The Politics of the MDC-T


The former Prime Minster and long-time leader of the MDC-T opposition party has been laid to rest after an arduous battle with cancer.



Indeed he fought a good political fight in his time and will certainly be remembered in the history of Zimbabwe as one of the country’s leading lights, particularly in the post-independence and post land-reform phases of our history.



However, his greatest shortfall (as with most African leaders) is that he failed to resolve the succession issue in his party timeously.



Put plainly he did not have in place a succession plan by the time of his departure.



I have argued before, and I will state again here that clear succession plans should be explicitly put in place in every institution, especially if the institution intends to ensure that there is continuity after its leader departs.



This is true in families, family businesses, corporates, political parties, and any other form of organization.



Every institution must have a clear and explicit formal succession plan.



Having said that, recent events in the MDC-T serve as examples of how things go terribly bad when succession is not handled well in politics.



Zeal without Knowledge



Proverbs 19:12 reads “desire without knowledge is not good how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”



Like many Zimbabweans, I marvelled at the haste with which Nelson Chamisa and his faction anointed themselves as heirs to Dr. Tsvangirai’s throne almost immediately after Morgan Tsvangirai’s death was announced.



In fact before the late opposition party leader’s body had arrived at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International airport, Chamisa and crew had already called for a National Council meeting which hastily elevated Chamisa to the position of acting President for a 12 month period.



Immediately after that National Council meeting, pastor Chamisa addressed a song-and dance rally outside of Harvest House during which he declared himself leader to the unsuspecting and impressionable crowds of the MDC-T political laity who were innocently waiting to hear about Dr Tsvangirai’s funeral arrangements.



Instead, they were mischievously misled into believing that Nelson Chamisa was their new leader.



Yet, by calling for the 14 February 2018 meeting at Harvest House, and furthermore by addressing his self-anointing rally on the same day, Nelson Chamisa showed the world his unbridled desire to be president of the MDC-T, and his willingness to exercise haste in order to achieve those ends, yet foolishly so.



If Nelson Chamisa is as popular as he assumes he is, then why couldn’t he wait a few days for Dr. Tsvangirai to be buried before engaging in his succession politics?



It is my view that the rally held by Nelson Chamisa’s faction on February 14 outside of Harvest House was the major cause for the violent episodes that we saw during Dr. Tsvangirai’s funeral.



The fact is that the crowds that he addressed on 14 February consisted of youths, undoubtedly inflamed on chibuku, bronco and cheap liquor, who then took pastor Chamisa’s populism as gospel and that is where the danger began.




That was his first mistake.



Violence is Inexcusable



We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.Nelson Mandela



In 2014, the then MDC-T deputy treasury-general, Elton Mangoma and secretary-general, Tendai Biti were assaulted by a group of party youths for allegedly calling for leadership renewal in the party.



At the time they said they were attacked by “a drunken mob” and it was alleged that Nelson Chamisa was not far from the violence when Mangoma et al got thumped.



You see the reason why nobody believes Nelson Chamisa’s statements attempting to distance himself from the violent episodes at Dr. Tsvangirai’s funeral, is because he has been suspected of instigating violence before.



In fact a 2014 report of the Elton Mangoma related mayhem stated that “a four-minute, six seconds security video taken during the melee… saw Mangoma beaten up with punches and slaps all over his body by party youths, places Chamisa smack dab in the center of the incensed crowd, a few minutes before the assault.



“Standing amongst the crowd, which was singing and chanting, baying for Mangoma’s blood, snapshots from the video show Chamisa relating to some of the gathered youths.”



You see, given his reported participation in Mangoma’s 2014 attack, it is difficult to believe that Chamisa was not involved in the violence at Dr. Tsvangirai’s funeral, or in Dr. Khupe’s 2017 attack for that matter.



It is also therefore difficult to believe his statements distancing himself from the recent drama.



Given the intra-party violence that has occurred in the MDC-T in recent times at the alleged instigation of Chamisa, firstly against Mangoma and Biti and later against Khupe, one could be forgiven for thinking that pastor Chamisa is thuggish.




Apparently they charged “Chamisa, Chamisa” as they charged at a retreating Dr. Khupe.



All this unethical tomfoolery brings to mind the saying “You can take the homeboy out of Kuwadzana East, but you can’t take Kuwadzana East out of the homeboy.”



For a long time the nation has given Nelson Chamisa the benefit of the doubt, saying he’s youthful and educated.



However based upon recent events, it would seem he’s also power-hungry and violent.



His haste and desire for power have made him miss the way. That’s unbecoming of the political pastor.



My own view is that Nelson Chamisa is politically immature, and cannot capably fit the shoes of the late Dr. Morgan Tsvangirai. First it was his Trump and 15billion debacle and now this.



I think it is safe to say that Nelson Chamisa a local leader that should be confined to Kuwadzana East. He is not a national leader and in fact he has a lot of growing up to do politically.



Furthermore, my perception is that the constitutional leader of the MDC-T is Dr. Khupe, and she should be in charge of the party until the next congress.



Also, it would seem that Nelson Chamisa’s shenanigans have discredited him as a potential leader of the MDC-Alliance, and it is probable that Dr. Joice Mujuru will soon become the new face of the coalition.


