A renowned political analyst says it is likely that President Emerson Mnangagwa will win Zimbabwe's presidential election despite a recent poll indicating that the race is too close to call.
But critics say the opposition has a chance of unseating Zanu PF in the poll, the first ever since former President Robert Mugabe was toppled in a defacto military coup last November.
Professor Shadreck Guto of the University of Africa says Mnangagwa appears to be having an upper hand over his rivals as he has opened up democratic space for Zimbabweans, who were oppressed by Mugabe’s government.
According to Afrobarometer, the presidential election will provide no clear winner, with 40 percent of voters choosing President Emmerson Mnangagwa and 37 percent his opponent, Nelson Chamisa.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance has projected that 40-year-old Chamisa will win the presidential election by a wide margin.
But Guto says Mnangagwa seems to be the front runner in a poll widely criticized by locals complaining about lack of a transparent voters’ roll and other electoral issues.
David Coltart, a senior MDC Alliance member and senatorial candidate for Bulawayo region, says Guto’s remarks are an opposite of what is going on in Zimbabwe where Chamisa has a huge following ahead of the general elections.
“I’m on the ground and what I see on the ground is something completely different. I see that Nelson (Chamisa) has incredible momentum in this election and Mnangagwa’s fortunes are on the wanes backed by the Afrobarometer report last Friday which was done several weeks ago which shows that at the end of June Chamisa had this momentum and that the gap was narrowing. So, I will take Shadreck Guto’s assessment with a lot of salt.”
He claimed that Chamisa’s battle in the presidential election is more to do with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission than President Mnangagwa.
“Judging by the mood on the ground if it was a free and fair election this would be no contest. Chamisa’s battle actually is against ZEC. ZEC has demonstrated itself to be astonishingly biased and that’s his battle, our greatest battle as the MDC Alliance is against ZEC and not Zanu PF because if the conduct of ZEC in the last couple of months is anything to go by it seems they are determined to subvert this process and so we will have to see what further tricks they come up with on election day and in the counting of votes.”
He further noted that Gutu, who recently visited Zimbabwe to assess the political situation ahead of the elections, did not conduct any publicized scientific survey before making his remarks about the outcome of the presidential election.
“I’m not too sure where he’s been to in Zimbabwe. He certainly would not have conducted this wide a sample Afrobatometer and I don’t believe he’s recognized opinion poll expert. I’m relying on what Afrobarometer says and what I have experienced on the ground attending rallies … I see unprecedented large rallies conducted by Chamisa, the energy is massive. ”
MDC Alliance spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda says Chamisa will emerge as the country’s president after the elections.
"You have seen already, how he has captured the hearts of the young and the old and how he is intellectually ready and prepared to deal with the challenges of our time.
"Remember, Zimbabwe must be able to progress and catch up with the rest of the world and I think that the leadership of President Chamisa provides that opportunity in a way that no other could."
Prominent South African minister of religion, Bishop Paul Veryn said the military and traditional leaders would be key in determining the outcome of Zimbabwe’s polls.
“I think one of the critical things that has emerged is the influence of the military that compromises the concept of free and fair elections obviously. And the second thing that’s gonna be critical is that there won’t be any kind of violence intimidation and forcing people economically even like the traditional leaders who have access to food for very hungry people and that gets used in manipulating voting. So, there need to be a huge vigilance particularly the nearer we get to the actual day of voting.”
Meanwhile, prospective Zimbabwean voters have expressed concern there could be violence during and after the upcoming July 30 general election.
The Afrobarometer poll also indicated that Zimbabweans remain apprehensive that the presidential election could be manipulated.
The survey also showed that the ongoing presidential campaign has yet to inspire confidence among the prospective voters regarding issues such as security of the vote, the counting of ballots, the announcement of election results, as well as the possibility of post-poll violence.
This, despite a majority of voters expressing optimism that the general election would be credible.
The election will be the first since former leader Robert Mugabe was removed in a de facto coup.
At the same time, a spokesperson for one of the four female candidates in this year’s Zimbabwe presidential election says the political climate is still hostile to women.
Linda Masarira, national spokesperson for the opposition MDC-T led by Thokozani Khupe, says the country is still highly male-controlled as evidenced by the lowest number of female presidential and parliamentary candidates in the July 30th election.
She says Zimbabwe’s quota system put in the 2013 constitution but set to expire in 2023 must be renewed if the country is to meet the levels of female representation gained by other African countries.
But Masarira says female presidential candidate Thokozani Khupe has a 50-50 chance of winning the July 30th election because Zimbabweans are now more politically mature.