by

Steven Machaya

In my previous post, I made a prediction that Temba Mliswa was going to win the Norton seat (http://www.africanpoliticsandpolicy.com/?p=3785). That has since come true though the margin by which he won was rather subdued. The Norton by election, seen by many as a preview into the 2018 general elections, has been interpreted as a victory for the opposition. It was a tightly contested election and proved in some ways that ZANU (PF) is not indomitable yet will not be an easy push over in 2018. The opposition certainly will have to work thrice harder than the independent Temba Mliswa if it is going to beat ZANU (PF). A closer analysis of these results shows that as per tradition, rural constituencies are still under the sway of the ruling party.

In the Norton by-election, there were three rural polling stations (wards) and yet of these three, ZANU PF managed to win two. In general elections, there are more rural constituencies and polling stations than there are in urban areas (uneven distribution of constituencies and polling stations is an issue that has been contested by the opposition in previous elections). For presidential elections, in which it is the gross total of ballots cast that determine the overall winner, it means ZANU (PF) stands a much greater chance to win than the opposition (more so if the opposition is not united). The opposition has to find a formula to increase its support base in the rural areas.

Overall results of the Norton 2016 By-Election

Candidates No. of Votes Percentage of valid votes cast
Temba Mliswa (Independent) 8927 58.7
Ronald T Chimedza (ZANU PF) 6192 40.7
David Choga (NCA) 89 0.6
Total 15 208 100

 

ZANU (PF) came strongly in some urban wards particularly ward 7 (Mliswa 551 votes; 55% and Chimedza 432 votes; 43%), ward 12 (Mliswa 1389 votes; 56.4% and Chimedza 1064 votes; 43.2%). These are urban wards from which bigger winning margins were expected.

Given the current negative economic conditions, which are getting closer to those of the pre-2008 harmonized elections, for ZANU (PF) to get such significant number of votes, it means the opposition cannot relax and believe that it will have an easy run in 2018. Besides, Temba Mliswa’s victory might have something to do with his previous position as a member of the ruling party and that those who were unhappy with his dismissal gave him a sympathetic vote, revealing that ZANU (PF) as a party is still strong minus factionalism.

Among other reasons that led to Mliswa winning, is the current factionalism rocking the ruling party. There were reports of some ZANU (PF) officials celebrating Mliswa’s victory. In other words, without factionalism, Temba Mliswa’s chances of winning were relatively slim. Mugabe will take tougher steps to eradicate factionalism in ZANU (PF) to ensure that the party contests the 2018 elections united. It is not easy to tell how he is going to do it. Factionalism was partly responsible for ZANU (PF)’s dismal performance in 2008 and because by 2013 the party was united, it performed better. Temba Mliswa himself attributed his victory to the divisions in the party. There is no guarantee that by 2018, the ruling party will still be divided. Much work needs to be done in form of analysis of the Norton by election in order to generate better strategies to sway the vote comfortably in favor of the opposition come 2018.