Despite the Mass Public Opinion Poll that showed Nelson Chamisa was gaining momentum, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has travelled to South Africa for a BRICS meeting on the eve of an election. This kind of overconfidence or underestimating of an opponent is unprecedented. Robert Mugabe would never leave the country on the eve of an election in the Tsvangirai days. That would have spectacularly backfired.
So what is the source of this confidence?
President Mnangagwa is aware of the contents of the new voters roll. It is one prepared through coercion, undue influence and other dirty tactics to register as many party supporters as possible. Through its superior organisational capacity Zanu PF was able to get more of its supporters on the new voters roll.
According to Munyaradzi Machacha in January Zanu-PF targeted to register at least five million party supporters, which would guarantee a resounding victory in the harmonised elections. The current voters roll has about 5,6 million supporters and Zanu PF knows its share of these registered voters.
There had been some setbacks to these targets as some supporters particularly those in Mashonaland East, West and Central mistook the Zanu PF electronic card for BVR. The party then announced it would mobilise some resources to rectify this anomaly. It is not clear to what extent these objectives were achieved but an analysis of the nature of reports received during the BVR exercise can give a pointer of what to expect.
Having a voter registration slip became a prerequisite to receive food aid or to receive presidential farming inputs. Those without registration slips were also targeted for intimidation and harassment.
Since former President Robert Mugabe set the Biometric Voter registration exercise in motion in September last year there were a number issues that most opposition forces unfortunately did not take seriously. Civil society organisations that document human rights violations recorded reports around the BVR exercise whose ramifications are yet to be fully felt or appreciated.
As the exercise started initially in urban areas those without proof of residence were denied the chance to register until ZEC changed their mind at the behest of political parties. As at October 23, ZEC had turned away 22 873 potential registrants for various reasons, including failure to provide proof of residence. By the time this was changed some opposition members were disfranchised while the ruling party took the opportunity of the reprieve to prepare affidavits and register those who did not have any proof of residence. This is the opportunity the ruling party needed to dilute the urban vote by registering its people who did not have any proof of residence in urban areas.
This may be the reason why there are multiple registrants from one address and even addresses that do not exists as claimed by some groups analysing the voters roll. The results in some urban areas will shock many people on Monday.
In rural areas traditional leaders are on record of denying opposition supporters proof of residence letters on cooked up reasons such as arrears in their taxes or accusations of belonging to the MDC-T party. In some cases village heads were reportedly refusing to write the letters to settle personal scores.
Zanu PF activists in rural areas used voter registration slips to make party cell registers which they in turn used to determine who gets food aid or agricultural inputs aid. After registering, villagers were expected to record their voter registration slips with the local party leadership. Through its ‘dandemutande’ strategy the ruling party will follow up with those in its registers if the votes cast it its favour do not tally with what its internal registers say.
Through a combination of more resources, coercive tactics and better organisation the Zanu PF was able to fully take advantage of the BRV process. The less organised opposition was not ready for this next step and this may be the difference on Monday.
The result of these underhand registration manoeuvres bore fruits in the Zanu PF primary elections where only those party members who had registered in party registers using their voter registration slips serial numbers were allowed to participate. Zanu had over 1, 4 million participants in their primary elections. By the time MDC-T tried to use the same tactic the horses had bolted. They simply did not have the data bases to carry out the same exercise.
Even in urban areas, informal traders were forced to register in Mbare regardless of whether they lived in Mbare or not. The result of all this coercion and undue influence is a voters’ roll filled with the supporters of a party which had the better organisational capacity. From these developments lessons must be learnt by the opposition to avoid politicising electoral issues in future.
Zimbabwe goes to vote with a highly politicised voters roll. The only way the opposition can get something is if the Zanu PF supporters most of which were coerced to register under Mugabe turn against Mnangagwa. The opposition has no idea how many of its supporters are on this roll but Zanu PF knows this well. This is why the party can announce on social media that it is confident it will win at least 140 parliamentary seats with ease. This is why Emmerson Mnagagwa can afford to gallivant on the eve of the election. Numbers don’t lie.
Unless most people on that voters’ roll change their minds, Zanu PF will win this election.