By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
In the midst of a gruelling election campaign, MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa surprised many by posting pictures on social media holidaying in Israel, which he dubbed a private visit. On any other day, no one would care about the young politician’s jaunt to a country largely viewed as practising modern-day apartheid against the Palestinians; but what many found vexing was the timing of Chamisa’s trip.
He embarked on the trip a few days after launching the MDC Alliance’s election manifesto.
Although Chamisa tried in his social media post to frame the visit as some kind of “spiritual renewal”, no one can be blind to what the young excitable politician was trying to achieve.
But before unpacking the most probable motivation behind the Israel trip, it is important to note that since the death of Morgan Tsvangirai, Chamisa has so far travelled to two foreign destinations.
The two foreign destinations are Washington, in the US and the Holy City of Nazareth in Israel. These two trips are very critical in understanding the MDC Alliance’s philosophical trajectory and how it is trying to project itself in the aftermaths of Tsvangirai’s leadership and Robert Mugabe’s departure.
It is very instructive to note that in the demise of Tsvangirai and the departure of Mugabe, Chamisa chose to go to Washington and Israel, and not any country within and beyond the Sadc region.
In order to understand why America and Israel are important to the MDC Alliance, we need to revisit the unenviable situation that the party finds itself in in the aftermaths of Tsvangirai and the Mugabe departure. We need to contextualise the fact that opposition MDC had long enjoyed the “coveted” space of being the custodian and disciple of change in a country ruled by one leader since Independence. The mantra of change resonated well within a significant section of the populace long fatigued by Mugabe’s rule.
What united the multifarious groups was their enthusiastic appetitive to see Mugabe’s back.
Come November 17 and Emmerson Mnangagwa becomes the new Head of State and Government. It must not escape us that President Mnangagwa came on the back of a military intervention – itself fatigued by Mugabe’s antics that sought to fundamentally transform the revolutionary Zanu-PF party to a post-modernist entity with less attachment to its foundational ethos of being a liberation party.
The entrance of President Mnangagwa into the helm of Zanu-PF and Government rendered the opposition political party rudderless. As a new Zanu-PF leader, President Mnangagwa immediately fashioned himself as the champion of change.
Although ideologically rooted in Zanu-PF foundational ethos, like Chinese Deng, President Mnangagwa has since his inauguration focused more on the need for economic recovery and development and less political rhetoric. He has galvanised his Zanu-PF support base in a manner hitherto unknown. President Mnangagwa has managed to capture the attention of regional, continental as well as international interest groups by fashioning himself as a pragmatic reformer.
In essence, in as much as the opposition parties have tried to frame ED as the flip-side of Mugabe, this has failed to garner any traction. It seems ED has learnt so much from his predecessor’s headstrong pursuit of rouble-rousing demagoguery that he is keen on taking a different route.
President Mnangagwa has essentially occupied and taken hold of the “change” mantra that used to be the domain of opposition political parties. And the difference in the “change” advocated by President Mnangagwa and that pursued by the opposition is that his is experiential.
Also affectionately known as ED, President Mnangagwa has thus not just endeared himself with the local electorate, but has managed to charm erstwhile adversaries that used to be the main backers of opposition politics in Zimbabwe.
The trip to Washington in December by Chamisa, Tendai Biti and one Dewa Mavhinga was thus a “Tshombeist” move meant to derail ED’s momentum garnered not just by his astute political awareness, but also the goodwill of millions who viewed him as one with the maturity to take them to the Promised Land.
With United States appearing to be the only country that had not openly embraced the new administration, Chamisa and crew felt it convenient to literally appeal to babysit the MDC Alliance.
Anyone who follows Zimbabwean politics would be alive to the fact that after successive failures by the MDC to dislodge Mugabe from power, traditional benefactors had started scouting for alternatives for regime change.
By the time Tsvangirai died, opposition political parties were literally on their knees – unable to cater for basic survival stipends.
Tsvangirai became a victim of numerous lawsuits from debtors. The departure of Mugabe worsened the financial situation of all opposition political parties as the traditional benefactors had to rethink their strategies in funding a sterile entity.
So the trip to America was essentially a brown nosing trip meant to salvage the party’s diminishing returns.
While the trip could have been a lifesaver in cajoling some prospective donors to support the opposition party, it essentially had nothing to do with Zimbabweans. Coming on the heels of a massively popular march that forced Mugabe to resign, the trip was viewed by many as not only treacherous, but a sign of desperation on the part of the MDC Alliance.
While Chamisa did not directly address members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Mavhinga and Biti did the bidding.
They had nothing else to say, but paint a sordid picture of the country’s political environment, insisting that the MDC was still a relevant project worth investing in and that the new President Mnangagwa could not be trusted as he was Mugabe’s protégé.
One cannot labour about Mavhinga, who over the years has become legendary for making a living out of cheap political lies about Zimbabwe and sensationalising every bit of political contestations in a bid to attract the attention of his benefactors.
In the case of Biti and Chamisa, it seems they acted out of political desperation in clamouring for more isolation of Zimbabwe. It was political expediency at its best.
Just like Mavhinga, the main reason for Biti and Chamisa’s sojourn in Washington was to beg for money.
Very little seems to have been achieved in that regard as the party has also sent an SOS to its members. Chamisa’s Israel trip must thus be viewed within the same context of the Washington trip. The only difference is that the young impressionable politician failed to meet any bona fide Israeli officials and ended up framing the trip as a “spiritual renewal trip.”
Chamisa could not hide his sycophantic antics towards Israel, a country known for its strong links with America.
In his tawdry political life, Chamisa believes that by acting in a very obsequious manner towards Israel, the Americans will consequently regard him as one of their own and assist him and his entity in check-mating ED.