By Hopewell Chin’ono
Happy Sunday folks. I hope that we are all relaxed at home or in churches and mosques across the world seeking for divine interventions to be invoked in our lives.
As we do so, we should also seek the power of tolearance to alternative and opposing views without using foul language, derogatory remarks and partisan lies.
The debate around the ascension of Nelson Chamisa has shown me how broken we are as a people & society and how intolerant we are of each other’s perspectives. We go beyond disagreeing and end up disagreeable!
There is no great nation ever built on the back of singing Kumbaya, it is alternative and opposing views that sharpen the iron.
Yesterday I got a call from Nelson Chamisa and we spoke for over an hour about issues around his ascension. He jokingly reminded me that over the years, I was one of the people who have pushed him to look at the bigger prize.
I also reminded him that I did so but would have wanted him to do it minus the legal and political dramas that have now come to the fore threatening to soil his party presidency.
He gave me a lot of insights into what happened between January 5, 2018 and the day of Morgan Tsvangirai’s passing.
Unfortunately, I can’t share these insights with you here as Chamisa spoke to me in confidence.
All I can say for now is that party political leaders have an obligation not to allow their personalities to become bigger than their political parties that they lead, the values they represent and the causes they are fighting for.
That to me became the case with Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDCT just as the same happened with Robert Mugabe and the ruling ZANUPF.
It is a Zimbabwean problem, Able Muzorewa with the UANC, Joshua Nkomo with ZAPU, Ndabaningi Sithole and ZANU Ndonga.
Party leaders should not be expected to anoint their successors, that is the preserve of the party delegates and constitutional prescriptions.
The second thing is that when choosing deputy presidents, ZANUPF and MDCT have often chosen people without the requisite capabilities or abilities and skills to take over in the event of the leader dying unexpectedly.
This is done in order to keep competition at bay and to make sure that all those with ambition do not get the necessary levers to exercise that ambition.
Robert Mugabe did that with Simon Muzenda and Joice Mujuru. Morgan Tsvangirai did that with Thokozani Khupe. She doesn’t have a national profile and as such, she was convenient for him because she wouldn’t have been able to mobilize nationally against him.
That is the nature of our politics unfortunately.
I know the person who advised Morgan Tsvangirai to appoint an additional Deputy. The person meant well.
It was meant to be one deputy but Morgan Tsvangirai decided to appoint two I guess after various political considerations.
Tsvangirai had been advised that with the cancer battle at hand, he should make provisions for the survival of his party and make sure that the right candidate is appointed in place just in case he lost the battle.
However the original idea of an additional deputy president came after Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma told Morgan Tsvangirai that it was time for him to go.
Part of the deal that had finally been agreed on by Tsvangirai, Biti and Mangoma involved having a second Deputy President.
However this was scuttled after Mangoma read the letter calling for Morgan Tsvangirai to go. Tsvangirai canceled the deal and as they say, the rest is history.
I have written about this issue since the appointments of Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri. They were meant to understudy Tsvangirai because he didn’t think Khupe had what it took to lead the party. That is the truth that came out of these leadership negotiations which eventually crumbled in 2013.
This has been the case with Tony Blair and John Prescott, similarly like Khupe, Prescott’s history was rooted with the trade unions but he was never considered a replacement for Blair.
The ANC made the same mistake of appointing a deputy president they thought would be a place holder with Jacob Zuma.
Powerful leaders in this part of the world don’t seem to want powerful deputies.
But as with everything to do with power, these deputies develop ambition either by themselves or as with Joice Mujuru, pushed by other political actors around them who want to use that state power.
The mistake that Morgan Tsvangirai made was to fail to envisage a way to allow the transition to be smooth, legal and not comical as it has become.
Like Mugabe’s fight with Joice Mujuru, Tsvangirai found himself with a candidate he didn’t believe would be capable of being party president of the MDCT but who had become extremely ambitious.
I had a chat with Thokozani Khupe in Victoria Falls in 2012, she made it absolutely clear to me that she would one day become a president of Zimbabwe. “It is a matter of time Hopewell,” she said that to me at the Elephant Hills Hotel. “You will one day have President Khupe.”
