No Plan B: Chamisa repeating Tsvangirai’s mistakes

Candour Nqaba Matshazi

In the aftermath of the 2013 elections, then MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai cried foul, claimed the polls were rigged and threatened to go to the Constitutional Court with a dossier to prove he had been robbed.

He pulled out of the court action at the last minute and, instead, said he was not going to participate in any further elections until the government implemented political reforms.

A number of by-elections were held, where Zanu PF consolidated its power following the MDC-T boycott, but still no reforms were forthcoming.

Then, we wondered what the strategy was.

The MDC-T was unclear on what the next step would be if Zanu PF ignored its calls for reforms.

My thinking was that beyond sulking, the MDC-T had no clear strategy and if Zanu PF ignored the opposition party, there was no fallback plan.

If ever there was a Plan B, the party and its leaders failed to communicate it and in the end, I am convinced that there was never a fallback plan.

Fast forward to 2018 and the party was once again crying foul, accusing Zanu PF of all manner of chicanery in the election that year.

The principal players had changed. Tsvangirai had been succeeded by Nelson Chamisa, while President Emmerson Mnangagwa had taken over from his predecessor,
Robert Mugabe, following a putsch a year earlier, but the script remained the same.

The MDC promised demonstrations against Mnangagwa and his government to force them to the negotiating table.

The protests were supposed to begin on August 16 in Harare, followed by Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare.

In Harare, the police waited until the last minute before barring the demonstration under a disingenuous plan that the protest would turn violent.

The MDC’s first misstep was to approach the High Court to set aside the police prohibition order, with the case being dismissed on a technicality.

A number of people gathered for the protests and the police predictably responded with disproportionate force.

The MDC leadership has come under fire for not being at the forefront, but I believe this is a non-issue, as Chamisa’s critics will clutch at anything to pull
him down.

But on the day, for me, the MDC failed to provide leadership on what happens next in the aftermath of the police prohibition order, because it was now clear
that the State was always going to respond in this manner and the opposition party would be left with the short-end of the stick.

The following Sunday, the police again issued a prohibition order, this time for the Bulawayo protest and this time around, the MDC went to the Magistrates’

In quite curious circumstances, the magistrate hearing the case postponed delivering a ruling until 4pm, a time when the MDC demonstration, if it had been
allowed, should have had to be winding down.

When the ruling came, the magistrate unsurprisingly agreed with the police and the protest remained banned.

At this point, it had become quite obvious that this pattern would repeat itself in Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare, where the MDC planned to hold similar protests
and I hope I am not expecting much to say this is when Plan B was supposed to kick in.

If there was no Plan B, then this was the time to retreat to the proverbial drawing board and re-plan their strategies.

Instead, the MDC tried to get the Gweru prohibition ban lifted; it failed: The Masvingo one; it failed and by the time it got to Mutare, besides themselves and
the police, nobody really cared because everyone was now resigned to fate that the magistrates in each centre would rule in favour of the law enforcement

I am not advocating for the MDC to break the law, but it was clear that this strategy was floundering and time was nigh to look for an alternative one.

The party’s most faithful supporters will argue that the leaders have a plan and will not embark on such a strategy with a Plan B. But from where I stand, it
does not look like the MDC had a fallback plan.

If they have a plan, then it is not properly communicated, and that is likely to lead to frustration for its members, who have seen protests — a legitimate
avenue to express one’s self — being blocked.

It is as if we are back to the Tsvangirai era, where the party employed the “no reforms, no elections” strategy, whose goals were as clear as mud and where
there was no fallback plan.

At this rate, I fear the MDC risks being overtaken by events, where they will be bystanders or at least cheering from the sidelines, just as they did during
the 2017 coup.

As with 2017, there was palpable frustration with the way the country was governed, and the nation was desperate for any alternative.

That alternative presented itself in the form of a coup, which Zimbabweans were happy to cheer because they were desperate for change.

Desperation is creeping in again. As the economy crashes, Zimbabweans will once again follow whoever is offering them hope, even if it is not the MDC.

The MDC needs to get its act together and, as I said previously, set clear targets and goals, while also spelling out what will happen if one plan goes awry.

Just as with the demonstrations that supported the coup, the stick that Zanu PF dangled was that they would allow demonstrators to march to Mugabe’s “Blue
Roof” residence if he refused to resign.

Right now, it is unclear to me what the MDC will do if Mnangagwa refuses to play ball, or maybe they are prepared to sulk and hope anything or anyone provides
a spark from which they will be beneficiaries.


  1. This is a very well balanced analysis from where I am standing. It is common cause that Zanu Pf has no leadership. But the same argument can be made for the MDC. The leadership of the MDC is clueless, they dont really know where they are going or how to get there. There are no signs that this MDC can wrestle power from the hands of Zanu Pf, even though the ruling party is lacking the guile that was provided by the deposed former leader RGM. There are no born leaders in the MDC, or those who have been trained to rule. The planning is haphazard, open ended, and mixed with fantasy- that kind where one throws a stone in the dark and hope that it will hit something worthwile. I know Nelson Chamisa is very green but I expected more from Tendai Biti

  2. Plan B for MDC-A leadership ?, fill their own pockets with donor monies, buy mansions and posh cars and go gochi gochi/tshisa nyama kikikikikikwaaaaaa.

  3. It’s sad for long-time suffering Zimbabweans. We had hope in 2018 and our dreams were enervated and shattered. Zanu PF and MDC leadership now fail to give us positive expectations. Nelson Chamisa and Emmerson Mnangagwa must talk for the betterment of Zimbabwe not for personal egos and party suppremacy.

  4. Well, i was hoping that the writer could also shed light into other options available to MDC given the circumstances. We are in the exact position the liberation fighters were facing against the Smith regime. Smith had the military might, he had legislature to craft ‘unfair’ laws and he also had the judiciary and police to enforce the ‘laws’. Sounds familiar? So what options does a law abiding opposition has against a corrupt, bloodthirsty regime. Unfortunately for MDC today, they have no African countries to offer refuge to its leaders (remember the Zambia/Biti debacle). Neither is there a Sino-Russo axis to provide arms and training. So again, Mr armchair critic, what is your brilliant strategy to counter the heavy odds against the opposition. The least you can do is to zip it because you and i know that the fight they are engaged in is for the generality of us who are suffering under the ZANU PF hegemony.

  5. What options really does opposition have against a monstrous regime supported by a corrupt judicial and conflicted police? You tell us your grand Zim shaking strategies.

  6. I think they played politics there. All they wanted to prove to their sympathizers from around the world was, “the regime does not tolerate voices of dissident and the judiciary is captured.” Seems they won

  7. That the MDC is even managing to lose by-election after by-election during this economic turmoil shows diminishing relevance while Zanu PF rejuvenates.

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