10 January 2018

Zimbabwe: MDC-T's Succession Cesspool

opinion

Zimbabwe woke up to the refreshing news last Friday that President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa would visit ZANU PF's arch-rival, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is battling the emaciating colon cancer.

Indeed, the President, with his Vice President, Retired General Constantino Chiwenga, in tow, visited Tsvangirai at his Highlands residence to wish him well and bring closure to the issue of his outstanding benefits owed to him by Government on account of him having been the country's Prime Minister.

It was a hearty sight, seeing the three in warm embraces. It was a symbolic sight, revealing a break from the toxicity of the country's previous politics. It was a break from the past -- a new dispensation of politics of tolerance. A politics of humanity, Ubuntu.

However, the principal outcome that was triggered by the pictures, showing political camaraderie among political rivals, was not expected. It was a case of unintended consequences. Zimbabweans, and indeed, MDC-T supporters, were aware that Tsvangirai was battling colon cancer.

However, what they all did not know was the devastating toll it had taken on the once gangly Tsvangirai. The pictures showed a Tsvangirai who had taken a severe battering from the cancer and incessant chemotherapy sessions. He has become a pale shadow of his former self. May the Lord help him recover soon, he is in our daily prayers to the Almighty.

Reality has struck. Zimbabwe is set to hold Presidential elections this year. Tsvangirai is the face of the MDC-T and its presidential candidate. Tsvangirai is the face of the MDC Alliance, a coalition with his erstwhile secretaries general, Prof Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti. But Tsvangirai is emaciated, is weary, is tired, is sick, and any sane person realised that he is incapable of withstanding the gruelling campaign trail ahead of the elections.

Politics is a dirty game where political opponents use all ammunition at their disposal to upstage their competitors, including their health. On that score alone, Tsvangirai is a monumental liability. ZANU-PF will certainly not pull any punches, it will go for the jugular -- that is politics stupid!

Suddenly, MDC-T, which has been stubbornly sticking to Tsvangirai despite successive defeats to ZANU-PF, finds itself in a succession cesspit. That party has three Vice Presidents -- Thokozani Khupe, Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa. Mudzuri is the acting president, Chamisa is representing Tsvangirai in the MDC Alliance and is in charge of candidate selection for the MDC-T ahead of the elections. Khupe, the most senior VP, who was elected at congress, appears to be in limbo and floating without a real mandate in terms of duties.

Even the debate in that party has conveniently ignored her in the succession matrix, choosing instead to pit Chamisa and Mudzuri, who were both hand-picked by Tsvangirai to neutralise Khupe, whose stock was rising in that party following Tsvangirai's health woes. The ugly patriarchal psyche in that party's politics is rearing its ugly head. Chamisa, a person ably trounced by Douglas Mwonzora during the last elective congress for the Secretary General's post, is suddenly being touted as the would-be successor. Chamisa failed to beat Mwonzora for the lowly post, compared to the presidency, which he is targeting.

It is ridiculous that Mwonzora in an interview on Monday with a local radio station said that he was neither rooting for Mudzuri, nor any of the other two VPs, to succeed Tsvangirai. He even ruled himself out of contention. But he can surely upstage Chamisa again! Chamisa is tainted by accusations of mismanaging the organising department during his tenure as organising secretary, where his reign was marked by candidate imposition.

Tsvangirai himself betrayed his preference for Chamisa to take over by saying he would hand over the baton to a new generation of leaders. Both Mudzuri and Khupe are hardly the new generation, they are Tsvangirai's generation. He deliberately hand-picked Chamisa to be his deputy. This has set the cat among the pigeons. Khupe is a woman. She is the most senior of the three VPs.

She has a political base in that party's politics in the western region. She has stood up against Tsvangirai over the MDC Alliance, a move that invited a beating from Tsvangirai's goons. She has successfully fought cancer, which she battled herself for some time. She comes from a minority tribe, and there appears to be a deliberate move to sideline her on account of tribal considerations and gender, disregarding her contribution to the growth of the opposition party.

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Mudzuri is on the quiet side. He was the first MDC mayor for Harare, but was ousted as that party's organising secretary after failing to adequately organise the party's structures, resulting in successive political defeats for that party. Based on seniority, Khupe fits the bill. Based on electability, Khupe, and even Mwonzora, fit the bill. Based on generational renewal, Chamisa fits the bill. Based on a cool head, Mudzuri fits the bill.

University of Kent law lecturer, Dr Alex Magaisa, has validly queried on Twitter, saying that "I'm intrigued by the fact that without even examining what they stand for or listening to their manifestos, some have already made up their minds as to who must take over should a vacancy arise in the MDC. Based on what exactly, I would be delighted to know."

The foregoing shows that the MDC-T, or is it the MDC Alliance, is doomed to face electoral annihilation in this year's elections as the party has no candidate a few months before the elections; has no electoral strategy; is battling succession, among a motley host of challenges. The succession battle will leave the floundering opposition further fractured with no time to heal. The election will be a walk-over for ZANU-PF, which is riding on a crest, following renewal wrought by Operation Restore Legacy, which ushered in the able leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The jury is out on who will lead the MDC-T into political defeat to ZANU-PF during the 2018 harmonised elections. Who will be the leader of the opposition, going forward. Who cares, after all, they will perennially be opposition leaders, bridesmaids to ZANU-PF!

Asante sana!

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