Zimbabwe: 1990 General Elections
Extracted from: "Zimbabwe" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 442-443.
The 1990 general elections occurred on 28-30 March in a very different context to the one that had preceded it. PF-ZAPU [Patriotic Front - Zimbabwe African People's Union] was no longer, since its merger with ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front], an autonomous identifiable factor. Neither, since the abolition of the racially-linked white parliamentary seats, was were white parties.
Some 270 candidates representing five political parties and some 30 independents competed for 120 directly elected seats in a newly constituted unicameral legislature. The remaining 30 seats of the 150 member legislature were to be comprised of presidentially appointed representatives, provincial governors and traditional chiefs. Included in this last category were to be three white ministers, Dennis Norman (transport and national supplies), Chris Anderson (mines) and a new recruit Dr Timothy Stamps (health). The first two had both been members of earlier post-independence cabinets.
ZANU-PF secured 1 690 071 (80.55%) of the votes and 117 of the 120 elected seats (including one seat in which voting was initially postponed; see 1990 House of Assembly results for details). In its campaign, it emphasised the need for national unity and warned of new and old reactionary, racist and divisive forces - an unsubtle reference to the newly emerged ZUM [Zimbabwe Unity Movement] with its uncomfortable alliance with the CAZ [Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe]. The verbal attacks on both were often extremely robust and unrestrained. Given the merger of PF-ZAPU and ZANU-PF, it was hardly surprising that the election manifesto now reflected a revised recognition of the significant contribution of both parties to the liberation struggle. The party paid a qualified deference to the role of women in the family, in the promotion of moral and social values, and in food and cash crop production. It signified approval of their advance provided unity was not compromised in the process.
ZUM secured 369 031 (17.59%) of the votes and two seats in Manicaland's Chipinge North and Mutare Central constituencies. It narrowly lost in the two other Manicaland constituencies of Chipinge South and Mutare North. Its average performance was generally better in urban areas, especially in Harare where its support as high on several occasions as 30%. In Bulawayo, Matabeleland, ZUM was able to mobilise some 30% of the electoral support and Joshua Nkomo put in the worst showing of any of the successful former PF-ZAPU candidates with only 24.5% of registered voters casting their votes. (It may reasonably be conjectured that this reflected electoral censure of Nkomo for his role in the merger of PF-ZANU with ZANU-PF as well as negative judgement of his performance more generally). ZUM campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and also castigated the government as authoritarian, bureaucratically inefficient and inept. It committed itself to genuine freedom in a multi-party democracy, peace and justice as well as to growth and development. It advocated a return to a bicameral legislature with a ceremonial presidency and an executive prime minister. It condemned the divisive elimination of women from positions of power. ZUM's performance, despite lack of publicity access in the state controlled media and limited resources, suggested, at least in the short-term, that it had found a constituency for itself.
ZANU-Ndonga (formerly ZANU-Sithole) obtained 19 448 (0.92%) of the vote and retained one seat in Chipinge South. The UANC [United African National Council], NDU [National Democratic Union] and independent candidates collectively accounted for the remaining 19 643 (0.93%) of the votes cast. Electoral participation was only 60% compared with 80% in 1985.
In the concurrently held presidential election - the first since the post of executive president was established - Edgar Tekere received 413 840 or 20% of the votes and Robert Mugabe received 2 026 976 or 80% of the votes. There were 146 388 spoilt papers.
None of the other political parties made any significant impact. A lower intensity of such violence as there was in the general elections is attributable in part to the merger of the two principle parties. ZUM candidates and supporters were nevertheless often given a hard time. In the Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland, and Mashonaland East they were subjected to harassment and vilification and accorded little police protection. ZUM members were attacked in the Gwero, Karoi, Kwekwe, Makoni Central, and Mufakose constituencies. Patrick Kombayi, mayor of Gweru and a former ZANU-PF official, was abducted and shot but remained in the race. There was also an attempt on the life of Jerry Nyambuyaa, also a ZUM member.
In its campaign, ZANU-PF pointed to its placement of Zimbabwe on the international map through the chairing of the eighth summit of the Non-Aligned Movement and its achievements in education, public health, social security, housing, and industry and the institution of minimum wages. ZUM advocated a market-oriented approach to the economy with reduced state involvement and a disengagement of troops from Mozambique where they were protecting communication lines between the two countries. ZANU-Ndonga attacked ZUM's liaison with the CAZ.