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Guerrilla Election Strategy for Zimbabwe’s Opposition

Since Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, the country’s opposition has largely been outclassed and beaten by Zanu PF’s confrontational tactics. The only time the opposition made inroads was in March 2008 when the opposition won 110 seats against Zanu PF’s 99 seats. And Morgan Tsvangirai went on to beat Mugabe for the first time with 47% of the votes against 43 %. This rare victory was largely built on the back of a then Zanu PF Mujuru Faction ‘bhora musango’ strategy which encouraged supporters to vote for Zanu PF Members of Parliament but discouraged them from voting for President Mugabe.

By Darlington Nyambiya

That ‘bhora musango’ strategy caused Morgan Tsvangirai to win that election but not with enough votes to form a new government; thus necessitating the bloody June 2008 runoff in which Mugabe controversially won. However, as the September 2018 General Election gradually draws near it is high time that Zimbabwe’s opposition looked at itself in the mirror and changed its election campaign strategy against a divided but a more  powerful opponent in Zanu PF.

Confrontational Politics

ZANU PF was formed on 8 August in 1963 as a splinter party from the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) which was led by Joshua Nkomo. It was formed in Enos Nkala’s house in Highfield. People like Henry Hamadziripi, Herbert Chitepo, Ndabaningi Sithole (who subsequently became the party’s first leader), Edgar Tekere and Leopold Takawira were the first members of the new party which branded itself as a new political party that favoured confrontational politics as compared to ZAPU’s politics of compromise. It is clear from the time Zanu PF was formed in 1963 that it  has favoured  confrontational  politics to win political battles  and with over  50 years experience in using strong arm tactics the opposition surely cannot  compete using the same tactics on an equal front with the ruling party.

Since, Zimbabwe’s Opposition cannot match the ruling party , Zanu PF  in an  election heavily tipped in its favour  interms  of : unlimited state resources , overwhelming manpower to implement strong arm tactics and  excessive control of state levers  of  power , the Opposition has no choice but to  now  change  its election campaign strategy  in time for the 2018 General  Elections. The best election campaign strategy that the Opposition can utilize against Zanu PF in the 2018 General Elections must be the anchored on the methodology of how the weak can beat the powerful, in line with the biblical ‘Little David’ in the form of the Opposition posting a surprise election victory over ‘Giant Goliath’ in the form of the ruling party.

Guerrilla Election Strategy

Zimbabwe’s Opposition must utilize the Guerrilla Election Strategy against the ruling party in its election campaign tactics for the September 2018 General Elections. Guerrilla election strategy is classically considered as one of the best weapons of the weak to fight a much stronger enemy. In  the 2018 General Elections , Zanu PF  is  going  to  be  much  stronger than the Opposition as  it  is  going  to have ; unlimited state resources , overwhelming manpower to implement strong arm tactics and  excessive control of state levers  of  power.

However , not all is lost before  the battle  has  began , the opposition can  still win the  2018 Elections by implementing  former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s Three Phases of  Guerrilla Warfare  in a democratic  election campaign as follows :

Mao Zedong’s Three Phases of Guerrilla Warfare:

  • Strategic Defensive : First Phase Of Guerrilla Warfare

The goal of the first phase of strategic defensive is to expand the party organization and establish the infrastructure necessary for further development of the revolution. In this First Phase of Guerrilla Warfare, the opposition parties must form an alliance that will combine all their capabilities under a Grand Coalition.

The MDCT will bring on board: its massive support as the largest opposition party, 18 years of experience in trenches as opposition, 4 years experience in the Government of National Unity, a leader with national appeal in the form of Morgan Tsvangirai, over 70 current Mps and Senators, over a 100 nationwide councillors and robust countrywide structures.

The newly formed National People’s Party will bring on board:  liberation struggle credentials, former ruling party members with inside information, nearly half the ruling party’s support base, modest support base as the second largest opposition party, informers in current government and state institutions, a leader with national appeal in the form of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and nationwide structures. And the smaller parties in the form of CODE will bring on board: ‘think tank’ capabilities, experienced politicians and nationwide structures. If and when these three entities combine to form a Grand Coalition, it will be the first step on a long torturous road to challenge Zanu PF’s dominance from power in the September 2018 Elections.

Still in the First Phase of Guerrilla Warfare, the Grand Coalition must leverage on the Grand Coalition structures to go on the ground and encourage people to register to vote. The Grand Coalition must target the under 40’s to register to vote. The under 40s constitute over 70 % of the population and are more likely to vote for the Opposition. If the Grand Coalition can achieve its three goals of registering most of the under 40’s to vote , penetrates  the  rural areas and energises the urban voter base , then the coalition will have achieved the first step of many steps to dethrone Zanu PF from power in 2018.

