MDC-T does succession the Zanu PF way

MORGAN Tsvangirai inspired many in the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe. Sadly, the most immediate legacy of the late MDC-T leader is a predictable and unseemly succession battle from which the youthful Nelson Chamisa has emerged as victor.

By Derek Matyszak

The manner in which Chamisa has secured the party presidency is likely to cause considerable damage to the opposition just months before the next general elections, to be held between July 22 and August 22 this year.

The MDC-T has always sought to distinguish itself from the ruling Zanu PF by campaigning on a platform of non-violence and adherence to the rule of law and constitutionalism.

So determining succession to the party presidency should have been a simple matter of applying the party’s constitution.

Tsvangirai, however, muddied the waters in July 2016 by appointing two “vice presidents” — Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa — in addition to the party’s deputy president, Thokozani Khupe, elected by congress in 2014.

At the time, Tsvangirai claimed that he had the authority to do so using powers conferred by amendments to the party constitution adopted in 2014.

However, the congress of that year merely adopted resolutions that certain amendments should be made.

There is no indication that the resolutions were ever effected.

And none of the resolutions give the party president the right to appoint additional deputies.

Legal proceedings launched to challenge Tsvangirai’s appointments were dismissed on a technicality, because the applicants were not paid-up members of the party.
As a result, the constitutionality of the appointment of the additional deputies was not put to the test.

The 2011 party constitution provided that in the event of the president’s death, the deputy president assumes the role of acting president, pending an extraordinary congress to elect a new president within a year.

On Tsvangirai’s death, each of the three deputies claimed the right to be acting president.

It thus became essential to refer to the 2014 version of the party constitution to see if it provided an answer to this conundrum.

That proved to be no easy task.

The constitution had been removed from the MDC-T website and no one within the party seemed to have a copy, which was either being deliberately concealed or did not exist.
Using the 2011 version, Khupe was able to claim that the constitution provided for only one deputy, and by virtue of the constitution, she automatically became acting president until the extraordinary congress was held.

Chamisa, however, contrived to resolve the legal mess to his advantage.

On February 15 this year, a day after Tsvangirai’s death, at a dubiously convened and highly-charged meeting of the party’s national council chaired by Chamisa himself, Chamisa was declared acting president and Khupe’s claim was discarded.

Presenting himself as acting president at Tsvangirai’s funeral, held in Buhera five days later, Chamisa inappropriately used the occasion to whip up support for his position among the thousands of party faithful present.

This caused considerable discomfort to the foreign dignitaries sharing the platform with him.

Chamisa’s supporters then set upon Khupe and others in her company perceived to be against his elevation.

The attempt to drive her out of a village hut, where she had sought refuge from the baying and violent mob, by lighting the thatch, failed only on account of the damp weather.

Chamisa then tried to persuade a sceptical public of the legality of his position.

He pointed out that the MDC-T’s national council had the power to resolve this difficulty of who should be appointed acting president if the party had three deputies.

His argument, however, depended entirely on whether the appointment of the two additional deputies was legal in the first place.

A document, which was supposedly the 2014 version of the party constitution, then began circulating on social media.

It differed from the 2011 version in that an “s” had been added to “deputy president” in two places.

Chamisa used this to justify his assertion that the appointment of the additional deputies was lawful.

Other than those two clauses, (the only places where the “s” could be added without requiring a redraft of the whole clause), the constitution refers to deputy president (singular) throughout and the clear import is that it is drafted on the basis of there being only one deputy.

Chamisa has now taken the stance that there is neither money nor time for the party to convene an extraordinary congress to affirm his position before the elections.
He will, thus, be the party’s presidential candidate by default.

Khupe has responded by breaking away and seeking an alliance with smaller opposition parties, with a legal battle looming over the MDC-T name and the party’s share of state-funded political party financing.

The MDC-T has campaigned in past elections with the slogan “Mugabe must go” and a promise of economic and democratic reform.
Mugabe is gone.

The new administration under President Emmerson Mnangagwa has stolen the opposition’s platform of economic reform.

All that now distinguishes the MDC-T and Zanu PF as parties is what remains of the MDC-T’s stated commitment to constitutionalism and non-violence.

It is not lost on the electorate that the ugly succession battle and Chamisa’s power grab have blurred these remaining dividing lines.

Derek Matyszak is a senior research consultant at ISS. This article appeared in the Daily Maverick.

13 Comments

  1. luckson dzingirai

    Zanu pf way minus tankers.

