Nelson Chamisa, leader of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change, says Zimbabwe is ripe for change — he will not accept an outcome that declares incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa the winner in elections set for Wednesday.
Against all odds, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Nelson Chamisa stood in front of thousands of his supporters in the capital Harare on Monday during his final campaign rally before Wednesday’s general elections promising socioeconomic and political transformation.
With 40 of his Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters in prison facing allegations of campaigning illegally — they include a parliamentary candidate for Harare’s Glen View South, Chamisa said he would romp to victory based on his economic blueprint which seeks to create a US $100-billion economy in the next five years.
“I have traversed the length and breadth of this country, I have addressed more than 75 rallies, we have had more than 100 rallies that have been banned by the police. But … everyone is saying it is time for change. This is our time,” Chamisa said.
“I have come here today, I have come to tell you this… I know a lot of you are worried that there could be a repeat of 2018, that we are going to be cheated again, that we are going to be rigged again, I want to tell you the good news — God has remembered Zimbabwe,” Chamisa said, much to the delight of his supporters.
The charismatic 45-year-old told his supporters in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city of Bulawayo on Sunday that any election result in which he was not announced as the winner would not be accepted – setting the stage for yet another disputed poll.
“By this time at the end of the week Zimbabwe will be under a new leadership; we are going to win by a big margin; get ready for a new leader, get ready for a new government,” said Chamisa.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu told that the campaigning terrain had not been rosy for Chamisa and his party.
“Even before the votes are cast, this election is not free and fair. We have seen CCC members being arrested, violence against the main opposition was recorded in some parts of the country and opposition rallies were being banned. For elections to be credible they have to reflect the will of the people,” said Mukundu.
Chamisa is facing off with 80-year-old Mnangagwa for a second time, having narrowly lost to him in a disputed poll in 2018. Following the disputed polls, Chamisa mounted a court challenge in the Constitutional Court, but his application was dismissed for lack of evidence.
In the 2018 polls, Chamisa, who led the then Movement for Democratic Change Alliance before its split, alleged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) rigged the election in favour of Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu-PF party. Violence broke out after the polls, leading to the killing of six civilians by the army who opened fire on defenceless civilians.
To this date, no one has been held accountable for the death of the unarmed civilians despite recommendations by the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission to fully investigate the killings orchestrated by the military.
If elected into office this Wednesday, Chamisa said his administration would create more than 2.5 million jobs.
“I am already in the process of putting up a lean cabinet that will assist us in governing Zimbabwe. We are creating this USD$ 100-billion economy. We are creating 2.5 million jobs. We are going to modernise our government, Zimbabwe this is our time,” said Chamisa much to the jubilation of his supporters.
Former chief economist in Zimbabwe’s finance ministry, Masimba John Manyanya, said political will was the key to revitalising the country’s floundering economy.
“A government must have clear administrative policies that breathe life into the economy. A stable political environment is key to economic transformation; we can’t have investors coming into the country when we are busy killing each other, there has to be peace. Any government that is created post-Wednesday’s election should deal with corruption in the layers of government,” said Manyanya.
In the build-up to the election, CCC alleged that the ZEC denied it access to a voters’ roll that was readable.
The party approached the high court demanding that they be given a readable voter’s roll but on Monday the high court dismissed its challenge, meaning Chamisa heads into the Wednesday plebiscite without a voters’ register.
“We have lost the case in which we were demanding that [the] ZEC issues out readable and analysable voters’ roll. This means the election will be held with the opposition having no voters’ roll,” said Paidamoyo Saurombe from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
The opposition alleges that Mnangagwa has captured the judiciary through housing loans availed to judges during the election campaign period. Despite all this, Chamisa said that since he had been ordained by God to lead Zimbabwe, his victory was guaranteed.
“We are going to restore the economy, we want to build a US $100-billion economy, we want to create 2.5 million jobs, we have all the work done and played out. We have what is called the RATE policy [Rapid Accelerated Transformation of the Economy] to try to see what we are going to do. We did it during the inclusive government. I was your minister of ICT [Information Communication and Technology]; we didn’t have SIM cards in this country, I told you (then) that the SIM cards will be everywhere, we delivered on that one, now, try me for this job, you will never regret,” Chamisa said.
