Nobleman Runyanga Correspondent
This week the police gave the MDC-T Chamisa faction the go-ahead to hold an event to celebrate its 19th anniversary after postponing it over the cholera outbreak of September in Harare.
While the faction’s rank and file is over the moon over the Saturday event, a critical analysis of the party’s history indicates that there is nothing to bring out celebration drums for.
Not even the faction’s leader, Nelson Chamisa, has any reason to rejoice let alone ordinary party folk who every five years have had to make do with definite, dizzying and dazzling defeats by the more popular ZANU-PF. Apart from this sorry state of affairs in the party, its adherents have watched helplessly while their leaders increasingly became undemocratic and wreaked havoc in an already fragile party.
At its formation the party named itself the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), putting itself on a high pedestal of political prominence as a champion of democracy.
To ice it off, the party adopted the payoff line, “The party of excellence”. On the face of it, one would think that joining the MDC is becoming party to a paragon of democracy and a lifestyle of democracy but this is not so on the ground.
Those familiar with the MDC history will remember that as early as 2005 the party had already split after its founding leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai , railroaded his decision not to participate in the senatorial elections held that year despite the majority of his executives voting in favour of participating. This led to the party splitting into two formations. So much for the champion of democracy which he sought the world to believe he was.
Tsvangirai was supposed to serve two terms at the helm of the party, which means he was supposed to hand over the reins to a successor two terms after the 2000 congress. But the trappings and perks of power which he enjoyed during the Government of National Unity (GNU) prevailed over him, leading him to justify his continued stranglehold on power by arguing that post the 2005 split the party was a new entity which endowed him with a new two-term mandate. Contrary to the spirit of democracy in line with the party’s ethos, in 2013, he shocked MDC-T members and Zimbabweans in general by attempting to impose Mavambo Kusile Dawn (MKD) leader Simba Makoni on the Makoni South constituency.
With each passing day MDC-T members watched as Tsvangirai abandoned democracy in favour of self-preserving autocracy. Fed up with his undemocratic tendencies, senior members such as Elton Mangoma and Tendai Biti attempted to push for leadership renewal in the party early in 2014 following a series of heavy electoral defeats and earned themselves expulsions.
Tsvangirai explained away his undemocratic stay at the helm of the party by lamely claiming that the MDC-T could not afford to change its leadership before winning its war for national power.
The death of Tsvangirai in February this year and his replacement by Chamisa and his generational consensus mantra brought hopes of the restoration of democracy in the party but this was misplaced. Even before Tsvangirai’s body was interred, Chamisa was unconstitutionally seizing the leadership of the party by elbowing out the rightful heiress, Thokozani Khupe.
Like Tsvangirai before him, he used the party’s violent Vanguard youths to threaten Khupe with death at Tsvangirai’s funeral in Buhera. Khupe was also violently hounded out of the party’s Bulawayo offices by youths dispatched from the party’s Harvest House national headquarters.
The 2018 election season further exposed that contrary to expectations, Chamisa was on a mission to further his ambitions at the expense of advancing democracy. The season saw him barring some popular candidates such as the former Harare West legislator, Jessie Majome. Those who were close to him such as the Dangamvura-Chikanga legislator, Prosper Mutseyami, were favoured at the expense of other candidates such as Lynette Karenyi-Kore. His lowest point was when he watched while the 76-year- old Crispa Musoni was assaulted by his aides in Mvuma in July for questioning the former’s decision to unceremoniously replace him with an MDC Alliance candidate, Ernest Mandigo, in Gutu Central constituency.
MDC Alliance partners such as Professor Welshman Ncube can also testify to how Chamisa attempted to run the MDC Alliance single-handedly so that he would advance his personal narrow interests without hindrance.
The selection of mayors in urban areas where the MDC Alliance won further put to the fore Chamisa’s autocratic habits when he tried to shamelessly impose candidates on the people of various cities and towns such as Chitungwiza, Masvingo and Victoria Falls.
Before the next MDC-T Chamisa faction elective congress sits next year, Chamisa has already ring-fenced his position so that it is not contested. In September, he rung changes to his national executive to include returnees such as Biti and Prof Ncube in contravention of the party’s constitution.
Initially, Chamisa intended to use the event to mimic his Kenyan role model, Raila Odinga, by “inaugurating” himself as the President of Zimbabwe based on his delusion that he won the July 30 presidential election but later relented on realising the gravity of the legal consequences of such a stunt.
But, not so with his Harare provincial chairman, Eric Murai, who, like an excitable child, this week narrow-cast the news of the police go-ahead on the social media with relish and gusto. Murai indicated that Chamisa would be “inaugurated” contrary to the tenets of democracy which require losers to gracefully accept electoral defeat.
Given the foregoing litany of violations of the basic principles of democracy, as the MDC-T Chamisa members gather at Gwanzura Stadium in Harare’s Highfield suburb over the weekend, they should take stock of the party’s performance over the past 19 years especially in relation to the quality of leadership which they have been saddled with over the years. They need to critically question the increasing dearth of democracy in the party despite two generations of leaders.
It is time to pull out and dust copies of the party’s manifesto and point out to Chamisa without fear or favour how he is riding roughshod over both the MDC-T Chamisa faction’s charter and the members. It should be a time to remind him that the party is not a personal possession and that leaders should be prepared to serve democratically and go.