Defections normal in politics

BULAWAYO - Defections in political parties have a been a common phenomena since time immemorial.

This trend, most prevalent in African politics, has been more pronounced towards elections.

In Zimbabwe in the run up to the 2013 harmonised elections, more often than not, reports of political party members crossing from one end to another became the in thing.

Never mind how parties exchanged harsh words and denounced those who would have crossed the floor.

Yes, towards elections defections were a necessity as enticement and disgruntlement could not be eliminated in the campaign.

However, what recently transpired in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo, were at least 200 Zapu members allegedly crossed to Zanu PF came as a big surprise.

Talk of members jumping ship less than a month after elections, one can imagine a new wave of political flip-flopping.

While the Dumiso Dabengwa-led Zapu has dismissed the development as a non-event and dramatised political grand standing by Zanu PF, political analysts share a different thought.

But what is really this animal called political defection?

At Independence, there were only two main parties, Zanu PF and Zapu and it was the bid to force a defection that led to the Gukurahundi atrocities in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

The resultant historical pact, the Unity Accord, was on its own a major defection with an apparent swallowing of Zapu into Zanu PF.

One may say even, the revival of Zapu in 2008 was on its own a defection — let alone the birth of MDC.
With MDC being the first-ever vibrant political party to challenge the rule of President Robert Mugabe, defections have taken centre stage.

At least all the major political parties in the country have been directly or indirectly affected by defections.

Political analyst Godwin Phiri said defections were normal in politics but highlighted different motives.

“There are three types of defections, one driven by principle who believes that the party is no longer true to its principles.

“That defector is more loyal. Then there is the one driven by money because they will have been bought,” Phiri said.

He said the third defection is that of people who want to gain political mileage by looking at possible chances to occupy certain political offices or positions.

“The last one is when a defector is motivated by anger or disgruntlement,” he said.

With regard to the alleged 200 Zapu supporters who crossed back to Zanu PF, Phiri believes the move was motivated by the two parties’ long standing history.

“It is a more natural defection, the two have a long-standing relationship that dates back to the liberation struggle and as for Zapu supporters, Zanu PF is a comfortable home than any other party,” he said.

Asked why political parties always chose to make an announcement when there is a defection Phiri said it was one way of selling a brand.

“It is just a political stunt to show the people that we are more attractive than any other party, we are the brand it is just a publicity stunt,” he said adding that stage managing was part of our local politics.

“While some defections will be indeed genuine, some are just stage managed but the election results will usually prove whether there was a defection of such magnitude,” he said.

Political analyst Dumisani Mpofu said Zimbabwean politics was polarised to such levels that most of defections taking place are stage managed.

“Most of the defections particularly in Zimbabwe are stage managed, to boost images for certain individuals. Genuine defections are rare because our political parties are ideologically the same, they push similar agendas,” Mpofu said.

He said parties create an announcing event to bolster their support and psychological confidence to the people.

As for the recent Zapu defection Mpofu accused Simon Khaya Moyo of being behind the whole project to gain extra recognition in the party.

“A good example is how Abednico Bhebhe was promoted into the MDC-T structures after he led a group of defectors from (the smaller faction) MDC. Bhebhe is now a top official in the party but others are in the wilderness,” Mpofu said.

He accused Moyo of building a kingdom in Matabeleland region through stage managing defections.

Mgcini Nyoni admits defections have been more common in the country with the emergence of MDC.

“For the past decade or so we have seen a lot of criss-crossing within the political parties, I feel this has been fuelled by fake promises by party leaders. The other thing is when these people join a party it is basically for financial gain,” Nyoni said.

He said incentives were taking charge in influencing the movement of members.

“People are given incentives to defect and besides, in a Zimbabwean scenario stage management is prevalent although there will be a few genuine ones.

“For instance, on the recent defection from Zapu to Zanu PF, it is not possible to have such a big number at one go defecting. Like I said before, a few bona fide defectors will be there but the number is exaggerated,” Nyoni explained.

With regard to widely publicised defections that took place before elections where a big number of people were said to have crossed floors from MDC to MDC-T before elections Nyoni described them as insignificant and mostly stage managed.

He however predicted a significant number of defections to Zanu PF from now onwards as the party’s victory dashed many people’s hopes.

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