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ZANU PF MPs want 2023 elections postponed

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

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With the party popularity nosediving from 51% in 2018 down to below 30% at present due to poverty, unemployment and poor economic policies, ZANU PF Members of Parliament (MPs) are sensing danger and want the 2023 plebiscite postponed in order to save the party from defeat. Following the November 2017 bloodless military coup that deposed Zimbabwe’s longest serving dictator President Robert Mugabe, hope for an economic rebound were revived when President Emmerson Mnangagwa was enthroned as new leader.

The British, the EU, US including multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and IMF expressed hope that Zimbabwe would emerge stronger after Mugabe and rejoin the community of states as a reformed and progressive nation.

Without unconditionally admitting Zimbabwe back to the Commonwealth, a group of former British colonies, Britain extended warm relations to President Mnangagwa’s rule with its Ambassador Catriona Laing quoted in the media saying Britain supported Zimbabwe’s economic recovery plan and would help it secure international support “despite the huge funding problems that still remained”.

The British ambassador Laing also said Britain would play a crucial role in helping Zimbabwe get on to an interim IMF staff-monitored programme and influence International Finance Institutions to quickly clear its arrears.

The British support for the 2nd republic led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa was premised on both economic and political reforms and in order to give the Zimbabwe government unreserved international recognition and support, the British government emphasised that elections to choose the country’s new leadership were credible and a true reflection of the will of the people though acknowledging they had not been absolutely free and fair.

Opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa who represented the MDC Alliance and narrowly lost the election had insisted the elections had been rigged in favour of Mnangagwa and refused to recognise Mnangagwa’s legitimacy.

The opposition leader who has now formed a new outfit called the Citizens Convergence for Change ( CCC) approached the courts with an argument that at least 16 polling stations had identical results and there were several irregularities that rendered the electoral process fraudulent.

Earlier, an opppsition protest against the delayed announcement of election results had left at least 6 people killed and dozens injured as armed police and military officers flooded the streets to stop the protest, allegedly firing live ammunition on unarmed civilians.

The opposition MDC Alliance now CCC said the government had used more than 5 days delay in announcing the results to rig and adjust figures to put Mnangagwa in the lead. Although ZANU PF had won in most of its rural strongholds giving it  a two thirds majority in Parliament, there were more votes cast for MPs than those cast for the President in many constituencies, indicating internal fights within the ruling party.

As these allegations of electoral fraud seemed to have been swept under the carpet following the British endorsement of Mnangagwa and his subsequent establishment of a re-engagement process targeting the US, EU and other hostile western capitals displeased by the country’s electoral theft allegations and human rights record, absence of economic reforms a year before the next elections has revived fears by ruling party MPs that the party will face a humiliating defeat at the hands of the opposition CCC.

Notwithstanding the President’s promise to clampdown on corruption and promote a stable economic environment through austerity measures, the economy has continued to bleed with politically linked companies and individuals looting precious minerals and foreign currency and splashing it in nostro accounts outside the country. Inflation has soared and a volatile upward exchange rate has emerged, eroding both savings and incomes of civil servants and other ordinary people. Starting from a rate of 1:25 (US/ZWL), the exchange rate has skyrocketed to 1: 480 in favour of the US dollar, igniting high possibilities of civil unrests.

The plummeting value of the local currency has been attributed to looting, as the political elites participate on a formal foreign currency auction system to gain access to the scarce US dollars which they then sell at a high rate at the parallel market for cheap economic gain. The auction system has created arbitrage opportunities which economic saboteurs have capitalised on. In order to beat some of the restrictions put in place by the Reserve Bank (RBZ) to ensure auction proceeds are used in the best interest of the economy, companies have established third party companies offshore which raise invoices used by local units to access foreign currency at the auction.

In addition to the auctiongate, which has created a feeding trough for the politics elites, banks have also lended huge funds to the same elites who use the funds to mop up every available foreign currency on the streets. The result has been an upward increase in the cost of living as exchange rate driven inflation has taken its toll.

Urban poverty has increased astronomically and rural areas which used to be no go zones for opposition parties are becoming insecure for the ruling party. In the meantime, praise singing in the ruling party has moved a gear up, with pressure groups such as Young Women for ED, MenBelievED, MPsforED crank up for recognition and attention, heaping praises at the President and leaving him to believe all was well.

The MPs themselves are living in abject poverty, selling fuel coupons to run their campaigns in the rural constituencies, mainly sponsoring burials of party supporters who succumb to suicide, AIDS, malnutrition among other causes. A day hardly passes without an MP being called upon to sponsor a funeral, provide transport for party members going to church or party programs or assist with food, school fees or medical expenses by party supporters failing to make ends meet.

Sitting allowances have dwindled to less than US $10 per sitting and Constituency Development Funds are not paid on time, usually received when they can no longer afford to drill and erect a single bush  pump. The MPs believe Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube is to blame for the country’s economic doldrums, having initially claimed he would be equal to the task when he assumed office.

War veterans have openly protested against him and MPs have expressed lack of confidence in his policies which they believe will result in the party facing defeat at the polls. While some MPs are using own resources to sponsor party programs and to lure voters, underground there is relentless talk that the party will not make it due to the poor performance of the cabinet and reluctance by the President to remove dead that surrounds him.

It is in this context that ZANU PF MPs are now calling for an indefinite suspension of the elections to help the party build trust and confidence among voters and allow the President ample time to complete his infrastructure projects which so far have not had an impact.

The Mnangagwa administration has enacted on an airport expansion project, developed the Harare-Beitbridge road with local funds and supported farmers in a popular Pfumvudza program meant to provide farmers with necessary inputs to obtain a bumper harvest to ensure food security for the country.

A Presidential Inputs program has also helped peasant farmers secure farm inputs. However, drought and lack of manpower as many youths have skipped the country’s borders into neighbouring South Africa in search for jobs make government efforts futile. At a 5 year suspension of elections, a decision that can be made possible by virtue of a ZANU PF majority in Parliament can save the party from defeat, said a ZANU PF legislator who requested not to named for fear of victimisation. Many other MPs we interviewed openly expressed the view that the President would not make it in 2023 but said were afraid to say this in public or to their supporters.

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