First Stage: Zanu PF Offensive Tactics

However, in the First Phase of Guerrilla Warfare, as the Zimbabwe Election Commission commences the BVR voter registration process in early April 2017, the ruling party will try by all means necessary to ensure that it has an advantage over the opposition and it is likely to use the following tactics:

  1. Maximise voter registration of Zanu PF supporters in rural areas by dishing out farming inputs and groceries to those with proof of voter registration.
  2. Maximise voter registration of Zanu PF supporters in rural areas by transporting them to go registration centres.
  • Minimise voter registration of suspected opposition supporters in rural areas by coercing chiefs and headmen not to issue documentation for proof of address to them; and minimise voter registration in urban areas via proxies in ZEC by frustrating suspected coalition supporters with tough proof of residence requirements.
  1. Minimise voter urban registration via proxies in ZEC by having fewer registration centres in urban areas but maximise voter registration in rural areas by having more registration centres.

First Stage: Grand Coalition – Defensive Tactics

As the First Phase of Guerrilla Warfare  commences with  the Zimbabwe Election Commission BVR voter registration process, the Grand Coalition must  have its  eyes firmly on the ball  and  should put in place Guerrilla Election Tactics  to  counter Zanu PF’s offensive tactics as follows:

  1. Since guerrilla tactics discourage direct confrontation with a powerful opponent, the coalition must engage in an underground voter registration campaign to motivate rural communities to register to vote while launching a massive and open voter registration campaign in urban areas.
  2. Winning the hearts and minds of the people is the goal of guerrilla tactics, so the coalition must assist supporters in both rural and urban areas with the basic resources that will enable them to register to vote, especially by providing transport in rural areas.
  • Quality intelligence is vital to the success of guerrilla tactics; the Coalition must gather information in each of the 210 constituencies, to ascertain which people need assistance: with documentation for proof of residence, with identity cards or need extra persuasion to register to vote.
  1. The basis of guerrilla tactics is to attack vulnerable points of the opponent to win small but significant battles of the war; so the coalition must robustly engage ZEC to ensure an equitable distribution of registration centres in both urban and rural areas.
  • Strategic Stalemate : Second Phase Of Guerrilla Warfare

Once sufficient support amongst the population has been achieved, the second phase of strategic stalemate or strategic equilibrium is to be launched. In this phase the expansion into enemy territory would take place. In line with the Second Phase of Guerrilla Warfare, the Grand Coalition must leverage on the coalition structures to go on the ground and encourage people to vote for the Grand Coalition. The ground already has enough support for the coalition due to mismanagement of the economy by Zanu PF and the fast changing demographics of the country’s voting population.

The Grand Coalition must target the under 40’s for votes as they constitute 70 % of the voters and are likely to vote for the Opposition because they have no obligation to be loyal to Zanu PF’s liberation struggle history, since most of them were born after independence. The Grand Coalition must also understand that the under 40s are more concerned about their current economic circumstances and about future economic prospects. These two concerns by the under 40s must be the foundation on which the Grand Coalition should build its policies and election campaign strategies on as they are more likely to resonate with the majority of Zimbabweans.

The under 40s are in fact going to be the game changer of  the 2018 General Elections if  the Grand Coalition can manage to motivate and persuade them to turn-up to vote in large numbers. The game plan for the coalition must be to get the under 40s to vote, get the rural folks to exercise their right to a secret vote with minimum coercion and energize the urban voter base to turn-up in large numbers to vote.

Second Stage: Zanu PF Confrontational Tactics

As the Second Phase of Guerrilla Warfare begins, the BVR voter registration process also comes to an end in early 2018: the election campaign season will then swing to full gear resulting in Zanu PF reactivating it’s tried & tested country wide election campaign machinery as follows:

  • Utilize the levers of power under its control via the security sector and use other extra judicial means to enhance its advantage over the coalition.
  • Have unlimited rallies around the country while the Grand Coalition rallies will be limited by the police.
  • Coerce chiefs and headmen to whip their subjects to vote for the ruling party.
  • Campaign freely in the rural areas while the Grand Coalition supporters will be restricted from openly campaigning.
  • Initiate vote  buying by  dishing  out  goodies  like  rice , cooking oil and farming inputs  to  rural  people.
  • Reinforce fear by reminding the rural electorate of the brutal beatings and harassment of opposition supporters in the brutal June 2008 presidential runoff.
  • Manipulate the rural electorate by scaring them into believing that the new BVR voting system will enable Government to indentify who they voted for.
  • Intimidate the rural electorate by telling them that if the ruling party loses the election, Zimbabwe will return to war.
  • Avoid high levels of public violence so as not to attract media and international attention, but engage in a low intensity level of beatings, abductions and harassment of low level coalition supporters so that the elections can pass as free, fair and transparent
  • Launch a massive election campaign to discourage urban dwellers from voting by relaying the message that the ‘gun is more powerful than the ballot’ and that a vote for the coalition is a wastage because the military will not allow it to rule.
  • Launch a massive election campaign anchored on populist promises for the economic struggling urban dwellers like dishing out stands and cancelling consumer debts with councils.

