BY MOSES MATENGA
The sprouting of political parties on the eve of a major election in Zimbabwe has become a tradition, but the period leading to 2023 might see even a bigger number of new formations if the current trend is anything to go by.
In the past month, the country has seen a string of political parties led by unknowns announcing their arrival on the crowded stage.
Over six political parties have been launched in the past two weeks, all claiming to be opposition outfits out to challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MD Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, the leading contenders for the presidency come 2023.
The latest entrant is a party named DAVID or Divine Alliance for Vitalisation of Inspired Development (DAVID), which is led by one Melbah Dzapasi, a 44-year-old fashion designer and entrepreneur.
DAVID’s arrival came a few weeks after the formation of Freedom of Rights Under Sovereign (Forus) party led by Manyara Irene Muyenziwa and the Conservative Zimbabwe Party in Bulawayo led by Patrick Matsinhanise.
Former Zanu PF youth league commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu also announced the arrival ofhis own party, the Front for Economic Emancipation in Zimbabwe.
The new parties have reignited the old debate about the rationale behind the rationale of a multiplicity of political parties with some Zimbabweans seeing the ruling Zanu PF’s hand behind their formation.
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University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said those who suspected that the government was setting up the political outfits to confuse the electorate were justified.
“It often happens that these fly-by-night political parties are a regular phenomenon towards elections and in some opposition civic society circles, they speculate that these are creations of the regime to confuse the electorate as we move towards elections and also to divide and rule the opposition,” Masunungure said.
“Under normal circumstances we would welcome such opposition political parties as demonstration or testimony of a democratic political dispensation and that the more the merrier, but there is merit in suspecting that these are offshoots of pro-regime formations as we move towards 2023 elections and this is a divide and conquer strategy,”.
He said the divide and rule strategy has been used in the past for the ruling party.
“There is merit in suspecting that these formations could be offshoots of the ruling party to confuse the electorate as we move towards the 2023 elections and it is part of that divide and conquer strategy, which is often very effective under conditions like ours especially so if the main opposition political party in this case the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa appears not to be moving aggressively to create an electoral alliance or coalition in order to strengthen their fight against the ruling party and brighten the prospects of victory in 2023,” Masunungure said.
“You must view these formations with a jaundiced eye because I don’t think they are necessarily pro-democratic forces or progressive forces.
“It makes sense to be wary of these formations less than two years before the next elections.”
Ibbo Mandaza, a publisher and political analyst, said opportunists were taking the election season as a chance to make money and many were angling to join the controversial Political Actors’ Dialogue (Polad) assembled by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa last month gave Polad members 19 Isuzu vehicles under a very controversial scheme.
Some of the recipients lead briefcase parties that did not win a single seat in the previous elections.
“In the context of Zimbabwe, the current environment, an election is a business.
“It is becoming a terrible culture, even in the mainstream parties,” Mandaza said.
“Election time is business time. It is all about money.
“Most are dreaming to join the Polad gravy train and get cars.
“Everything is in the context of money.
“Secondly, the system is known to sponsor many parties that will cause confusion in the election market and facilitate rigging.”
Over 23 presidential candidates stood in the 2018 harmonised elections, but the poll turned out to be a contest between Mnangagwa, who got 51.48% of the vote and Chamisa with 44.3%.
MDC-T candidate Thokozani Khupe came a distant third with a paltry 45 000 votes.
Ignatius Sadziwa, the Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust director, said the new parties must be viewed with suspicion.
“While we encourage and entrench diversity and pluralism in our constitutional democracy, the emergence of many opposition political parties can, however, bear negative effects on the main opposition party’s quest for electoral victory since the vote will be split in favour of the incumbent,” Sadziwa said.
“Obviously these are machinations and schemes by the incumbent aimed at diverting people’s attention from the main opposition.
“Money exchanges hands during the election season and it has started ahead of 2023.”