Four men will be contesting the presidential elections in Zimbabwe tomorrow. Carien du Plessis takes a look at what is on offer for Zimbabwean voters.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is contesting his seventh and, some have said, possibly his last elections since coming into power 33 years ago.
A few months short of 90, his age is his weak spot with opposition politicians using it to campaign against him to an electorate where 4.8 million, or 61%, of eligible voters, are younger than 35.
MDC-Tsvangirai leader and Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Mugabe’s health was a “national security issue”. At the launch of his party’s manifesto earlier this month, Mugabe commanded his Zanu-PF campaigners to “go ye and win the battle – a battle of our lives”.
Known as a “tyrant” in some quarters for his radical and often violent land-reform programme, for the way he has clamped down on opposition in the past and for his homophobic statements, Mugabe urged his supporters to vote the parties out which are currently part of the power-sharing government.
His party wants to develop small- and medium-sized enterprises to venture into the country’s mining sector on a large scale.
His party’s controversial policy of indigenisation – a law on this was introduced in 2010 – forces foreign-owned companies, including mines, banks and retailers, to cede 51% ownership to black Zimbabwean investors.
According to the party’s manifesto, 12 million hectares of land had been indigenised and it seeks to create $7.3 billion from the indigenisation of 1 138 companies, creating 2.3 million jobs.
Morgan Tsvangirai (61) has age on his side, but he has failed twice before to challenge Mugabe for the presidency.
He has been prime minister of Zimbabwe since 2009 when a power-sharing agreement was signed in the country following violent elections. He’s been the key figure in Zimbabwe’s opposition. He was injured in a car crash in 2009 in which his wife, Susan, died.
He was subsequently rocked by personal scandals involving disastrous relationships and a notorious 12-day marriage last year to Locardia Karimatsenga – a weak point on which Mugabe is attacking him now, calling him “a frog that jumps from one woman to another”.
Mugabe has also frequently referred to Tsvangirai as a Western “puppet”. Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party is promising to open up the economy to foreign investment through its Juice policy and create a million jobs.
Even though Tsvangirai has been in the power-sharing government for four years, the election machinery still seems to work in Mugabe’s favour.
Welshman Ncube is the president of the Movement for Democratic Change-Mutambara, a breakaway faction of the MDC, of which he was a founding secretary.
The 52-year-old is the minister of industry and commerce. Although he has no chance of getting near the presidency, he is likely to get enough parliamentary seats to make him a king maker.
His rivalry with Tsvangirai, however, has led people to say that a vote for Ncube is a vote for Mugabe, predicting he would side with Zanu-PF after the elections.
His campaign theme has been “devolution is the new revolution”, aimed at giving regions more administrative power to exploit local resources to develop provinces and districts. He has gone into alliance with Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) and the newly formed United Movement for Democracy, led by self-exiled South African businessman Mutumwa Mawere as an “alliance for devolution”.
His campaign has made him popular in some provinces.
Dumiso Dabengwa is leader of Zapu, but used to serve on the Zanu-PF politburo. In 2008, he announced his support for the opposition candidate Simba Makoni, whom he reckoned prevented either Mugabe or Tsvangirai from winning the first-round majority in that year’s elections.
He is critical of Mugabe, saying he’s too old but he’s also critical of Tsvangirai, whose victory he said would be celebrated by whites. He was nicknamed the “Black Russian” during the Rhodesian war by the whites because he trained in Moscow, Russia.
Earlier this month, his party went into alliance with Ncube’s MDC, with Zapu fielding 50 candidates for the parliamentary elections and MDC 200.
Kisinoti Mukwazhe is a little-known challenger from the Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP) and does not have established grass-roots structures.
Mukwazhe was never considered to be a serious challenger, and on Sunday the Zanu-PF-leaning The Sunday Mail reported Mukwazhe pulled out of the election race to back Mugabe.
He used the opportunity to slate Tsvangirai, saying he was “a wicked and weak man” and wasn’t fit to lead Zimbabwe. Mukwazhe claimed to have been in negotiations with Tsvangirai about possibly joining up with him too.
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