President Emerson Mnangagwa’s recent visit to Epworth where he officiated a ZANU-PF victory celebration is symbolic and hints the ruling party’s intent to win the urban parliamentary seats ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.
The Epworth Constituency is one of the two seats that the ruling party wrestled back from the opposition together with Mutasa South, during the by-elections which were held last month.
Cynics have questioned why a well-founded party like ZANU-PF would celebrate winning just two seats after the majority of them went to the opposition but this gesture by President Mnangagwa to go back and thank his supporters for voting for his party is more thought-out and premeditated than it may seem.
ZANU-PF, -despite commanding a majority in parliament- had made it crystal clear before the March 26 polls that it was on a mission to pick from the opposition’s pocket and take some parliamentary seats back to the ruling party.
“We managed to retain all our seats and we took two from the opposition in the National Assembly election. In Local Government we retained all our seats and we took 14 from the opposition. Whatever is happening now means our people are fully aware that ‘nyika inovakwa nevene vayo’,” said President Mnangagwa.
What’s ZANU-PF’s trump card?
President Mnangagwa’s government not long ago launched a massive nationwide rehabilitation programme, as part of its agenda to implement modernisation of the country’s infrastructure and much of these projects have been targeting the urban areas through the revamping of road networks.
Some analysts have even argued that as much as these are national projects, it’s actually one clever way that ZANU-PF is using to boost its popularity and win the urban electorate in next year’s elections.
Zalerah Makari, who defeated the opposition to win the seat for ZANU-PF is no pushover herself.
She launched an aggressive campaign against the CCC’s Earthrage Kureva in Epworth ahead of the March 26 by-elections.
During her time in government as a member of parliament for Epworth, she had run a number of transformative projects which have actually turned around the constituency, which explains why she managed to defy the myth that urban areas belong to the opposition.
After her victory in the by-elections, she even declared that she is back to finish what she started.
Now President Mnangagwa’s taking time to go back and thank the people of Epworth is seen as a bold step by the ruling ZANU-PF and the ruling party to build on that confidence that it can actually win even more parliamentary seats from the opposition come 2023.
President Mnangagwa also addressed the issue of housing challenges which many urban dwellers face by promising the people of Epworth 50 000 biometric title deeds to regularise their homes.
Such a ploy by the ZANU-PF stalwart will go a long way in as far as winning the hearts of urban voters is concerned which will likely tip the scales in favour of the ruling party in the 2023 presidential elections.
Should President Mnangagwa fulfil this promise to Epworth residents, he would have set a precedence for other settlements yet to be regularised and would most likely sway votes in his favour come 2023.
The Presidential Borehole Drilling Scheme is also another way that the ruling party is trying to outsmart the opposition and ensure that it bags more seats especially in well-known opposition strongholds.
President Mnangagwa recently set in motion this initiative in Chitungwiza, a town that has been hit hard by perennial water shortages owing to the poor service delivery at the hands of an opposition-led council, as is the case with many urban areas countrywide.
So it was a slick move by President Mnangagwa to go back and thank his supporters for bringing back the constituency to ZANU-PF as well as reaffirming the promises he had made during the election campaign period.
The end game
ZANU-PF knows how crucial it is as a party to win in the urban areas especially at a time when the opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has hit the dirty road, shifting their focus from the urban where it feels deep rooted-to the rural where it is now targeting the rural vote.
There is no doubt that ZANU-PF has always performed badly in the urban areas since the turn of the century, but the ruling party is now bent on changing that narrative and winning two parliamentary seats from the opposition might have set a launch pad for the party.
The President’s thank you rally, therefore, should not be viewed as just another of those celebration parties as it is a bold statement of what the ruling party’s intentions are.