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PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s taunt of Kalangas during a recent address on the sidelines of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit is unlikely to deny ZANU-PF victory at the upcoming by-elections on June 10.

In an address after the SADC summit, the ZANU-PF leader said Kalangas often went to South Africa in search of menial jobs and regarded the neighbour south of the Limpopo River as “a heaven on earth” to which all men had to travel in their lifetime.

Anger has been brewing over the comments, with demonstrations organised by civic society groups having been held in the central business district of Bulawayo a fortnight ago. The demonstrators were demading that President Mugabe withdraws his comments.

ZANU-PF is desperate to establish a foothold in urban centres which are under the dominion of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

In Bulawayo, ZANU-PF is hoping to snatch the five constituencies to be contested for in the absence of the MDC formations that are boycotting the polls on account of lack of political reforms.

For the past 15 years, the MDC-T has wielded a vice-like grip on Bulawayo and its environs.

It now remains to be seen if President Mugabe’s comments will result in loss of support for his party come June 10.

Analysts were unanimous this week that the comments will have minimal effect on the poll outcome, as ZANU-PF is expected to romp to victory all the same.

Social commentator, Butholezwe Nyathi, said the non-participation by the main opposition parties, mainly the MDC-T and its splinters groups – the MDC led by Welshman Ncube and MDC Renewal Team – was likely to lead to increased voter apathy.

“While the temptation to punish ZANU-PF is there, ZANU-PF members are, however, motivated enough to vote in numbers and this is likely to outweigh a protest vote,” said Nyathi.

Khanyile Mlotshwa, a political analyst based in South Africa, said this was not the first time that President Mugabe had said something which amounted to hate speech about humanity in general and the people(s) of Matabeleland in particular.

“He has said stuff about Jamaicans, Nigerians, women and Zimbabweans of Malawian origin. Because of the issues around Zimbabwean elections, it is hard to say his statement towards Kalangas may have any implications on the electoral results,” said Mlotshwa.

Members of Bulawayo Agenda have been demonstrating in the second city, demanding that President Mugabe withdraws his statement and apologise to the Kalangas.

Mmeli Dube, the executive director of Bulawayo Agenda said next month’s election was a none event.

“Remember the MDC-T triggered the by-elections only to boycott and the other MDC formations boycotted as well. These are the parties that would have brought competition… it is literally absent in this election. “The election has thus somewhat become more to do with ZANU-PF and its internal politics. Moreover, Bulawayo is not in the thick of Bulilimangwe where most Kalangas are… and some people are still very selfish and parochial thus do not understand that the insult to Kalangas is also an insult to them. Kalangas and non-Kalangas in ZANU-PF are too immersed in their party politics and propaganda to punish their own leaders,” he said.

Saviour Kasukuwere, the ZANU-PF national political commissar, said the ruling party would weather whatever challenges that lie ahead and would make its entry into Bulawayo during the June 10 by-election.

“This marks the beginning of our move into urban areas and then we will be concentrating on ensuring that service delivery improves for the people. For the past decade under the watch of the MDC-T, we have seen the deterioration of the quality of service delivery. So as ZANU-PF heads into the elections it is re-organised and re-structured and is well able to meet any challenge,” said Kasukuwere.

Source : Financial Gazette

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