Vusi Nyamazana Correspondent
MDC has lost in all presidential elections they have contested, and in all instances they have cried foul and made sensational claims of zanu-pf vote rigging. In all instances they have failed to provide a single shred of evidence to prove their claims. MDC continues to make too many blunders, while zanu-pf works tirelessly and cunningly under the banner of “Restore Legacy” to regain lost ground. The blunders being made show confused party ideology, a lack of strategy, indecisiveness, inexperience and immaturity in Chamisa.
I will give a useful causal explanation of the potential causes of the impending MDC-Alliance election loss. I seek to give the primary causes and not a comprehensive catalogue of causes. I do not intend this list of causal factors as a criticism of Chamisa, but the list is intended to explore the reasons why Chamisa is going to lose the election that seemed within his grasp.
The MDC has always locked themselves out of State House because of Strategic Blunders — strategic myopia and political immaturity. According to the proverb attributed to Einstein, the MDC has been “doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results”. The party has not changed or introduced any new strategies that would attract the electorate after prior electoral defeats. It takes a lot of work and strategies to enable an opposition party to win an election, and they have not done anything new to show that they indeed want to win power in 2018. Most of the blunders can be laid at the feet of Chamisa himself. He has failed to present a compelling vision. He failed to concretise his vision of a future that would be found attractive across different identity groups. These blunders have distanced his campaign from certain groups of voters.
For starters, Chamisa usurped the party leadership position unconstitutionally. He took over the position through unscrupulous political manoeuvres and failed to wait for the National Council to appoint him. He did not hesitate to replace Tsvangirai hours after his death. He used a bunch of thugs called “vanguard” to terrorise Thokozani Khupe, a leading contender for the position. This move caused Thokozani Khupe, other key leaders and supporters to leave MDC and form a splinter party.
Many have doubted Chamisa’s intellectual and mental capability to manage the affairs of a whole nation when he seemed to have managed the party significantly worse than his predecessor. He failed to outline his track record in government during GNU and in Parliament for the years he has been an MP. He has not executed any tangible constituency projects for his people in Kuwadzana. This is a clear indication that he has nothing unique to offer, except for being boastful and overrating himself.
MDC legislators and councillors especially in Harare City Council have largely been looking after their own interests. They enjoyed the comforts of emoluments and failed to make serious efforts to change laws in Parliament and improve service delivery in councils they control(led). ED at the “Victory Rally” National Sports Stadium capitalised on this and said that”Harare has failed to deliver basic service delivery because of MDC councillors.”
Their party has been undiplomatic in the way it criticised and casted aspersions on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). MDC-Alliance openly accused ZEC of being an appendage of zanu-pf, and that it is compromised and cannot run a free and fair election. Their exaggerated and overstretched degree of mistrust of ZEC made them to go as far as demanding that sadc comes to run our elections. This was despicable and detrimental to our self esteem as a country. They held street demonstrations twice in a bid to arm-twist ZEC into complying with their illegal and unreasonable demands. The bad-mouthing of ZEC invited the wrath of well-meaning Zimbabweans, who appreciated the good work that ZEC has done. The voters who did not buy their antics will be like sledgehammers when they fall on them on voting day (today) like tinder boxes.
MDC is known for always back-paddling on their threats to pull out of elections. Chamisa threatened to boycott the election if his demands are not met by ZEC. But his bluff to pull out of elections will certainly backfire on them through fuelling voter confusion and apathy. The general view is that maybe it was all part of his strategy to get the hell out of a race he never intended to see through to its end.
Democratic elections are about numbers. zanu-pf out-manoeuvred MDC in registering millions of voters countrywide. It is right to claim that zanu-pf won the election the day voter registration closed.
It is a safe bet that most of those newly-registered voters are zanu-pf supporters. zanu-pf has traditionally had a head start in the rural areas where they harvest huge numbers. The incumbent always pour more resources and design more pro-rural policies in order to attract the attention and support of rural communities. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) says it has noted an unusually higher concentration of registered voters in Zanu PF’s traditional strongholds, namely Midlands, Mashonaland West, East and Manicaland provinces when compared to opposition MDC-T strongholds.
Bad campaign management strategies will also be another contributing factor in the party’s poor performance. Chamisa attracted good crowds at rallies but his campaign message has been pathetic. Chamisa embarked on an early campaign that was “devoid of policy”, instead he put heavy reliance on personality-driven politics, that relied on casting aspersions on ED. Chamisa expounded fanciful, unrealistic and sometimes false populist promises like solving cash crisis in two weeks, $15 billion US pledge, bullet trains, Kagame ICT policy, bringing world cup to Zimbabwe, airports in rural areas etc. Chamisa has failed to outgrow student politics, and he failed to realise that people expect concrete and realistic propositions from him that improve their standards of living. He squandered the goodwill which he had been shown. The well crafted SMART Manifesto was launched late into the campaign and he failed to fully articulate and promote it.
When Chamisa took over as President of MDC he did nothing to reorganize MDC to make it more effective. Those running primary elections like, Morgan Komichi elicited a lot of distrust from members and presided over sham and chaotic primary elections. The electoral defeat will partly be attributed to Chamisa who surrounded himself with political greenhorns whom he imposed during primary elections and estranged himself from the old leadership of the party. Chamisa did not comprehend that the people who sacrificed since the formation of the party must benefit when the opportunities come around. He forgot his grass-roots, and came across to the old party leaders as an ingrate who rode on their support and sacrifices into office and when he got there he abandoned them.