Tau Tawengwa


Executive Director




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The Politics of Elections


With the hangover of the Zimbabwean July 31 2013 harmonized elections still taking its toll, it has been interesting to observe the various commentaries and analyses surrounding the poll result. For instance, there have been recurring allegations of excess ballot papers and fake voter registration slips that were allegedly used to rig the poll. Even Tendai Biti through his make-believe ‘Wanachi’ posts has made allegations that irregularities in Harare East almost lost him the constituency. However, it should be understood that the politics surrounding elections and voter behavior is complex, and therefore, that a national election result cannot be dismissed as ‘farce’ on the sole basis of irregularities.

Firstly, let’s speak of legitimacy. Legitimacy is the generally held belief that a particular social institution (in this case government) is justified and valid. So, for instance, after the Zimbabwean 2008 disputed run-off poll, the MDC’s agreement to enter into a coalition government with ZANU-PF gave that very government its legitimacy. Conversely, currently in Egypt, the legitimate election of a Morsi government has been sidelined by the imposition of an illegitimate government by way of a military coup.

Now, Jorge Aragón, from Saint Louis University in the USA has a work entitled:  Political Legitimacy and Democracy. In this work, he writes that “political legitimacy can be described as [the] people’s recognition and acceptance of the validity of the rules of their entire political system and the decisions of their rulers.” Simply put: when the main political players in a given system accept the rules of the system, they accordingly award the system its political legitimacy.

For instance, in the 2000 United States presidential elections, Democratic Party supporters (whose presidential candidate was Al Gore) made public accusations that the Republican presidential candidate George W Bush had ‘stolen’ the elections. However, because Al Gore had already entered into the presidential race and had thus given the process political legitimacy, his only option was to make a court application seeking an order to conduct a manual recount of the Florida vote. Although Gore was granted the order, it was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, making George W Bush the legitimate winner of that election.

Now, the vote-rigging accusations made by the Democrats in 2000 included allegations that “some 36,000 newly registered voters were turned away because their names had never been added to the voter rolls by Florida’s secretary of state Kathleen Harris,” and that “four to six million votes were left uncounted in the 2000 election” (New York Times, 15 September 2002).

Coming back to the Zimbabwean situation, the 2000 presidential vote in the United States demonstrates that the politics surrounding elections are far from perfect even in the most advanced democracies in the world. Secondly, the fact that Al Gore (as the candidate of the Democratic Party) approached the courts to seek remedy for what he perceived to be ‘irregularities’ speaks to his political maturity and to his understanding that the moment he entered into the presidential race he gave the electoral process  its political legitimacy. You see, he didn’t unilaterally declare the process ‘null and void,’ neither did his lieutenants call for some kind of ‘revolution’ or ‘passive resistance.’ The fact is that when a contestant enters into a race and competes, the contestant tacitly accepts the rules and fairness of the very race consequently making the race legitimate, even if he thinks that the odds are stacked against him.

Finally, when the U.S Supreme court made its ruling, Al Gore, in a nationally broadcast speech announced that he accepted George W Bush as the 43rd president. Maybe certain parties in Zimbabwe should consider following suit.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

Zimbabwe Elections 2013- Why they won’t form a coalition

zimraysProfessor Welshman Ncube, the presidential candidate and the leader of the smaller MDC party in Zimbabwe has launched his election manifesto and has unveiled a policy document entitled “Actions for Devolution.”

Simply put, devolution of power refers to the transfer of power from a central government to local units.

In the Zimbabwean electoral context, Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC party is campaigning for the decentralization of power and consequently, for the opportunity to give all the regions in Zimbabwe the self-determining authority to make developmental decisions.

Now, with the national harmonized election days away, a key question is whether or not Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC will form a last-minute grand coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T.

Although many opinions have been put forward concerning this issue, political analysts and commentators have however failed to recognize that this proposed coalition is a doubled-edged sword for both Tsvangirai and Ncube. As a result let me take the opportunity to unequivocally observe that this coalition will not be formed, for the following reasons:

•    Firstly, according to the MDC-T’s election manifesto the MDC-T
“is a social democratic party committed to serving all citizens….”
Conversely, the MDC led by professor Welshman Ncube has centered its campaign on the theme of devolution of power which, unlike the MDC-T’s position to serve “all” citizens, does not apply to citizens as a cohesive collective, but rather as separate groups. Furthermore, devolution of power as a political theme has internationally proven to be disorderly, divisive and in some instances deadly; the 27 year-long civil war in Sri Lanka is an example. Ultimately, there is a fundamental ideological rift between the two parties.

•    Now, bearing in mind that MDC-N is a party that principally draws legitimacy from the Bulawayo and Matabeleland provinces (provinces that largely feel as though they have been historically sidelined by the state in terms of infrastructure development and industrialization), if Professor Welshman Ncube forms a coalition with the MDC-T, his support base will perceive this as desertion and consequently the MDC-N will lose their supporters in the Bulawayo and Matabeleland regions.

•    Finally, the MDC-T seems to be desirous of this coalition on the maudlin basis that a united front with the MDC-N will dislodge ZANU-PF from power. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that this coalition will see to the end of ZANU-PF. In fact most research studies suggest that ZANU-PF will convincingly win the harmonized election, with or without the MDC coalition. It is therefore clear that for the MDC-N to sacrifice its political relevance in favor of a political union with a party that is ideologically distant, and on a basis that is not empirically justified, it would result in nothing short of political suicide.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director