MDC-T president Nelson Chamisa this week continued his momentum to consolidate his leadership of the MDC Alliance with the high-profile visit to London, where he met United Kingdom senior government officials, parliamentarians and some members of the opposition Labour party amid concerns over his presentation.
By Wongai Zhangazha/Nkululeko Sibanda
Chamisa, who assumed the leadership of the mainstream pposition MDC in February following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai, met British Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Africa minister Harriett Baldwin, among many others, in his first trip abroad as party leader.
On his visit, Chamisa gave well received speeches at the Oxford Union and Chatham House, which impressed some, as he emphasised calls for an independent electoral body, a proper oversight over the voters’ roll and election materials, an impartial military that respects the election result, media and legislative reforms, the early arrival of international monitors, a peaceful vote, fair distribution of food handouts to the needy and depoliticisation of traditional leaders.
In his address at the Oxford Union, Chamisa also stressed the need for a change of government in Zimbabwe, saying the country faces a leadership crisis. On Tuesday, Chamisa gave a presentation at Chatham House Africa on his “efforts to build a united opposition coalition with a strong message, the steps needed to ensure a free and fair election can take place, and the role that international partners can play in Zimbabwe’s democratic process.”
Chamisa, however, expressed concern over what he said was the inclination of the British government “to align with one political party against another” in Zimbabwe. Chamisa also addressed big rallies, showing his growing public appeal among Zimbabweans at home and abroad.
However, Chamisa’s speech at Chatham House was criticised by a professor of African History at the University of Liverpool, Diana Jeater, who was unimpressed with his presentation.
“Chamisa did make some significant points. He observed that Zimbabwe has been a nation without ideas, and needs to regain the sense of vision and purpose from the liberation struggle era. He wants to build on the liberation struggle, moving from liberation to transformation.
“Chamisa mapped out the five pillars of his programme: governance (devolve, decentralise, decorrupt); economy (depoliticise,); social rights (women, children, disabled, weak); infrastructure (‘lines of civilisation’); and international relations (rejoin ‘family of nations’),” Jeater wrote.
“I like the call for Big Ideas not Big Men. But I didn’t get a strong sense of the transformation Chamisa promises. Much of the programme seems reactive and retrogressive, boiling down to ‘we’re not Zanu’. As one questioner pointed out, it’s hard to identify MDC distinctives. More importantly, though, some things just didn’t add up. A call for Big Ideas is not in itself a Big Idea. Chamisa’s only Big Idea seems to be changing the government. There were a lot of technocratic fixes, but most of them are in Zanu PF’s programme as well.”
Jeater criticised the MDC Alliance’s proposal on the economy, arguing that it did not offer much of a solution to Zimbabwe’s declining economy.
“Economy proposal: Value Added. Yes, it makes sense. Don’t export raw, but process. Mining, specifically but this has been Zanu policy for a decade and Zanu PF’s 2011 ban on chrome ore exports was lifted in 2015 because there wasn’t processing capacity and the sector collapsed. That doesn’t mean that the policy is wrong-headed. But it’s wrong-headed to present it as your Big Idea, rather than as an already-existing difficult problem to be ‘resolved’. What is MDC’s solution to the lack of processing capacity in the chrome industry? That’s the issue,” Jeater said.
“Economy proposal: Get rid of the bond notes and have a proper currency ‘within’ the multi-currency regime. No explanation for why anyone would use this local currency or how its value against the dollar would be fixed and sustained. Economy proposal: Produce more within the multi-currency system (unclear how) and focus on technology to develop ‘smart’ agriculture. Means what? As I observed to Chinamasa at Chatham last year: if it’s not serious about climate change, any new agricultural policy will fail.”
She warned Chamisa on proposals of revisiting all existing partnership deals with government to make sure they are not “shady” and “shifting relationships with foreign investors”, saying that the MDC Alliance needed to be careful as this sounded like they were telling the Chinese to go home.
Jeater also questioned how the MDC Alliance would create jobs and replace lost remittances fearing that the opposition political party presented it more as a “voluntarist aspiration” than a strategy.
“Governance: very thin, mostly about elections, not what happens after? Questioned on what MDC Alliance will do if electoral process reforms don’t meet all their demands. Response: we won’t boycott but we won’t accept result. How? There are few peaceful ways to ‘refuse’ to accept an election result. Chamisa said EU, UN, GB could intervene. An audience member asked, in all seriousness, whether there would be an invasion ‘as happened to Saddam Hussein’ if the election wasn’t agreed to be free & fair,” Jeater wrote.
“I’m sure Chamisa doesn’t want external invasion. But there was no sense of strategy behind this absolutist posturing, and that feels dangerous. It encourages those who prefer military solutions to Zimbabwe’s political problems. Gender: That ‘Joke’ and Chamisa’s failure to apologise for suggesting that speaking of women as chattels is a ‘funny’ way to respond to a question of what MDC Alliance will do if it loses the vote. His lack of apology implies a poor grasp of both gender and leadership.”
l Meanwhile, Thokozani Khupe’s MDC-T formation will tomorrow launch its US$1 million 2018 general elections campaign and manifesto at a ceremony to be held in Bulawayo. Khupe broke ranks with the Chamisa-led MDC-T party citing un-constitutionalism, violence, and intimidation.
In an interview, Linda Masarira, the spokesperson of Khupe’s party, said the launch would herald the long road to the harmonised elections campaign.
“Our launch is taking place on Saturday in Bulawayo. It will mark the beginning of our national campaign for the elections. As a party, we are working on a million dollar campaign where we are going to be fielding candidates in all the constituencies,” she said.
Masarira said her party’s campaign was dubbed BEST, an acronym for Building an Economy that Supports Transformation.