The Sunday News
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was launched about 18 or so years ago, and since then it has accused the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, Zanu-PF, of rigging successive Parliamentary elections.
The recent Constitutional Court petition by Nelson Chamisa who lost against Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, as a matter of historical fact, was a climax of the MDC’s disputatious tradition. Zimbabwe’s apex court upheld the country’s Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s announcement that Mnangagwa had duly won the presidential poll.
It is of great interest to give the most possible reasons why the MDC has been repeatedly losing to Zanu-PF, an analysis the losing party should have carried out years ago instead of mourning after every national popular vote.
The largest number of Zimbabwe’s constituencies are in the rural areas, most of which are under traditional leaders, that is to say chiefs, headmen and village heads. It is the rural areas where most of the country’s approximately five million voters live.
Meanwhile, the MDC was actually founded by workers’ leaders, that is, trade unionists, whose focus was and is still on Zimbabwe’s urban centres.
People in the rural areas depend on land for their very survival, and it was to get back land from the colonial administrative and economic system that the armed liberation struggle was launched, and the majority of those who joined the liberation struggle and actually fought were the rural-based black people and a number of their traditional leaders.
In 2000 when the MDC was at the peak of its popularity, it was materially and financially supported by some white farmers, the very people who and their ancestors had been violently grabbing land from the indigenous people of Zimbabwe until about a decade before the country was freed.
When the Zanu-PF Government resettled people on some of that formerly white-owned land, that measure reduced the congestion in the black-occupied rural areas, a development that was greatly appreciated by all rural-based black communities.
The 2000 Zanu-PF land distribution programme was the ultimate good the party could do for the black Zimbabwean rural dwellers, especially those living on the infertile, overcrowded, over-tilled and overstocked communal lands.
In the urban centres, meanwhile, industries contracted because of a combination of factors some of which are extraneous, some local, some technological, some human, some political, some economic, some climatic, and yet some diplomatic.
Because of all those factors, unemployment rose and desperation set in, and accusing fingers were pointed at the Zanu-PF Government by the trade union-led political party, the MDC, which was seen as a possible saviour by some black urban residents.
The country’s black community is clearly divided into two socio-economic classes. The urban-based unemployed potential wage-earners usually referred to in economic terms as the “proletariat”, and the rural-based communities dependent on mostly subsistence farming, and which we can call “peasants”.
The “proletariat” plus the general urban dwellers regard the MDC as their political party as it was founded and led by urban-based workers’ leaders to whom the youths also look for socio- economic salvation.
The country’s youths are by and large found in urban centres to where they have drifted and continue to drift with the hope of getting employed. Politically, they place their hope in the political party that criticises the party in Government, holding it responsible for the current country’s poor economic condition.
As an electoral factor, globally youths are generally not always reliable in that most of them do not bother to register as voters, and those who are on the voters roll, less that 50 percent do not bother to go to the polls on election days.
Zimbabwe’s rural areas are guided by village heads, headmen and chiefs not only in cultural matters but generally even politically especially at local municipal council level.
In traditional Zimbabwean culture, chiefs’ good subjects are those who obey the traditional leader. Although apolitical, chiefs have electoral preferences, like everybody else, and political parties they support, in most cases the ruling parties.
A loyal Zimbabwean traditional leader, whatever his or her status, would certainly not advise his or her subjects or community to vote against a Government-sponsored candidate. That would be regarded as disloyalty to the Government, and an unacceptable example to the community in particular and to the nation at large.
Land is most important to every Zimbabwean traditional leader, and it is because of that fact that Zanu-PF is supported by the chiefs, headmen and village heads. That party took back the land seized by the white settlers and gave it back to the indigenous people.
Land was the casus belli in Zimbabwe. In 1962, a Mashonaland chief was heard telling a native commissioner: “What my people want more than anything else is land. If white people want to live in peace in this country, they should all live in towns and return our land to us to settle our people.”
The pro- Zanu-PF rural vote is people’s expression of their respect for the historic liberation struggle, an appreciation of the Zanu-PF Government’s land policy, and their cultural loyalty to and respect for their traditional leaders who, it can be very reasonably assumed, advised them to support the party in power and not the aspiring MDC.
Many urban-based Zimbabwean wage earners are not aware that their roots are in the rural areas from where either their parents or grandparents or great grandparents were violently kicked out by white settlers, a step that turned the black people into miserable job-seekers in urban centres.
The current black urban population comprises descendants of either those unfortunate colonial white settler land victims, or of black migrants of Malawian, Mozambican, Zambian, Tanzanian or Angolan origin who came to this country either as indentured mine or farm labourers.
There has been since 2000 a sprinkling of former farm labourers who have been moving into urban areas, particularly to the squatter settlements after they were displaced by the land ownership restoration campaign.
Some of these people yearn to belong to or to remain a part of the proletarian class rather than become that of the peasantry. They thus align themselves with the critics rather than with the supporters of the Zanu-PF Government.
It is because they do not understand why and how they became victims of the current socio- economic predicament that they align themselves politically with allies of black people’s economic exploiters and former socio-political oppressors.