Norton defeat a wake up call
ZANU-PF has lost the Norton Parliamentary by-election to an independent candidate but we can’t say we are surprised. There were ominous signs in the run up to the poll that the ruling party could be headed for defeat given the disjointed nature of its campaign and the ill-advised decision to impose a candidate on the people of Norton.
Cde Ronald Chindedza was handpicked to contest the election among murmurs of discontent as some within the vanguard party thought he was not the best person to slug it out with a tried and tested if not raucous competitor Mr Temba Mliswa. The margin of defeat (8 927 votes for Mr Mliswa against Cde Chindedza’s 6 192) suggests that the party has regressed and lost ground in that constituency and this is cause for concern.
As the inquest into the embarrassing loss begins, it is pertinent that the party looks inwards and make an honest and candid assessment of its parlous state with a view to taking corrective action. Factionalism has once again proved to be the bane of the ruling party and if hard lessons have not been learnt from this latest defeat, then Zanu-PF could be pressing the self-destruct button further. The Norton debacle should worry party mandarins seeing that the 2018 general elections are less than two years away.
In 2008, a faction that was fronted by Mr Simba Makoni almost derailed the party’s electoral chances when it campaigned against President Mugabe and forced a presidential election run-off. The brigade waged a campaign of sabotage during which it urged party supporters to vote for Zanu-PF legislators and councillors but choose a candidate of their choice in the presidential ballot and this almost cost the party in a big way. That monumental blunder caused the party to go to bed with its erstwhile enemy the opposition MDC and from 2009 to 2013, it had to endure the ignominy of supping with the Devil literally until the landslide of three years ago.
The inclusive Government was a dysfunctional monstrosity and if Zanu-PF learnt anything from that period it is that you cannot allow egos and petty differences to distract from the ultimate objective of maintaining cohesion and unity. President Mugabe has repeatedly lamented the scourge of factionalism within the party and called for unity. Disciplined party cadres should heed his wise words because the Norton defeat could be a sign of things to come in 2018.
Granted, Mr Mliswa had the backing of opposition parties who boycotted the poll but we contend that divisions within Zanu-PF were a major factor in the outcome of the election. Even though the party is putting up a brave face in the wake of the setback, we feel it should conduct a thorough and honest assessment of its failures and take remedial action immediately.
We agree with Secretary for Administration, Cde Ignatius Chombo, on the urgent need for the party to cleanse rotten areas ahead of 2018. “After any election, the province and leadership should go back and make an honest assessment of the pros and cons, dwell on those issues that did not go well and cleanse those areas that need cleansing,” he said.
“The onus is now on the province, the leadership, all of us to give an honest assessment and ensure that what went wrong is rectified so that we are ready for battle, come 2018. We, as always expected, have to come up with something that addresses issues which would have made people not come out and vote for the party. We are there to address people’s concerns, we are there to ensure service delivery and if people are not happy with anything we should move in and find a way to address those issues. We are a peoplecentred party.”
We are glad that the party realises its shortcomings and is prepared to address them. A lot of time has been spent in factional battles instead of attending to the needs of the electorate. The party needs to be proactive and ensure that it delivers on the promises it made in 2013. It should fight corruption in all its forms and make it clear that it will not be tolerated.
The energy that is being used to fight internal wars should be redirected towards ensuring that the party notches another landslide in 2018. If there is an important lesson that has been learnt from the Norton fiasco it is that people are not gullible and victory is not guaranteed for anyone.
Zanu-PF should take this bitter pill, close ranks and nip factionalism in the bud if it is to prevail in future polls. Mr Mliswa’s victory is a timely wake up call which should galvanise the revolutionary party to prepare adequately for what promises to be a bruising contest in 2018.