Mnan­gagwa’s ‘cri­sis of il­le­git­i­macy’: is Chamisa flog­ging a dead horse?

The Witness - - INSIGHT - TAFI MHAKA

LAST Thurs­day, amid a sharp and un­re­lent­ing eco­nomic de­cline, the Zim­babwe main op­po­si­tion party, the MDC Al­liance, held a peace­ful protest in Harare against Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa’s dis­puted lead­er­ship. The de­mon­stra­tion came after vice pres­i­dent Con­stantino Chi­wenga had warned an in­creas­ingly bel­liger­ent MDC Al­liance that, “no amount of demon­stra­tions or barking will re­move Mnan­gagwa”.


It took an un­prece­dented coup, a dodgy elec­tion and a sus­pect Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing for Chi­wenga and Mnan­gagwa to se­cure power. Yet MDC Al­liance leader Nel­son Chamisa re­mains adamant that he is the duly elected pres­i­dent and only di­a­logue can help re­solve what he terms Mnan­gagwa’s “cri­sis of le­git­i­macy”.

But the hard-as-nails duo stand­ing in his way of oc­cu­py­ing the top of­fice at the Mun­hu­mu­tapa of­fice build­ing is un­likely to give up any­thing re­motely sub­stan­tial through talks of any type and this is the in­deli­ble po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity Chamisa must now grap­ple with.

An ever-com­bat­ive Chi­wenga has stated pub­licly: “The pres­i­dency is not open to any­one who is not in Zanu-PF. We are here to stay.”

And pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Ge­orge Charamba has stressed that “there must be a recog­ni­tion of Mnan­gagwa as the win­ner of the 2018 elec­tions” be­fore talks can start.

Chamisa has re­port­edly lodged a pe­ti­tion with the South­ern Africa Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) and the African Union (AU) over the need for di­a­logue and con­se­quent for­ma­tion of a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity to help solve an eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal cri­sis. This pe­ti­tion claims that the July 30 pres­i­den­tial poll re­sults are “un­trace­able, un­ver­i­fi­able and un­re­li­able”.

How­ever, the AU and SADC both en­dorsed the July 30 poll on Au­gust 1. AU chair, Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa both at­tended Mnan­gagwa’s Au­gust 26 in­au­gu­ra­tion. And Ramaphosa, in fact, re­cently called on the EU to lift sanc­tions im­posed on Zim­babwe’s rul­ing elite and some state-owned com­pa­nies.

Can it be made any clearer for Chamisa to see that African lead­ers and African po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions con­sider Mnan­gagwa Zim­babwe’s right­ful pres­i­dent? Could a plea from Chamisa com­pel the AU to defy a Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing on Mnan­gagwa’s lead­er­ship at this rather ad­vanced stage of an il­lib­eral strug­gle for power?


Chamisa has failed to ar­tic­u­late a def­i­nite plan of ac­tion to rally mil­lions of peo­ple be­hind his elec­toral cause. The youth­ful leader has not set any cred­i­ble bench­marks or drawn any red lines for Mnan­gagwa not to cross. He hasn’t ar­tic­u­lated any pos­si­ble con­se­quences should Mnan­gagwa go about ful­fill­ing his con­sti­tu­tional man­date with­out a care in the world for the MDC Al­liance’s pub­lic procla­ma­tions and mas­sive marches.

De­spite declar­ing that the MDC Al­liance is “plan­ning some­thing big”, and promis­ing to “take back our elec­toral vic­tory” as far back as Oc­to­ber 27, Chamisa’s pub­lic pledge to tor­pedo Mnan­gagwa’s pres­i­dency has mor­phed into an unin­spir­ing state of in­ces­sant namby-pamby po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing backed by a fusil­lade of fu­tile po­lit­i­cal bravado on Twit­ter.

No tan­gi­ble mass re­sis­tance to Mnan­gagwa’s elec­toral vic­tory has sur­faced since an Au­gust 24 Con­sti­tu­tional Court rul­ing struck down an ap­peal lodged by Chamisa.

So what is Chamisa’s long-term po­lit­i­cal game plan? Is he in­tent on re­mov­ing Mnan­gagwa be­fore 2023 through peace­ful Arab Spring-styled demon­stra­tions? What if that strat­egy fails and back­fires spec­tac­u­larly? Is Chamisa ready to face prose­cu­tion and pos­si­bly serve prison time for his ex­tra­ju­di­cial claims to Mnan­gagwa’s pres­i­dency?


The world has moved on, un­for­tu­nately. Every­one, in­clud­ing China, the U.S. and the EU, recog­nises Mnan­gagwa’s le­git­i­macy. This ghastly, stub­bornly hard truth must move Chamisa to stop flog­ging a dead horse and in­stead de­lib­er­ate on a fresh po­lit­i­cal strat­egy. The MDC Al­liance must make hard and in­tel­li­gent de­ci­sions about how it can help im­prove the es­ca­lat­ing eco­nomic cri­sis and best pre­pare for the 2023 elec­tions (from out­side of gov­ern­ment).

The rul­ing Zanu-PF party won the Mu­toko North par­lia­men­tary by-elec­tion held on Novem­ber 24 by a mas­sive mar­gin (11 141 votes to 1 329). This land­slide vic­tory is fully sug­ges­tive of how sus­pi­ciously pop­u­lar Zanu-PF re­mains in a ma­jor­ity of pop­u­lous ru­ral con­stituen­cies. This huge win is fully demon­stra­tive of the struc­tural ad­van­tages that are reg­u­larly abused by Zanu-PF to rig elec­tions in ru­ral ar­eas; and this is right where hope for achiev­ing a Chamisa pres­i­dency in 2023 must find fresh life. Ex­pend­ing co­pi­ous amounts of hu­man­i­tar­ian good­will from the masses on in­ter­ro­gat­ing Mnan­gagwa’s du­bi­ous but con­firmed le­git­i­macy is an ut­ter waste of po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal as this won’t yield a solid re­sult where it mat­ters most: the ru­ral ar­eas. — News24.

• Tafi Mhaka is a so­cial and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor with a keen in­ter­est in African af­fairs, with a fo­cus on Zim­babwe and south­ern Africa. Mhaka has a BA hon­ours de­gree from the Univer­sity of Cape Town.

MDC Al­liance leader Nel­son Chamisa re­mains adamant that he is the duly elected pres­i­dent of Zim­babwe and only di­a­logue can help re­solve what he terms Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa’s ‘cri­sis of le­git­i­macy’.

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