By George Charamba (posted as @Jamwanda2)
I have intently listened to Douglas Mwonzora’s acceptance speech. A number of things stand out from that speech. I won’t waste time on his appeals for unity in the party; in politics all winners make that ritual. I will go straight to the nub.
First and foremost, he declared his [plan] to turn MDC-T into a ‘credible, effective BUT RESPONSIBLE’ opposition. Second, and as a follow up to the first point, he pledged to be an opposition that does not merely oppose BUT PROFFERS SOLUTIONS. To that end, he itemised things he wants to table before government for discussion and possible resolution. Almost all are NATIONAL and not PARTISAN, which seems to bear out his founding premises of recasting MDC-T as a RESPONSIBLE OPPOSITION.
Third, he offered losing candidates openings in leadership, stressing their contributions in the history of the party founded in 1999. SIGNIFICANTLY, he cast himself as SUCCESSOR to MORGAN RICHARD TSVANGIRAI, and not to all leaders who have led the MDC-T. That appears to indicate he considers all which happened following the demise of MT as interim and thus not substantive and compelling.
Noteworthy, he thanked Khupe for minding the affairs of the party before congress, and for being vice-president to [Tsvangirai]! Take particular note of that point. Noteworthy, too, he thanked Mudzuri for being the acting president of the party when Tsvangirai was indisposed, and for being the organising secretary of MDC-T under Tsvangirai. Komichi was sparsely applauded for his strategic value, whatever that means. In sum, Mwonzora views the time between the demise of Tsvangirai and now as a mere interregnum, a colourless one two, in which case he sees himself as direct heir to Tsvangirai.
Last [but] not least significant, Mwonzora made mention by name of only two political organisations in Zimbabwe: his MDC-T and ZANU-PF, both of which he placed on even, cooperating plenitude. Read together with the notion of RESPONSIBLE OPPOSITION, that seems to suggest engagement with the ruling party, something Khupe had started.
Much rests on how he relates to POLAD, although he hinted he believed in UNITY OF THE OPPOSITION. More has to be said adjunctively. He brought back the notion of THE BIG TENT which Tsvangirai broached in reaching out to erstwhile breakaway formations from the original MDC. Yet – and this is very significant – he never mentioned Nelson Chamisa and his MDC-Something by name!
Instead, he elected to refer to him and others SEVERALLY, urging them to rejoin the big tent, and assuring them that no questions will be asked, no recrimination executed. That suggests the message to Chamisa is for him to rejoin the MDC-T as an ordinary card-carrying member. The reaction and response of Chamisa is anyone’s guess. I don’t think Mwonzora can’t guess it either; he does. That means what that appeal does or seeks to do is to entice and cajole the remaining leaders, MPs, councillors, office holders and ordinary members in Chamisa’s party, as well as other marginal opposition formations to cross over to MDC-T under his leadership now that the interim phase is now over and resolved.
The gauntlet has been thrown and Chamisa will have to prove he can retain all those he still has. My hunch is we will see a few more high-level defections especially from the marginalized old guard and many others who have been sitting on the fence. Chamisa finds himself in a double-bind. He does not love Khupe who also loves [him] not. He hates Mwonzora who pays him back with his own coin. This appears to discount any new alliances, post-congress with all its imperfections which, by the way, are only typical and normal in this game of imperfection called politics.
Chamisa can no longer dilate on the name of his formation; or continue to tergiversate on his preferred team without showing weakness. The man to watch is [MDC Alliance deputy president] Tendai Biti whose attack dogs like Mbudziyadhura (nickname for journalist Hopewell Chin’ono) have been baring fangs already. The Americans prefer him to Chamisa and have been weakening him by channeling resources away from his formation to political NGOs which are controlled by Biti.
Lest we forget, Americans stepped in to save Biti at the Bulawayo Congress where Tsvangirai sought to expunge him politically, this after the late [former President, Robert Gabriel] Mugabe refused Tsvangirai’s wish to have Biti fired as Finance Minister. Biti would confide to Mugabe that he was a virtual goner had it not been for late night – nights do brood in politics – deftness aided by Americans who poured in hard currency to sway the vote and save him.
For us in the know, Biti’s walk-away and subsequent formation of the [People’s] Democratic Party was a foregone conclusion after the Bulawayo Congress, with people like the just-relieved, short-lived mayor of Harare (Jacob Mafume) playing a crucial breakaway role. Again, Gweru Congress saw renewed attempts to finish off Biti, this time under Chamisa. That, too, failed.
Biti’s brusque style as well as his intimate connections with Americans makes him an unpopular national politician and an anti-nation political player whom Zimbabwean politics and political levers will block from accessing national power, much like G-40 elements are blocked from the same. That means he can only defect, support, one opposition leader or the other. In terms of real national leadership, he is fated to remain the “nearly man” of Zimbabwean politics!
The same fate holds for the boisterous Job Sikhala. Both personify the taboo of Zimbabwe leadership politics. Looking into the crystal ball, I see lots of crossing of the floor, recalls and retirements from active politics. I see more active management of municipalities by the government whose effort to improve the appeal of Zimbabwe as an investment destination is being threatened by shoddy running of municipalities. Except municipalities have been key sources of funding for Chamisa and his party. That is set to dry up, meaning Chamisa faces 2023 a broke and broken man!