Is Chamisa losing grip?

The Chronicle

Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor

THE revolt by councillors against MDC Alliance leader, Mr Nelson Chamisa, over his alleged attempts to impose candidates in the coalition-controlled councils is significant in showing his loose grip on the party.

About four MDC Alliance-dominated councils including Bulawayo and Chitungwiza have gone against Mr Chamisa’s “guided democracy,” refusing to back the candidates that their boss has reportedly endorsed.

In Bulawayo, councillors are reportedly resisting Mr Chamisa choice of Ward 23 councillor Mr Solomon Mguni who is also said to be enjoying the support of MDC-T provincial chairperson, Mr Gift Banda.

Mr Chamisa had further instructed that Ward One Councillor, Mlandu Ncube, also said to be a Mr Banda political project, be elevated to the position of deputy mayor.

The two preferred candidates are facing resistance from other councillors who have thrown their weight behind Clr Norman Hlabani (Ward 26) for mayor and Clr Tinashe Kambarami (Ward 3) for deputy mayor.

So fierce were the tensions this week that Mr Chamisa reportedly sent one of the party’s directors Mr Farai Chinobva to “whip” the councillors into line ahead of the election of the two posts initially scheduled for the Large City Hall on Tuesday but postponed to tomorrow.

Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube, announcing the postponement of the election, said they had established that it was illegal for the special council meeting to be moved from the council chambers to the Large City Hall.

The provincial leadership has also reportedly launched a “do or die” campaign, a threat to the dissenting councillors that they either vote for the candidates blessed by Mr Chamisa or are expelled from the party.

Our sister paper, The Herald, yesterday reported that in Chitungwiza there was a standoff that almost scuttled the swearing in of councillors and election of mayor as the councillors protested Mr Chamisa’s imposition of Clr Gift Tsverere.

While it is reported that Clr Tsverere eventually won the elections, the process was not without drama as two MDC Alliance councillors, in protest against Mr Chamisa’s alleged imposition, voted for a Zanu-PF candidate.

The MDC-Alliance councillors and supporters in Chitungwiza preferred former deputy mayor, Clr Goodwill Mushangwe, for the mayoral post.

During the chaotic scenes, reported The Herald, MDC Alliance senior members who included Mr Voice Chinake, Mr Morgan Femai, Mr Dickson Tarusenga and Mr Job Sikhala refused to vacate the chamber to pave way for a smooth election, reportedly to ensure Mr Chamisa’s interests were protected by intimidating the councillors.

The opposition party’s supporters caused further delays to the election process as they became rowdy, shouting obscenities against Mr Chamisa’s alleged imposition of Clr Tsverere.

The open defiance by party officials and supporters towards Mr Chamisa sets the party on a path for more dramatic scenes as it prepares for its elective congress.

Already there are reports of simmering tensions within structures over the election of members of the respective provincial executives.

Another issue waiting to explode is the election of Mr Chamisa’s deputy should their plan to collapse the parties in the coalition into one organisation succeed.

There are whispers that divisions are likely to emerge within the Alliance as members are divided between MDC president Professor Welshman Ncube and Bulawayo proportional representation legislator Ms Thabitha Khumalo.

After failing to win the July 30 presidential elections, Mr Chamisa is now faced with the stark reality of his legitimacy crisis stemming from the events that followed the death of founding MDC leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai in February this year.

Mr Chamisa was at the time involved in a succession battle with his then co-MDC-T deputies Engineer Elias Mudzuri and Dr Thokozani Khupe.

After Mr Tsvangirai’s death, Mr Chamisa quickly, allegedly in violation of party processes, took over the party’s leadership and hounded Dr Khupe and her allies Mr Obert Gutu, Mr Abednicho Bhebhe among others out of the party.

This was not before Dr Khupe and company were subjected to assault during the burial of Mr Tsvangirai in Buhera to the point of almost being burnt inside a hut. As she later narrated her ordeal, Dr Khupe said the youths were intent on burning them to death and they were only saved by the hut’s wet thatch as a result of rains that had pounded the area earlier on.

Events were later to take an interesting twist when the battle over the MDC-T party spilled into the courts and a settlement was reached that Mr Chamisa will register for the elections as leader of MDC Alliance while Dr Khupe retained the MDC-T brand and is now party leader.

It is the unresolved legitimacy issue that is coming to haunt Mr Chamisa after the euphoria of the elections has died down.

Eng Mudzuri forewarned Mr Chamisa of his troubles when, just before the elections, he indicated that the party might change its leadership should he (Mr Chamisa) lose the presidency. He said some party members had “followed the wind” in backing Mr Chamisa after the death of Mr Tsvangirai.

Eng Mudzuri also said the Dr Khupe’s issue could have been handled differently in a way that would have not caused damage to the party.

This, coupled with circulating reports of a fallout between Mr Chamisa and the duo of party secretary general Mr Douglas Mwonzora and Eng Mudzuri, also threatens his position as the party leader.

The events this week in MDC Alliance-run councils could serve as a precursor to Mr Chamisa’s political troubles and his absence from the Ninth Parliament would not help matters either.

As the events unfold, Mr Chamisa’s political troubles look almost set to keep mounting as he totally loses his grip, if at all he ever had it, of his party and most likely its leadership.