WHILE President Emmerson Mnangagwa just squeaked through in the July 30 election, securing 50.67% of the vote, his ZANU-PF party took a commanding 69% of the contested 210 parliamentary seats.
This immediately raised questions. Is the president considerably less popular than his party? Was he sabotaged by some elements within the divided ruling party?
A close look at the data reveals an interesting picture.
Mnangagwa’s vote tally, 2,456,010, is within the ballpark of the cumulative ZANU-PF parliamentary votes – 2,477,708.
Mnangagwa beat Chamisa in 126 out of the 210 constituencies, while ZANU-PF won in 145 constituencies.
The ZANU-PF presidential candidate lost in 20 constituencies which the party won. In most of these constituencies, however, the ZANU-PF candidate benefited from a split opposition vote. In seven of these 20 constituencies where he lost, Mnangagwa actually got more votes than his party’s winning candidate.
These constituencies are Gokwe Central (+1,266), Gwanda North (+699), Lupane West (+276), Goromonzi West (+607), Magunje (+1,788), Zvimba East (+1,163) and Zvimba West (+1,303).
Mnangagwa outpolled ZANU-PF parliamentary candidates in 92 of the 210 constituencies, including in 83% of the 12 Bulawayo seats and 65% of Harare’s 29 constituencies.
Mnangagwa polled less votes than his winning MPs in Bulawayo South (-1,813), Zvishavane-Ngezi (-2,126), Beitbridge East (-907), Chiredzi West (-1,585), Buhera West (-1,425), Musikavanhu (-438), Makoni West (-451), Mutasa North (-372), Nyanga South (-2,024), Marondera West (-603), Seke (-2,003), Harare South (-1749) and Mhondoro-Mubaira (-624).
ZANU-PF took a total of 21 constituencies with less votes than the combined opposition tally.
The results have been interpreted as confirming fears, shared by Mnangagwa himself, that he had been sabotaged by some of his comrades in a ZANU-PF riven by divisions following the forcible removal of long-time leader Robert Mugabe in a military coup last November.
Mugabe came out on the eve of the election to renounce ZANU-PF and show support for Chamisa.
This led to speculation that Mugabe’s move would hurt ZANU-PF in its traditional Mashonaland strongholds, where the veteran politician was thought to enjoy some residual support despite his ouster.
Mnangagwa, who had alleged a plot by some parliamentary candidates to impeach him after the election, repeated the sentiments at a party meeting last week.
“I have been given a report showing statistics of the number of votes attained by the MP and the president in every constituency,” Mnangagwa said.
“There were others who were saying ‘vote for the MP, but as for the president, just do what you think is good for you.’ We now know these people.”
The voting patterns, however, show the ‘bhora musango’ phenomenon did not manifest where it was expected, or in numbers that set the party’s presidential candidate apart from its parliamentary contestants.
In Mashonaland West, Mnangagwa outpolled ZANU-PF, taking 312,958 votes, while the party’s parliamentary candidates garnered a combined 307,962 votes. In Mashonaland Central, Mnangagwa had a 366,785 haul, exceeding his party’s 361,425.
Mashonaland East gave him 334,617 votes, while ZANU-PF candidates won 309,682.
Mnangagwa also outscored his party in Manicaland, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo, leading ZANU-PF in six out of the ten provinces.
Intriguingly, Mnangagwa got less votes than ZANU-PF’s parliamentary total in his home province of Midlands, where he polled 352,027 votes, 11,050 less than the party’s provincial National Assembly tally.
ZANU-PF also outperformed its presidential candidate in Masvingo (he got 319,073 against the party’s 330,753) and Matabeleland South (107,008 versus 113,122).
The opposition unwittingly aided ZANU-PF’s strong showing in the parliamentary election, with the ruling party winning no less than 21 seats, or 10% of the total, with minority votes. Without these seats, ZANU-PF would not have achieved its two-thirds majority.
Mnangagwa lost in 14 of these 21 constituencies marginally won by ZANU-PF, notably in Zvimba West, where his chief election agent Ziyambi Ziyambi won. Mnangagwa also lost Harare South, where his nephew Tongai emerged winner. This was mainly because the divided opposition vote combined to back Chamisa in the presidential contest.
In Gokwe Central, where key Mnangagwa backer Victor Matemadanda won the seat, the president managed to poll higher than the parliamentary candidate, but still lost to Chamisa in the constituency. For Matemadanda, 9,997 votes were enough to secure victory, but Mnangagwa narrowly lost in the constituency, polling 11,263 votes against Chamisa’s 11,588.
Mnangagwa also lost in key battlegrounds – Magunje and Mhondoro-Mubaira – where former ministers Godfrey Gandawa and Sylvester Nguni put up strong fights but still lost to ZANU-PF candidates.
Notable constituencies Mnangagwa lost, but which ZANU-PF parliamentary candidates sneaked through include Nyanga South, won by Supa Mandiwanzira, who outpolled Mnangagwa by 12,322 to 10,298, and Beitbridge East, where former senior intelligence official Albert Nguluvhe got 13,949 to the president’s 13,042. Chamisa took the constituency with 13,160 votes.