HARARE - Political activists and opposition political parties should change tack this year and stop spending their energies on trying to push President Robert Mugabe out of office — instead they should start preparing the masses for next year’s crucial elections.
There is a lot that they can do; from encouraging potential voters to register and this includes mobilising those without identity cards, to educating them about their right to vote.
The biggest fight would be to push for electoral reforms while also demanding that the public broadcaster, ZBC Holdings (ZBC), opens up the airwaves to all political players.
ZBC should accord equal advertising space to all political parties and refrain from being a Zanu PF mouthpiece.
If at all there are mass demonstrations, then they have to be demanding the above.
Opposition political parties should demand a clean voters’ register and should have easy access to its contents.
There is no time left to push Mugabe out of office through mass protests before the 2018 vote, but the only chance is to vote him out.
This will, however, not happen if both civil society and opposition political parties are not organised.
At this point in time, it is important for civil society to pour finances into voter education.
They have to go deep into the rural areas where potential voters (70 percent of them) have over the years been cowed by chiefs and headmen to vote for Zanu PF.
The party has also used government food handouts in villages to lure voters. Zanu PF is also good at registering potential voters as they move with mobile registering stations into apostolic sects’ shrines whose captive members are usually submissive.
The 2018 vote is not far away at all and the opposition political parties should by now have operational structures in the villages.
They should be registering their members and issuing them with members’ cards. But as we speak, little if anything, is shaping up in the villages in terms of opposition parties’ membership drive.
Without registered voters, the opposition political parties will not win the 2018 vote even if they finally agree on a grand coalition.
The opposition should learn that elections are not won on voting day but they are won prior to the vote through proper planning, mobilising and educating potential voters.
And they say once beaten twice shy. The 2013 elections should have been a wake-up call for opposition political parties because they slept on the job and thought they had already won the election.
So far, they have not done anything at all and they think they still have a lot of time, which to me is wishful thinking. They forget that Zanu PF has the advantage of abusing State resources to oil their campaigns.
Soon, they will be splashing campaign materials all over the country and they will be all over ZBC and all radio stations, most of which are State-owned.
Lest the opposition forgets; the election campaigns are expensive and they will need a lot of resources. We haven’t witnessed any movement on the ground in terms of opposition parties’ resource mobilisation — when will this happen? Already there are reports Zanu PF has bought hundreds of new vehicles for campaigning.
In the 2013 elections, Zanu PF realised that the opposition was fast asleep and they did not use violence, they just campaigned, aided by State agents and facilities.
There is a danger 2018 may be a repeat of 2013 because of the opposition parties’ way of doing things.
The opposition thinks Zanu PF is gone because of the teething problems the ruling party is facing and they think they have already won the election.
They also think Mugabe is too old to win the elections and that his party is blighted by infighting.
But elections are not won that way because at the end of the day, it is the vote that counts — you need registered voters, you need enlightened voters, Stupid!