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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Zim elections: Ncube the underdog' fights back
    Ray Ndlovu and Kudzai Mashininga, Mail and Guardian (SA)
    July 19, 2013

    Despite analysts and opinion polls ruling out his chances of causing an upset in the July 31 elections, Welshman Ncube, the leader of the splinter Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is ready for his first presidential election contest.

    Ncube takes confidence in the fact that he has been on the campaign trail since 2011, when he assumed party leadership much longer than his main opponents MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai and Zanu-PF’s Robert Mugabe, who only began campaigning this month.

    He spoke to the Mail & Guardian this week.

    Why is your party taking part despite indications that the ­election will be disputed?

    There are things that we are unhappy about such as that the election date was unilaterally proclaimed, that the Supreme Court is under the captivity of politicians and the shotgun nomination of candidates that took place.

    But it doesn’t serve any purpose to pull away from a fight, even though we have our hands tied behind our backs. We cannot give Zanu-PF a free run, as the ongoing manipulation is meant to give them an edge. If Zanu-PF were to win, then the new Constitution will be subject to the whims of one party, which could change it as and when it pleases to.

    We need to give the people a chance to express themselves even if the grounds are unfair. If we walk away from participating in this election, we deny the people the right to express themselves.

    In your view, did Mugabe ­manage to have his way ­regarding an early election?

    Mugabe has not had his way at all. Remember that they were pushing for an election in 2011, in 2012, then as early as March this year. Now the poll has only been granted for the end of July.

    A three-month difference in the date of the poll does not suggest that they have had their way.

    The Constitutional Court gave them an election earlier than we had wanted because we insisted on the outstanding things that have not yet been attended to.

    What are your views on the coalition that Tsvangirai announced last week that excluded you?

    It is their coalition with Simba Makoni and his company. We have no interest to participate in it at all.

    Do you feel pressured to form a coalition with Tsvangirai to challenge Mugabe?

    Political parties are formed to pursue certain ideologies, values and principles. Those that believe in the same political agenda come together.

    As for us, we have no pressure to coalesce with political ­parties with which we have no similar ideas, values and principles.

    If the election goes to a run-off, who will you back?

    We hope it does not happen. We hope the people will vote for us decisively.

    The choices are there and they are clear. The people of Zimbabwe must vote decisively and we don’t have to go through the pain that we went through in 2008.

    How does your manifesto differ from Zanu-PF and the MDC-T?

    Our model is opposed to the Zanu-PF and the MDC-T model, which is empowering people from the centre and advocates for a centralised state that must redistribute national resources.

    We argue that we cannot have a patrimonial state; we must use the skills to grow at local level and have the centre to only mediate. The failure of this government is because it is an all-appropriating state; it tries to run everything from one point.

    People must be allowed to develop their own areas. Therefore we want devolution for local governance, devolution of power and sectors such as health and education.

    What gives you the edge compared with the other candidates?

    I bring to the table youthfulness, fresh ideas, commitment and I have a conviction in the power of the people to choose their leaders for themselves.

    Do you fear that the military will reject an election outcome that does not endorse Mugabe as the winner?

    We have been concerned by the military stance, but we are not afraid; we remain concerned. The manipulation of the voters’ roll in urban areas where Zanu-PF has no strong support and the prevention of people from registering are things that have made us wary.

    The registration process has been so bad that many people have been prevented from registering by the securocrats.

    Clearly they are threatening the people’s democratic right and we have an unprofessional security sector that is partisan.

    Ultimately, we believe that no armed force can be able to stop the will of the people.

    Opposition leader’s supporters respond to rallying cry

    One speaker at the Welshman Ncube-led MDC election campaign launch in Chikomba at the weekend said that come August 1, everyone with a truck must head to President Robert Mugabe’s residence State House because he would be in need of transport to ferry his goods to his rural home in Zvimba after his electoral defeat.

    No one, from ordinary people to party officials, at the rally in Mashonaland East spoke well of the Zanu-PF leader or of the party itself.

    One thing was evident though; if the numbers at the manifesto launch mean anything, Ncube’s formation still lives in the shadow of its rival led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Ncube’s launch drew roughly 1 000 supporters, compared with Tsvangirai’s 10 000 in Marondera two weeks ago.

    But at the Madzivire High School grounds, Ncube’s supporters appeared to be oblivious to the fact that their party is going into the elections carrying the underdog tag.

    On the way to the venue, they chanted slogans and sang a string of songs that displayed their frustration with the current political and economic conditions.

    Supporters who attended the rally appeared all too grateful to be handed party t-shirts, the only freebies on offer.

    “Tingararame sei tichiurayiwa, tingararame sei tichidzvanyirirwa? (How can we survive when we are being butchered, how can we survive under a dictatorship?),” the crowd sang as Ncube took to the podium.

    Failed by Mugabe

    For them, Mugabe is not the only leader who has failed them. Tsvangirai is now also part of the gravy train, and to them their leader remained the only politician in the inclusive government who had not been corrupted.

    “Nyaya yeminda ngaichipera. Tsvangirai atadza ngaabude. Mugabe atadza ngaabude. Welshman agona ngaapinde (We must conclude the land issue. Mugabe has failed, he must leave. Tsvangirai has failed, he must leave. Welshman must come in),” so the song continued.

    Ncube’s camp attempted to strike a balance by having an interpreter for Shona and Ndebele speakers, and the people who addressed the crowd chose to speak in the language they preferred.

    When he spoke, Ncube appeared sure that he’d take the highest office, but also gave an impression that he had budgeted for a possible electoral setback.

    “We want Mugabe out not because we hate him as a person. We want him out because of the corrupt leadership he has given this country,” said Ncube, who is also the minister of industry and commerce.

    “We live in hunger because he has made us poor … Clinics and hospitals have no medication, have no doctors and nurses. Most schools look like ruins.

    A 33-year-old destruction

    The question to ask yourself is, is it possible for Mugabe to undo the destruction of 33 years at 90 years old?

    “A vote for Zanu-PF is a vote for the continuation of hunger, it is a vote for poverty, and it’s a vote for suffering.”

    In sharp contrast to the MDC-T and Zanu-PF rallies, Ncube’s ­battle appeared to be a lone one.

    The MDC rallies are characterised by the delivery of solidarity messages from labour, nongovernmental organisations and student bodies, while Zanu-PF banks on praises from war veterans and indigenisation and empowerment groups.

    Apart from the attendance of Zapu’s leader Dumiso Dabengwa, Ncube seems to be on his own. Dabengwa, himself a former Zanu-PF home affairs minister, has joined Ncube to support his presidential bid.

    Only one university student not representing any union went to the platform and gave a speech condemning Mugabe, saying that at his advanced age, there was no way Mugabe could connect with young voters who he termed the “Facebook generation” as he was divorced from their aspirations.

    A woman supporter also berated Tsvangirai for his womanising behaviour.

    But before the rally ended, Ncube had words of advice for his supporters: “This election is a do-or-die election. It’s an election to decide whether you go backwards or forwards, it’s an election to ­provide a turning point for Zimbabwe. Don’t betray the people.”

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