HARARE – Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai heads off this week on a campaign in two provinces where he suffered the heaviest electoral loss in a move designed to take his presidential challenge directly into areas President Robert Mugabe won resoundingly on July 31.
The provinces to be covered — Masvingo and Matabeleland— all present strong opportunities for the former prime minister, Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson told the Daily News yesterday.
The trip, which starts in Masvingo where the MDC failed to win even a single seat, marks Tsvangirai’s most intense effort at retail campaigning since his devastating electoral defeat on July 31.
Tsvangirai hopes Mugabe’s government will “cave in” under the pressure of growing economic troubles, in-fighting and a belief by many Zimbabweans that it stole the July 31 election.
Tsvangirai is still disputing the election, which he lost to Mugabe by a wider-than-expected margin.
But if, as expected, the fraud claims get nowhere, Tsvangirai says other forces may sink the socialist leader. Tsvangirai has said “Mugabe cannot rig the economy.”
But the election blowout in July has handed a new opening to Tsvangirai’s potential presidential rivals — from his right hand man Tendai Biti to former National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku who transformed his NCA into an opposition party on Saturday.
Tsvangirai heads to Masvingo after a lull in the aftermath of the harmonised elections.
The former trade unionist will visit every district in Masvingo as he seeks to remove the “lethargy” that has descended on the nation following the elections.
Tamborinyoka said the MDC leader will meet people from villages, mines, towns and resettlement areas around the country, as he moves to invigorate the populace in the wake of the harmonised election defeat.
“He naturally has chemistry with the people and he is going to touch base in Masvingo province from where he will proceed to other parts of the country,” Tamborinyoka told the Daily News.
He said the MDC leader chose Masvingo as his first port of call because it is the “scene of unmitigated crime.”
“In the last election, the province showed the audacity of mischief,” Tamborinyoka said.
Before the 2013 vote, the MDC had 14 seats in Masvingo while Zanu PF had 12. After the vote, Zanu PF won all the 26 seats.
“The people of Masvingo were left with nothing and so the president will be sharing ideas with them and also coming up with a way forward,” said Tamborinyoka.
From his Masvingo foray, Tsvangirai is taking his dialogue meetings to the Matabeleland provinces, in a campaign tour aimed largely at ordinary Zimbabweans in all crucial battlegrounds in the July 31 presidential election.
The MDC president’s trip is his first since the 2013 presidential campaign.
Zanu PF won a significant number of parliamentary seats in Matabeleland region this time, garnering 13 seats in Matabeleland South and six in Matabeleland North provinces.
In Bulawayo it failed to win a single seat.
Tamborinyoka said Tsvangirai will be preaching a message of hope, inspiring people to look ahead.
He said the MDC leader’s struggle against Mugabe was similar to the Biblical story of David.
“We remain inspired by the story of David, after the devil had taken everything away from him, he soldiered on. We remain focused and we know we shall overcome,” said Tamborinyoka.
Now he and other opposition leaders seem to be banking on a steady deterioration in Mugabe’s popularity and power.
Some opponents, though, say Zimbabwe’s economic problems — slowing growth, liquidity crunch, and hard currency bottlenecks — may prove too much for Mugabe, coupled with a purported rivalry between factions vying to succeed him.
Tsvangirai is also heading off increasing calls within his party to pass the baton in the wake of his defeat, but his spin-doctors say he has the full backing of all the organs of the party, and his mandate runs until 2016.