Why do so many Zimbabweans want to be President?

Why do so many Zimbabweans want to be President?
Published: 21 June 2018 (355 Views)
The long list of presidential candidates for the 2018 harmonised elections is out. Last Thursday, the nomination court was held where aspiring candidates submitted their papers and fees to contest in the July 30 polls. A total of 23 individuals made it into the final list after paying the required $1 000 nomination fee and filing the 100 nominations, 10 per province. This is the first time Zimbabwe has had this many candidates running for the top office in the land.

It is 18 more candidates than in the 2013 elections. Dear reader, your guess is as good as mine as to why so many people willingly parted with $1 000 to register themselves for this election. In their minds, they must certainly believe that they are the right person for the job and also have the confidence to amass the over two million votes that it will likely require to win the election. But looking at the political landscape for many of the candidates, it will take nothing short of a miracle for them to win the presidency.

A majority of the support in the past has gone to the candidates of the major political parties, Zanu-PF and the MDC, a trend expected to continue in this election. These two parties have shown themselves to have the largest support base, they have registered the most candidates in the parliamentary and council elections, and they have a lot of experience in the election game. Even the opinion polls have President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa as the front runners, though one might question the margin of their advantage. So why would so many people think that they have the capacity to take them on, especially when other seasoned and fly-by-night politicians like Simba Makoni, Welshman Ncube, Kisinoti Mukwazhe, Langton Towunga, to name a few have failed in the past? Noah Manyika That question, I fear, will remain a mystery as all candidates when quizzed will likely reply that they know they will win. One is left to speculate as to why so many have taken on this mammoth task.

As the majority on the list are relatively unknown in the political arena, I will hazard a guess and say that they felt a calling, religious and/or other. The likes of William Mugadza of the Bethel Christian Party and the eccentric Bryn Mteki, who has stated he will not campaign, seem to give credence to my presumption. For those that are known politically and the others that have been building a name for themselves over the past year or so, it is not really a surprise to see them. President Mnangagwa and Mr Chamisa are the front runners, but there are a few candidates whose presence throws a spanner into the electoral works for the main aspirants.

Factionalism that rocked both Zanu-PF and MDC has resulted in break-away parties, with seasoned politicians at the helm who could be the irritant that prevents one of the main candidates from securing an outright majority. Joice Mujuru and Ambrose Mutinhiri will be looking to siphon off Zanu-PF support in the run up to the election. It does not seem that they will be ahead of President Mnangagwa, but it is also unknown how much support they actually have nationally. The same goes for Nelson Chamisa who will not only face the challenge from Zanu-PF, but also from Thokozani Khupe, who kept the name MDC-T and has a similar logo to Chamisa's MDC Alliance, as well as from former MDC member Elton Mangoma.

Then there is Nkosana Moyo, who has taken an unconventional way of campaigning, preferring door-to-door and word of mouth to big rallies and handouts. He has been on the trail for over a year now and it will be interesting to see how effective his strategy has been. The last name to consider will be that of Noah Manyika, who is running under the banner of Build Zimbabwe Alliance. Manyika, like Moyo, started campaigning last year and has combined an on-the-ground approach with an online strategy. I would certainly be surprised if any of these people, the break-away Zanu-PF and MDC candidates or the newcomers, come out on top. But their presence could affect whether the July 30 presidential poll has an outright winner.

One thing that is evident from the long list of candidates is that the idea of a grand coalition mooted by the MDC was a complete failure. The MDC Alliance seems to be more of a reunification of a part of the original MDC with Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti back in the fold. But the idea to have one, strong opposition to challenge Zanu-PF did not materialise. The alliance was left weakened by the departure of Khupe and under the stewardship of Chamisa, alliance partners have found their space curtailed, losing seats they had been promised. The fallout from the imposition of candidates is another issue that the MDC Alliance has had to deal with. Recently, Chamisa's party lost in court to Blessing Nhende, an aspiring councillor who challenged the imposition of a candidate in a ward that had been reserved for youth.

Once the full list of candidates at constituency and ward level is out, it will be interesting to see how many iterations of MDC candidates there will be and what effect this will have on splitting the vote. Unlike the presidential election where one needs 50 percent of the vote +1, at the other levels, it is a first past the post system. As we await July 30 and parties enter the last legs of their campaigns, ZEC has a mighty task on their hands to ensure the free and fair elections they promised. One of their duties will be the printing of the ballot paper, a logistical nightmare with the high number of candidates. There are different ways in which they could do it, but the law does state that the candidates must be listed in alphabetical order. One wonders what effect the manner in which the ballot paper is printed will have on the voter both in terms of searching for their preferred candidate and length

- the herald


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