Chamisa’s finest hour

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Nelson Chamisa

By Paidamoyo Muzulu

THE 1990s were an interesting period in world politics. This was the period when the United States got its youngest President William Clinton at 43 and the United Kingdom (UK) also elected Tony Blair at the young age of 39. They both came from leftist parties, but had shifted their policies close to the centre to win against the Conservatives.

Clinton, young, photogenic and blessed with oratory skills, upstaged one term Republican president George Bush Senior. He ran his campaign on a simple tagline: It’s the economy stupid.

Across the Atlantic, the Labour party in the United Kingdom had warmed the opposition benches for 17 years since 1979 when Margaret Thatcher won decisively, in the process becoming the first woman leader in Britain. Blair rebranded Labour into New Labour, a centrist party from the typical leftist. He won resoundingly and twice repeated the feat with ease.

Tomorrow, Nelson Chamisa will officially launch the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), a new political outfit which is an offshoot of the MDC-T.

This marks the first rebranding of the opposition party.

It is a change which should go beyond the party colours and symbols.

The change should also be seen in the ideological positioning.

The MDC was formed as a leftist party based on social democracy. It should be noted that social democracy is different from democratic socialism.

The party has, over the years, been changing its ideological position in practice, but in its public documents maintained the tag of social democrats. It would be interesting to observe if Chamisa would be bold enough to put it in black and white where his new outfit ideologically stands.

Can he be bold to make substantive and far-reaching changes to the party policies? Far-reaching enough to get him votes to win the presidency in the 2023 general elections.

The launch of the yellow party should not only be grand by numbers pulled to the rallies, but it should be accompanied by grand ideas, ideas that transform the societies, ideas that resonate with the immediate needs of the majority of the citizens.

It would be interesting to see where CCC stands on health, education, minimum wage, public transport, water provision, social security and social housing.

More importantly, what will be the party’s view on State capitalism or it leaves the market to private players?

The by-elections scheduled for March 26 are not that significant in the political matrix because they would not change the balance of power.

They are important in that CCC is testing itself for the first time in the political arena.

It could also be seen as a dry run for its 2023 challenge in the general elections.

It will also be interesting to hear how the party, if unelected, will react.

Will it be a loyal opposition, working with the elected government to develop the country? Will it readily take the opposition benches and wait for 2028?

Chamisa’s launch of CCC could not have happened at any better time.

It is a year before general elections and, therefore, giving it enough time for brand recognition among the electorate.

It is also better positioned to communicate its manifesto as well as select its candidates for public office well ahead of the election.

Above all, Chamisa is facing a Zanu PF blighted with sleaze like John Major’s government in 1997. He also can use the Clinton quip to Bush: It’s the economy stupid.

Many Zanu PF apparatchiks and leaders have scandals ranging from dipping their hands into the till or getting loans that they, at appropriate moments, get the State to assume the debt.

Some have multiple farms, while some are also involved in procurement scandals such as COVID-19 personal protective equipment.

The economy is limping, serving the tiny 2% rich well while the 98% poor are suffering. Most public servants are earning below the poverty datum line. Public service is at its lowest and citizens have to bribe to get it.

Unemployment is closer to 90% and the informal sector has been choked by COVID-19 regulations, leaving many reeling.

Vending, a job that many get into as a last resort, is a dangerous enterprise as more often than not, vendors are playing hide and seek with municipal and State police.

In some moments, they engage in running battles.

The situation is ripe for change, but it is also important that this anger among the citizens is harnessed and channelled towards a goal that brings change to people’s lives.

It is important how CCC will package and distribute its manifesto.

It is how the party will select its public representatives. New wine in old skins is a recipe for disaster. Are its young leaders ready to rule the country?

These are some of the issues that should be emphasised and debated by the public beyond the colours and slogans.

Is Chamisa ready for that? Is he ready to debate issues and lay out his ambitions, taking the electorate into his confidence?

Chamisa has his work cut out. He needs to be surrounded by a good, effective and efficient political machinery. There should be no room for people who are only there to stroke his ego.

Iron sharpens iron, so he needs people who, while supporting him, can ask him tough questions.

In the words of William Shakespeare, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

It would be interesting to see which part of the statement describes Chamisa.

Behold, the new is here. It should be new beyond the name.

Congratulations to CCC and may they live up to their promise and make a difference in the lives of the citizens.

  • Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.