By Clayton Shereni
In previous Zimbabwean elections, the process has been largely dominated by two main political party outfits, the ruling Zanu PF and bitter rivals the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as the main contenders.
The MDC which in some instances had to rename to MDC-T and MDC Alliance due to technical issues and internal disputes has been a critical player in Zimbabwe’s elections together with the ruling party Zanu PF since 2000.
The late Morgan Tsvangirai led opposition party dominance has now been fully replaced by the Citizens Coalition Change(CCC) which is now the main opposition party and is expected to give the ruling Zanu PF a good run for their money in the 23 August Plebiscite.
Section 67 of the Constitution dictates that Zimbabwe is a multi-party democracy giving room for anyone willing to participate under a party or as an independent.
Independent candidates have been dark horses and the majority of those that have participated in elections under that status have lost.
During the 2018 elections only one House of Assembly independent candidate for Norton, Themba Mliswa sprung a surprise despite many independent candidates contesting across the country’s 210 constituencies.
In 2008, the now self-exiled Professor Jonathan Moyo is the only candidate who went against all odds and won the parliamentary seat in Tsholotsho.
The electorate seems to have turned a blind eye on independent candidates and disregarded them in local authority, parliamentary and presidential positions.
As Zimbabwe gears up for the August 23, 2023 polls, political analysts have predicted yet another blackout on independent candidates.
Political analyst, Gibson Nyikadzino predicted that there won’t be anything new to expect on how independent candidates perform.
“It is a democratic exercise for one to participate but if the odds are against them they will lose. The political dynamics are speaking differently despite us being a multi-party democracy. We have gone back to where politics is and has always been a two-horse race. Independent candidates have the right to participate but the right to win might be very limited because they do not command the desire of politics of personalities which exist primarily over ideas, so I don’t see them winning,” Nyikadzino said.
However, this coming election’s main contenders; Zanu PF and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) may face a stern test from disgruntled independent candidates that are seeking to charm the electorate and break the election jinx and ‘curse’ that is hovering above their heads.
In Masvingo province, there is a notable number of independent candidates that have vowed to break the jinx.
Some of the candidates include; George Vhengere (Gutu East), Tafadzwa Shumba (Mwenezi West), Collen Maboke (Masvingo Urban), and Gibson Hwende (Chiredzi Central).
Mayor Collen Maboke who will square off with his deputy, Wellington Mahwende of Zanu PF and Martin Mureri of CCC told Centre News that the electorate sent him and added that they no longer subscribe to partisan politics but one’s competence.
“I am contesting as an independent candidate because I represent the masses and I was sent by the people. During my five-year term as Masvingo Mayor, I achieved a lot of projects and the people saw it fit that I represent them in Parliament. My responsibility is to represent the interests of the people not of any political party because people nowadays vote for competent leaders, not the political party that you represent,” said Maboke.
Another independent candidate who concurred with Maboke is George Vhengere. He was unceremoniously disqualified from representing Zanu PF after defeating Benjamin Ganyiwa in the party primaries.
“It is an obvious thing that I have the masses on my side. I won resoundingly during the primaries but there are other people who had vested interests. However, we are witnessing cases of intimidation where some of our supporters are being confronted at their homes during the night by our rivals. Intimidation will not work because the voice of the people is the voice of God,” said Vhengere.
Vhengere will battle it out with bitter rival Ganyiwa and Gift Gonese of CCCC in Gutu east constitutuency.
Independent candidates that are protesting unfair treatment in Zanu PF primaries have declared their allegiance to President Emmerson Mnangagwa but registered their discontent with the provincial leadership.
Now deceased and then an aspiring candidate for Gutu West, Mutonho had formulated a campaign strategy “Independent4ED”.
However, for CCC those that felt betrayed by the party have no kind heart for the party leader and his lieutenants who stand accused of imposing candidates in various wards and constituencies.
Chaos has reigned supreme in Zanu PF primaries and CCC’s experimental candidate selection process.
Both parties have seen a sizable number of aspiring candidates for local authority and parliamentary filing nomination papers as independent candidates.
Another political expert, Archbald Madida told this publication that nothing will change as to the fate of independent candidates whom he said have already lost the election.
“The chances are slim for independent candidates to sail through. It’s on record in 2013 and 2018, independent candidates performed dismally. Some may contest as independent because they are disgruntled by the way internal selection processes and primary elections were held but it is a good development for democracy because it allows everyone to contest for any leadership position,” said Madida.
However, it is a mammoth task for both party representatives and independent candidates to charm the electorate.
It remains a million-dollar question and a matter of time whether independent candidates will break the curse or not on August 23, 2023.