LOVE him or hate him, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is a well-groomed man - politically and otherwise.
With his bespoke and tailor-made suits, the 89 year-old ex-teacher, is by far, better than most of his challengers — most notably Egypt Dzinemunenzva and Mark Baard — who have turned this year’s election into some circus of sorts.
And as the tragic comedy around this year’s harmonised election, there has not only been drama around the 30-odd cryptic candidates, including perennial pretenders such as Raymond Chamba, but the issues of funding as well.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) says that 30 candidates are gunning for the top job that has been occupied by Mugabe for the past 33 years.
Dzinemunenzva, the 66-year-old founder of the African National Party (ANP), is not only a polygamist and a father of 13, he is also a tragic-comic figure.
Although he has lost polls since 1990, he is undeterred and will slug it out with Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and a host of other contestants who include Anslem Karimupfumbi who leads the Rusununguko United People’s Party (RUPP).
Despite the fact that RUPP is an unknown party, Karimupfumbi is somehow confident that he will romp to victory, that is if the media blackouts Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
“I am advising you to divert the media space you are giving to Zanu PF and MDC to my party because the spirit wants me as president. It is to your own advantage,” he told the Weekend Post recently.
Zimbabwe Development Party’s Kissnot Mukwazhi’s novelistic ideas really provide a fantasy for the electorate.
Through several poorly attended press conferences, Mukwazhi has sought to convince voters he is the solution to problems haunting Zimbabwe under the coalition government.
South African President Jacob Zuma could have got his lifetime joke when Mukwazhi recently wrote a grammatically unsound letter advising him on his mediation process in Zimbabwe.
“This is not a call for interference to our home affair, but a call to help your needy small brother Zimbabwe to be economically, political and socially stabilise (sic),” the letter said.
Mukwazhi asked Zuma to help Zimbabwe become “a member of the gold Brick just like yours”, probably referring to Brics, an acronym for economic bloc covering Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Forget about confusing party manifestos, the Progressive and Innovative Movement of Zimbabwe (Pimz)’s commitment is simply to provide bread and butter for its supporters.
Pimz also proposes that major cities take turns to be Zimbabwe’s capital city, all in the name of devolving development.
However political commentator Phillip Pasirayi said 2013 was a different election which comes at a time when the electorate has become politically mature and clear on their demands, leaving no space for chancers.
“Most of the candidates we have are not presidential material at all and lack political clout. I can say the real fight will remain between Tsvangirai and Mugabe not perennial losers like Dzinemunhenzva,” Pasirayi said.
“If you are a bucket candidate like (Irene) Bete then I am sorry. This is not a 1980 election where people were filled with independence euphoria. Zimbabweans now want someone who will turn around the economy, not sloganeering, songs or kongonya dances,” said Pasirayi.
Irene Bete happens to be the only female presidential challenger and last one to throw her name into the searing presidential race as an independent candidate.
The 66-year-old mother of six believes she should be voted president because of her “infinite wisdom”. She has no academic degree on her CV. She claims her CV is solid, includes detail that her plastic manufacturing company was the first to introduce 20-litre plastic containers in Zimbabwe.
“I do not have a degree, but you do not need a degree to run this country and I applaud the Constitution for providing any Zimbabwean with the opportunity to run for presidency,” she said.
“Wisdom is a crucial element, I am also a farmer who acquired land on my own not because of land reform,” said the third female presidential contender in Zimbabwean history after Zimbabwe Union of Democrats’ founder Margaret Dongo and the late Isabel Madangure of People’s Democratic Party (ZPDP).
In his vision, Baard - the Zimbabwe Republican Front (ZRF) president - says he vying for power to “fulfil a prophecy” about turning around the country’s fortunes, where key utilities such as ZESA and Zupco are virtually dead. “I am running for president in the next election. We are going in full swing as we are not happy with the manner things are being run. It’s a vision God has given me. God calls it a revival,” the 53 year-old Apostolic Faith Mission and Glad Tidings man said.
Baard claims his ZRF has been in existence since 2001, but has been lying low while seeking “divine” intervention or guidance.
“Government should apologise to the people and step down. Even theft in this country is amazing. Our people are a great people. If it was in South Africa, they would have been some uprisings,” he said.
The March 2008 presidential race had its own comic moments when little-known Langton Towungana threw his hat into the ring and garnered 0,58 percent of the total ballots cast after 14 503 people voted for him.
Other likely contenders for next year’s election include MDC99’s Job Sikhala, Dumiso Dabengwa (Zapu), Raymond Chamba and Reverend Everisto Chikanga, among others.
Churches have also entered the fray, with faith-based political party Multi-Racial Open Party Christian Democracy party fielding its candidate a Reverend Mubaiwa.
Though Zimbabwe Electoral Commission commissioner Petty Makoni said most of the candidates will fail to meet the financial requirements, political commentators said it is the calibre of the mushrooming candidates that remains intriguing.
Political commentator Pedzisai Ruhanya said despite the inflated number of contenders, voter education can be the problem that needs pro-action.
“What should be done in anticipation for that eventuality is that Zec, political parties and civic society organisations should mount massive voter education to limit spoiled papers and confusion during the voting process,” said Ruhanya.