The influx of independent candidates in by-elections scheduled for Bulawayo and Tsholotsho North has rekindled interest in the June 10 polls, but analysts say the boycott by major opposition parties would lead to voter apathy.
BY NQOBILE BHEBHE
Zanu PF is battling to win a constituency in Bulawayo for the first time in 15 years and is likely to benefit from low voter turnout as its support base in the city is very low.
Thirty two candidates would contest five parliamentary seats in Bulawayo and Tsholotsho North. Of the 32, 14 are independent candidates.
Zapu, National Constitutional Assembly and Transform Zimbabwe have fielded candidates in Bulawayo.
MDC-T, MDC and MDC-Renewal team would be boycotting the polls demanding electoral reforms.
Dumisani Nkomo, a Bulawayo-based political commentator, said he did not see independent candidates posing a serious challenge to Zanu PF.
“Their chances are really slim for a good number of reasons. There has been no known clear trend or culture of the Zimbabwe electorate voting for independent candidates,” Nkomo said.
““They lack the much needed support structures from political parties to pull off a victory.
“These by-elections in the region are a do or die for Zanu PF as it is eager to make a quick return in the city.”
In the July 31 2013 polls, only Jonathan Samkange and Munyaradzi Kereke won as independent candidates.
The two contested as independents after they were caught up in Zanu PF factional wars, but have since been readmitted into the ruling party. Information minister Jonathan Moyo in 2005 and 2008 won as an independent, but analysts argued he had used State machinery to campaign before he was fired from Zanu PF.
In the 2008 polls, Moyo was backed by MDC-T after the party decided against fielding a candidate.
The minister was defeated by Roselyn Nkomo of MDC-T when he stood as a Zanu PF candidate.
This time Moyo is facing two independent candidates – Busani Ncube and Getrude Sibanda – in the by-election and has declared the two would be no match for him.
“The non-participation of MDC-T will certainly give way to voter apathy presenting Zanu PF candidates a slight edge over rivals from other political parties,” Nkomo said.
Harare-based political commentator, Blessing Vava, claimed independent candidates could not be trusted to influence change.
“Independent candidates stand no chance judging from previous elections,” he said. “The electorate is aware that there is little that one can change or influence as an independent candidate, so I don’t foresee them standing any chance.
“Sadly our politics has been reduced to a Zanu PF and MDC-T contest and without the MDC-T participating it would be an easy go for Zanu PF.
“We need an alternative that could challenge these two parties. What is needed is massive mobilisation and a clear programme of action to restore hope and confidence in the people of Zimbabwe.
“This is a challenge for the born free generation.”
South Africa-based journalist Khanyile Mlotshwa said independent candidates could not withstand Zanu PF’s rigging machinery.
“Zimbabwean elections have always had a problem of rigging and unfairness,” he said.
“So this coming election may turn out to be another stolen morsel with the ruling party hungry for a bigger share of the loaf in the national assembly.
“In any case, elections in Zimbabwe have become part of the ruling elite’s tools to undermine the will of the people while creating the impression that they are democratic.”
By-elections were called after MDC-T fired 21 MPs aligned to MDC- Renewal.
Only 14 seats would be contested as the rest were allocated through proportional representation.
By-elections would be held in Headlands and Hurungwe West after Zanu PF fired Didymus Mutasa and Temba Mliswa respectively.