By Anna Chibamu
MDC Alliance chairman Morgen Komichi has warned that the opposition in Zimbabwe might be heading for a disaster in the upcoming harmonised elections later in the year.
Komichi said President Emmerson Mnangagwa might prove to be more popular than his predecessor the late Robert Mugabe and win by a huge margin against the opposition, basing his argument on research by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI).
The study titled “Electoral Impregnability of the rural constituency in Zimbabwe”, noted that Zanu PF has reportedly tightened its grip on its rural strongholds by using traditional leaders and the military as barriers against the opposition seeking to penetrate rural areas.
Komichi said the current situation in rural constituencies where traditional leaders have allegedly been captured by the ruling party Zanu PF leaves the opposition at a disadvantage.
“Right now, the village chairman is the headman. Whilst we might think Mnangagwa was less popular than Mugabe, the results might be different in which Mnangagwa might actually win the best results ever in the history of this country.
“We might actually face the worst opposition defeat. We are worse off than ever before. We can face disaster whilst people have high hopes,” Komichi said.
Research by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) shows that 76% of the respondents viewed rural constituencies as inaccessible to the opposition and other civil society organisations (CSOs) to conduct electoral-related programmes.
The report also indicates that 82% of the respondents said traditional leaders were at the forefront of blocking opposition and CSOs from accessing rural constituencies.
It also highlighted other issues such as commandeered voting, targeted intimidation of opposition supporters and economic sanctions against perceived opponents of Zanu PF through exclusion from food handouts.
The ZDI researchers interviewed 2000 people in selected rural constituencies to understand the nature and extent of rural vote capture by the security sector and Zanu PF ahead of this year’s polls.
The majority of the respondents named the military as another major hindrance for the opposition and non-governmental organisations to access rural areas.
Intimidation against opposition supporters has already been witnessed in Matobo, Gokwe, Murewa where opponents of the ruling party were bashed.
In Chitungwiza, a CCC supporter Moreblessing Ali was gruesomely murdered in cold blood and later several opposition members were arrested.