Nor­ton de­feat a wake up call

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

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.

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