Zimbabwe: Chamisa’s MDC will use diaspora cash to fight by-elections

By Farai Shawn Matiashe
Posted on Monday, 13 December 2021 10:42

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Nelson Chamisa attends a media briefing in Harare
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa attends a media briefing in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

As Zimbabwe heads towards 2023 general elections, the by-elections of April 2022 will be critical in determining the popularity of the MDC Alliance and that of their firebrand leader Nelson Chamisa. They present an opportunity for the MDC Alliance to show who really runs Zimbabwe’s opposition politics. 

Zimbabwe has not been holding by-elections since 2020 citing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 28 National Assembly and 105 local authority seats vacant due to the recall of MDC Alliance Members of Parliament and councillors by the breakaway MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora, as well as through deaths of MPs.

The MDC Alliance has been accusing the MDC-T of working with the ruling party, Zanu PF to destabilise the main opposition party through the recalls and the use of force to seize its party headquarters.

Will the 2022 byelections show the popularity of the MDC Alliance?

As Zimbabwe heads towards 2023 general elections, by-elections in April 2022 will be critical in determining the popularity of the MDC Alliance and that of their firebrand leader Nelson Chamisa.

“By-elections are a barometer of popularity or lack of it for the various political gladiators, in this case for both Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance,” Political analyst Eldred Masunungure tells The Africa Report.

“Chamisa and his party should cherish these by-elections as an opportunity to determine once and for all who rules the roost in opposition politics.”

“For the MDC Alliance, it will measure whether their popularity in 2018 is still intact or receding”, says Admire Mare, a senior lecturer in the Department of Media at Namibia University of Science and Technology. “While for Zanu PF it will help us to know if they had made inroads into MDC Alliance strongholds or not while for Mwonzora it will help him assess whether he is a pretender or a kingmaker in Zimbabwe politics,” he says.

Ian Makone, MDC Alliance secretary for elections, tells The Africa Report that the scheduled by-elections will reflect the wrath of Zimbabweans over the unjust recalls of MDC Alliance MPs and councillors by the MDC-T acting in league with Zanu PF.

“The electorate will vote overwhelmingly for the MDC Alliance and restore the legitimacy being claimed by the MDC-T,” he says.

The 2022 by-elections, a burial for Mwonzora and his MDC-T

Mare says the upcoming by-elections will expose the unpopularity of Mwonzora.

“It is highly likely that Mwonzora will be exposed because he lacks the social base and political capital despite his support by the ruling party,” he says.

Masunungure says the MDC-T led by Mwonzora is likely to be buried in the 2022 by-elections.

But Witness Dube, an MDC-T spokesperson, says their prospects about the 2022 by-elections as a party are bright.

“Our preparations are going as planned, and we believe we will be able to secure victories in the primary elections,” he says.

Preparations for the 2023 general elections: Will MDC Alliance secure enough funding?

In late 2021, Chamisa has been making inroads into Zanu PF’s heartland, the rural areas.

The MDC Alliance leader has continued his push, despite efforts by Zanu PF youths believed to be working in coordination with law enforcement agents to assassinate Chamisa, beat his party members and supporters to death and stage violent protests around the country,.

The Political Parties Finance Act prohibits foreign funding of domestic political parties, including for the ruling Zanu PF and MDC Alliance.

However, the Act has suffered from either poor or selective enforcement.

The funding which is disbursed through the Political Parties Finance Act to parties that secures at least 5% of the constituency votes has been shared between the Zanu PF and MDC-T in an effort to cripple the MDC Alliance by starving them of funds.

Mare says Chamisa will continue to get funding from within and outside the country.

“Our borders are porous, [you can’t] stop money coming in. Also you do not need physical cash to fund your campaign. Goods and services can be paid using electronic cash without any hindrance,” he says.

Zanu PF and government officials have been sweating over the latest campaign to raise funds for Chamisa’s bulletproof vehicle via the crowd-funding platform, GoFundme, which has been successful.

The initiative aimed at raising $120,000 has so far reached $122,000 with the money coming from the diaspora.

“Judging for the GoFundme car initiative which has managed to raise over to $120,000, then it is safe to say Zimbabweans within and outside the country will fund Chamisa’s campaign. He will receive enough kit to go beyond 2018,” says Mare.

Makone says the greatest resource for the MDC Alliance is the people of Zimbabwe, and so efforts by Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF government to choke the MDC Alliance of income will not deter the electorate.

“The MDC Alliance will employ all measures and opportunities available internally to support its 2023 election campaign, be it donations, volunteers, fundraising and technical support,” he says.

The unequal level playing field

Masunungure says Chamisa will have an uphill struggle in his campaign activities.

“I think the playing field is presently far from being level as is evident from the weaponisation of the Covid-19 regulations to bar the main opposition from active campaigning while its rival is having a field day meeting with its supporters in their thousands throughout the country,” he says.

Mare says unfortunately the campaign field will be uneven as usual but the onus is on Chamisa to find creative ways to penetrate no-go areas especially rural areas.

He says the MDC Alliance must also find ways to circumvent the traps associated with the military, electoral management body, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and judiciary capture.

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