Second Stage: Grand Coalition – Equilibrium Tactics

In the Second Phase of the Guerrilla Warfare, the Grand Coalition must put in place a sophisticated election campaign based on a concept of a weak team playing against a powerful opponent; by implementing Guerrilla Election Tactics to counter Zanu PF confrontational tactics as follows:

  1. Good intelligence is an important ingredient for the success of guerrilla tactics so the Coalition must infiltrate Zanu PF, Government and other state institutions to ensure that it gathers valuable information and stays ahead of the ruling party tactics.
  2. It is a shrewd guerrilla tactic to wrong foot the opponent , in this case the coalition must sell a ‘dummy’ to the ‘system’ by bombarding the police with many applications for rallies and in some cases make urgent applications to the High Court to keep Zanu PF’s hands full while the real strategy in the urban areas is for the coalition to be engaged in: door to door campaigns, massive election poster circulation and robust multi-media advertising, to ensure that there is a massive urban voter turnout on election day.
  3. Guerrilla tactics involve disguising as a friend to cause the opponent to fail in telling friend from foe, the coalition must note that due to the fact that chiefs and headmen are the back bone of Zanu PF support in rural areas, the coalition must handle them with care and negotiate a secret pact so that they are publicly seen to be supporting the ruling party while privately supporting the Grand coalition to the extent that the coalition receives resourceful intelligence from them.
  4. Guerrilla tactics discourage direct contact with a powerful opponent, and due to the no go areas in some rural communities for the opposition, the Coalition must engage in  underground campaigning by doing it covertly under the cover of darkness through door to door campaign and massive election material distribution.
  5. Guerrilla tactics avoid direct contact with a powerful opponent so the Coalition must also launch covert voter education campaigns to ensure that rural communities are empowered to understand that a vote is secret and that state resources or donor funds are used by the ruling party as a vote buying tool.
  6. Guerrilla tactics also involve disguising as a friend to cause the opponent to fail in telling friend from foe, so the coalition must advise vulnerable rural communities not to expose themselves as coalition supporters but to vote wisely.
  7. As guerrilla tactics discourage direct confrontation with a powerful opponent so the coalition must engage in underground voter education campaign in rural communities on the benefits of the BVR voter system.
  8. Guerrilla tactics relies on hit-and-run tactics to avoid direct contact with a powerful opponent; the coalition must engage in covert voter education campaign with the rural communities to empower them with knowledge that Zimbabwe is now a democracy and will not return to war.
  9. As guerrilla tactics encourage the weaker player to partner with other forces that are equal or better than their opponent,  the coalition must maintain good relations with SADC, African Union and the UN so that the coalition can get a favourable judgement on the election process and robust election monitoring to minimise intimidation, abductions and violence.
  10. Launching surprise guerrilla ambushes is vital to winning the war, the coalition must utilise different but effective multi-media advertising tools to convince urban dwellers that every single vote counts and that a transition of power is irreversible once the coalition wins.
  11. Winning the hearts and minds of the people is the goal of guerrilla tactics, so the coalition must launch a massive election campaign based on visionary policies that focus on both short and long term needs of the electorate.
  • Strategic offensive :Final Phase Of Guerrilla Warfare

Finally, in the third phase of strategic offensive, the balance would have clearly swung in the direction of the coalition. In this Third Phase of Guerrilla Warfare, the Grand Coalition must keep the eye on the ball on Election Day to : make sure that the voting process runs smoothly, be vigilant on the actual vote count and have a Grand Coalition vote counting parallel structure to compare with ZEC Results.

Final Stage: Zanu PF Endgame Tactics

In the Final and most important Phase of Guerrilla Warfare, Zanu PF will focus its attention on the actually voting day and use confrontational tactics as follows:

  1. Transport rural supporters to polling stations.
  2. Intimidate coalition supporters and opinion leaders in rural areas like teachers and headmasters to feign illiteracy on voting day.
  3. Intimidate suspected coalition supporters on Election Day by having Zanu PF supporters’ record voters from outside polling stations.
  4. Coerce Chiefs and headmen to lead people to the polling stations inorder to try to intimidate them to vote for the ruling party.
  5. Rural Zanu PF strongholds will delay to release results until most Coalition urban strongholds have announced results while Presidential & Constituency results will likely be manipulated at both Constituency and  ZEC National Election Centre
  6. Control and try to influence the Zimbabwe Election Commission operations via ruling party proxies embedded at the elections body.

