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The cult of Nelson Chamisa’s personality

Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
Nelson Chamisa appears before the Motlanthe Commission that is investigating the post-election violence in Zimbabwe.

He typically makes it a political showcase. All political watchers should have known it.

Despite earlier stated misgivings, he would have loved this moment, to make a poor attempt of Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia Trial.

Poor Elias Mudzuri. He is hounded by a section of his party’s supporters for attending Parliament business at State House where he and other presiding officers meet the Head of State and Government.

Mudzuri is a marked man. Some hawks want him out of the MDC Alliance, the political party led by Chamisa, for being the alternative and potential leader of the opposition.

All this took place on Monday.

Morgan Tsvangirai (May his soul rest in eternal peace)

He was the firebrand leader of the opposition as he blossomed from a trade unionist.

Tsvangirai rose from a cauldron of economic, political and social forces that shaped the 1990s as Zimbabwe grappled with typical post-colonial challenges.

Zimbabwe abandoned the socialist model that had been sold during the war and adopted during the early years of Independence in 1980, choosing to pursue structural adjustment and market economics under the reforms of the Bretton Woods institutions.

This resulted in the change and dislocation of not only governance but also how the State reconfigured the economy and social services. Needless to say, for the worst.

Structural adjustment did not work in Zimbabwe – as pretty much elsewhere.

The social contract – that “actual or hypothetical agreement among the members of an organised society or between a community and its ruler that defines and limits the rights and duties of each” – loosened.

It was then that civil society, that is, students, churches and labour; etc, coalesced into a movement that was unhappy with their Government because they felt their rights were being ignored or ill served by a Government that had lost its moral compass and direction to perform its duties.

When in 1999 the MDC was formed there was little doubt as to what had precipitated its formation and the ideals it espoused.

It was for democracy and largely civil and political rights that had been seen to be eroded progressively in the era.

Tsvangirai became the face of the opposition.

He will always be located within the context of the struggles that faced the worker, the student and ordinary person of a particular worldview and within an era.

It also followed that his currency waned progressively as the conditions that created him, and indeed that he thrived in, changed over the years.

Tsvangirai died on February 14, 2018.

A part of the MDC – for all he had done to the movement as a result of his commissions and omissions – died with him.

Enter Nelson Chamisa

Chamisa succeeded the former trade unionist, muscling out Thokozani Khupe and Elias Mudzuri – at the “young” age of 40.

Immediately, the contrasts between Chamisa and Tsvangirai became keen.

An important contrast for the benefit of this submission is the fact that whereas Tsvangirai was shaped by a range of political, economic and social forces that constituted an imagined movement, Chamisa comes to the fray on the basis of his personality and young age.

(Chamisa was part of the MDC at its formation in 1999 but he was hardly shaped or did shape the process that led to its birth in the manner that Tsvangirai and others of his cohort did.)

The chief attribute of Chamisa being young will help explain his leadership of the opposition in the past few months and how this will affect his future politics.

In the last election, MDC-Alliance’s main selling point was his age as well as purported charisma.

He was variably referred to as a boy or the young man: as is, “Why don’t we give the young man a chance?” or “Let the boy do the work”; etc.

It was presupposed that age alone would do the job.

Policy did not matter – it would not matter.

For his own part, Chamisa acted out the quintessential youth, pulling histrionics such performing physical stunts colloquially known as press-ups to demonstrate his vitality.

On the other hand, his messaging was couched in the tradition of young charismatic preachers who promise heaven on earth.

He promised bullet trains, airports at rural growth points and making Harare into another Las Vegas. And every ridiculous fantasy in between.

He did not have to be accurate, believable or realistic.

He had to sell a dream or a fantasy because it was him.

Again, just like the charismatic, Pentecostal preachers whose survival is pinned on guile and suavity – and zero substance.

The introduction of a religious aspect under the hashtag #GodIsInIt yet another dimension of Chamisa.

The cult of Chamisa’s personality has been born.

Historically, the term “cult of personality” has been used to describe the concentration of all power in a single charismatic leader within a totalitarian state and the near deification of that leader in state propaganda. That character is portrayed through a larger-than-life public image and is subject to flattery and praise as he is praised for his perceived extraordinary courage, knowledge, wisdom, or any other superhuman quality necessary for legitimating the totalitarian regime. The cult of personality is meant to perpetuate the leadership of the character discourage open criticism, and justify whatever their political decisions.

Chamisa has had no shortage of praise singers.

His supporters have also turned out to be violent and abusive, something that has become so widespread in the age of social media.

It all comes together.

The MDC of Tsvangirai is gone, and with it the decency of opposition politics.

Chamisa is driven by his ego and strange ideas that he is ordained to govern. He has an army of zealots that believe that a god is in it.

They will attack and humiliate those that do not agree with them. They will attempt to burn people alive and destroy property because they think they are serving a political god.

All Chamisa has is his “young” age and ‘’charisma’’, imbued in some religious mysticism.

We are told that this is “generational consensus”.

It can’t be, honestly.

Source :

The Herald

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