Mliswa wins against all odds

HARARE - The biblical  story of how David slew Goliath in an epic battle has become a staff of legends but since history has a habit of repeating itself Temba Mliswa, a mere independent candidate, rose against all odds to triumph against the giant that is Zanu PF in an election that has the opposition believing again.

Mliswa’s poll victory has given opposition a spring ahead of the 2018 elections and there is a belief that there is a chink in Zanu PF’s usually intimidating armour.

After boycotting at least 15 by-elections in protest against an uneven political playing field — opposition parties led by the MDC, this time around lent their support to Mliswa in the Norton by-elections.

That Mliswa won the elections against Zanu PF’s Ronald Chandedza, who according to President Robert Mugabe is a thief, is now common knowledge, but it is the manner in which he won that has left many grappling for answers.

For the former fitness trainer hardwork, support from the MDC and belief propelled him to triumph against his former party.

“Even though I had limited resources I was in Norton everyday campaigning, meeting the people and listening to their grievances. I did not promise them anything but that I would be there whenever they needed me, that was my promise and they listened to me,” said Mliswa.

Amid growing talks for the opposition to form a grand coalition, Mliswa said Norton offered him the chance to test the feasibility of such a union.

“The election was testing the coalition and electoral reforms, I don’t have to be a member of the MDC but I support Tsvangirai. Zanu PF rigs elections but without war veterans they are nothing, we took the message to the people and that is what has to be done,” said Mliswa.

After an acrimonious fallout between Mugabe and war veterans, his former pillars of strength, Zanu PF went into the Norton by-elections divided and for the first time without the critical support of former freedom fighters.

Academic and scholar Pedzisai Ruhanya said it is now clear that without the support of the security sector Zanu PF is doomed.

“The Norton by election teaches us that without the security apparatus’ overt and covert involvement in the electoral affairs of Zimbabwe, Zanu PF is in huge trouble. The securocrats is the decisive power bloc in Zanu PF’s hegemonic projects,” said Ruhanya.

Instead of using war veterans as its storm troopers, Zanu PF led by its political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, who is also the Local Government minister, was doling out residential stands.

But despite dishing out gifts and using the youths to campaign — Kasukuwere, who is also a member of the generation 40 faction (G40) faction, failed to convince the people of Norton to vote for Zanu PF.

“Also interesting to observe is the failure of the Zanu PF strategy to use urban land to dilute opposition strongholds. Zanu PF is going back to get more efficacious stratagem because Kasukuwere’s  land for vote hypothesis appears to have been infirmed/dismissed or at least it has huge challenges/holes,” said Ruhanya.

Just like Ruhanya, Mliswa said the opposition should take comfort in the fact that without war veterans and the army Zanu PF is but a paper tiger.

“It is now clear that the war veterans are still important for the future of this country. So the election shows us that at the end of the day all we need are the war veterans and the biggest opposition party the MDC to win,” said Mliswa.

But that is perhaps being over optimistic considering that Norton was just one constituency.

In 2018 stakes will be much higher.

United Kingdom-based law professor Alex Magaisa, who is also a former top aide of Morgan Tsvangirai, opined that after Zanu PF’s embarrassing defeat Zimbabwe could be hurtling towards the dark days of 2008, when violence and intimidation became the order of the day.

He pointed out to the violent skirmishes that flared up in Norton as Zanu PF supporters descended on Mliswa’s backers and the silence from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) as ominous signs of worse things to come.

“It is probably an indication of a maturing voter, who refuses to be bought by cheap and insincere gifts. If voters are taking the gifts and still voting according to their wishes, this would be the start of an important revolution in voter behaviour,” said Magaisa.

Still Magaisa warned that Zanu PF could respond to the rebuff in Norton with its “stone age tactics of violence”.

“It remains to be seen how Zanu PF will respond to the defeat. It might choose retribution, using violence to punish voters or simply withdraw off of residential stands...”

The Norton by-election was characterised by brazen electoral malpractices such as intimidation, violence, vote buying and yet the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chose to bury its head in the sand, the analysts said.

According to Magaisa, opposition parties should not mistake the critical 2018 election for Norton as the political arena is still tilted in favour of Zanu PF.

“What remains true is that the electoral landscape is still skewed in favour of Zanu PF and Zec continues to underperform in its role as a neutral, impartial and effective supervisor of elections...” said Magaisa.

Pointing out to the year 2008 when a bruised Zanu PF unleashed a reign of terror on ordinary Zimbabweans who had dared to voteTsvangirai for president in that year’s March elections, analysts say Zimbabwe will tailspin to the dark days when some areas where sealed off by the ruling party with the aid of the country’s security apparatus.

In Norton, Zanu PF rolled out freebies to entice voters but the electorate — that is reeling from economic hardships spawned by Mugabe’s 36 years rule was unmoved.

Immediately after the announcement of the Norton results, Kasukuwere went on Twitter and cryptically said “a lesson has been learnt”.

Comments (1)

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