Opposition must reconsider wisdom of participating in 2018

The byword in Zimbabwean opposition politics in the last few months and presumably in the coming months, running up to next year’s elections, is myopically fixated on the coalition deal. Coalition talks continue to consume the lion’s share on the opposition agenda. It would seem the opposition, in its entirety, has been engulfed by some kind of spell, grasping onto the shadow while the substance slips away.

guest column: Learnmore Zuze

Learnmore Zuze

Learnmore Zuze

Coalition talks have assumed the kind of importance that dwarfs every other pertinent matter craving for attention. There seems to be a robust consensus that all that the opposition requires urgently is unity of purpose to unseat Zanu PF. The logical thought process being that strength is in numbers and that a united front would definitely overthrow the incumbent incompetent administration. We have heard a lot on splitting votes as confirmation of the weight given to this subject.

However, we must not be under the delusion that all that is needed to upstage Zanu PF is a united front. This is being shortsighted. Without proper preparations, the result would be the same. The conditions that have always brewed a Zanu PF victory still subsist. One can’t expect apples from a lemon tree; it may yet be another harvest of thorns for the opposition. The noise that we continue to hear insofar as the coalition deal is concerned should be the noise in the direction of electoral reforms. Without proper preparations, we are going to the same place.

While there can be no denying the strength in unity, it is clear that the opposition is losing sight of a very critical factor ahead of the 2018 elections, namely the existence of a very uneven playing field. Not much attention is being awarded to this, as compared to the coalition deal. Is it part of wisdom for the opposition, whether united or not to take part in next year’s elections seeing as it is that there is absolutely nothing that has or will likely change in electoral conditions as compared to the past elections that have yielded the same outcomes.

The conditions currently obtaining will most likely produce a Zanu PF victory. This is an unpalatable truth. The opposition is allegorically going into the boxing ring with hands tied at the back to face an opponent who has both hands at his disposal plus additional iron weapons. The script may still play out to be the same as that of 2013, the only difference being that this will be 2018. Why do I say so? Am I being a mindless pessimist? Hardly!

To begin with, there is an apparent repeat of the 2002 episode where urban voters had fewer polling stations as compared to rural voters. This spells disaster. I recall being only able to cast my vote around 3am in Harare, people slept in queues. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) insists on having only 12% of the 9 600 voter registration centres allocated to Harare and Bulawayo which are the perceived strongholds of the MDC-T. This is a familiar story. Conversely, in rural constituencies, there would be many polling stations that they, as usual, will vote with ease without disenfranchisement. It is a real wonder how the opposition continues to be absorbed in the coalition saga, while a possible determinant of next year’s elections sits unattended. The mathematics here is simple; the urban voter, compromised already, will meet with difficulties and not everyone will cast their vote. The frustration strategy has worked in the past and will still work like magic. While everyone is focused on who leads and who takes which role, impervious strategies are being crafted to the detriment of the opposition.

To add on, has the opposition paused to think how they can halt Zanu PF’s time-tested strategy namely a blitz of terror campaigns especially in rural areas? Already we hear that terror groups are on the prowl. Has someone thought of how to curb the violence factor? And make no mistake, violence works. The June 28 runoff bears testament to the efficacy of violence in elections. While politicians preach against violence during the day, they unleash deacons and angels of death in the cover of night. Zimbabweans are known to give in to avoid bloodshed. Who has strategised against violence? All eyes and ears are on the coalition deal.

Even more, it is a given that airplay will be heavily skewed in favour of the ruling party. The national broadcaster is less likely to have opposition space. There is no distinction between the government and the ruling party and consequently no fairness in airplay and allocation of resources. It is not foreseeable that the partisan radio stations in Zimbabwe will give voice to the opposition. Morgan Tsvangirai’s advertisements back in the years were throttled.

It, therefore, seriously defies logic, from where I stand, why and how the opposition expects victory when all these areas are crying for attention. Indeed, a coalition can be assembled — all agreed — but it is of no practical value confronted with a ruthless machinery that will crackdown on voters and instil fear in the hearts of the citizenry. What has the opposition done about this? What use is a coalition when its voters are disenfranchised and fail to vote? That Zanu PF cannot reform itself out of power is neither here nor there. There is no wisdom in plunging headlong into an election whose results any logical person can see already. Opposition leaders must not speak excitedly at the spur of the moment. The prospect of a Zanu PF victory next year are very real if the underlying causes of opposition failure in previous years are not taken into account.

There is no point going into next year’s election under a crooked playing field. The opposition must rethink its position. It may be setting itself for heartache. The current playing field cannot deliver an opposition victory.

Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail: lastawa77@gmail.com