Following the ruling by the Supreme Court that elections be held by July 31 this year, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is taking its election campaign to the estimated 3.5 million Zimbabweans outside the country.
The party says this is a make or break election hence the campaign to attract eligible voters back home to cast their ballots.
As Zimbabwe prepares for this year’s general election, the MDC-T formation is taking its election campaign to the diaspora. The party’s first port of call is South Africa. Here it’s targeting over two million Zimbabweans who came to look for greener pastures after fleeing political and economic turmoil in their homeland.
The party recently held a campaign trail in Hilbrow, Johannesburg. Party supporters sang, danced and shouted that victory is certain for their leader Tsvangirai.
The party’s national deputy organising secretary, Abednico Bhebhe, says they want diasporans to go in their thousands to Zimbabwe and support the MDC’s bid to remove Zanu-PF from office.
"They should come back home and vote and this is the only opportunity that they have to come and exercise their constitutional right which allows them to choose a leadership which they want,” said Mr. Bhebhe.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in his meet the people campaign
Shelton Chiyangwa, the party’s youth organiser in South Africa, says they have embarked on a “tell five” campaign in which each member is urged to spread the election message to at least five people.
“We are telling friends, relatives, everyone around us, back home and in South Africa to register to vote and fully participate for a landslide victory,” said Chitangwa.
The MDC-T diaspora campaign, at least in South Africa, it seems, is bearing results if comments by people like Washy Mabizela are anything to go by.
“I have to apply for my leave so that I get enough time to go and vote. My vote is my future, if l fail to go and vote l will be messing around with my future,” said Mabizela.
But some like Kidwell Ndlovu are adamant that voting in Zimbabwe is a waste of time.
“Mugabe always rigs elections, so it’s useless to go and vote,” he said.
The party’s diaspora campaign is also meeting resistance from some Zimbabwean political parties.
Fierce violence erupted at a recent rally when members of the Mthwakazi Liberation Front, who wanted to force their way into the venue, clashed with MDC-T supporters.
And Mthwakazi Liberation Front spokeswoman Prudence Mpofu accuses MDC-T supporters of provoking them.
“They manhandled me as some men said enda kunobvisira zvi stress zvako (go and get rid of your stress somewhere and not here),”
But Kumbirai Muchemwa, the party’s spokesman in South Africa disagrees.
“We did not provoke Mthwakazi people. We do not subscribe to violence and we did not engage in any violence. They actually started hailing insults at us when we asked them to vacate the premises,” said Muchemwa.
Supporters of the MDC-T
Even this challenge failed to dampen the spirit of MDC-T campaigners, who vowed to continue with the campaign trail in different parts of South Africa before moving elsewhere.
Bhebhe said he is not scared of elections as had been intimated by some within Zanu-PF circles.
“Oh yes, MDC is ready for elections. It’s ready for election anytime, any day, any year we are ready for elections, but all what we are saying, let’s honour our signatures that we put in the Global Political Agreement such that when the elections take place no one is going to dispute these elections, that’s all what we are saying,” said Bhebhe.
From South Africa the campaign moves to countries like Botswana and the United Kingdom where Zimbabweans are found in their thousands.