Nobleman Runyanga Correspondent
Following the confirmation of President Mnangagwa’s election victory by the Constitutional Court and his subsequent inauguration last month, the nation had one eye on the unfolding mayoral elections and another on the much-anticipated Cabinet announcement.
The mayoral election brought to the fore the MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s dictatorial tendencies and the deep-seated and serious power struggles in that political outfit despite public claims of championing democracy.
Since the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s illness early in the year, it was evident that, although he was popular with the party’s youths, he was not as well-liked among its top leadership.
Many will vividly remember the bare-fanged fight for the party’s leadership involving him and two other party vice presidents – Elias Mudzuri and Dr Thokozani Khupe.
Enter Biti and Ncube
Tsvangirai’s concept of an opposition coalition gave the much-needed salvation package to former party stalwarts who had left the MDC following its splits in 2005 and 2014.
These included Tendai Biti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Professor Welshman Ncube of MDC, who had virtually been in political wilderness.
Ncube had lost control of the party which he founded to Lucia Matibenga and badly needed a political home.
Tsvangirai’s initiative started as an extension of an olive branch to some people who had left the party under his “big tent” call, which saw some members such as Job Sikhala, who abandoned his MDC-99 party, to re-join the party.
Throw into the fray the party’s secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, who beat Chamisa for the position during MDC’s 2014 congress. Realising that he is encircled by fellow senior opposition members who have tasted power in the MDC corridors and are, obviously, also eyeing the party’s top post against the background of his failed bid for the country’s job and impending electoral congress, Chamisa is ring-fencing himself and making moves to consolidate his power ahead of the party’s internal national elections which are due sometime next year.
Mayoral election gladiatorial arena
In view of the foregoing background, two contenders for Chamisa’s crown have emerged from the crowd and tacitly thrown the gauntlet. These are Biti and Mwonzora. Biti’s position as a legislator in the just-sworn in Ninth Parliament at a time that Chamisa was left clutching at tufts of air by President Mnangagwa during the July election, places him in good stead to gain and exert influence over fellow MDC legislators in the august House.
Add to this the possibility of him being made the leader of the opposition in the Parliament and Chamisa’s blood boils with anger. Following Chamisa’s electoral loss, some sections of the party are already venting their waning patience with him and propping Mwonzora to take over from him when the party holds its congress next year.
Twitter is already abuzz with campaigns such a #Chamisa ngaaende (Chamisa must go) ahead of the congress.
This clique of MDC Alliance supporters is incensed that it was during his tenure as the national organising secretary that the party lost to ZANU-PF in 2013, a “feat” which he repeated again five years later, this time around as the party’s leader.
Faced with these present threats to his leadership, Chamisa used his position to impose some mayoral candidates on some towns and cities such as Bulawayo, Chitungwiza, Masvingo and Victoria Falls among others, to ensure full control of the urban areas.
This turned the mayoral election process into a gladiatorial arena complete with blood on the floor.
The process laid bare Chamisa’s dictatorial habits as he defied the will of both party members and residents’ associations who form the electorate.
Despite claiming to lead “a party of excellence,” Chamisa tossed the democracy rule book out of the Harvest House window and even disrespected the people in general by disregarding the choices of his own councillors, who were representing the residents who voted for them.
In Chitungwiza, he ensured that his preferred mayoral candidate Clr Gift Tsverere won the mayor’s position against former deputy mayor Clr Goodwill Mushangwe, who was the popular choice of both fellow councillors and party members.
Clr Mushangwe had to pull out his candidature before the elections under unclear circumstances.
Party members caused commotion outside the Chitungwiza Council Chambers as they demanded that senior leaders from their party – Voice Chinake, Morgan Femai, Dickson Tarusenga and Job Sikhala – leave the chambers, but they refused in order to ensure that Chamisa’s choice prevailed against perceived Biti-inclined councillors through intimidating them.
In Victoria Falls, residents preferred Ward 9 councillor, Somvelo Dhlamini, whom they felt hailed from the area and understood their concerns better, while Chamisa and his leadership preferred Ward 9 councillor, Eliphias Mambune and Ward 3 councillor, Margaret Valley as mayor and deputy mayor respectively.
The two were reportedly invited to the party’s Harvest House offices for interviews. The election had to be deferred in mid-process after the MDC-Alliance’s director for mobilisation and party building Farai Chinobva tried to force Dhlamini to contest for the deputy mayor’s post since Chamisa’s choice was Valley, which incensed residents.
The residents indicated that they would not give in to Chamisa’s machinations.
People power prevailed over Chamisa’s selfish designs as Dhlamini eventually won. Mayoral elections in Bulawayo were equally mired in Chamisa-authored controversy as he dispatched Chinobva to encamp in the city to ensure that his preferred mayoral candidate Solomon Mguni, won against Norman Hlabani, who was the other councillors’ choice.
Mguni won, thus ensuring that Chamisa’s interests would be taken care of in the city.
Merchant of violence
If there is anything that Chamisa learnt from Tsvangirai and seriously took to heart, it is the use of violence against anyone perceived to be an enemy.
Dr Khupe and Mwonzora escaped death by a whisker when the party’s dreaded violent Vanguard thugs attempted to torch a hut in which they had taken refuge during Tsvangirai’s burial in Buhera in February this year. The mayoral elections were not an exception.
In Chitungwiza, party members protesting the presence of Femai and company vented their anger on a pregnant Herald correspondent Yeukayi Karengezeka, who was covering the event. Karengezeka was violently shoved by the members, endangering her and her unborn baby.
During the Masvingo mayoral elections, party youths attacked and manhandled NewsDay Masvingo correspondent Tatenda Chitagu and dispossessed him of his mobile phone for trying to interview the winner MDC-Alliance Ward 12 councillor, Collins Maboke who prevailed against their preferred candidate, Ward 4 councillor, Godfrey Kurauone.
These dastardly incidents invited concern and condemnation from both the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and justifiably so too.
Amid the power-drunk Chamisa’s shameless shenanigans, it emerged that MDC-Alliance councillors are fed up with his politics of hand-holding and outright dictatorship.