HomeOpinion & AnalysisHow Zanu PF has stolen polls since 1980

How Zanu PF has stolen polls since 1980

Lest people forget the circumstances behind Zanu PF winning the 1980 election against Joshua Nkomo’s PF-Zapu, the truth is that the party won for two main reasons.

Firstly, the guerrillas threatened to go back into the bush and continue fighting if Zanu PF did not win the election.

Secondly, people were tired of the war with all its horrors and wanted it to come to an end at all costs.

Similarly, Zimbabweans today desperately need a government-change no matter who comes into power. In the 1980 elections people were cowed into voting for Zanu PF. According to the Lancaster House agreement, all ex-combatants were supposed to be at the assembly points, but Zanu PF sent mostly the mujibas (war collaborators and informers) there instead and left the real ex-combatants to roam free, terrorising the people, something they are still doing over 30 years later, because for them it is a tried and tested method that bears results.


In the 1980 elections, ex-combatants went about with binoculars, making the rural folk look through them to see how they were able to read things from afar. This was a novelty to the people who had experienced that before, they were amazed to see how binoculars were able to miraculously bring things incredibly close.

People were told that on election day the ex-guerrillas would use binoculars to see who they were voting for.

The same crooked means have been consistently employed by Zanu PF to attain victory in all elections to this day.

Even the way Mugabe ascended to lead the Zanla guerrilla fighters was questionable. During the decade Mugabe was in detention, between 1964 and 1974, the late General Solomon Mujuru and Josiah Magama Tongogara led the liberation struggle.

At the time Mugabe and Edgar Tekere were released from prison, they were helped to cross into Mozambique to join other guerrilla fighters, where Mujuru implored guerrillas, most of whom had never met Mugabe before, to accept him as their leader. The move was initially met with resistance but eventually the guerrillas gave in.

Seeing a deepening tribal conflict in which over 20 000 Ndebeles were reportedly massacred by Mugabe’s North-Korean trained soldiers, Mugabe crafted another survival strategy in which he coerced Joshua Nkomo into a unity government.

The coming of the Zimbabwe United Movement (ZUM) to the political playing field did not ease the tension in the country, with Zanu PF crushing the former left, right and centre, frustrating the party’s leadership by arresting activists and supporters. This led to ZUM losing in the 1990 elections under conditions that were deemed unjust.

Another presidential election was held in March 1996, contested by Zanu PF’s Mugabe, Zanu-Ndonga’s Ndabaningi Sithole and former Zimbabwe Rhodesia Prime Minister, Abel Muzorewa.

Mugabe won, claiming over 90% of the vote, although turnout was just 32,3%, largely as a result of Sithole and Muzorewa withdrawing from candidature shortly before the elections.

Sithole withdrew after claiming that Mugabe undermined his campaign, while Muzorewa pulled out after the Supreme Court turned down his bid to postpone the elections on the basis that the electoral rules were unfair as state funds were only available to parties with 15 or more seats in parliament. In December 1997, Sithole was convicted of conspiring to assassinate Mugabe; he appealed and then died while out on bail.

Then came 2002, through hook and crook, Mugabe again shot his way back to State House. In March 2008, Mugabe’s future looked bleaker than ever as Zimbabweans again voted in presidential elections.

Prior to the plebiscite, Mugabe had declared that he would “abide by the will of the people”. In an interview on the BBC, a spokesman for Zanu-PF said of the Mugabe presidency; “He shall rule this country for as long as he likes.” But the vote was a huge blow to the party that has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

When he cast his ballot in the first round, Mugabe said: “If you lose an election and are rejected by the people, it is time to leave politics.”  Surprisingly after failing to win enough votes to avoid a run-off with opposition challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe displayed more characteristic defiance, swearing “only God” could remove him from office.

Clearly, one can see that Mugabe has never won a legitimate election before.


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