MDC has a pathetic record in resolving disputes within their leadership. Instead of finding common ground they tend to eject the aggrieved persons. They don’t have a culture of compromise and this has resulted in several splinter parties — MDC-T, MDC-N, MDC-M, MDC-99, MDC Renewal. The latest split with Thokozani Khupe spilled into the courts where they are battling for the party name and symbols. However, Chamisa dismissed this split as a non-event and inconsequential. However, this was foolish and dangerous because the resultant vote split will only benefit Zanu PF. Chamisa’s vision for change has been put into question through his choice to field ousted ex-zanu-pf candidates like Shadrack Mashayamombe into parliament.
By firing Thokozani Khupe, Lovemore Moyo, Obert Gutu, Jessies Majome, James Maridadi etc, he compromised the slate of candidates that may have fared much better against strong Zanu PF candidates. Some of their members will probably shun the imposed candidates and opt to give their vote to the independent candidates. Chamisa can be likened to a sheep that is leading a pride of lions into a crushing defeat. After the embarrassing defeat he will face a circular firing squad, and it will be an especially furious one. The impending infighting could tumble the party further into disarray.
Smaller parties like , MDC-N, PDP etc agreed with MDC-T to form MDC Alliance and support Chamisa as the single presidential candidate. A broad-based consensus among opposition parties, which would have made victory possible, had not been reached. Chamisa failed to attract other big political players like Joyce Mujuru and Nkosana Moyo. However, the two main alliance partners Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, former MDC-T saboteurs, are only good at playing politics at the national stage and very little at constituency level. Biti has been ridiculed for failing to attract more than twenty people at his rallies. This “togetherness” is of course not without additional flaws, the most serious one has been double candidatures and a large number of independent candidates.There will be a split of votes in favour of zanu-pf in these affected constituencies.
MDC has not been able to pour money into its campaign without reserve. They had less money to work with and besides they have a reputation of being stingy in their campaigns. They have been hit hard by donor fatigue. zanu-pf on the other hand, had a huge war chest and it managed to overshadow MDC by billboards, party regalia and campaign material which was awash throughout the country.
Chamisa has been labelled by some as a fly-by-night opportunist who has business dealings with the Mugabe’s. Mugabe is said to have funded Chamisa with millions, and at the MDC Alliance last star rally at Freedom Square Chamisa admitted that he is working with Mugabe to change Zimbabwe,and this revelation left many voters in consternation.
MDC has lost many propaganda wars because of poor communication skills, and it has stumbled in responding to controversies, big policy pronouncements or in response to criticism. The likes of Hwende and David Coltart exposed policy inconsistencies and provided a spectacular piece of political theatre. Their supporters on social media proved to be basket-mouthed, they were insulting, rude, toxic and vile, which in a big way alienated potential voters. Chamisa’s lack of managerial abilities was displayed in the appointment of Sibanda as party spokesperson, a prior MDC stone thrower to salvage the disastrous communication, but we saw little improvement. zanu-pf surpassed as usual its dominance over media campaign, the Media Monitor Zimbabwe released statistics that Zanu PF got more visibility in the media, accounting for 53 percent of the total coverage.
Several characters on social media like Jonathan Moyo, Edmund Kudzayi etc misled MDC and its supporters by creating despondency on one end, and a false sense of election security on the other. They have practically left Jonathan Moyo to campaign for them on social media.
Chamisa has been flagrantly sexist. The first sign to add credence to this claim was when he waged his sister to ED if he wins election. His party supporters unleashed a series of offensive and over the top misogyny against Thokozani Khupe, and this alienated a lot of potential voters. Worse still, he thought he had found a sex scandal wild-card to use against Chigumba and blackmail her into stepping down. Chamisa looked for a way out of his apparent gaffes about Chigumba through a news briefing, but the damage had already been done. He failed to endear with the electorate, mostly women.
MDC was dumber than rocks when they were duped into participating in and celebrating the outcome of Zanu PF internal power plays in November 2017. Their involvement was against wise advice from fellow Africans who cautioned against celebrating a military intervention as a solution to fixing our problems. Chamisa is on record saying the military intervention was a ‘miraculous intervention’. Interestingly the self styled ‘democrats’ even attended the inauguration of ED, and Morgan Tsvangirai got some special recognition.
Chamisa allowed himself to be left holding the political bag for the thousands that lost jobs through his ill conceived involvement in the ZUVA Petroleum Supreme Court case. The case triggered mass retrenchments in Zimbabwe. MDC-T deviated from its original principles that were anchored on workers interests. He fell out of favour with the thousands of affected workers who have a lot of influence and they will punish MDC-Alliance when they cast their votes.
The MDC Alliance principals Chamisa and Biti lobbied for renewal of US sanctions which have curtailed development over the years, and this is evidence that Chamisa’s decision making is not informed and guided by national interest. The electorate will remember this on voting day.
Chamisa and MDC Alliance partners need to do a lot of introspection and be honest in their assessment of the conduct of the election. They have been caught flat footed, playing the old politics of mass rallies and whipping up emotions — instead of meticulously planning and targeting voters for registration, turnout, and with specific messages. zanu-pf capitalised on the discord in MDC Alliance and will claim a monstrous victory.