Zimbabwe: Of Shrinking Internal Democratic Space in MDC

27 March 2020
opinion

One of the key changes which President Mnangagwa rang on his assumption of power in November 2017 was opening up the democratic space. This saw MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa clocking over 80 campaign rallies in areas that were previously regarded as no-go areas for the opposition.

Unfortunately, the lesson of this game changing and ground-breaking move was completely lost on Chamisa.

Instead of drawing a valuable lesson from the President's decision, he went on to implement the exact opposite. Since taking over from the late, Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018, Chamisa has distinguished himself not as a firebrand champion of democracy as his followers expected.

On the contrary, Chamisa has been obsessively pre-occupied with consolidating his grip on the party to the extent of being a present threat to internal democracy.

Sham congress

Given the controversial and unorthodox manner in which he elbowed out rightful heirs to the MDC throne such as Thokozani Khupe and grassroots favourites like the party's deputy secretary for international relations, Douglas Mwonzora, the opposition leader went on to ring-fence his position ahead of the party's May 2019 elective congress by asking delegates to ensure that they endorse him as party leader in the next congress defeating the sacrosanct principle of democracy.

The event ended up being an occasion to endorse and not elect him as lobbied by a few of his close hangers-on such as secretary general, Charlton Hwende, youth assembly leader, Obey Sithole.

The MDC Bulawayo province turned down the suggestion by Chamisa that former MDC-N leader, Professor Welshman Ncube, be considered for one of the vice presidents of the party.

They roundly rejected Prof Ncube citing that he was "not presidential material."

This was a euphemism to point out that they were not happy with someone who left the party in 2005 and formed his own party only to return and grab one of the top posts at the expense of long-serving senior members such as Tabitha Khumalo, who remained faithful to the MDC.

Despite the province's objection, Prof Ncube was railroaded to one of the vice presidents' positions in the party after contributing 10 head of cattle to the event.

So much for internal democracy in a political party which touts itself as a "party of excellence."

Strangler of democracy

Following the July 30, 2018 harmonised election, Chamisa displayed his paranoid autocratic tendencies again when he attempted to flagrantly disrespect the party's electorate by dictating who should be mayors in towns and cities where the MDC dominated.

Many will remember how Chamisa attempted to impose his own mayors in Bulawayo, Chitungwiza, Masvingo and Victoria Falls against the will of the winning councillors who represented the wishes of the electorate that chose them.

In Victoria Falls, the residents threatened to frustrate the election process if Chamisa insisted on his own mayoral choice, Councillor Margaret Valley of Ward 1 instead of the people's choice Councillor Somvelo Dlamini.

The popular civic leader was frustrated by being expelled two times before being summarily expelled in February this year on trumped up charges of violating party rules and undermining protocol.

Systematic decimation of internal "enemies"

The Dlamini case is just a tip of a large deep-seated iceberg of internal undeclared war between Chamisa and his internal adversaries who are fronted by the party's deputy president, Tendai Biti and deputy chairperson, Job Sikhala who nurse ambitions to unseat the 42-year old leader.

While the acceptance into the MDC of people such as Biti, Prof Ncube and Sikhala gave the impression of a magnanimous and mature Chamisa, they present an uncomfortable grain of sand in his tight-fitting shoe.

This has created a paranoid Chamisa who now sees shadows at every turn.

Consequently, post-congress, Chamisa is on a war path with everyone who is perceived to pose a threat to his position.

The increasingly undemocratic Chamisa has taken to relentlessly pursuing senior members who are perceived to be popular such as Mwonzora.

The latter was recently gagged from speaking with the media on party matters and severely warned by Hwende for voicing his concern over the MDC's liaison with the G40 kingpin, Professor Jonathan Moyo.

Mwonzora is not on his own in this predicament. In November 2018, a Chamisa running dog, Hwende embarrassingly confronted senior member and senator, Elias Mudzuri for setting foot at State House and shaking hands with President Mnangagwa when the latter met parliament's presiding officers.

In Masvingo Province, the James Gumbi-led executive was summarily suspended for insubordination after it was found that there were 16 districts in the province which had parallel structures.

Everyone in the MDC knows, though, that Gumbi and company were kicked out for being Biti people, the same reason why people such as Dlamini have been continuously tormented and vilified.

Gagging democracy

Not even MDC-A Glen View South legislator and son to the late Tsvangirai, Vincent has been spared Chamisa's undemocratic wrath which is exercised and executed through his fawning hatchet man, Hwende.

This month Vincent told Parliament that the illegal sanctions which were imposed on Zimbabwe were hurting ordinary Zimbabweans and Hwende sprang into action.

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