HARARE – Nelson Chamisa watched as his Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) registered its first electoral success, but he insisted that last Saturday’s by-elections had been a waste of taxpayer money.
The CCC won 19 of the 28 parliamentary seats on offer, while Zanu PF won the other nine – a net gain of two for the ruling party.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had not published the full results by Sunday night, but the CCC had picked up dozens of municipal seats in 122 contests nationwide, according to partial results.
The by-elections were dubbed a “mini general election” because of the number of vacancies that were being filled, most triggered by the recall of representatives elected on the MDC Alliance ticket, the party Chamisa previously led.
Surveying a frenzied two months since he was forced to abandon the MDC Alliance and form the CCC to fight last weekend’s by-elections, Chamisa bemoaned the recalls by the MDC-T party following a controversial court ruling in 2019.
“This by-election has shown that ultimately all authority comes from the citizens,” Chamisa wrote on Twitter following his party’s win. “Citizens are above politicians and their foolish politics. Why did you waste national resources taxpayers’ money? Would these resources not have been deployed to better our health, education sectors?”
CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said the CCC had “achieved a resounding victory for the movement” in an election which also spelled doom for the MDC – the party that has dominated opposition politics for 21 years but led to its final demise by unhealed internal schisms.
Partial results showed the MDC Alliance – which was hijacked by Douglas Mwonzora and his MDC-T party in an apparent bid to ride on name recognition and confuse Chamisa’s voters – had lost badly across the country, in some polling stations registering zero votes.
Zanu PF held onto its National Assembly seats – five occasioned by death, one by resignation and a seventh by the recall of former Chivi South representative Killer Zivhu. The party added two more seats previously won by the opposition by capturing Epworth by a majority of 2,000 and also narrowly clinching victory in Mutasa South by just over 500 votes.
The CCC held onto the rural Binga North constituency where Zanu PF made a strong pitch and police banned Chamisa from campaigning. The party also won Kwekwe Central, previously held by the National Patriotic Front whose MP Masango Matambanadzo died in 2020.
Voter apathy was common across all polling stations – but that has been common in by-elections in previous years.
The CCC now goes into the 2023 general elections buoyed by its showing, but Zanu PF would also be quietly confident of holding onto power as the party claimed it had narrowed the gap where it lost, and widened its advantage where it won.
One CCC supporter was killed in the run-up to the by-elections after Zanu PF thugs attacked a rally in Kwekwe and the party had half-a-dozen rallies banned by police. Isolated incidents of attacks on opposition activists, including burning of homes, were also reported across the country.
The unrest has raised concerns that the situation could deteriorate as Zimbabweans head for general elections next year. Chamisa, a 44-year-old lawyer and pastor, will be aiming to wrest power from Zanu PF and its leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, 79, who has been in power since a 2017 military coup.