Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said the main reason Zanu PF was pushing for an early poll was that its strategists believed that although the party will not get many votes from Matebeleland, its former ally Zapu will do it a favour by splitting opposition votes in the region.
Zapu broke away from Zanu PF in 2008 citing broken promises from the 1987 Unity Accord between the two liberation movements.
The party now led by Dumiso Dabengwa, a former Home Affairs minister, is now making serious inroads into its former strongholds of Matabeleland, Midlands and Mashonaland West.
“We know we will win these elections and this time around we don’t have to force anyone to vote for us,” said a senior Zanu PF official.
“We know that in Matebeleland where MDC-T used to garner more votes than us in this election it’s not going to be possible, with the revival of Zapu.
“If the MDC loses the two provinces then we will certainly have more seats in parliament than them.”
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a human rights activist and political analyst believes Zanu PF’s main strategy to win the elections is violence, which is on the rise in Harare and other rural constituencies.
“I agree that violence is Zanu PF’s prime strategy to win elections in the Matebeleland provinces just like in any other provinces,” he said.
“Zanu PF without the use of violence will just be an empty shell.
“The violence is being organised by the state through the military, police and intelligence.
“However I don’t believe that Zapu has the potential to divide votes in the two provinces.
“The Zapu of today is not the Zapu led by the late legendary Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo.”
Takura Zhangazha, a Harare based political analyst concurred saying violence was Zanu PF’s only viable election campaign strategy.
“Zanu PF is trying to demoralise opposition parties so that they don’t reach their grass roots,” Zhangazha said.
Besides violence, Zanu PF has tried to use MDC-T’s perceived links with Western countries and the land reform programme as its election platforms.
But the strategies have not worked judging from its dismal performances in elections since the turn of the millennium.
In Matabeleland and Midlands provinces where emotions still run high because of the Gukurahundi atrocities in the 1980s, Zanu PF’s influence has been on a constant decline.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe said with the revival of Zapu, Zanu PF’s chances of winning any seat in the region would continue to diminish.
“Zanu PF is in a difficult position in Matebeleland,” Makumbe said.
“In the last election they managed to get one or two seats but this time it won’t happen because Zapu will not win anything but divide those one or two seats Zanu PF had managed to win.
“Zapu is mostly supported by a few people with a nostalgic hatred of Zanu PF and are mainly war veterans and is not taking any MDC supporters.”
MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said opposition parties must realise that they had one common enemy and stop splitting votes.
“We have always said opposition parties should see the bigger picture, see value and profits of unity of purpose to end decades of impoverishment,” he said.
“We respect every party, all forces of light, change, hope based on the idea to neutralise the thin layer of darkness.”
Chamisa said they were aware of Zanu PF’s strategies to demoralise MDC-T supporters ahead of the elections.
“While other countries are encouraging people to go and vote in their multitudes in Zimbabwe we have a party that is trying to drive people as far away as possible from matters of governance while fertilising seeds of voter apathy and making voting dirty,” he said.
However, Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo differed saying his party was capable of winning a free and fair election.
He said they were also not happy with the split but maintained that Zapu officials had a right to reorganise.
Gumbo also believes that the environment is now different from 2008 where Zanu PF lost control of parliament for the first time since independence after the two MDC formations won most of the seats.
“In 2008 people voted with their mouths, this year people are voting for employment, health and education,” he said.
“We have an edge over MDC.”
Zanu PF wants elections by August but last week Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he does not see the polls being held anytime soon because the environment was still not conducive.