THE ongoing battle for the heart and soul of the MDC is unfortunate, coming at a time Zimbabwe needs a strong, united and focussed opposition to tackle President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s incompetent administration, as economic collapse gathers momentum on the back of corruption and ill-thought-out polices.
But it is also an opportunity for the opposition to show its mettle despite facing trials and tribulations, exacerbated by a powerful military-controlled Zanu PF hand operating in the shadows. The opposition should reflect on its troubled past and make a renewed commitment to upholding constitutionalism at all times. This will shut the door on dirty and crafty operators waiting in the wings to pounce on any shortcomings and sow seeds of confusion.
The squabbles in the MDC can be traced back to the party’s funding leader and former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s unconstitutional decision to elevate current MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri to the MDC-T vice-presidency, to join Thokozani Khupe, who was elected at the party’s 2014 congress. Cracks further widened when Tsvangirai died in February 2018, resulting in a messy succession battle which ended with Chamisa ascending to the helm of the party in a dramatic manner, albeit without going to an extraordinary congress.
Chamisa proved his popularity in the 2018 general elections where he garnered more than two million votes despite controversially losing to Mnangagwa. Khupe ran as the MDC-T candidate, managing just over 45 500 votes.
The MDC-Alliance congress in May 2019 tightened Chamisa’s grip, but a controversial Supreme Court ruling in March, ordering the MDC to revert to 2014 MDC-T structures pending an extraordinary congress, set new battle lines, while putting Khupe in command.
The court found that Chamisa and Mudzuri were elevated unlawfully, and that Chamisa’s rise to the presidency was illegal.In a country where national institutions, including independent commissions and the judiciary, are under the firm control of government, many believe Zanu PF influenced the judgement.
It is, however, clear that in this case, the shadowy Zanu PF hand only operated because of weaknesses in the opposition. The lesson should be that constitutionalism must never be disregarded, lest you open doors to manipulation.
With the economy haemorrhaging, Zimbabwe needs a strong opposition which can hold the government to account, while presenting itself as a viable government in waiting.
In Chamisa, the opposition has a vibrant, eloquent and popular leader. In the likes of David Coltart, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, the opposition has some of the best brains in the country. But the major strength lies in the party’s massive support base.
The challenge is for the MDC to rise and defy the headwinds. The people are ready for action; they are waiting for a signal.