Battle royale as Zimbabwe holds by-elections on Saturday

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Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
  • President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared that Zanu-PF will rule forever and "puppets" should forget about coming to power.
  • Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa says the government instils fear in the police.
  • There's been a state media blackout on coverage of the opposition ahead of elections for 28 parliamentary seats and 121 municipal seats.

After two months of intensive rallies and flashes of political violence that claimed at least one life, Zimbabwe will hold by-elections on Saturday to fill 28 parliamentary and 121 hundred local government seats.

Rounding up his last star rally for Zanu-PF in Chitungwiza on Thursday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said that in July 2018 they voted for crooks who were anti-Zimbabwean and that they should correct that.

"You voted crooks who cannot do anything. Imagine a person who begs for sanctions so that people can turn against Zanu-PF. But that would not happen because the ruling party will rule forever," he said.

Zimbabwe’s opposition Citizens Coalition for Change supporters attend an election campaign rally in Harare, Zimbabwe.

He added that the opposition "has no ideology but dreams of going to State House", but added that Zimbabwe would "never be ruled by a puppet".

It was not a smooth road for the recently rebranded Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), led by Nelson Chamisa. Their last star rally in Epworth in Harare on Thursday was initially blocked by the police. It took a court challenge by the CCC to get the police to overturn their earlier declaration. 

"It's not their (police) making. They are being threatened that if they let me speak here, it's as good as handing me victory," Chamisa said at the rally.

The by-elections are somewhat a dress rehearsal for general elections slated for 2023.

READ | Zimbabwe by-elections are attracting huge crowds, but don’t read too much into them

"We are going into a crucial by-election. Crucial in that it is a dry run of the 2023 election," Chamisa said.

Both the CCC and Zanu-PF registered bumper crowds during their almost two-month-long campaign drives. 

Themba Ncube from Bulawayo said:

I attended both Zanu-PF and CCC rallies. The atmosphere was electrical on both ends. Even mid-week rallies drew huge crowds. Maybe it's because the majority of Zimbabweans are unemployed like me.

A Zanu-PF election officer, speaking to News24 on condition of anonymity, said his party pulled out all the stops to have rallies, even in areas where it had no strong support base.

"The cost for one rally is huge. Imagine hiring tents, public address systems, hiring musicians, T-shirts, and at times even making sure there's infrastructure in place where ordinarily there's no electricity in the area. Not to mention food and hiring buses to ferry people from as far as Bulawayo and Harare to attend a rally 600km away from their home areas," he said.

ALSO READ | Zimbabwean by-elections: Change of name, colours for MDC as parties test waters before 2023 polls

But in most cases, Zanu-PF uses state resources and the busing of supporters is an age-old trick that all political parties in Zimbabwe accuse each other of doing to boost their rally numbers.

The CCC was financially incapacitated and the MDC Alliance of Douglas Mwonzora crowd-sourced funding for its rallies.

At one point, the CCC had to go online to raise about R80 000 for local dancehall musician Ricky Fire to perform in all the party's star rallies. In December last year the party raised R2 million to buy a bulletproof car for Chamisa to use after his Toyota Fortuner was allegedly shot at during a campaign in Mutare in November.

Zanu-PF rallies were beamed live on national television and state radio stations, but the CCC was blacked out. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) noted this unlevel playing field.

"The public media is supposed to cover everybody fairly and so we expect the state media to come up with a schedule that allocates equal time to all the political parties taking part in the elections and to the individuals running for office too," said ZEC spokesperson Joyce Kazembe.

During the campaign period, the opposition raised concerns around irregularities raised by civic society, such as voters not appearing in their wards and some not featuring on the voters' roll.

In reaction, ZEC fired its information technology director, Pamela Mapondera, for giving the opposition access to the voters' roll. She has since filed a lawsuit in the Labour Court for unlawful dismissal.


The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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