Of Hwende’s rural offensive and ZANU PF’s people chemistry

By Nobleman Runyanga

The MDC secretary general, Charlton Hwende and the party’s secretary for elections, Jacob Mafume are revelling in their positions which they landed during the party’s May 2019 congress. The clowns are, however, sitting uneasily on their heads as the party’s largely restive and youthful members are cranking up pressure on the two following the MDC’s poor showing during the string of by-elections held in various constituencies and wards across the country last year.

 The party only won Kadoma Town Council Ward 2 in a by-election held in June last year and retained Glen View South national assembly last September. The MDC lost in Lupane East, Mangwe and Zaka East national assembly by elections. It was outperformed by ZANU PF in Bubi Rural District Council (RDC) Ward 22, Nkayi RDC Ward 23, Ward 1 in Masvingo North constituency, Chiredzi RDC Ward 12 and Shurugwi RDC Ward 6 by elections which were held last year.

Over the years the opposition party has been so content with its confinement to the urban areas to the point of complacency and conceit but things turned differently this time around. Some people including its members began to question the pedigree of the people leading the party’s mobilisation and election management machinery. They also questioned the party leadership’s baseless claims of poll theft during the 2018 harmonised election which saw the MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa losing to President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The question was and remains: If the Chamisa lost to President Mnangagwa because of poll theft as they claim, what was the party doing to win elections if the MDC performed so dismally at ward level?

Criticism from MDC cheerleaders

Other pro-MDC figures such as the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) leader, Pedzisayi Ruhanya weighed in in September questioning MDC’s rural electorate strategy.

“The rural election stratagem which is ZANU PF’s centre of gravity is not there. Economic crisis alone won’t help. Most were busy taking their new(ly) delivered top of the range vehicles in Harare. Well done ZANU PF for defeating these people!” said Ruhanya.

A critic of President Mnangagwa and Government, Hopewell Chin’ono also questioned the MDC’s lack of rural grassroots structures.

“The decisive defeat by ZANU PF in Zaka East confirms what I became unpopular for last year, saying that the MDC will never win rural constituencies without grassroots structures! It is a reality that the MDC and the elections director, Jacob Mafume must fix. No rural support no Government,” commented Chin’ono on Twitter.

This build-up of pressure from within and without the MDC galvanised and jolted Hwende into a knee jack reaction. He had to appease the increasingly restive members. He ended up posting on the social media images of people dressed in red gathered in small groups in unknown places in rural Zimbabwe and claimed that they illustrated ongoing MDC structures building in rural areas.

It’s not the structures, stupid

Any normal leader under pressure would respond the way Hwende and company did. Any person in Ruhanya and Chin’ono’s positions would pass the kind of comments they did. The two’s reactions exposed their shallow understanding of the reasons why ZANU PF continues to win elections in the rural areas despite the ongoing economic challenges.

To Chin’ono, Ruhanya and the whole lot at Harvest House it is only MDC structures which are missing and once this sorted, voila, the opposition outfit will suddenly bag all rural national and local authority seats in future polls. Structures are just items of political organisation but one does not organise on a zero foundation. ZANU PF is built on a firm foundation of sound and pro-people ideology and a culture of serving the people.

The MDC, on the other hand, is just an amorphous political organisation with no ideology.  It was born of workers’ grievances following the painful living conditions of the late 1990s which were underpinned by the belt-tightening that was associated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-recommended Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP). The MDC was formed in the wake of the food riots of 1998 which were spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) that was led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai as its secretary general.  No wonder he became the party’s founding leader.

Over the years the party has lost its political campus, ditched workers including its own and is now dining with the West. In fact, if one were to ask Chamisa what his party’s ideology is it would not be surprising that he would not say anything meaningful.

Rural people do not affiliate themselves with people who do not know what they are doing or what they want. They do not invest in organisations which are after power and not the people’s welfare. The rural electorate does not have a short memory. It will not touch the power mongers - not even with long pole. Rural people will not forget their experiences at the hands of the whites before independence and during the liberation war. They will not vote for the people who appealed to the same whites to impose sanctions on their nation leading to the clinics, which their Government built for them over the past 40 years, to run without basic drugs.

People-party chemistry

Hwende and his party can go ahead and create registers of the people who will obviously take up positions in the so-called structures but come 2023 the opposition outfit will realise that it is not the structures which matter in preparing for elections. It will realise that ZANU PF and the rural folk have a bond which dates back to the liberation war. Both participated in the liberation of this country and that bond has endured. Rural people not just collaborated with liberation war fighters but they sacrificed in their own different ways such as providing food and information.

Rural voters are emotionally-invested in ZANU PF because it was the vehicle of their liberation from colonial shackles. They have painful memories of the white man’s rule and they, therefore, cannot associate with people who seek the reversal of the gains of independence such as the land reform. It is these issues which form the basis of the chemistry between ZANU PF and the rural folk. It is this chemistry which sees areas like Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe scoring tens of thousands of votes in favour ZANU PF because the constituents know what the party means to them. And one can’t copy and paste the chemistry in the hope of wresting the rural vote from ZANU PF.


Given this background, Hwende and Mafume can continue fooling their impatient members by giving them false hope through posting images of supposed restructuring but their mission is ill-fated. Even if by the end of 2022 they claim to have covered the whole country, one is assured that ZANU PF will continue to romp to victory because the indestructible bond between the rural electorate and the party cannot be shaken by a we-too knee jack reaction initiative by a poorly grounded opposition political outfit.