EDITORIAL COMMENT: By-election victories foretell 2018

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As expected, Zanu-PF retained the Chiwundura National Assembly seat in the Midlands Province after a by-election that was held on Saturday.

According to the result that was announced in Gweru yesterday, the revolutionary party’s representative, Cde Brown Ndlovu, polled 9 426 votes, thus succeeds Cde Kizito Chivamba, whose death in April created the vacancy.

Cde Ndlovu was way ahead of Mr Takudzwa Guzete of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) who garnered 445 votes, Mr Brighton Mudzviti of Free Zimbabwe Congress who got 145 and Mr Webster Zulu of Progressive Democrats who polled 118.

There was no risk of the ruling party failing to retain the seat as Zanu-PF dominates the local political landscape.  It is a people’s party, one that exists to serve the interests of the people.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) yesterday declared that the by-election was held in a free and fair environment.

“We are happy that throughout the whole period the contesting parties met and talked and that there were no major issues that were raised during the meetings,” Zec Commissioner Mr Daniel Chigaru said.

“Our polling stations opened on time at 7am and closed at 7PM. The polling was quite brisk as usual. What we would want to believe is that the results of this peaceful process that took place yesterday were because of the interparty committee that was set up. We had 68 polling stations across the whole constituency.  The by-election was peaceful and we would want to believe that everything was transparent.”

Chiwundura provides yet another sneak peek of the likely outcome of the 2018 harmonised election not only in that constituency, but also around the country.

The ruling party has maintained a winning trajectory in all by-elections that have been held since 2013.  It has retained all it held since 2013, and grabbed others that were won by MDC-T in that election.  These include Makokoba, Luveve, Lobengula, Mpopoma-Pelandaba and Pumula that were won by MDC-T four years ago but were declared vacant after the opposition party fired the legislators after an internal rebellion.  Zanu-PF won the by-elections held in June 2015 to add to its already crushing parliamentary majority.  Also, the revolutionary party retained Bikita West, Mwenezi East and others.

While critics have tried to mock Zanu-PF’s winning run, saying the victories are hollow given the fact that the so-called bigger opposition parties including MDC-T are not participating, there is no doubt that 2013 marked a shift in political opinion among the electorate in the country, one that favours the ruling party and puts MDC-T and its colleagues firmly in their position.

In elections that year, Zanu-PF won 158 of the 210 parliamentary seats, giving it the much coveted two-thirds majority.  President Mugabe polled 2 110 434 votes, giving him 61 percent of the total vote with his biggest challenger Mr Morgan Tsvangirai at 34 percent.

Major observer missions declared that election as free, fair and representative of the will of the people.  In that year, the ruling party rolled out a sleek campaign anchored on economic indigenisation and empowerment while the opposition largely had no message apart from simply ridiculing Zanu-PF.

After that staggering victory, it was always going to be difficult for the opposition to recover.

Fearing further humiliation, MDC-T, the main opposition which won a paltry 46 seats in 2013, has refused to participate in subsequent by-elections demanding reforms to the electoral framework.

With no risk of losing, we think Zanu-PF expected a wider winning margin in Chiwundura.  In 2013, Cde Chivamba got 11 550 to defeat MDC-T candidate Timothy Mukahlera who achieved 7 670 votes.  In that election, up to 20 000 people voted, but on Saturday only 10 134 votes were cast out of a voter population of 43 688.  This gave a voter turnout of just 23, 6 percent, which is really paltry.

The low turnout is a cause for concern and we could have done with more.

However, we understand that by-elections in our country tend to attract fewer voters when compared to general elections.  At the same time, we don’t think the ruling party would be concerned that much if one considers the difference between Cde Chivamba’s tally and that which Cde Ndlovu attained in the by-election, 2 124 fewer.  Admittedly, it is a substantial amount, but not too wide to get the cadres scratching their heads.

We wish Cde Ndlovu an enjoyable 12 months or so before the end of the life of the Eighth Parliament.  But the next few months should be also a period of hard work for him in the constituency and the House.  The electorate will look forward to him representing them well in Parliament and championing development projects in their area.

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