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Sanderson Makombe explains why the opposition MDC has three Vice Presidents

By Sanderson Makombe

The common question is why three VPs? The MDC used to have one VP. The decision to increase that to 3 was the brainchild of the late leader Morgan Tsvangirai post 2013.

Sanderson Makombe
Sanderson Makombe

This was at a period when he knew that he had terminal cancer and was not functioning well to his capacity. The major reason he gave to justify the additional 2 VPs was that he needed people to help him campaigning and running the party effectively.

The idea was not embraced by everyone and resisted by other top leaders in the party then: Thokozani Khupe, Obert Gutu, Douglas Mwonzora etc. This was mainly because the two new VPs were appointed rather than elected at Congress. So we had one VP elected and two unelected.

The other issue was the two nominees were well known leaders that had lost at Congress in 2013: Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri. Within the party these two were known as possible future party Presidents especially Mudzuri who had made it clear after the 2013 loss.

Mudzuri and Mangoma openly challenged MT. The process led the two to become very senior to others elected at Congress which rubbed them the wrong way. There are other compelling reasons why the two were appointed as VPs

1.The party was in comatose, no energy, no organisation, and not providing any hope to its supporters and the country at large. MT realised the people he backed at Congress were more boardroom politicians than grafters and organisers.He needed Mudzuri and Chamisa.

2. MT was managing his succession by having those possibly interested in succeeding him at the same level and expose them to the public so that the public could judge their suitability for the job. It became clear since then that only Nelson Chamisa stood out for the job.

3. MT was not convinced Khupe could take the movement forward. She was just a regional leader, comfortable only in her local turf than national. She never addressed a rally in Mash provinces or presided over a programme etc in all her years as VP!

4. Others viewed the Khupe snub as motivated by tribalism and anti-women 

5. The fact that both Chamisa and Mudzuri come from Masvingo presented others with regional/tribal hegemony theories.

6. Either way MT bringing Chamisa back to leadership was a masterstroke.

The question now is whether the MDC should retain the three VPs since the succession is now a settled matter. It is not a straightforward issue. Political accommodation is a pragmatic way to foster cohesion, balance and inclusion. It is not unique to MDC.

The Alliance brought back other parties that had split from the MDC. Managing integration of these different units might need broader accommodation for a period of time. The slots can be used also to have regional and ethnic, gender representations. Therefore it can serve a purpose.

The reality is that we have not reached a level of political maturity were people are elected based only on merit. Political accommodation will remain a vital avenue for different groups and leadership. However there does not seem to be a deliberate strategy of accommodation as nominations are not taking that into account.

The fact that the MDC has 3VPs has no correlation with Zimbabwe having 3 VPs if MDC assumes power. If MDC is in power, it will govern based on the constitution of Zimbabwe not the MDC constitution. The risk of the MDC amending the national constitution to have 3 VPs will be minimum.

The 3 VPs must work to bring capacity to the MDC. The President Nelson Chamisa polled over 2,1m votes while the Parliamentary votes combined were about 1,6m. He is more popular than the Party at this stage and this needs being addressed.

Secondly, we need an organisation, not just a one-man band, if we are to win in 2023. The VPs have to be on board. # reflections