As he addressed the rally, the 40 supporters who were arrested for holding an unsanctioned rally, including aspirant MP Gladmore Hakata, were appearing in court applying for bail so that they could exercise their democratic right to vote on Wednesday. But the matter was rolled over to Tuesday.
Chamisa said his administration would end political persecution of opponents and those who wanted to demonstrate would be permitted to do so.
“Apart from political change, Zimbabwe needs salvation, salvation is going to heal our country so that we become a nation again. We are too divided on the basis of politics. One of my tasks upon assuming the reins of power is to unite the people. We are going to say, one people one nation, one vision,” said Chamisa, who also promised to reform state institutions, including the judiciary.
Chamisa said this in reference to the continued imprisonment of Job Sikhala, one of his senior party leaders who has been languishing in prison for more than a year, facing allegations of inciting public violence.
“After the elections, one of my first things to do is to free Sikhala. We can’t have people being jailed for opposing your views and you send them to jail for that. It is wrong,” Chamisa said.
He said if elected to office, he would not be vengeful or try to embarrass his rival Mnangagwa by either arresting him or persecuting him through prosecution.
“I will not strip you [Mnangagwa] of your titles as a former head of state. Let us build a country together; advise where you can. We are not going to be retributive. We won’t take revenge on what used to happen to us,” he said.
Accompanied by his wife, Sithokozile, Chamisa’s speech was full of faith and hope in God.
Even his wife pleaded for people to pray for peace ahead of the elections.
“We are not going to be retributive, let’s move the country together, let us unite and build Zimbabwe,” said the youthful preacher-cum-lawyer.
Chamisa said corruption was a vice that needed to be nipped in the bud. According to Transparency International, Zimbabwe is ranked poorly among countries for corruption.
The opposition leader said, unlike the current regime that allegedly promoted corrupt people, his administration would send those involved in graft to jail.
“We are going to introduce electronic tendering and electronic procuring. Zero tolerance to corruption, under our government, if you are corrupt, we will deal with you decisively. If you steal you would have committed treason,” Chamisa said.
With hours left before Zimbabweans decide, the opposition is faced with the reality that some observers, including academic Stephen Chan, whom the state alleges was in the country to train CCC election agents, were being deported ahead of the polls.
Only last week, authorities deported activist Chris Maroleng and his team who were in the country for research on how the country was conducting its election. Authorities also denied clearance to a number of foreign journalists without giving reasons.
The high court on Tuesday was due to entertain a legal challenge filed by human rights activist Musa Kika and 10 others who were all denied the right to observe the 2023 polls.
Chamisa said he was being persecuted for being a peace-loving politician whose hands were clean of bloodshed — unlike his rival — Mnangagwa.
“I have told [the] ZEC that you cheated us once, that’s an insult, that rigging can’t be repeated again, I am a peaceful person, loving peace is not a weakness,” Chamisa said.
His supporters believe this time around, they are ready to defend the vote. Takudzwa Ngadziore said Zimbabweans had to defend their vote by ensuring that Zanu-PF did not rig the elections, and had to come out in numbers to vote.
“This election is the difference between poverty and opportunities, we are voting for hope from despair. People will and must come out in numbers to vote,” Ngadziore said.
Happymore Gotora, another supporter of Chamisa, said he was confident that the former student leader would make it, come Wednesday.
“It is now or never. We can’t continue to [suffer]. We need to go out and vote. Voting for Chamisa is voting for free education, free primary healthcare and a corrupt-free government,” Gotora said.
But Zanu-PF spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa said Chamisa “is hallucinating that he will be in power”.
“Zanu-PF is transforming and modernising. Chamisa is talking rubbish. He has no capacity to run a sophisticated economy like ours. The best thing he should do is to ask for his handlers to remove sanctions that they put on our country [rather] than to hope that he will be in power one day,” Mutsvangwa said.
With all the challenges ahead, Chamisa remains hopeful of winning the polls and forming the next government. He said he would have a lean cabinet of around 15 ministers and work more on rebuilding the broken economy by fixing macroeconomic fundamentals and introducing currency stability.
“Because God is involved in this struggle, we are going to make it. What is needed is for you to stand on your position,” he said.
He concluded his address by putting his election in the hands of God. “God is in it, God is in this election and victory is certain”.