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Scenarios: Mnangagwa likely to save presidency amid risks of violence in Zimbabwe after elections

Zimbabwe’s 2023 Elections are highly likely to be followed by bloodbath, with government party pressing on opposition and ZANU-PF stepping aside from democracy standards. 

The President Emmerson Mnangagwa will likely win Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections, but it’ll cause security and political crisis in the state, so as rising foreign influence there.

Zimbabwe’s main political parties have started preparing for the country’s general elections in 2023 as they hold rallies and campaign activities in cities and towns to whip up their support bases.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has yet to announce the exact date for the vote, but it has revealed that it would be held in either July or August 2023. After last elections took place on July 31, 2018.

The main political parties for the 2023 elections remain the Zanu-PF, which has been in power since independence in 1980, and the opposition Citizens Coalition For Change (CCC), formed early this year and led by Nelson Chamisa.

Some institutions, like The British parliament, for example, expressed concern over the lack of signs that Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections would be credible, saying there was a shortage of meaningful political, economic, and human rights reforms.

In its latest report, the Zimbabwe Human Rights non-governmental organisation (ZHRNGO Forum) revealed thatviolence was once again showing its ugly head, as protagonists employ dirty tactics to gain both political and electoral advantage. A total of 1,901 politically motivated cases have been recorded so far, as calls for solutions to the deepening polarisation and political intolerance escalate ahead of the 2023 general elections.

However, the country is already in election mode and merely waiting for presidential proclamation of official dates.

The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has ramped up its campaign. The political and electoral playing field remains deeply uneven and stacked in favour of the ruling party.

ZANU-PF’s campaign is a mix of state events and party activities, with the national broadcaster doing the party’s bidding. Meanwhile, Nelson Chamisa’s political opposition, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) – which put up a spirited performance during the recent by-elections – is trying to establish itself while simultaneously preparing for the 2023 polls.

 An analysis of the political terrain after the by-elections shows that ZANU-PF’s position as the ruling party is safe so far.

The CCC’s performance was impressive. It showed political prowess to turn the tide in the by-elections, winning 19 of the 28 seats up for grabs. However, its candidates were previous holders of 21 of 28 seats. In effect, the party managed to return 19 seats and lost two.

The public broadcaster continues to be partial to the ruling party, which enjoys unlimited coverage in the public print, radio and television stations. This matters because internet penetration and mobile data coverage are low in Zimbabwe, making the public broadcaster the main source of information with the widest audience.

Opposition parties cannot afford to base their electoral position on political posturing – they need solid groundwork. A comprehensive strategy should look at the overall political environment and honestly assess the opposition’s chances of unseating the ruling party. Carefully articulated messages and localised campaigns are needed to make inroads in ZANU-PF power bases.

Recent brutal attack on Zimbabwe opposition supporters was clearly intended to harass and intimidate them ahead of elections expected later this year. Ruling-party youth beat and kicked older supporters of the Citizens Coalition for Change (Triple C). The video, which has gone viral on social media, showed some elderly members of the Triple C being assaulted over the weekend in Murehwa about 100 kilometers east of Harare.

Fadzayi Mahere, Triple C spokeswoman, has accused the ruling Zanu-PF party of masterminding the violence and blamed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the police for failing to stop it.

There is no doubt that many young people have lost interest and confidence in elections as a mechanism for political change and find it meaningless to vote because almost all of the elections are invariably characterised by violence and allegations of electoral fraud

The ruling party uses food and land distribution to win votes (mostly in rural areas), on the other hand, the opposition banks on popular anger and disillusionment rather than on its mobilisation prowess.

ZANU PF has three scenarios for the 2023 elections:

The most likely scenario:  ZANU PF will win the elections with relatively as little controversy and dispute as possible.

In this scenario, polling figures (both from polling stations and constituencies, V11 and V23) tally as perfectly as possible with those announced by the national command center – and, hopefully limit any rigging allegations. In this way, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa and his ruling ZANU PF party hope for acceptance and legitimacy by the local, but especially international community – as he seeks to be recognized as truly and democratically elected leader.

The flagship of his administration is the ‘engagement and re-engagement policy’ – which Mnangagwa is pinning his hopes on for the removal of targeted sanctions and the pariah state tag. This is what Mnangagwa hopes for. 

However, there is a huge hurdle – the ever-growing support and strength of the opposition CCC party.

Mnangagwa would want to weaken the opposition before the 2023 elections. 

In order, to achieve this goal he has tried, and continues to try, so many sinister plots – including exploiting internal power struggles witnessed following the death of then MDC-T leader Morgan Richard Tsvangirai (leading to people as Thokozani Khupe and Douglas Mwonzora being Mnangagwa’s running dogs), abuse of state institutions (courts, ZEC, law enforcement), persecution of senior CCC officials and violence onslaught on supporters, and now buying opposition MPs loyalty via the notorious US$40,000 loans.

However, Mnangagwa is busy with his vote buying in rural areas – through the partisan distribution of government taxpayer-funded assistance.

So ZANU PF hopes to win, in a relatively acceptable manner. 

Less likely scenario: Flagrant rigging of elections. Results announced by the electoral commission after the 2023 elections are doctored and far different from those at the polling stations (V11) and constituencies (V23). This has happened before in 2008 and 2018.

In this regard, as much as ZANU PF would want to avoid this, the risk is far more acceptable for the party than losing power. 

The main riskis conducting another disputed election – which will not be accepted by both the opposition and the international community – leading to Mnangagwa’s continued questioned legitimacy, and targeted sanctions remaining.

That is a risk President’s party is willing to take, as the consequences of relinquishing power are too ghastly for the ruling elite to fathom – since there is just too much at stake, with the fear of facing the consequences of their corruption and brutal massacres, and prospects of life off the gravy train. 

They would rather be perceived as a pariah regime that retained power by rigging elections – than the alternative. 

The most unlikely scenario: ZEC will announce Nelson Chamisa and his CCC winners of the presidential elections.

This scenario is unlikely to happen, considering that ZEC’s impartiality is already questionable.