The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC has dismissed claims that it is bussing people to attend its jam-packed rallies. Chamisa, who is riding on a wave of the so-called #Generational Consensus, has been pointing to the crowds he attracts as proof that he is not running behind President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
While Chamisa has been addressing huge crowds across the country, his main rival Mnangagwa is not holding rallies at all, instead attending to national issues — re-engagement and his investment drive under the Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra.
Pointing to impressive rally crowds is a long-time tactic of candidates on both sides of the aisle.
The State media has claimed several road accidents involving MDC supporters from various parts of the country have confirmed that the main opposition party was bussing supporters to rallies to create an impression that Chamisa enjoys “overwhelming” support.
But acting MDC spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo dismissed the allegations.
“The country is burning, civil servants are getting peanuts but you see some people are concentrating on petty issues. We do not bus people. We cannot deny our members to come to attend our rallies,” Khumalo said.
She said anybody who has been to the rallies and has seen the crowds, seen their response, seen their enthusiasm, seen the intensity of their response and how they respond to issues raised by Chamisa, cannot help but believe that there is something happening in this country.
Chamisa’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said: “That is nonsense.” He claimed those attending the rallies were doing so of their own volition, motivated by Chamisa’s message of renewal and hope.
Obert Gutu, spokesperson of the rival Thokozani Khupe-led MDC claimed Chamisa had invested $50 000 to bus supporters to the MDC rally in Bulawayo last weekend, attended by a bumper crowd.
“$50 000 spent on bussing people to Bulawayo. We pursue real politics not self-delusion and self-deception. Results of the election 2018 will confirm who the fake are and who the real politicians are,” he said.
The 40-year-old came to power in acrimonious circumstances following the death of the party’s founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to cancer in February.
He was locked in a succession battle with Khupe, who disputed his ascendancy resulting in her being fired from her position as deputy party president, along with her allies Abednico Bhebhe, who was the organising secretary, and Gutu, the party’s spokesperson.
Khupe and her allies responded by digging in insisting that they were the legitimate MDC — effectively declaring a split — the third since the MDC’s formation in 1999.
This came amid debate over Khupe’s influence of the party’s Matabeleland structures, with some saying her expulsion would see her moving away with “her people,” dealing Chamisa a huge blow.
Analysts have warned that crowd size is a less-than-useful tool for candidates trying to assess their chances of winning an election.
They warn that campaigns that rely too much on anecdotal evidence like crowd sizes when looking to measure progress are easily lulled into a false sense of security. They assume, often wrongly, that the echo effect of being surrounded by big crowds of already converted voters is automatically translating into momentum.
Most average Zimbabweans do not think crowd size is a good metric, either.