The main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) risks being blindsided in the 2023 general election campaign, should the High Court disqualify 15 of the party’s parliamentary candidates who filed their nomination papers after the 4pm deadline on 21 June.
On 30 June, some voters from Bulawayo filed 12 urgent court applications challenging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (Zec) decision to accept nomination papers from the CCC candidates.
This is likely to affect all 12 constituencies in Bulawayo, three of which already have double candidates.
Candidates who filed after 4pm are Surrender Kapoikulu (Bulawayo Central), Minenhle Ntandoyenkosi Gumede (Bulawayo North), Nicola Watson (Bulawayo South), Raphael Sibanda (Cowdray Park), Collins Discent Bajila (Emakhandeni/Luveve) and Tshuma Dingilizwe (Entumbane/Njube).
The list also includes Prince Dube (Entumbane/ Njube), Dereck Gono (Lobengula/Magwegwe), Desmond Makaza (Mpopoma/Mzilikazi), Obert Manduna (Nketa), Desire Moyo (Nkulumane), Soneni Moyo (Pelandaba/Tshabalala), Gift Siziba (Pelandaba/Tshabalala), Sichelesile Mahlangu (Pumula) and Albert Mhlanga (Pumula).
Bulawayo has been an opposition stronghold since the 2000 parliamentary elections, held a year after the founding of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The MDC, led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai, for the first time posed a serious threat to Zanu-PF, winning 57 seats against Zanu-PF’s 62, while the Ndabaningi Sithole-led Zanu Ndonga won a single seat, in the 2000 elections.
The party won seats in all Bulawayo constituencies, in a tight election that saw several Zanu-PF bigwigs falling by the wayside.
The damage was not limited to Bulawayo, as heavyweights fell elsewhere, including Zanu-PF presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was beaten by Blessing Chebundo.
In Bulawayo’s Makokoba constituency, current Small to Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni lost to Thokozani Khupe after garnering 2 196 votes against her 12 901.
In Bulawayo North East constituency, the late Joshua Malinga (2 864 votes), suffered a heavy loss to Welshman Ncube who garnered 21 100 votes. Growing popularity of the opposition also saw respected leaders of the ruling Zanu-PF falling by the wayside.
In the 2000 election, then politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa (3 644 votes), lost by a huge margin to the late MDC co-founding leader Gibson Sibanda who garnered 20 380 votes in Nkulumane.
After the election, many people openly told Dabengwa that they would have voted for him were he not representing Zanu-PF.
More respected Zanu-PF leaders lost out, with the late Sikhanyiso Ndlovu losing in Mpopoma and Norman Zikhali losing in Pumula-Luveve constituency.
In 2005, the MDC’s popularity continued to grow, with the party winning all seats in Harare and Bulawayo. Zanu-PF candidates failed to garner 4 000 votes in all Bulawayo constituencies.
In Bulawayo East, the late Malinga lost again to Welshman Ncube, while Sithembiso Nyoni with 3 777 votes lost Bulawayo South to David Coltart who had 12 120 votes.
The late Absalom Sikhosana lost in Nkulumane to Gibson Sibanda, while the late Sikhanyiso Ndlovu lost in Pelandaba/Mpopoma to MDC’S Milton Gwetu.
The opposition won despite heavy militarisation of the polls. Ex-military official Douglas Nyikayaramba had retired from the army to become chief elections officer of what was then called the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC).
He oversaw the chaotic 2002 and 2005 polls, which were underlined by serious violence, particularly in the countryside, where the MDC was making inroads.
2013 and 2018 elections
In 2013, the Tsvangirai-led MDC-T won all 13 constituencies in Bulawayo, shrugging off competition from Zanu-PF and other opposition outfits.
However, in 2018, the opposition MDC-Alliance, led by Nelson Chamisa, won 11 out 12 constituencies in Bulawayo.
Zanu-PF’s Rajeshkumar Modi became the first Zanu-PF candidate to win a major seat in Bulawayo in over 18 years, after the MDC-Alliance had fielded two candidates in Bulawayo South constituency.
Modi’s win was marred by controversy, with MDC-Alliance candidate Muvirimi Mangwendeza alleging foul play.
He said on 3 July Zec allegedly published a malicious statement declaring that he had withdrawn from the race without his knowledge and verification. His name was also missing from the ballot paper upon inspection.
This saw several ballot book being removed from the constituency due to the error.
Zec also erroneously published an advertisement claiming that Mangwendeza had withdrawn from the election, which he never did.
The party’s dominance in Bulawayo rests on the High Court decision.