Nobleman Runyanga Correspondent
The MDC-Alliance elective congress has been pencilled for May 24 to 26 after many months of wishing it away to buy time on the part of that party’s leader, Nelson Chamisa.
Since seizing the leadership of the party in February last year while his predecessor, the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s body was still lying in a South African funeral parlour, Chamisa has been arguing that since the last elective congress was held in October 2014 the next one should be held in October this year, but other senior members wanted it held last month as he had been at the helm for one year as agreed by the party’s national council on February 14, 2018.
A look at the highlights of his one year as the leader gives an indication as to why he has been pushing for an October congress.
Following the splitting of the MDC in 2005 over the senatorial election held that year and a further split in 2014 which was occasioned by some party members’ growing impatience to unseat zanu-pf, the party has never been united.
This was partly because of Tsvangirai’s continued stay as the leader despite losing one election after another including in his home area of Buhera in 2000.
His appointment of Chamisa as the third vice president in 2016 in addition to Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri, who had been elected by congress two years earlier, worsened the situation which culminated in Chamisa’s seizing leadership.
This further divided the party as Khupe, the then spokesman, Obert Gutu and others left to form what they termed MDC-T.
This is the party that Chamisa inherited from Tsvangirai.
Apart from fresh leadership, the party badly needed a mature and unifying figure to heal the rifts created over the previous 12 years and chart a new course ahead of the elections.
Being a youth who was surrounded by senior party members, Chamisa stood in good stead to avoid Tsvangirai’s mistakes and reunite the party, but he prioritised position instead wisdom.
Yes, Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube and Job Sikhala returned to the party but it remains as divided as ever.
The trio’s return was motivated more by the need to secure a political home after years in the wilderness and prospects for some meaningful posts in the absence of Tsvangirai whilst positioning themselves to usurp Chamisa at the helm in the future.
Since 1999, the MDC constitution has been readily available including on the party’s website, but the moment Chamisa took over the party’s leadership he has disregarded it and even taking it off the website. Some old timers have the old one but the amended one has become a rarity.
This does not auger well for the leader’s integrity.
Despite bequeathing to Chamisa a fragmented party, Tsvangirai seems to have made up for this by literally putting in his hands the leadership of the alliance of opposition parties which Tsvangirai had painstakingly laboured to put together despite failing health.
This positioned Chamisa for the leadership of the alliance, which was named MDC-Alliance, and landing its candidature for the 2018 presidential elections.
Despite this golden opportunity, Chamisa rode roughshod over fellow alliance leaders such as Transform Zimbabwe’s Jacob Ngarivhume and Ncube at some point complained that Chamisa was running the alliance like a personal project.
He further grumbled that Chamisa was spending more time at rallies to the exclusion of resolving issues bedevilling the alliance.
This was worsened by his largely young membership which openly said that the other parties had no meaningful membership numbers and, therefore the then MDC-T should be allocated constituencies in areas that it preferred.
Although the alliance survived these challenges and managed to go for elections intact, most alliance leaders were fed up.
Chamisa stood to earn some party members and goodwill from the smaller parties but he allowed conceit, pride and, dare one say, big headedness to get in the way and lost potential increased members from these parties.
Squandered youth dividend
The changing of leadership in any organisation is normally received with mixed feelings.
Those who were close to the departing leadership undergo leadership change dissonance as they worry about whether or not the incoming leader will be equally good to them.
Others will not have anything to worry about if they are given to easily working with anyone.
Given that Chamisa took over a party which was riven by factional fissures, he faced potential rejection but was saved by his age. The party’s majority of membership is the youth who were already enamoured with him during his days as the party’s youth assembly chairman and later as the organising secretary.
The youth were looking forward to a strong message and concrete programmes for their empowerment after being failed by Tsvangirai for nearly two decades. Instead of tangible income generation projects he promised rural airports and castles in the air.
Their hope had been misplaced. Instead the youth were, true to the Tsvangirai tradition, used to fighting and fending off perceived Chamisa enemies.
Khupe and secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora have a harrowing tale to tell after the party’s youth militia, the Vanguard, threatened to burn the two alive in a thatched rondavel at Tsvangirai’s funeral in Buhera.
Instead of leveraging his young age to get closer to the youth and widen his support base in the party, Chamisa, again, squandered the opportunity. He favoured some such as the Harare West legislator, Joanna Mamombe by supporting her candidature at the expense of the party and former legislator, Jessie Majome who enjoyed the support of many in the party. He also favoured those who are close to him at the expense of the youth. In Kuwadzana East, he blessed incumbent legislator, Chalton Hwende’s candidature at the expense of a young aspirant and Vanguard leader, Shakespeare Mukoyi. As the congress beckons, Chamisa has lost the support of Mukoyi, Vanguard members and many other youths.
Chamisa has demonstrated that when forced against the wall, he can readily sacrifice the youth to save his own skin. Faced with the spectre of standing before the Commission of Inquiry into the August 1, 2018 incident which was caused by the violent MDC Alliance youths protesting in Harare’s city centre against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), Chamisa described the youths who participated in the demonstration as stupid for taking to the streets while ZEC was still collating and announcing results.
Out of his depth and out of a political future
Despite the foregoing, Chamisa still has a modicum of fanatic supporters among some young people especially the party’s ordinary young members. This is the reason why he may win by a very small margin against likely opponents such as Mwonzora and Mudzuri. His win, however, does not guarantee him the ticket to the 2023 election as he has demonstrated that he is out of his depth to lead the MDC Alliance. This is worsened by the fact that the returning senior members, while seeming content with their current posts, also want to lead the party.
He has so far managed to calm the restive youths over his electoral loss using his “stolen poll” and legitimacy claims but they are set to lose currency soon as his suggestion for a two-year power sharing arrangement with President Emmerson Mnangagwa sold him out for who he is – an opportunistic leader who is just after power even at the expense of the two million people who voted for him. This showed that he lacks the grit and mettle to remove zanu-pf from power. He lacks the necessary power to keep standing until 2023. He is just out of touch with political reality that is staring him in the face.
His lack of appreciation of basic economics will see him being sidelined by the party’s handlers – the Americans – for their favourite child, Biti. His student activism politics pale into nothingness command compared to people such as Mwonzora who were extensively involved when the first serious opposition party in Zimbabwe, the now-defunct, Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) was formed in 1990.
His use of people such as organising secretary, Amos Chibaya and Patson Dzamara to threaten and discourage other senior members from contesting him make the sacred principle of democracy a kindergarten joke and reduces his standing as a democrat to a village bully among herd boys. To sum it up: Chamisa simply has no future in Zimbabwean politics.