Sorrows For Mugabe’s ZANU-PF As Opposition Sweeps Elections In Key Political Test For Mnangagwa’s Leadership

Sorrows For Mugabe’s ZANU-PF As Opposition Sweeps Elections In Key Political Test For Mnangagwa’s Leadership

By Spy Uganda Correspondent

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, defying a police campaign to shut down its rallies, has won a majority of seats in much-anticipated by-elections that were seen as a key test of its strength.

The sweep by the opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change, or CCC, shows it will remain a threat to the ruling party, ZANU-PF, which has dominated the country for more than four decades since its independence.

The CCC won 19 of the 28 seats in the Saturday by-elections, in which about 10 per cent of parliamentary seats were at stake. It also won a majority of local council seats in the by-elections, according to preliminary results released on Sunday.

The much-delayed by-elections, originally scheduled for 2020, were a crucial challenge for opposition leader Nelson Chamisa after years of official pressure against him. He will make another bid for power in national elections next year. But his supporters have faced frequent harassment and intimidation tactics from the government and police.

Zimbabwe’s First Vice-President, Constantino Chiwenga, compared the opposition to insects that must be destroyed. “You see how we crush lice with a stone,” he told a rally of the ruling party last month. “That is what we are going to do to the CCC.”

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in his final rally before the by-elections, vowed that his party “will rule forever.” His predecessor in the ruling party, Robert Mugabe, had remained in power for 37 years until he was toppled in a military coup in 2017.

In the lead-up to the by-elections, Zimbabwean police had banned several of the opposition party’s rallies and arrested dozens of its supporters. At campaign rallies, several opposition supporters were killed or injured by suspected ZANU-PF supporters.

Mr. Chamisa said the national election commission was clearly biased in favour of the ruling party. He said the commission had refused to allow the opposition to exercise its legal right to inspect the registry of voters. State media largely ignored or denigrated the opposition, despite laws requiring fair coverage.

On election day, some Zimbabweans said they were turned away from polling stations because their names were not on the official registry.

“I’m supposed to vote here, but I have just been told that my name is not on the voters’ roll,” said Melvin Gombir, a 27-year-old CCC supporter who was turned away from a voting station in Mabelreign, a Harare suburb.

“Rigging is under way, and I know ZANU-PF wants to steal this election,” he said.

Mr. Chamisa, in an interview said the government is violating Zimbabwe’s constitution by persecuting the opposition and manipulating the election.

“They ban us because they are afraid of what a free and liberated citizenry will mean for their authoritarian rule,” he said.

“Because ZANU-PF is unpopular, it resorts to violence and intimidation,” Mr. Chamisa added. “We need to win big, by wide margins and with a landslide, to avoid the vote being manipulated.”

Despite the threats of violence or arrest, thousands of Zimbabweans still flocked to the opposition party’s campaign rallies. Many were angered by the deteriorating economy, widespread poverty and unemployment, and the collapse of the national currency.

Opposition activists accused the government of sending armed riot police to opposition strongholds to deter people from attending CCC rallies.

“They’re creating an environment of fear, trying to scare people away from our rallies,” said Happymore Chidziva, a senior official in the party. “They make it appear as if there’s a war. They intimidate people.”

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