HARARE - Opposition political parties in Zimbabwe, who are gearing themselves for the 2018 general elections vote have little time left to adequately campaign and reach all grassroots areas, especially rural areas — where the bulk of voters reside, say political analysts.
While 2018 may seem and sound too far for the opposition political parties, the reality is that it is not.
The much touted political grand coalition of opposition political parties so they can contest with the ruling Zanu PF as a single force, is still in its infancy.
On the ground, the opposition parties’ campaigns have not yet started and the grassroots structures are still disjointed to an extent that in most areas they are non-existent.
Apart from the political parties’ grand coalition failing to agree on any issue, the main opposition party, MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai is also threatening a boycott of the 2018 vote unless the Zanu PF-led government implements electoral reforms.
The MDC’s threat is already confusing party members and potential 2018 voters, and worse still it has slowed down the party’s campaign for 2018.
Why should party members start campaigning when there is a threat of boycott?
What is worrying is the MDC’s trend of threatening to boycott national elections and at the eleventh hour make a sudden turn and participate under protest.
On the other hand, the ruling Zanu PF machinery is on the ground, restructuring and campaigning.
Political commentator Mcdonald Lewanika said the opposition is best advised that elections are not won on election day: “Election day victories are the culmination of hard work, campaigning, institution and movement building well ahead of election day.
“The period in between election is best used in building a formidable movement on the ground, sound structures, and building a case for a take-over by the opposition through highlighting what is being done wrong or could be done differently.”
Lewanika said trends in Zimbabwe show that traditionally in the year ahead of election “the space shrinks and is shut off from the opposition. So it is important for those with aspirations of taking over from Zanu PF to make hay while the sun shines.”
Media activist Tabani Moyo said the opposition needs serious rebooting if it is to be of any significance in Zimbabwe’s politics: “Otherwise, at this pace, unless otherwise it will be as good as a write off with the current levels of fragmentation, personality cultism and aggrandizement. It’s as good as Zimbabwe being a one-party State by 2018.”
Moyo said in actual fact urban voters have since lost interest in electoral processes and the opposition needs to wake up from the illusion of strength. “If the opposition in all its formations fails to find common ground as a stimulus to electoral interest by the voters, it’s a zero end game.
“So the sooner the opposition realises that this is a defining moment, the better for Zimbabwe otherwise the country is slowly reverting to the one party State agenda of the early 80s into the 90s.”
Former legislator Settlement Chikwinya said time is of the essence when it comes to political campaigns: “Zanu PF has a tendency of putting its supporters and the whole nation in a (election) campaign mode all the time and they seem to be benefitting out of that.
“First all like-minded opposition parties must come to a table and agree or disagree to form a coalition. This talking of whether it will happen or not is simply a waste of time and such procrastination will cost the opposition greatly in the next elections.”
Chikwinya said talking to each other will provide an opportunity to focus on those that are willing to work together as well as root out any spoilers in time. “A coalition formed now will have enough time to market its programmes while affording the leaders and the separate members enough time to gel.”
Controversial playwright Cont Mhlanga said the major problem we have is that of an opposition in Zimbabwe, who are mainly focused on Mugabe and Zanu PF while the other concern is their political activity.
“Our opposition politics is not focusing on building internal party strengths and building internal agendas that appeal to building and attracting huge numbers of voters and followers. They have no time for this kind of work.
“Some are grand standing to donors and focusing on attracting donor investment to their political parties and that itself is a full time job and activity given how fast the international agenda changes by the year,” said Mhlanga.
The playwright said on the contrary Zanu PF is focusing on building internal party strengths and internal agendas. “It is for this reason that they are at each other’s throats because they are focusing internally to build the party’s strength when time allows them to. And this is the time. Come election time they will be more than ready to roll over their opponents.”
Mhlanga said party structures and the political agenda of the party is key to winning any election. “For this opposition parties time wasting I blame our media, particularly our national print media who define news to mean Zanu PF characters in action.
“The media has turned Zanu PF leaders to TV soap characters who enjoy reading about themselves every morning and forgetting to govern the country creatively.”
The playwright said it is on black and white in Zanu PF’s election manifesto and ZimAsset that they will lead the country to create two million formal jobs by 2018. “But we are half way through and they have so far led the country to create two million more street vendors! How about by 2018?”
He also blamed the media for focusing on Zanu PF leaders as soap opera actors and not leaving them alone “so that they focus on hard real life matters of their party manifesto that require sober action from the elected leadership.
“Our media is marketing national stress to the citizens and totally confusing the opposition political parties.”