The loss by the Movement for Democratic Change of the ward 28 council seat in Cowdray Park, Bulawayo, was a “rude wake-up call” according to former Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo who seems to have also become an ardent supporter of MDC leader Nelson Chamisa.
The seat was won by Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriot Front candidate Chidwell Mujuru who polled 1 899 votes beating Nomagugu Mloyi and Collet Ndhlovu both of the MDC-Alliance who polled 1 229 and 221 votes, respectively, thus polling a total of 1 450 votes which meant that they would still have lost to the ZANU-PF candidate even if they had not split their vote.
MDC Leader Nelson Chamisa conceded defeat saying: “The Cowdray Park Ward election results a stark reminder of the urgent need for far reaching ‘root & branch’ reforms & renewal set to kick in at congress. Leadership excesses & conduct that resulted in the party donating a seat to our opposition is regrettable. This is the last of it!”
Moyo said the ZANU-PF victory did not signify that it now had more supporters but it had won bragging rights.
The by-election, he said, showed that politics is local. Even national elections are contested and won locally. Elections are about figures wherein every vote counts and votes come from structures. Byo MDC structures are in turmoil.
While conceding defeat MDC spokesman Jacob Mafume, however, said the party wanted to highlight that the times in which candidate selection was taking place also came with a hostile environment in respect of which targeted violence was being perpetrated on those mandated by the party to handle internal elections.
“Some of them had their homes invaded while others were arrested. In fact, one of the venues of the primary elections was raided by the police disrupting the process. This may have resulted in challenges around candidate selection,” he said.
“The party will however do more to motivate the social base to defend our zones of autonomy because the figures reflect high levels of apathy, our supporters must be assured that solutions are being sought in this respect. “
The question though is, are the days when political parties in Zimbabwe took voters for granted over?
In 2000, former intelligence boss Nicholas Goche said Zimbabwean voters were so polarized that even if the MDC put a frog in any urban constituency people would vote for it.
Two years later, Vice-President Simon told the people of Chivi: “Even if we put a baboon in Chivi, if you are ZANU-PF you vote for that baboon.”
In 2008 a woman from Nkayi remarked: “Given a choice between a donkey and a ZANU-PF candidate, people would vote for the donkey.”