Alex Tawanda MAgaisa, a former Chief of Staf in the office of a late former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, has said holding elections under the current system is an unnecessary waste of money. He speaks as the Southern African country is gearing for byelections in the first quarter of 2022 and harmonised elections in 2023. Pindula News presents Magaisa’s Twitter thread:

Zimbabwe’s Harmonised Electoral System comprises 3 elections: Presidential, Parliamentary & Local Authority. A political party can compete in all or some of the 3. However, to govern effectively & unhindered, a party must win both Presidential & Parliamentary elections.

Winning the presidential election but losing the parliamentary race means the President will be at the mercy of Parliament which he needs to pass any laws. It creates an impasse & in the worst-case scenario, the majority party might use its power to remove the President.

Mugabe faced this problem after the dubious 27 June run-off election in 2008 because his party had lost its parliamentary majority. He would have needed the MDCs to pass laws & govern effectively. It was a factor that helped push the logic of the Inclusive Government.

One way by which a President without a parliamentary majority could work his way out of the conundrum is to form a governing arrangement with the other party. He might appoint some members as Ministers & also make some policy concessions. This would be a post-electoral pact.

I have not said much about local authority elections because they really don’t matter in the bigger scheme of things. I have written in the past how power in local authorities is an illusion because real power is retained by central government via the Local Government Ministry

That is why, although the MDC Alliance has traditionally won most of urban council elections, the Minister of Local Government has controlled & dominated their affairs. As I said in a BSR, the MDCA councils have a huge responsibility but they do not have any power.

The irony is that the MDCA is blamed for local authority failures but it is devoid of power. As long as the legislative & governance structure retains power in the Local Government Ministry, local authority elections are a charade & a huge waste of money.

To have meaning, there’s a real need to reform the legislative & power structure in local government, giving more independence & control to local authorities. But ZANU PF would rather maintain the charade than undertake any serious reforms.

Back to what really matters, both in 2013 & 2018 ZANU PF took the presidential and parliamentary races, the latter by a two-thirds majority. Although much controversy centred on the presidential elections, it’s very important to pay attention to the parliamentary races.

It’s important because even if an opposition candidate were to win the presidential race, he would be faced with a hostile Parliament in which his nemesis has immense power to even remove him from power.

He must also have control of his parliamentary party. That’s why any coalition-building must be carefully watched. You don’t want a coalition with rogues who will leave you high and dry when you need them the most. They will leave you & say we are not members of your party!

Events this year provide a precedent that you cannot rely on a person just because he ran under your coalition ticket. You have no control over them & a coalition is not regarded as a political party. Only the sponsoring party has the power to discipline & recall the MP.

The long & short of it is that under current system, local elections are a pointless waste of money. You must win both the presidential & parliamentary elections, but if you can’t, win at least one of them. Of course, try to avoid losing both!

There have been calls for electoral and political reforms to be implemented ahead of the 2023 elections.

MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa previously threatened to boycott the elections if the current Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has not been reconstituted.