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Zimbabweans and Nelson Chamisa Stun President Emmerson Mnangagwa with his ‘Choiceless elections’



Zimbabweans and Nelson Chamisa Stun President Emmerson Mnangagwa with his ‘Choiceless elections’

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party (CCC) was left bruised after August’s elections which saw President Emmerson Mnangagwa secure re-election.

The CCC’s disappointments continued when a contested politician triggered the expulsion of some of the party’s MPs and that the Speaker ordered by-elections.

Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya breaks up the stakes ahead of Saturday’s vote.

“Well let’s put it this way, Zanu-PF has always been desperate for a two-thirds majority, it’s only that the last election it was very clear that they were not going to get it so my strong feeling is that they have manipulated this electoral by-election system so much so that they are able to weed off a number of competitors that were in parliament.”

ZANU-PF is currently 10 seats short of the supermajority needed to amend the constitution in the 280-member parliament.

Analysts believe it wants to remove a two-term presidential limit. This would allow Mnangagwa, 81, to counter any challenge to his leadership from inside his party or the opposition.

Groups have denounced a shrinking of civic space under president Mnangagwa.

“The Zimbabwean opposition is very resilient because remember that since 2000 there have been a number of attempts at destabilising the opposition. It did split in 2005 but it managed to gather itself and competed very strongly against Zanu-PF,” analyst Rejoice Ngwenya says.

Alleged imposture

At the heart of the CCC’s turmoil is Sengezo Tshabangu. He penned letter laden with spelling mistakes in October. This little-known politician claimed to be the CCC’s interim secretary-general.

His letter was addressed to the ZANU-PF parliamentary speaker, it stated that 15 CCC lawmakers elected in a bitterly contested August election had ceased to be party members and should lose their seats.

The CCC leadership called the man an imposter but the Parliament speaker heeded him and ordered by-elections except in one seat where Tshabangu had misspelled the name of a lawmaker.

ZANU-PF has denied causing the turmoil even though it has most to gain.

“We have an irresponsible opposition that is selfish and is self-imploding,” party spokesman Farai Marapira told AFP.

“[…] the election that we are looking at on Saturday are based on a recall factor that was invoked by a so-called secretary general of the opposition party, CCC [Citizens Coalition for Change],” Rejoice Ngwenya explained.

“The legitimacy of the recall is debatable but basically the statutory obligation of a recall is still valid.”


When Obert Manduna was elected member of parliament for Nketa constituency in Zimbabwe’s second biggest city of Bulawayo in August, the former humanitarian worker was elated.

“It has always been my passion to work with the downtrodden, vulnerable, and disadvantaged members of the society,” Manduna told Cooking365. “So this has been a calling, an inborn talent that is in me to help [the] community, and this desire was cemented by my entry into politics.”


But this Saturday, his seat and that of 14 other members and eight senators, all members of the country’s main opposition, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) are up for grabs in a by-election. The events leading up to the vote have been a bizarre episode even in a country all too used to unpredictable political developments.

Barely a month into his new role, Manduna was shocked to discover on social media he had been fired from his dream role. A man purporting to be the CCC secretary-general, had recalled him and the other 20 opposition lawmakers.

“Kindly be advised that the following members of the senate were elected under Citizens Coalition of Change (CCC) political party and have ceased to be members of the Citizens Coalition for Change political party,” read part of a letter dated October 3. It was authored by one Sengezo Tshabangu to Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda.

The news hit him hard.

“It affected me psychologically for a few minutes but I am [a] strong believer in community development and I have continued with my work,” Manduna said.

Under Zimbabwean law, a member’s seat can become vacant when parliament is dissolved, if he or she ceases to be a voter, is absent for 21 consecutive days, or is certified mentally unfit or “intellectually handicapped”. And then, a resignation letter to the president of the Senate or speaker of parliament is sent by the party he represents.

None of that had happened to the affected lawmakers. One more thing struck them as odd: the man claiming to be the main opposition’s interim secretary general was neither a member of CCC nor its secretary-general. The party said it had never heard of him either.

