While Nelson Chamisa gave a strong showing in this election the pitfalls of investing in an individual at the expense of the party came to the fore. Once the individual loses all is lost. Had the 2 million votes that went to Nelson Chamisa went to the party instead there would be better chances of denying Zanu PF a two thirds majority.
However all is not really lost. The election outcome may have produced a lame duck president.It exposed that Mnangagwa neither has the affection of his party nor their mandate to represent them. The near rejection of Mnangagwa in rural areas shows deep seated discontent with the ideology and policies the party will pursue under his leadership and provides a bedrock for resistance to Neo-liberalism. Rural areas will be the future of opposition politics.
Rejected by the party Mnangagwa will largely rely on the coercive apparatus to push his government agenda.This could work in two ways. We could have a President who is indebted to another hidden force for his stay in office and will therefore be captured by that force or we could have a Prince who owes nothing to anyone and would therefore better placed to push the reform agenda. Mnangagwa’s opponents in the party argued he was unelectable. Could this be what they meant?
These results show that Zanu PF supporters are not comfortable with the reforms Mnangagwa will push.Mnangagwa’s dalliance with white capital and promising them reforms could be a major source of this discontent. Ordinary Zanu PF supporters who pursue socialist ideas and who are outright not neoliberalists may feel Mnangagwa will make too many concessions with the west and capital to their own detriment particularly when it comes to land.They are not ready for the wholesome changes he may bring. They simply do not want his Zimbabwe is open for business policy.
Mnangagwa’s posturing about fighting corruption may also have made some Zanu PF supporters uncomfortable. Many Zanu PF supporters follow the party precisely to access benefits of patronage and they may have felt this will not continue under Mnangagwa.
It is unprecedented that a candidate whose party overwhelmingly wins the the parliamentary vote then fails to also follow through by claiming a similar majority.Such a scenario lends credence to allegations of manipulation but the opposition must bring forward the evidence.
I don’t think Mugabe’s last minute press conference really changed anything. People’s minds were set. Either that generational consensus idea gathered some momentum and youths really believed that it’s their time or there are deep seated grievances against the ascension of Mnangagwa in his own party.
Mnangagwa was imposed in December by the military and did not really go through a democratic process. He was ‘endorsed’ by a fearful party that had just seen the military in action. I argues then that Zanu PF had lost an opportunity to democratise the party by imposing Mnangagwa uncontested.
The final point contributing to Mnangagwa’s poor showing may be the way he has catapulted soldiers into the party. His running mate in particular could have been the source of this discontent. Party supporters may not be completely comfortable with the take over of Constantino Chiwenga in the case of Mnangagwa death or if he steps aside. People do not want to be commandeered by the imposing and domineering posture of Chiwenga.
The outcome of this election provides opportunities for the opposition to exploit if they can get more organised. For any opposition party that trully intends to be an alternative, the rural vote while firmly behind Zanu PF showed they reject the Neoliberalism championed by Mnangagwa. Rural areas may be the future of opposition politics.