In as much as Morgan Tsvangirai didn’t imagine her taking over, just like Jacob Zuma in South Africa, Khupe had psyched herself for the job. Tsvangirai either knew of this ambition or he was oblivious to it.
What is certain is that he had made up his mind that Khupe would not be his successor.
Unlike Mugabe, Tsvangirai didn’t fine tune his constitution so that it would take care of his vision. Mugabe always made sure that he made a law that said that ‘it’s ok to beat you up’, then when that beating happened, he would say that ‘…it is what the law says.’
The manipulation of constitutions and refusal to adhere to them isn’t new in Zimbabwe.
ZANUPF had a congress at Borrowdale Race Course in 1984 where the delegates voted for Maurice Nyagumbo to become Mugabe’s Deputy instead of Simon Muzenda. Mugabe blocked it and reversed the party congress electoral result.
It would have meant Simon Muzenda becoming just an ordinary government Minister whilst Nyagumbo became Deputy Prime Minister.
Mugabe didn’t want a peer with gravitas like Nyagumbo breathing on his neck according to Nathan Shamuyarira. He wanted hero worshippers who saw him as their political God.
The same happened when Nelson Chamisa lost the election to the position of Secretary General to Douglas Mwonzora at the MDCT 2014 congress.
Many believe that Tsvangirai swayed the vote away from Nelson Chamisa because he had been advised that Chamisa was a threat to his crown and that his previous Secretary Generals had been the reason for the party’s two splits, so he needed someone less combative and ambitious in that portfolio.
Douglas had proved this theory to be correct because in the past two weeks he failed to assert his authority as Secretary General.
He kept giving conflicting statements confirming that he had NO capacity to take on Nelson Chamisa. Khupe falls in the same boat as well,she has failed to mobilize for her cause or against Nelson Chamisa.
When Nelson Chamisa was appointed VP by Tsvangirai, I called him and asked him if he thought he would surpass the other two Vice Presidents in the race to succeed Tsvangirai.
“It would come down to capacity Mukoma Hope,” he said. Something that again has come to pass.
The fact that Tsvangirai started talking to Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti again, the two Secretary Generals behind the party splits explains why he reconciled with Nelson Chamisa’s rise from being an ordinary member of the NEC to a party Vice President.
There is a reality about life, if you look at your current circumstances and reality and endorse them, then that current reality will also become your future. Our current reality is a reflection of our past. As Albert Einstein said, “imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.’
Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe imagined the future as party presidents but did they prepare for that eventuality by building the requisite capacity?
It is now up to the MDCT to decide what they want, the die is cast, Nelson Chamisa is now the party leader with or without a party congress.
I asked Chamisa why he won’t subject himself to a congress. He alluded to the lack of money, the MDCT hasn’t paid its workers for over six months.
He also spoke about the time limitations due to an impending election saying that the party can’t be engaged in a leadership battle when President Mnangagwa can call for an election anytime.
Plausible reasons but difficult to sell to people who support Thokozani Khupe who feel robbed.
So just like Mugabe’s ZANUPF, they all blame themselves except Morgan Tsvangirai for this mess.
The buck stopped and still stops with him. It is up to the current leadership and membership of that party to determine and dream of a future based on values, constitutionalism, democratic tenets and the right for leaders to be chosen.
This Chamisa says will happen after the election adding that he will subject himself to an election test at a congress.
He said that he would have liked that to happen now but there is simply no time and money.
As for whether Thokozani Khupe was robbed or not, it is a lesson for future deputies to make sure that their constitutions are water tight and that they demand redress immediately when something they don’t agree with has happened.
This issue should serve as another piece of history that should be instructive for citizens in order not to have a limited memory.
We seem not to have learnt much since the invention of the black political party in Rhodesia and the historical battles for leadership in post colonial Zimbabwe.
What we have seen in the past two weeks is a public contestation around the constitution and the ability or lack thereof to respect it, let alone to understand it. As someone said elsewhere, lawyers speak legalese only in court. When they go into politics, they can’t remember the law. The constitution cannot understand or explain the language of power.
It will be the people that will eventually decide who takes control of this once glorious party founded to fight all political evils. Nature does not like a vacuum, if it goes off rail, another party will step in.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning journalist and filmmaker. He is also a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman fellow. He can be contacted at [email protected]