge ZANU PF from power.
However, MDC National Secretary for Elections, Jacob Mafume said: “The call for political and electoral reform is more significant now than before.
“The By-elections in Chimanimani and Mangwe both had irregularities, a skewed environment with absence of remedies for all the MDC’s calls for redress.”
“That Zanu PF declares some places no go areas is unlawful and unacceptable in a modern society. MDC polling agents were violently chased away by Zanu PF vigilantes at four polling stations in Chimanimani, exactly the same way it happened in the 2018 election,” Mafume said.
Meanwhile, the ZESN revealed that there was low voter turnout in the by-elections where it was below 50%. Turnout was 46% and 42% for Chimanimani and Mangwe respectively.
The report cited the following recommendations for the political parties:
1) Political parties should comprehensively deploy party agents during by-elections so that they can authoritatively comment on the voting process. iii. Political parties should mobilise their supporters to register as this will assist ZEC’s task of re-aligning constituency boundaries which have experienced vast demographic changes since the last (2008) delimitation exercise.
2) ZESN is of the opinion that all electoral stakeholders, including political parties need to do more to mobilise voters in their respective constituencies to register to vote and not wait for the periodic voter registration blitz that is conducted by ZEC at different intervals.
3) In light of the impending boundary delimitation exercise it is pertinent that political parties mobilise their supporters to register as this will assist ZEC’s task of re-aligning constituency boundaries which have experienced vast demographic changes since the last delimitation exercise which was conducted in 2008. Nehanda Radio