by Nobleman Runyanga
Despite his controversial ascendance to power, Chamisa’s assumption of the reins of the main opposition camp generated quite some excitement both within his party, the MDC-T, and the MDC Alliance as opposition party members placed their hopes in him following the death of his predecessor, the late Morgan Tsvangirai in February this year.
An analysis of how he fared during the just-ended election season and his reaction to his electoral loss indicates that the hope and trust placed on him by many opposition members were misplaced.
Chamisa’s rise to the MDC-T Chamisa faction’s leadership position coincided with President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa’s opening up of the democratic space in Zimbabwe. Chamisa was excited. It was as if the new dispensation was waiting just for him to freely address opposition members even in areas such as the Mashonaland Provinces, which the opposition considered no-go areas, a feat which Tsvangirai had failed to do in his 18 years at the helm of the MDC-T.
The excitement of the new political dispensation went to his head as it seems that his main rallies’ objective became to create a new record of holding the highest number of campaign meetings during the pre-election time at the expense of a sound message to win the hearts of the electorate. Indeed, he set a new record by holding over 80 rallies across the country, which even former President, Robert Mugabe never achieved during any campaign period during his prime at the helm of ZANU PF. Chamisa got carried away by the twin aims of chalking the highest number of rallies to the extent of forgetting that the electorate values candidates’ promises and track records. In this regard, he scored dismally as he had no record except a ministerial position during the 2009 to 2013 Government of National Unity (GNU) compared to his main opponent, President Mnangagwa.
Despite these glaring shortcomings, his Alliance partners did not raise so much as a finger to correct him as some of them such as Tendai Biti of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Professor Welshman Ncube of MDC-N were looking up to his possible win for salvation of their political careers which had already been consigned to the political village heath since the MDC split of 2005 and 2014. He even rode roughshod over fellow partners and refused to hear them out regarding their concerns such as the allocation of constituencies. Chamisa even seized some seats which had been allocated to Alliance party members.
At some point Chamisa and other opposition members even questioned why President Mnangagwa was not vigorously campaigning like him opting instead to concentrate on economic issues. Surprised by the ruling party’s strategy they ended up accusing ZANU PF of plotting to rig the election to explain the party’s relaxed but confident approach to campaigning.
Chamisa and his colleagues even laughed that President would not garner any seats in the Mashonaland Provinces where they claimed that he was not popular. They mocked the First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa’s philanthropic work in various provinces targeting the elderly and the less privileged. Although this was under the banner of her Angel of Hope Foundation, she demonstrated to Chamisa that the people of Zimbabwe, while aspiring for the modern life of village airports and spaghetti roads which he promised rural folk, had more basic and pressing needs such as food and other daily necessities. She mingled with them, cooked for them and shared meals with them, endearing them to her and her party in the process. When President Mnangagwa was pushing for economic recovery to improve people’s lives, she was doing her bit to campaign for her party in her own unique way, while Chamisa was stuck in the old ways of canvassing for the electorate’s support through criticising one’s opponents.
One would have thought that Chamisa had learnt from his predecessor’s mistakes but it seems he learnt nothing from Tsvangirai’s political gaffes. Tsvangirai ordered the sanctions regime against Zimbabwe in the vain hope of pushing Zimbabweans to rise up against their government thereby allowing him a back door entry to power. So powerful was Tsvangirai that before the West carried out its annual review of the sanctions list it would consult him first. He could tell them who he wanted retained or removed off the list. Chamisa, Biti and others travelled to America in December last year where they, among other things lobbied for the extension of the illegal sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe. Although some Zimbabweans are persuaded to support the opposition, they would not support the person who deliberately engineers their suffering for his own political and selfish ends. For this reason the conceited Chamisa was severely punished by the electorate.
Perhaps the masterstroke of his campaign, which was built using bricks of different types of political miscalculations, was his desperate decision to accept some funding from the former first family, the Mugabes to oil his jalopy campaign. For the Mugabes supporting Chamisa was meant to get back at President Mnangagwa and ZANU PF and revive the former First Lady, Grace Mugabe’s political career which was nipped during its nascent but eventful stages. The funding, which Chamisa used to rent some billboard space and to meet some campaign obligations, was a palm-greaser to open the door for Grace Mugabe to be his deputy in the event that he won the 30 July elections.
This was his major undoing as it drove a wedge between him and other partners who questioned the wisdom of associating with the Mugabes whom they had fought for 18 years. On this one Chamisa plunged to the depths of political desperation. Some of his faction’s supporters were equally dumbfounded and the Alliance’s failure to win a two thirds parliamentary majority is therefore not a surprise.
As a result of Chamisa’s pig-headed decisions, President Mnangagwa and ZANU PF ran rings around him electorally. As if this was not enough he is also doggedly opposing his partners’ advice not to contest his loss which has further divided the Alliance. This has seen none of them standing with him as he addresses the media over his drubbing.
When the dust has settled and the media which are feting him like some head of state have gone back to their offices he is likely to realise that high rally turn-outs do not necessarily translate to votes as it is now emerging that most of those supporters were not registered voters. This year’s election is also likely to teach him that it is not the number of rallies that matters but one’s strategy. Being good with chiShona language in addressing rallies does not necessarily mean popularity, he has found out.
His planned court case to contest the elections results, which is marred by lack of irrefutable evidence and is at the mercy of unpaid election agents who are reportedly withholding the V11 forms, is likely to teach him to invest in election agents instead of motorcades and all manner of unnecessary fancy showiness. Overall, Chamisa has learnt that the ZANU PF mobilisation juggernaut can only be taken for granted at one’s own political detriment.