BULAWAYO – The Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC’s resolution to boycott by-elections in protest of electoral reforms may backfire as it would be a huge task to reclaim the seats it lost in Bulawayo.
After its shock defeat at the hands of the ruling Zanu PF in the 2013 elections, MDC cited electoral fraud and made a resolution that they will not go into any election without electoral reforms.
Before the resolution, Bulawayo province had for the past 15 years persistently proved to be a tough constituency for Zanu PF to crack.
Since the MDC boycott, Zanu PF has taken over six of the 12 seats in Bulawayo — Makokoba, Nkulumane, Pumula, Mpopoma-Pelandaba, Luveve and Njube-Lobengula — through the “boycotted” Parliamentary by-elections.
The MDC, however, was not alone in taking the decision to boycott polls as other opposition political parties; MDC led by Welshman Ncube, Zapu led by Dumiso Dabengwa and People’s Democratic Party led by Tendai Biti also took a similar stance so as to force government to institute electoral reforms to level the electoral playing field that they insist is skewed in favour of Zanu PF.
Political analysts contend that while it is not easy for the MDC to win back all the seats it has lost so far, there are however, far more prospects of snatching the seats through a grand coalition of political parties.
Political analyst Gifford Sibanda said under a coalition there is a possibility that the opposition can reclaim Bulawayo seats from Zanu PF.
“However, the MDC on its own might find it difficult considering that there are many new players in the political arena including former MPs who were sacked and those who lost as independents.
“And besides don’t forget that Zanu PF has not be sitting idle, they have been very active using all tricks to lure people through giving people food and other donations.
“Also consider the issue of the youth factor that Zanu PF has of late employed,” he said.
Another analyst Dumisani Nkomo said while Zanu PF stood chances of retaining the seats, a coalition of opposition would give it a good fight.
“If there is a coalition of opposition parties they can reclaim the seats. People from this side vote in blocks, so once they choose what they choose they go for it. It’s about the tag the party carries of which Zanu PF carries a bad tag in this part of the country,” Nkomo said.
“There is likely to be a protest vote just like in 2008 where people voted against Zanu PF because of the economic situation and this is almost a similar situation we are in right now.
“But the opposition should not relax because if you look at the Zanu PF MPs we have in Bulawayo like Tshinga Dube and Godfrey Malaba, they are working very hard and there are chances that they may retain their seats,” Nkomo said.
Another analyst Descent Collins Bajila said coalition was the best way to reclaim the seats.
“The MDC was officially launched in September 1999 and by February 2000 it pulled a victory on the Referendum,” Bajila said. “By June 2000 under extremely violent conditions, it pulled 57 out 120 seats in Parliament almost half.
“In Bulawayo, Zanu PF had fielded men of great repute in 2000 including John Nkomo, Dumiso Dabengwa, Joseph Msika, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu and Joshua Malinga.
“However all these giants fell and that kind of performance remains possible especially if we have a solid coalition within the next two months,” he said.
Bajila, however, noted that despite opposition parties’ differences, working towards a coalition was important.
“Building a coalition slowly is better than no attempt at all. Given the fact in most of the cases the parties that are talking to each other have a terrible history of contestation and quarrels, working together cannot be a sudden and abrupt thing.
“We will have run out of time if within the next two months we will still not be having anything beyond the bilateral agreements and the rather stagnant multiple multilateral,” he said.
Another political analyst, Englestone Sibanda said the opposition might have shot themselves in the foot by choosing not to participate in the by-elections.
“Personally, I feel the no reforms no election decision was ill-advised because it allowed Zanu PF to take all those seats and now it’s not going to be easy for them to take them back,” Sibanda said.
“Zanu PF MPs here know that this is the MDC stronghold and they have been working hard since they took over, to prove that they are better than their opposition party counterparts,” he said.
Sibanda, however, could not rule out the traditional voting trends of the people of Bulawayo.
“The opposition still has a chance of reclaiming the lost seats due to the economic factor as well as the factionalism in the ruling party.
“On top of that the people of Bulawayo may continue with their anti-Zanu PF stance and that will be a plus to the opposition,” he said.
Sibanda, however, noted that Tsvangirai’s party cannot effectively win back the seats on its own.
“The MDC desperately needs to be in a coalition because all alone it’s likely to be a huge mountain to climb,” he said.