  2. Let us preach constitutionalism and practise the same. As I keep saying, the unprecedented death of Morgan Tsvangirai left a blank cheque in the leadership of his party as succession is not a gentleman’s agreement. We should not justify Tsvangirai’s defiance of the law in appointing two more VPs in order to (consequently) certify Chamisa’s legitimacy. Two wrongs do not make a right. As a supporter of the opposition, I strongly condem the act of breaching of the law as we are indeliberately supporting our chief competitor. No w onder Mnangagwa is not determined to allow electoral reforms as he dealing with a splintered opposition without the wherewithal to push the govt. Its not my interest whoever emerges the legitimate flagbearer so long as the constitution has been followed and the party remains intact. We may turn a blind eye on the reality but the hour of reckoning is coming.

  3. When a lawyer becomes a crook or crooked in his ways, even his “popularity” stinks.

  4. How about ED, was he voted in by zanu pf,if not then what is the problem with Chamisa?

    1. The MDC-T should never be a replica of ZPF. So it wld be a lost cause to compare ED’s ascendancy to power as if it is the standard measure. We all know ED came in thru the assistance of the military, and suppose if after elections he is defeated and he bounces back via the same process, will that be legitimate? The party of excellence must distinguish itself from ZPF by adhering to constitutionalism, good governance and sound policies.

  5. when is the next MDC rally?I’d like a free ride in one of their busses across the country,

  6. Comment…succession is not an easy task you can’t do it the smartest way esp in africa .the strong candidates must emerge to allow continuity of the party .long ago they will blood shed and strong candidates become kings.even in animals the strong succeed and become successors that succession abaiwa ngaabude.

  7. For those of you who read “Nanda the Lilly” By Sir. H. Rider Huggard you must be familiar with the traditional succession issue in which Umslopogas teamed with Galazi the Wolf to Fight for the Chieftainship. The chief was compeled by the custom to challenge his country man and this is what he said, “For fifty and one years have I crawed like a cock in a calf crawl and nobody has crawled back in answer, now who will do battle with Jikiza for the great AXE GROAN MAKER and leadership of the …..” Because the Axe Groan Maker was magical nobody weilding it would ever loose in combat, Umslopogas had to rig by teaming up with a fellow hermit and thus won against the Chief.
    The secrets of the chief were made known to Umslopogas by his daughter whom he unjustly wanted to marry of to Masilo the pig. The line here is that succession is never a clear and fair thing and woman play a very important role in it. Supposing Grace had died when she had that frick accident at the airport and Mugabe had resorted to widower-ship would things have gone this far without the unintended consequences of that deranged woman’s rantings. Which ever way succession happens let it be. (sorry BORN FREEs if you are not a wide reader you may not know the story but those that read the Day-By-Day English Books may be familiar with the background)

  8. No offensive defensive strategy can overturn the hard fact that by singling himself as the MDC-T Presidential candidate, Chamisa has flouted the party constitution. We may deploy all theories to authenticate his candidature but it stands on a foundation of falsehoods and dishonesty, a replica of Mnangagwa. No criticism, however factual on the face value other than following the constitution to the letter, can salvage Chamisa. Let us not preach water and take wine.

  9. Perfect editor, MDC T AND ZANU ARE 1 THING.
    Difference is personnel.
    On the weekend they went to Byo with their people from Harare

  10. Pfuurayi Vamwevatongewo

    I have no beef for breach to any constitution, but sometimes constitutions may be breached in the public interest. Imagine CND Chiwenga had followed the constitution and would have allowed RGM to leave the barracks in November 2018, we would not even be where we are today. Were all the hundreds of thousands of people who poured out into the streets in celebration of a constitutional breach by Chiwenga stupid? Were they not aware Chiwenga had breached the constitution? But did they not celebrate all the same? The constitution may be one good thing, but it cannot substitute the people’s sentiments held so strong against certain injustices. Madam Khupe may still be very right she is the one who should have taken over from MRT, but how would that sit with the wishes of the supporters of the late Save? Would she have become any more popular than NC? Should we follow the constitution and lose the election? And are all those Chamisa followers wrong, and do their opinions and sentiments count for nothing? Sometimes politics is about the numbers, and constitutions don’t pull crowds, popular leaders do.

  11. Self contradiction! We shall compare notes after the election, God willing.

  12. dereck go to hell and may the devil rape mudziri nakhupe are not presidential material full stop

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