By Prince Kurupati
Its election season in Zimbabwe. On March 26, millions of Zimbabweans from all walks of life will visit different polling booths to cast their vote in the country’s by-elections. The by-elections are being conducted to fill in the vacant parliamentary and council seats which fell vacant following either the death or recall of previously elected representatives.
On the weekend of 12 and 13 January, the ruling party ZANU (PF) officially kicked off its by-election campaign in the capital Harare. The main speaker was the First Secretary of the party and the country’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa. On the very same weekend, the MDC Alliance which at one time was the country’s main opposition party also kickstarted its by-election campaign. The MDC Alliance by-election campaign was fronted by the alliance leader, MDC-T president Douglas Mwonzora.
A week later on Sunday 20 February, the president of the newly founded Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Nelson Chamisa officially launched his party’s by-election campaign. The upcoming by-elections will be the elections that the CCC party will compete in. However, the candidates are not entirely new as most of them were parliamentarians and councillors before. They vacated their positions after they were recalled by the MDC-T president Douglas Mwonzora after the fallout between Mwonzora and Chamisa.
As the election fever grips the nation, the biggest talking point in the country isn’t about the candidates likely to win or the party to scoop the most seats in the by-elections. Rather, the country’s police has attracted all the attention. This owing to its crystal-clear partisan actions it has taken when it comes to regulating the political environment and space in the country.
When the ruling party launched its by-election campaign on the weekend of 12 and 13 February, the police did not release any statement with details stating the expected conduct of the party leaders and their supporters. On the day of the campaign kick-off, the police did provide security at the venue protecting the country’s leader and all-party supporters. Likewise, the police did not provide any stringent conditions for the MDC Alliance when it launched its by-election campaign.
Things were however very much different when the newly formed party CCC expressed its intentions to official kickstart its by-election campaign. The police released a statement detailing all the conditions that the party had to meet in order for the campaign to proceed smoothly. one of the most puzzling conditions relates to bussing of party supporters. When the ruling party launched its campaign, dozens of buses ferried supporters from all corners of the country while the same privilege was not extended to the newly formed party. In fact, several roadblocks on the day were set up and only cars with two people were allowed to pass through thus limiting the number of attendees.
The uneven political playing field that the police has created has certainly provided a major cause of concern. To many political analysts, they say this is a precursor to what the police and presumably other state institutions will do come 2023 when the presidential election takes place.