Zimbabwe: Chamisa’s Strategy of Ambiguity Is Backfiring Badly

Yoliswa Moyo Correspondent

Those who knew Mr Nelson Chamisa from his university days knew him as a charismatic, fired up student leader.

He carried this allure into mainstream politics and soon became no stranger to the nation.

Under the wings of the late Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, Mr Chamisa seemed to have comfortably carved a niche for himself in opposition politics. Some loved him for his eloquence. He appeared level headed and appealed to those looking for a pragmatic alternative.

Nero, as he is popularly known on the streets, soon became the face of the opposition in the country.

However, he started plotting his own downfall when he grabbed power from Dr Thokozani Khupe in dramatic and violent fashion and set out to build a political party “in his own image”.

Dr Khupe was in line to succeed the late Mr Tsvangirai, who was the founding leader of the MDC, which gave birth to numerous opposition parties and subsequently Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

Dr Khupe was the vice-president of the party elected at the party congress before Mr Tsvangirai appointed Senator Elias Mudzuri and Mr Chamisa as co-vice-presidents in 2016.

When Mr Tsvangirai died, Mr Chamisa manoeuvred his way up to the throne. Analysts say he set out to create a political party where himself and only himself would have a voice of reason and a monopoly of ideas.

All other political players running fragmented outfits like Mr Tendai Biti (People’s Democratic Party), Mr Welshman Ncube (MDC N), Mr Job Sikhala (MDC 99), Mr Jacob Ngarivhume (Transform Zimbabwe), among others, were enticed to come under the shed anchored on him as the trunk of the tree.

It is for that reason that some people on social media said CCC stood for Chamisa Chete Chete (Chamisa is in charge). This approach was however, very problematic.

In the run-up to the August 2023 general elections, Mr Chamisa was accused of side-lining the old guard and replacing them with new faces who only knew him as the leader and “demigod”.

While CCC wanted to fool the world and say they were a democratic grouping that offered a better pool of leadership for the citizens of Zimbabwe, that was far from the truth.

This was evidenced by the party’s failure to conduct free and fair internal polls ahead of the Nomination Court and the confusion preceding the submission of nomination papers.

It is no longer a secret that Mr Chamisa imposed candidates in council, parliamentary and senate in many areas.

The chaos in Bulawayo and Gwanda where his party fielded candidates late was blamed on him as the party list came late, with a lot of surprises as some people who had won primaries were replaced by those they had defeated in the primaries.

Mr Chamisa’s election strategy was shrouded in mystery with members complaining of the lack of transparency.

He cited “strategic ambiguity” which instead of guarding against infiltration as he had hoped, ended up destroying the party.

Mr Chamisa said he was “keeping the strategy to his chest”, which further cast doubt on his secret society and no-structures-strategy, further undermining the opposition’s prospects.

Just when the country thought election season was over, in came Mr Sengezo Tshabangu as the CCC’s interim secretary-general, with a truckload of recalls.

These recalls amplified internal divisions that threaten to undercut the opposition’s credibility and effectiveness. Internal strife, power struggles and conflicting interests have significantly weakened the CCC.

The CCC is no longer a compelling alternative and a significant chunk of the electorate has lost hope in the party. The crisis that the CCC finds itself in was authored by Mr Chamisa himself from the very beginning because of his self-centred approach.

In the last five years, it has been fight after fight over one thing or the other in the opposition instead of focusing on developmental issues that benefit the masses.

The country is being set back in millions of dollars due to recalls necessitated by a fragmented opposition because Mr Chamisa lost control. One would think with all those lawyers fronting the opposition, they would know a thing or two about structure and constitutionalism.

Mr Chamisa has failed to take a stand and lead the opposition effectively. Even when his followers expected him to do something to save the party, he instead threw in a verse or two from behind his X handle.

There’s nothing wrong with having faith and believing in God but faith without works is dead. What Mr Chamisa needs is a solid plan.

The birds are chirping that a new party to be fronted by Mr Chamisa has been formed although there is yet to be formal communication to that effect. Strategic ambiguity once again? One can only wonder.

Whatever new party Mr Chamisa decides to lead should have a solid structure. It should also have a solid constitution otherwise he will spend the rest of his political career fronting movements that crumble or slip through his fingers.

He should learn from the ruling party Zanu PF which has stood the test of time, has one centre of power and adheres to its constitution.

Nero has no one but himself to blame for what has become of the opposition — a disorganised, clowning lot that doesn’t give precedence to the people’s needs or their development. — Bulawayo Bureau

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