Elections will raise both hopes and fears in Zimbabwe on August 23

Posted: 31 July, 2023 | Category: Current News Category: Features & Analysis

President Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe pictured alongside  his new friend President Putin. Both men hope to remain as heads of state in their respective countries for years to come.



by Andrew Field


Zimbabwean politicians have geared up to full campaign mode as the nation heads towards its harmonised general elections on 23 August 2023. The polls will determine presidential, senate, parliamentary and local council elected roles and, ultimately, who shall rule Zimbabwe, its cities and towns for the next five years.  Ruling party, ZANU-PF, has retained its grip on power for the last 43 years and is not likely to relinquish control easily.  Not surprisingly, election skulduggery and malfeasance have been quick to raise their ugly heads.

The Extraordinary Government Gazette (General Notice 1128/2023) reveals a total of eleven presidential candidates, including incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front – ZANU-PF), and his main rival, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa (Citizens Coalition for Change – CCC).

Nelson Chamisa of the CCC -main rival to Emmerson Mnangagwa

Former ZANU-PF stalwart, who fell out of favour following the military coup of 2017, and past ZANU-PF cabinet minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, had been named as an independent contender too, but his ascendancy to the Presidency is not to be his destiny just yet.  The rest of the candidates are simply non-entities and have literally scattered their US$ 20,000 deposits in the bin, for there is little hope of their success.

The first instance of what appears to be electoral trickery, was the matter of fraudulently filed, duplicate, bogus CCC candidates being nominated, with apparently forged signatures and on photocopied letterheads, not recognisable as original CCC stationery.

Fifteen Harare Parliamentary Constituencies, three Bulawayo and single candidate for each of Kariba and Marondera are affected, in addition to many Council Constituencies; deliberately to water down the vote in these CCC strongholds. The opposition suspected foul play pointing their finger to an hitherto unsung Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ), an apparent Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) funded surrogate, according to press reports [1].

There has been some contradiction in this matter. While CCC’s National Spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, refers to the duplicates as people the party does not know (if understood correctly), it is also opined that these candidates are all disenchanted CCC members who did not make it through the party’s ‘Concensus Candidate Selection Process’, which replaced the primary election process, and not without dissention. Duplicate nominees deny lodging the papers and refuse to withdraw for that reason. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is abundantly clear that CCC must take some blame for its delays in the primary process and confusion leading up to nomination day.

These false nominations forced the leading opposition party into the Courts in an appeal to have these bogus candidates, not on the party list, declared null and void and have them removed from the ballot. But their legal initiative was tormented by a major setback, when Justice Neville Wamambo astonishingly dismissed the appeal on the grounds that nomination documents submitted by the contested candidates suffered no suspicious defect.

During the course of the last few weeks, a presidential hopeful, Saviour ‘Tyson’ Kasukuwere, who was self-exiled following the military coup of 2017, emerged as a contestant.  This former CIO operative, who, amusingly, claims various qualifications in the art of secret intelligence [2], is pitting his initiative against the existing President, who is seeking re-election for his second term.

Kasukuwere filed nomination papers through his lawyer and election advisor, Jacqueline Sande, and was Gazetted as a candidate.  This was certain to split the ZANU-PF vote, some say down the middle, much to the jubilation of the main opposition!

That short jollity was crushed.  ZANU-PF activist, Lovedale Mangwana, sought an urgent Court application to disqualify Kasukuwere as a presidential poll candidate on the grounds of his external residency in exile for the last 18 months.  On 12 July 2023, High Court judge, Justice David Mangota, ruled that Kasukuwere was barred from contesting the presidential elections on August 23, and ordered the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) not to include his name on ballot papers.  Kasukuwere appealed.

The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, with sitting Justices Antonia Guvava, Chinembiri Bhunu and Felistus Chatukuta, dismissed Kasukuwere’s appeal, just the day before yesterday, 29 July, on the grounds that the appeal lacked merit.  Kasukuwere’s immediate response was one of ‘disappointment’, suggesting “we are now considering our next steps and will keep the nation informed”, as if those of unlike ilk care about this former ZANU-PF henchman.

Like Banquo’s ghost in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ the ghost of Robert Mugabe appears at election-time in Zimbabwe  (photo by Trevor Grundy)

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Kasukuwere spokesman, Jim Kunaka, said they were planning to demonstrate against the Supreme Court ruling. One online media outlet even suggests that Kasukuwere, true to ZANU-PF form, threatened “to unleash violence across the country and make it ungovernable” [3]. Mugabe was truly his mentor. Ruling party partisan police were quick to respond by issuing a statement against electoral violence, and threats to commit violence, humorously and somewhat ripely, suggesting arrest “without fear or favour irrespective of one’s political affiliation or stature”.

The corridors of justice really do seem to be busy though.  Just off the back of one case is another heard, and this time CCC suffered yet a further defeat when Justice Bongani Ndlovu ruled that 12 CCC National Assembly candidates be barred from the elections, because their nominations were ruled out of time.  ZANU-PF had appealed to the Court to exclude the candidates.  One might be forgiven for believing that this was of the oppositions party’s own making.  Why submit critical nominations for such an important election at the very last minute one may ask?  The mind does boggle sometimes.

Considered a very fettered ruling by many in the legal profession, the determination is a shock outcome that will see Bulawayo constituencies fall, on paper, to ZANU-PF in its entirety. Those are seats that ZANU-PF has never enjoyed in many years. When small procedural blunders, not necessarily of the nominees’ making, allow justice to rule over the fundamental democratic rights of the people to choose their representatives, there is clearly something very wrong; morally so.

In point of fact the Court’s ruling was more damaging because, despite denial of the right to choose, effectively, CCC have lost 25 Bulawayo seats in all (inclusive of Senate, Council, women’s and youth proportional quota seats).  The Coalition has appealed the matter on the grounds that the ruling was based on admitted hearsay evidence and that the Court a quo had assumed jurisdiction over a matter that was the exclusive domain of the Electoral Court.

Sadly, so it appears, the Courts are being used as a tool, with local Bulawayo Lawyer and former Cabinet Minister, David Coltard, suggesting that “[t]he use of the Courts to deny fundamental rights to vote and stand is deeply concerning” [4].   Simply said, it would seem the Courts, are being utilised effectively, yet inherently, by the ruling party to do a part of their dirty work. Some are even drawing inferences concerning the impartiality of the judiciary in all these cases.

One observer points to the unestablished gossip concerning Judges receiving gratuitous loans before this election process started. But really, there are signs that the infant CCC has erred and fumbled, so much so that some observers may well believe that as a lead opponent to the regime, the party is doing a serious dis-service to the people, yet again.

What further distraction and swindling could we suffer in the three to four weeks before the ballot?  Only time, and the momentum of the people’s will, shall tell.  It’s a filthy ‘game’ and the odds are not in the opposition’s favour, as much as they would like to think they are.  In the opinion of this observer, the opposition needs to garner at least 75% of the vote in constituencies to obviate rigging, however it is done.

This was always going to be a hard mountain to climb, and the germane issue is whether the opposition has done enough to command dominance in the vote, particularly in rural ZANU-PF strongholds, since it seems telling thus far that the ruling regime is intent on skewing the poll in their favour at all cost to retain power.  For which party will God be in it?


Andrew Field is based in Harare where he writes about economic, political and social events in Central and Southern Africa.