The 2023 Election Conundrum: ZANU PF´s political marketing ahead of the pools.
The Zimbabwean election is a potential advance auction sale of stolen goods. In this political auctioning, political marketing creates an image for a political party so its supporters can clearly understand what the party provides relative to its competitors. For a time in memorial, Zimbabwe´s ruling party, ZANU PF, has identified a long-term proposition that positions its brand in the minds of its supporters and friends in the region and globally. The war credentials that ZANU PF has been strategically manipulated to differentiate the party from other political parties, be it with the aid of force or abuse of the state machinery. Any opposition to the order of ZANU PF is labeled as an imposter of the liberation struggle. It has monopolized itself as a symbol of freedom through force, which has been made to sink into the minds of the citizens.
The founding father of independent Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, and the first President of the Republic was a re-known orator, demagogue, and charismatic personality. Initially, at independence, he epitomized a revolutionary people-driven agenda for a progressive Zimbabwe, and he made Zimbabwe become the envy of progressive communities worldwide in a short time. Zimbabwe raised its literacy levels substantially, became the “bread basket” of Africa, and had a highly skilled workforce sought after in the developed world. In this regard, Zimbabwe emerged as a progressive nation led by a dynamic leader. These developments in the early eighties endeared Robert Mugabe as the godfather of a happy country. After independence, the government of then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe proclaimed Reconciliation with the old enemy suggesting that his government was bent on healing the wounds and creating a unified nation.
ZANU PF in Zimbabwe has done its part in consolidating its hold on power since independence. As the country grapples with the incoming 2023 elections, evidence suggests an emotional or psychological positioning strategy at play in instilling fear in voters' minds and competitive-driven positioning like suggesting voting for other political parties would be allowing or sanctioning the re-colonization of Zimbabwe. In politics, the periodic nature of elections produces surges of strategic and tactical activity. Terms such as campaign, battle, attack, and defense are standard in business; such rhetoric is continually employed in Zimbabwean politics.
Traditionally marketing has been a preserve of the commercial world and was not practiced in the non-profit sector. But with the increasing complexity of society and the increasing desire for better service in most spheres of service provision,marketing has crept into almost every human exchange process. It is no surprise that military terms are employed in marketing as the competitive agenda is confrontation minus the military carnage but commercial annihilation. However, the case for Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe embraces army elements of carnage and the charm of marketing. ZANU PF’s war credentials position the party as a revolutionary party. Still, when losing ground, torture is used to eliminate or silence the opposition leaving a trail of property or human carnage. The ruling party has shown that politics is the business of maneuvering for strategic national positions which win votes at the national or local level of governance. Ultimately, the argument is that political parties sell ideas or solutions to national or regional issues and require to position such ideas or solutions in a manner that appeals to the voters. In the same way, as businesses place so that they can win in a competitive situation, so should political parties. Political parties are brands, and the brand's positioning must be correct to win.
While there is no systematic brand management within ZANU PF, it is clear that the standing of the party is jealously guarded against attacks by other political parties, and often the response is in the form of violence to stifle the growth of such influence. Any descending voices within ZAU PF are silenced through demotion from senior ranks or are paid to keep quiet. Even party primary elections are stage-managed to maintain a semblance of unity in the party and whip the membership into line. Factionalism has reared its ugly and intensely fought by the party's top leadership to give the impression that Zanu PF is a united party.
ZANU PF Political Marketing Strategy ahead of 2023 elections
o Rural Popularity: ZANU PF is aware of its popularity on the rural side. Hence, it increases its campaigning resources through various programs to support the rural populace. Thus, it increases its number of parliamentary seats at the expense of the urban, where they are not popular and have little scope for manipulating voters. In 2000 they realized they were losing the support of the rural population and liberation war heroes; it embraced on farmsinvasion. Zimbabwe pulled out of the Commonwealth, which could put her under heavy scrutiny.
o Empowerment Discourse: In respect of crucial success factors ZANU PF as the ruling party in Zimbabwe since gaining independence in 1980, is credited with the empowerment of the black majority population, improving the agricultural capacity to the point of winning the award for “Freedom from Hunger” in 1986. ZANU PF has consolidated its credentials as the liberation people’s party and branded all opposition as sell-outs. That ability, albeit aided by the use of force, epitomized the hegemony of ZANU PF in Zimbabwe.
o The Land Question: On the principle of strategy implementation, Zanu PF quickly moved to consolidate power in 1980 and turned their unpopularity in 1990 into a struggle for land. They have always projected a fair institution while systematically crippling the opposition. In all this, it is clear that they moved swiftly, constantly adapted to a changing situation, and continually deceived the voters through multitudes of empty promises and rigging elections. In most cases, they will not shy away from doing the unthinkable such as spilling blood in a violent land revolution, printing money under conditions of galloping inflation, and using the army to force price reduction in July 2007.
o Control of the Opposition: As far as the principle of strategic control is concerned, there is no mistaking the sophistication of the regime. The opposition parties have always been infiltrated and weakened in a relatively short period. Prominent opposition leaders are incriminated to tarnish their images and render them to the political dustbin. Supporters of the opposition have been systematically tortured, killed, or disappeared and are never to be seen at the hands of the intelligence force, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). While brandishing the opposition as unpatriotic in its propaganda allowed it to create the impression that they were the guards of the country’s sovereignty and used this as a pretext to torture the supporters of the opposition. The opposition's leadership has all been brought before the courts for trial on trumped-up charges. Practically this has decimated the prospects of the opposition and allowed Zanu PF to extend its hegemony perpetually since independence in 1980.
o Institutionalized Media Repression: ZANU PF, after realizing its unpopularity, the government enacted laws that have made it illegal for people to criticize the glaring failures of the regime. What is most disturbing about the Zimbabwean scenario is that the President representing Zanu PF is both player and referee in the political game, practically rendering ZANU PF the author of the rules, the protagonist in the arena, and the referee; no wonder rumors are rife that election results are determined before elections.
Henceforth, the current Mnangagwa regime´s standing in the history of Zimbabwe is paradoxical. Like his predecessor, President Mnangagwa had adopted the Mugabe school of politics, which is epitomized by ruthlessness in dealing with political enemies, never accepting any failure, arresting the leadership of the opposition to weaken them, equating the party to the state, carefully crafting populist themes to keep people focused, and surrounding oneself with docile people who have no desire to take over and relatives wherever possible. A key feature of Mugabeism is the heavy-handed control of the party and state machinery to extend Zanu PF’s hegemony in government.