MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa is simply a face representing an ongoing struggle against a multifaceted catastrophe that has been ravaging the livelihoods of the ordinary people of Zimbabwe for far too long.
To construe him as a loner trying to destabilise the status quo is a fallacy that not only needs revision, but also deserves to be discarded if we are to better understand what makes him popular among the masses.
Zanu PF has since chosen, however, to narrowly focus on capturing institutions, including attempts to annihilate the opposition, in its insatiable quest for a one-party state, a diabolical dream whose architects were stopped dead in their tracks by progressive thinkers in the first decade of Independence. The misguided obsession with “destroying” Chamisa has left the ruling party and its leadership exposed in its failure to grasp the demands of the suffering and dejected citizens, who are convinced that it is Zanu PF’s failed leadership which is responsible for the mess that has rendered a once vibrant economy desolate.
The raging leadership squabbles in the opposition MDC parties are an intriguing scenario helping to lay bare the fact that Zanu PF is missing the point. Instead of expending its energies on supporting and oiling confusion in the opposition through machinations revolving around the law and constitutionalism, the ruling party should realise that several vices afflicting the nation are rooted in alarming levels of unemployment, poor health and education delivery systems, corruption, insensitivity to the plight of impoverished workers, lootocracy, skyrocketing prices not in tandem with workers’ earnings, among a host of other tribulations.
On top of these ills, it is also essentially correct to infer that the marauding global Covid-19 pandemic is a salient catalyst for uprisings in struggling economies like Zimbabwe, given implications associated with it on the economic front.
With hordes of Zimbabweans returning home from South Africa, especially, the likelihood of a mass revolt in the coming months or years appears inevitable if the country fails to cater for its people through the creation of jobs to end the paralysing hunger that has left several families struggling to put a basic meal on the table. Extreme poverty is now endemic.
In the aftermath of the July 2018 general elections, Zanu PF and the MDC were locked in a legal battle as the latter sought to nullify the poll outcome that recognised President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the country’s legitimate leader, having garnered just over 50% of the vote. Chamisa’s constitutional appeal proved futile. After that, several and now seemingly void choreographed events ensued, such as the Kgalema Motlanthe commission, which sought answers into the daylight murder of innocent civilians in Harare for demanding the early release of presidential results.
Among these stage-managed theatrics was the formation of the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), involving losing presidential candidates and Mnangagwa. The grouping, since its formation, has proved to be just another joke choking the already simmering emotions in the hearts of the oppressed masses by the ruling elite. Polad is offering no tangible positive outcome, except piling more misery on the hemorrhaging fiscus through unnecessary expenditure.
Interestingly, Chamisa is not part of Polad, since he insisted on Mnangagwa’s legitimacy issue. These funny but painful psychological games are obtaining before a population that has been demanding answers from its government for many years since the time of the late former president Robert Mugabe.
Once described as the jewel of Africa by Tanzania’s founding father Julius Nyerere, Zimbabwe is now well-known for endless political tussling, leadership ineptitude, mental torture and run down infrastructure. The economic achievements the country registered from 1980 until the 1990s have been widely eroded and the remaining story to tell is that the desert landscape was once a tropical rainforest. So sad is the dereliction that those at the helm of power pretend not to know the nation deserves better. For now the country has been on a freefall and hopes of recovery are slim, unless pragmatism is embraced as the driving leadership ethos.
This is a reminder; the MDC or any other opposition is not the appropriate target — the enemy is hunger, impoverishment and lack of visionary leadership. The government’s Vision 2030, based on hollow rhetoric and bankrupt governance, will remain a sad fairytale, a utopia meant to buy time such that those on the Zanu PF gravy train can safeguard themselves as they loot for more decades to come.
Back to Chamisa and the MDC wrangle. While Douglas Mwonzora and Thokozani Khupe are over the moon proclaiming legal victories against their political nemesis Chamisa — their triumph lacks the bedrock support (the people) — a vital cog in any political movement. In politics, you ignore the masses at your own peril, and Zanu PF certainly knows better. During the struggle for Independence, did it not rely on the ordinary people to successfully wage a war against the repressive regime of Ian Smith? Would Zanla and Zpra forces have become legitimate participants in the 1979 Lancaster House Conference if they did not matter to the masses? Scoring victories in “captured” courts is meaningless if such outcomes do no translate to popular appeal.
While Chamisa has been cornered on all fronts since the 2018 elections, through legal routes resembling a script well-written by the Zanu PF masters of dictatorship, his popular appeal has not vanished. The masses hardly align themselves with Khupe or Mwonzora for a simple reason — their fraternisation with Zanu PF compromises their determination to fight despotism. The same fate will definitely befall Morgen Komichi, who recently ditched the MDC-Alliance, and Elias Mudzuri whose association with the ruling party will likely consign him to political oblivion. It is unfortunate that many politicians in Zimbabwe replicate the same errors without learning from history that a revolution is not a personal project — it is an organic idea nourished by the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary people and cannot be destroyed overnight.
The wave of change started way back in the late 1990s with the emergence of the Zimbabwe Unity Movement, led by the late Egdar Tekere, developed and perfected by economic turmoil in the aftermath of the country’s participation in the Democratic Republic of Congo war; November 14, 1997 Black Friday, when the state printed money for war veterans gratuities; food riots in 1998; the 2000 constitutional referendum, which all culminated in the rise of a formidable opposition MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai. The same movement is still alive, with its face being Chamisa since he provides what the electorate visualises as an alternative discourse in the quest for emancipation from brutality and tyranny.
The November 2017 coup aptly buttresses this notion. Zimbabweans flooded the streets and celebrated Mugabe’s downfall, not because they believed in military rule, but because they hoped the fall of Mugabe’s dictatorship would present them a face to lead the imagined new phase of development that would lead the country towards a better economy. It is not Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga (then Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander) who was popular during the November coup — it is the sentiment of dislike for oppression — the ultimate desire for change that was popular. Hence today Mnangagwa is struggling to convince the world that he can steer that change. This void of leadership leaves Chamisa as the only threat to Zanu PF, considering the electorate expressed confidence in him despite losing by a narrow margin in 2018.
Zanu PF should not waste national resources bankrolling chaos in the opposition or capturing greedy and selfish individuals in MDC parties or any other sector. That will not equate to mass popularity. The ordinary person in Zimbabwe is not asking for endless jaunts to the Far East in private jets — he or she is simply appealing for rescue from the jaws of impoverishment and the decimation of decent livelihood. That should be the ruling party’s target. With political will, this can be achieved through credible dialogue involving Chamisa.
Zanu PF, by desperately plotting to sideline him, is quickening its march towards political and economic damnation. With the likes of Khupe and Mwonzora, victories will remain confined to the courts (not arguing against upholding of constitutionalism), while grassroots supporters are singing a funeral dirge for them.
Like I have written before, the Smith-Abel Muzorewa 1979 Zimbabwe-Rhodesia pact template will not salvage Zimbabwe from this economic mess, it can only get worse.
Nyoni is Zimbabwe Independent sub-editor.
— Zimbabwe Independent