It’s a game of numbers as youths rally behind Mugabe
By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
Harare – With just a few months before Zimbabwe’s next general elections, things are shaking up on the political front with the ruling Zanu-PF party showcasing its organisational capacity in pulling together massive crowds at its ongoing Presidential Youth Interface Rallies being held in all the country’s province.
If the massive crowds witnessed at the recent Mashonaland West rally is anything to go by, then Zanu-PF is undoubtedly on its way to a landslide victory in 2018.
An estimated crowd of 60 000 party youths gathered at Chinhoyi University of Technology grounds where they were addressed by Zanu-PF’s First Secretary and President, Robert Mugabe.
The rally is one of the best attended so far since the start of the Presidential Youth Interface Rallies being marshaled by the revolutionary party’s youth wing led by Kudzai Chipanga.
In an interview with The Southern Times, Chipanga said the aim of the Youth League was to become the strongest youth league on the continent by year 2020 and to show the world that President Mugabe is the most popular leader in Zimbabwe.
“President Mugabe is the game in town. We are taking advantage of the Robert Mugabe brand which is very popular among young people in the country,” said Chipanga.
So popular is the Robert Mugabe brand that the Mashonaland West’s provincial town of Chinhoyi was at a standstill as a massive crowd of youths braced the biting winter chill to listen to their leader.
At Chinhoyi, President Mugabe told the party youths that contrary to some who wished him ill or dead, he was still fit and doctors had certified that all his organs were in tiptop condition.
So far President Mugabe has held rallies in Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Masvingo and Matabeleland North and Mashonaland West provinces.
The massive youth turnout also debunks the myth that the majority of young people belong to opposition political parties. In the case of Zanu-PF, the youths have become agents of regime conservation instead of being agents of regime change.
What has been the most attractive attribute of Zanu-PF has been its enduring empowerment policies particularly on land, the mining sector and indigenisation in general, which the youths have found amenable to their aspirations.
In comparison with other opposition political parties and others in the region, Zanu-PF’s greatness lies in its capacity to interpret the times in relation to age groups. Its policies cut across generational praxis and focus on the broad national front across provinces.
Most pundits predict a Zanu-PF victory because of a myriad of factors that have rendered opposition political parties ineffectual. Former MDC-T senior official Toendepi Shonhe recently dismissed the planned opposition coalition as a no- brainer.
In a paper titled “The Prospects of a Grand Coalition in Zimbabwe’s 2018 Elections: An Ideological Lens”, Shonhe argues that opposition political parties stand no chance to Zanu-PF at the polls.
Shone cites Zanu-PF’s redistributive policies, superior organisational capacity, the legacy of the liberation struggle, persistent memories of colonialism, land reform and indigenisation and the unchanging political economy as major ingredients that ingratiate the party with the electorate.
The former MDC-T policy chief accuses the opposition of ideological bankruptcy, weak leadership, and lack of strategic thinking, bad messaging and limited statecraft as major factors that weigh down chances of electoral triumph.
Shone’s assessment dovetails with a recent survey by Afrobarometer which claimed that 56 percent of the people interviewed approved the way President Mugabe has done his job in the past 12 months, with 34 disapproving, 11 percent refusing to say.
The survey, which was based on a stratified probability sample of 1 200 adult Zimbabweans and was done from 28 January to February 10 2017, also gave Zanu-PF an edge if the presidential election was to be held just after the study.
Asked which party’s candidate one would vote for in a hypothetical presidential election, a day after the survey, 38% said Zanu PF, 24 % refused to answer, 16% said MDC-T, 11% said they would not vote and 4% said they would vote for a ZimPF candidate (the party of ex-Vice President Joice Mujuru before it split) and 2% said they would vote for other parties.
Another factor that seems to have escaped both Shone and the Afrobarometer survey is the personality of the incumbent — Mugabe. Despite the lukewarm performance of the economy largely hamstrung by decades long Western sanctions, Mugabe is largely viewed as a liberation icon who symbolised the long cherished independence ideals.
His enduring legacy is that of a former guerilla leader who against all odds has managed to fulfill one of the major grievances of the war of liberation – the land. His inimitable personality and incorruptible leadership style has been the glue binding his own political party since the attainment of independence in 1980.
Mugabe is today one of the most educated Heads of State in the world and his understanding and articulation of the country’s historical heritage and global affairs is an admirable trait. He is also highly regarded as a committed pan-Africanist who recently donated US$1 million to the African Union, setting an example for the body to initiate a process of self-reliance.
After Chinhoyi in Mashonaland West Province, Mugabe is scheduled to hold rallies in Gweru (Midlands) and Gwanda (Matabeleland South). Meanwhile, opposition political parties continue squabbling over leadership of mooted grand coalition and have not offered any credible alternative policies.