Zanu-PF has maintained its commitment that its members will nominate the candidates it presents to the wide electorate for Parliament and, just as important, for local Government and the Politburo has accepted the names of almost 2000 candidates who won in the primaries.
Even in the “about 10” National Assembly constituencies where the Politburo felt there were gross irregularities, no one is imposing an alternative candidate. These 10 primaries will have to be rerun, presumably with the same candidates and if the winner of the dubious vote is confirmed in a better poll then they will be confirmed as the party candidate in the national election.
The reruns are to ensure that weird and illegal external influences do not distort the people’s choice, not to decide what that choice should have been.
A lot of drivel has been written and said by commentators who should know better and are still thinking about Zanu-PF as if it was the faction-ridden mess of five months ago, run by a paranoid old man who had come to detest new faces and condoned the conversion of power to personal gain.
The party saw the danger and when opportunity knocked in November was swift to go right back to its roots and let the people speak, open the doors to new activists with track record, and make it clear that corruption leads to jail, not power.
The party in both its wings won a liberation war against a determined foe by making sure that it was on the side of the people and if it lost its way later it is now going back to that. In the war losing the people’s trust was fatal, now it just means losing seats, but in both cases the people have to be trusted.
In fact the calm acceptance of the results shows that Zanu-PF is “walking the talk”, and not just trying to bluff its way through. Democracy means the people chose the leaders, not that the leaders chose their friends. And if the President is sad that some old friends will not be in the next Parliament, well that is politics. And if some old-timers are sad they are no longer desired as a representative, well there are lots of openings in civic life for everyone who genuinely wants to serve their community.
Generally speaking people in a ward or constituency or province are not that impressed by how well-connected their future representative in Senate, National Assembly, city council or rural district council might be. They are looking for someone they reckon can represent their views forcibly, ensure that the policies and laws they need to flourish are passed and implemented and after some bitter experience want someone who has a track record of action rather than talk and of service rather than using position for personal gain.
To assume a small group in Harare might identify such people better than the thousands who have lived next door to the man or woman is daft. It was noticeable that Cabinet ministers and other people with double political jobs could also win primaries with large majorities, but then they were not strangers to the constituencies.
It is possible to be both a good minister and a good MP, it just requires effort. People who go home once a year or even once every five years were always likely to lose in fair vote.
The result is that Zanu-PF will be fielding its strongest team in decades, united in a common manifesto, but ready to pull their weight and contribute to turning that manifesto, which is after all just a plan, into action and making sure that when it comes to filling in the details that they are filled in right, to the benefit of the people who will trust them.
One of the biggest problems in Government and Parliament is to make choices, weighing benefits and being able to explain why a particular choice is the best, even if an enthusiast for another idea loses out. If the people making the choices have a good rapport with the voters back home then they will be thinking in concrete terms, that is seeing their neighbours as the ones affected, rather than some abstract faceless group.
One important point that many miss in all the talk about National Assembly and Senate candidates is the far longer list of party members who will be standing in local authority elections at the same time. Many parties miss this, either because they do not care or simply because they do not have a strong enough team to bat properly all the way down to number 2 000. The last two mayors of Harare, both able men from the MDC-T, have complained strongly that their party generally produced inferior candidates who only won council seats by being on the ticket and this made running the capital city almost impossible.
Journalists who spend a lot of time covering Harare local government agree. In fact only a handful of the members of Zimbabwe’s largest council do anything in their area, and this handful have benefited in the past from vote switching; voters do notice competence.
By making the competition to represent, for example, ward 7 of Gokwe North just as tough as to be the candidate for a Parliamentary seat with the large majority, Zanu-PF has done a lot to ensure that someone who is at least prepared to put in time and effort in sorting out the nitty-gritty of local problems will be standing rather than someone who just wants to earn attendance fees sitting in total silence at meetings.
And it is interesting that President Mnangagwa is talking about his party’s team. He must be more aware than anyone that no one can do a job alone, and to win progress for Zimbabwe his party has to be able to find someone who can do anything, from sorting out the potholes in their local ward to fixing the economy.