In 2000 there were 99.97 % of registered voters in rural areas compared to 67.94% of voters in the urban areas. There were irregularities in 2013 with more registered voters in a district than the actual number of people who lived there. In order to win the rural vote which constitutes about 70% of the Zimbabwe electorate, ZANU PF has always used terrorisation in all the rural constituencies since independence. The rural residents have always voted for dictatorship in fear of terrorisation, as well as for keeping their land and for receiving the food aid from international donors which is being used as bribes by ZANU PF.
Despite the misery caused by ZANU PF, we are going to have yet another 5 years of disaster after 2018 unless and until the opposition gets it’s act together in their quest for the rural vote. To avoid a disaster of greater proportions, the opposition has to make inroads into this very difficult terrain if there is going to be any hope of winning a landslide in the forthcoming 2018 elections. They need to come up with better strategies on how they can achieve this than the current plan of just visiting the rural constituencies.
The loss of elections has rightly been attributed to the violent nature of ZANU PF. In fact ZANU PF has been violent since independence. However urban voters have resisted and voted for the opposition in response to the misery and suffering that they have endured. They have not succumbed even after the 2008 pre and post-election punishments that have been inflicted upon them. So what is it with the rural voters?
The definition of democracy seems to mean that elections are held after every 5 years to rural Zimbabwe. The fear factor is by no means trivial. I am not dismissing fear as an important reason behind their vote but I am highlighting the urgent need to address other factors. Activists have mash-roomed through social media suggesting that people in the urban are less subject like. Certainly urban Zimbabweans value democracy very highly thus they place enormous importance on elections and voting. Contrary the rural villagers are still subject like preferring to focus on their traditional ways of survival. This may be due to lack of information. Although there have been some improvements on the use of WhatsApp, very few people have access to social media.
In addition to pointing out the way forward on economic policies that attract investment to generate employment, the opposition has to do more to counter, fear, bribery, resignation and most importantly the rural conservatism. The rural electorate’s political behaviour has to be at the forefront of any strategies to change minds. The rural voters still retain a high degree of trust in Chiefs, who are on the government’s payroll and traditional leaders or village headman who may also be a ward chairman for ZANU PF. These are very powerful political forces with enormous local power than they should be allowed to have. These forces are motivated by the their gratefulness to ZANU
PF and are not hesitant to sanction violence as a variable. Some villagers have benefited from the land grab and have become small-scale farmers so they are always grateful to ZANU PF. With thisview, supporting ZANU is not only beneficial but also a deterrent of violence and persecution.
The social networks that exist between the rural and the urban Zimbabweans are reflected in the economic and political differences. The traditional way of life still exists in most rural areas and the values of these residents provide a sharp contrast with the positions embraced by those in the urban. Whilst the rural voters may not fully understand sound economic policies they also hold values different to those in the urban. For example, the economic problems that impact on the urban voter include, water and electricity shortages/cuts, unemployment, lack of services, infrastructure development and maintenance etcetera, on the other hand the rural folk value land, equipment, livestock and seed to produce crop. ZANU PF is able to capitalise by providing these basic needs that it has made difficult to get.
The pressure group Zimbabwe Yadzoka/Mayibuye iZimbabwe which was launched in August 2016 is trying to penetrate these ZANU PF strongholds. What is not clear is their strategy for addressing the values and needs of the rural folk. It is not enough to know and mention the problems. What is important is to draw up strategies that have a potential of swaying the voters. Whilst the strategies should include, use of social media, education and countering the fear factor, it should also include the opposition’s policies specifically designed for the rural population. These policies should include their proposition on addressing the land ownership and rural development.
This may answer the question, what’s in it for us?
The opposition’s land policies have been vague raising anxieties over land ownership among the rural folk. The MDC had repeatedly failed to address this issue thereby failing to build on the gains of 2008 which came at a very high cost. The usually eloquent Dr Noah Manyika dithered around this issue when asked on Zimbo live TV. Ignoring the rural voter is basically handing power to ZANU PF. There will be no significant inroads into the incumbent’s heartlands until the rural values have been recognised and land insecurity resolved. The political celebrity status alone cannot change people’s minds. It is what you can do for them that do.
Kingstone Jambawo is an exiled human rights activist and a member of Zimbabwe Citizens Initiative. He writes in his personal capacityPost published in: Featured