By Mugove Tafirenyika POLITICAL EDITOR

ALL eyes will be on the warring MDC factions in the next few months, after President Emmerson Mnangagwa proclaimed March 26 as the day outstanding by-elections will be held.

Chief among the issues that confusion-weary opposition supporters will hope will now be decided once and for all relates to the use of the party name and that of the MDC Alliance.

But as respected analysts pointed out yesterday, it may be too early to expect nirvana to prevail, at least for the next 18 months or so, even if the Nelson Chamisa camp finally unveils and starts using its new name — as there will still be the issue of sitting legislators loyal to this faction.

Mnangagwa’s proclamation of parliamentary by-elections also means that Zimbabweans will have an indication of how the 2023 polls may go once these special ballots are out of the way.

In this regard, University of Tshwane academic, Ricky Mukonza told the Daily News yesterday that the results of the by-elections would provide a good gauge for contesting parties on how they would likely perform in next year’s polls.

“The impending by-elections are a critical indicator on how parties are likely to perform in the 2023 harmonised elections.

“A good performance by Zanu PF is likely to boost their confidence and that of President Mnangagwa.

“On the other hand, a poor performance by Zanu PF is likely to … see it going for changes in tactics, including the possible employment of violence in the run up to 2023,” Mukonza said.

“For the Alliance, a good performance is likely to boost its confidence and encourage even more participation from its members and supporters going into 2023.

“A loss will, however, dampen the spirit in the party, which could lead to heightened infighting and contestation for the leadership of the party.

“That (such an outcome) will be a blow to Chamisa’s leadership,” Mukonza further told the Daily News.

For Douglas Mwonzora, Mukonza added, “a poor performance is likely to confine his party to the dustbin of Zimbabwean politics and also likely lead to defections from his party to either Zanu PF or the MDC Alliance”.

Mukonza also described the by-elections proclamation by Mnangagwa as a “classic case of throwing the cat among the pigeons”, as this was going to force Chamisa to reveal his new party name and 2023 game plan.

“The change of name will come with both benefits and costs. The benefit is that it gives Chamisa a distinct identity that has no or little chance for contestation.

“The cost is that in a way it detaches his party from the history associated with the MDC since its formation. Given the status quo, Chamisa has no option but to change the name of the party.

“This will minimise the chances of getting his supporters confused as where to vote, considering that Mwonzora has vowed to use the MDC Alliance name,” Mukonza also said.

He added that it was “very important” for all major political parties to field candidates in the by-elections “because not doing so may be interpreted as incapacity on their part”.

On his part, Professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, told the Daily News that Chamisa should have rebranded his party a long time ago.

“I have long said that Chamisa should have bitten the bullet and registered his party under a different name — a similar but different name.

“However, stubbornness is a feature on all sides in the Zimbabwean political environment and this means on almost all occasions people talking past one another,” he said.

MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzai Mahere was not picking her phone when the Daily News sought her comment, having been referred to her by deputy spokesperson Ostalos Siziba.

MDC spokesperson Witness Dube said the party was ready for the by-elections, reiterating that they would contest as the MDC Alliance.

“We have received with gladness the proclamation for by-elections for which we have been ready for a long time.

“We are going to contest as the MDC Alliance because the by-elections affect our other alliance partners such as the PDP which must give us candidates in the constituencies they held.

“However, it remains our worry that nothing has been done in terms of creating a level playing field by attending to the electoral reform agenda we have been proposing as the MDC and our alliance partners,” Dube told the Daily News.

Earlier this week, respected political analysts had once again warned that the MDCs’ relentless factional wars would see Zanu PF winning the fast-approaching 2023 national elections at a canter.

Speaking to the Daily News, amid fresh bloodletting between Mwonzora and Chamisa’s factions, the analysts said it was clear that this was a “lose-lose” battle which suited Zanu PF.

This came after it was reiterated that the MDC would recall more party legislators from Parliament — including former Cabinet minister Theresa Makone, Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala and Joanna Mamombe of Harare West.

Among those who cautioned the opposition against its mindless wars was Chan, who said the ugly brawls would lead to their annihilation at the polls.

“The MDC’s internal quarrels are an exact analogy to the battles within Zanu PF … no one seems committed to the complex task of devising technocratic policies to help Zimbabwe emerge from its economic malaise.

“Basically, this means that both MDC rival wings will scarcely be a force in the next national parliamentary elections.

“Those elections will be meaningful only in the presidential stakes,” Chan told the Daily News, as he pooh-poohed the chances of the opposition taking the 2023 parliamentary polls.

University of Zimbabwe politics expert, Eldred Masunungure, weighed in saying the opposition was pressing the “self-destruct button” by continuing to engage in its “meaningless fights” ahead of key elections.

“All in all, what is happening is the most senseless thing that can happen three months away from an election,” he said.

MDC chairperson for Harare, Zivai Mhetu, had earlier confirmed to the Daily News that the province had recommended to the party the recall of Makone from the Senate.

On his part, MDC national chairperson Morgen Komichi added that it would not only be Makone who would soon face the party’s axe.

“More recalls are coming and these will affect everyone who has stopped being a member of the MDC.

“The provinces know who they are working with, and those who are no longer loyal to the party will have to go.

“The provinces will inform the leadership what should happen to certain individuals because we expect every MP to work with party structures,” Komichi told the Daily News.

“We are going to receive reports from provinces as the year starts. The moment we know that a certain individual has crossed the path, we will not hesitate to recall them.

“We want to build our party and do away with those who are working against the party,” he added.

The Daily News has since gathered that among those targeted for the dreaded chop in the latest instalment of the party bloodletting are Sikhala and Mamombe.

Others set for the chop include Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole, Costa Machingauta (Budiriro), James Chidhakwa (Mabvuku-Tafara), Maxwell Mavhunga (Chitungwiza South), Goodrich Chimbaira (Zengeza East), Hwange Central’s Daniel Molokele, James Sithole (Makokoba) and Anele Ndebele (Magwegwe).