Naturally, the CCC disowned Tshabangu but Mudenda the speaker of parliament nevertheless heeded the request to recall the legislators.


‘A joke’

The drama, which sent the entire opposition into panic mode and ignited debate in Zimbabwe’s political arena, was further complicated by this week’s events.

On December 7, Manduna and his 21 displaced colleagues were barred by the High Court from participating in the elections in their constituencies. The court ruled that the nomination body should not have accepted them as candidates in the by-elections.

CCC alleges that Tshabangu is a governing party operative bent on undermining the main opposition, a charge he has denied. ZANU-PF Secretary-General Obert Mpofu, secretary-general of the governing Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has also said his party has “nothing to do with what is going on”.

“I don’t even know Sengezo myself,” Mpofu said on the campaign trail in November. “I have never seen him … I really take all that allege that we have something to do with CCC as a joke.”

Meanwhile, CCC spokesperson Promise Mkhwananzi says the recalls are “unacceptable and disturbing” as they run parallel to the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe.

“It’s an attempt to subvert and undermine the will of the people, to disrespect the right to vote, to disregard the right of choice of the people of Zimbabwe. It has become meaningless to vote in Zimbabwe because when you vote, your vote is undermined,” Mkhwananzi said.

Political analysts said the opposition should have boycotted the by-election from the beginning.

Harare-based political analyst Rashwheat Mukundu told Al Jazeera saying the situation was a continuation of “manipulated electoral processes”, a reference to the disputed presidential election.

He said the opposition, must now engage the “broader society, churches, students, labour” to “demand for rule of law, independent state institutions and free and fair elections”.

“CCC cannot participate hence legitimise and cry foul at the same time,” he added.

A broader plan

Others say the recalls are part of a much broader plan by Mnangagwa to consolidate power in his second and final term.

The governing party, won a total of 136 seats in the polls while CCC got 73 seats. The recalls are therefore seen as an attempt to tilt the balance of power in ZANU-PF’s favour by ensuring it ends up with a two-thirds majority in parliament.

With a parliamentary majority, the presidency would have more extensive powers, including the capacity to elongate his tenure, analysts said.

Under the Southern African country’s constitution, presidential terms are capped at a maximum of two five-year terms. A two-thirds majority in parliament would be key in pushing constitutional amendments.

CCC youth wing interim spokesperson Stephen Chuma called it a “clear decimation of multiparty democracy” and reversal of the gains of the liberation struggle from British colonial rule.

That struggle ended in independence in 1980 and helped foster the dominance of ZANU-PF at the national level since then. Its disputed win in August extended that run.

Across Zimbabwe, the fear of the erosion of multiparty democracy being installed in the country is on the rise, even as a long list of opposition figures and supporters, journalists, and dissidents are being arrested or detained arbitrarily.

One of them, Job Sikhalala, has been in prison since June 2022 for allegedly obstructing justice and inciting public violence. It is his 65th arrest since joining partisan politics in 1999.

“It is clearer now that ZANU-PF seeks to impose [a] one-party state system in the country. ZANU-PF knows they are unelectable hence they want to bar CCC from contesting elections,” Chuma told Cooking365. “So many people died during the liberation struggle for the right to vote now some greedy individuals violate that right. The situation calls for progressive citizens to unite and fight this dictatorship.”

Stanford Nyatsanza, a researcher at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute concurred, saying the developing situation is an indication that ZANU-PF is overseeing a series of “choiceless elections” to gradually make this happen.

“Politically, it means the opposition faces an uphill task to dislodge a competitive authoritarian regime from power which effectively captures all institutions of democratic contestation,” he told Cooking365.

“The absence of opposition CCC candidates from ballot papers in the by-election is a clear testament to holding elections in which opposition supporters cannot freely make their choices,” Nyatsanza added. “Basically, ZANU-PF is going to compete against itself on 9 December and that cannot be classified as an election.”


Zimbabweans and Nelson Chamisa Stun President Emmerson Mnangagwa with his ‘Choiceless elections’

Zimbabweans and Nelson Chamisa Stun President Emmerson Mnangagwa with his ‘Choiceless elections’

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