Final Stage: Grand Coalition – Closing Game Tactics

Grand Coalition must be on its toes on Election Day and put in place Guerrilla Tactics to counter Zanu PF confrontational tactics as follows:

  1. Winning the hearts and minds of the people is the goal of guerrilla tactics, so the coalition where possible and the need arises, must also provide transport to coalition rural supporters on voting day.
  2. Intelligence is a crucial ingredient to the success of guerrilla tactics so the Coalition must also gather intelligence on the ground on opinion leaders and opposition supporters who are likely to be targeted on Election Day to feign illiteracy so that they can put in place counter measures to ensure the voter’s choice is secret.
  3. Keeping an eagle eye on the movements of the opponent is very important in guerrilla tactics, coalition agents must be vigilant to lookout for Zanu PF members writing down voters’ names so that they can implement counter measures.
  4. Guerrilla tactics involve disguising as a friend to cause the opponent to fail to distinguish between a friend from foe, so the coalition must encourage people to go with chiefs and headmen to polling stations in a show of loyalty but to vote wisely once inside the booth as the vote is a secret.
  5. Top intelligence gathering mechanism are crucial to guerrilla tactics , coalition election agents must all have smartphones to enable them to take pictures of election results and relay any other critical information to Constituency Coalition Election Centres.
  6. Infiltration of the opponent is an important ingredient for the success of guerrilla tactics so the  Coalition must  also infiltrate ZEC  with  its proxies so that  the Coalition  gathers intelligence and  stays  ahead  of the  elections  body should they be an attempt to subvert the will of  the people.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Zimbabwe’s Opposition must realise that only a united opposition in the form of a Grand Coalition offers the best chance of dethroning Zanu PF from power in the 2018 Elections. But it must realise that a Grand Coalition is only the first step on the long torturous journey to beat Zanu Pf , so the coalition is  advised to utilize the Guerrilla Election Strategy against the ruling party in its election campaign tactics for the September 2018 General Elections.

Guerrilla election strategy is classically considered as one of the best weapons of the weak to fight a much stronger enemy. In  the 2018 General Elections , Zanu PF  is  going  to  be  much  stronger than the Opposition as  it  is  going  to have ; unlimited state resources , overwhelming manpower to implement strong arm tactics and  excessive control of state levers  of  power. This uneven electoral battlefield that heavily favours Zanu PF can be overcome by the opposition to give it victory on Election Day if it uses covert guerrilla election tactics based on Mao Zedong doctrine of Three Phases of Guerrilla Warfare to win.

 

The Grand Coalition must target the under 40’s for votes as they constitute 70 % of the voters. The under 40s are more likely to vote for the Opposition because they have no obligation to be loyal to Zanu PF’s liberation struggle history, since most of them were born after independence. The Grand Coalition must also understand that the under 40s are more concerned about their current economic circumstances and about future economic prospects. These two concerns by the under 40s must be the foundation on which the Grand Coalition should build its policies and election campaign strategies on, as they are more likely to resonate with the majority of Zimbabweans. The under 40s are in fact going to be the game changer of  the 2018 General Elections if  the Grand Coalition can manage to motivate and persuade them to turn-up to vote in large numbers.

The Game Plan for the Grand Coalition must be based on three goals as follows:

  • To get a massive voter turnout of the  under 40s
  • Get the rural folks to exercise their right to a secret vote with minimum coercion
  • Energize the urban voter base to turn-up in large numbers to vote.

However , last but  not least the Grand Coalition must continue to build confidence behind the scenes with critical state institutions and key players to convince them that  it is a government in waiting, that  is ; for the people , by the people and with the people. More importantly, the Grand Coalition needs to also convince the nation that it is a government in waiting that appreciates Zimbabwe’s history but is mainly focused about the future of the country.

The Writer: Darlington Nyambiya is the President of the Local Solutions Council (LSC) , a leading Zimbabwe Think Tank. The LSC is a Think Tank with members from diverse Zimbabwean communities in politics, business, religion and sports. He is also a Pro Democracy Activist, Political Strategist, Human Rights Defender, Social Media Commentator, Writer and a Business Executive. Contact Details ; Skype ID : darlington.nyambiya  , Twitter handle: D_Nyambiya,  Email : info@localsolutionscouncil.com , Corporate Twitter Handle : lsc_thinktank  For more information on  Strategic Views on Zimbabwe log onto our website on :Website : www.localsolutionscouncil.com. Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved. The Article may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission

 

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