THE Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) has disintegrated into three distinct yet fluid factions following last week’s resignation of Nelson Chamisa which took some legislators and party officials by surprise.
The freeing of the fiery Job Sikhala from prison after spending almost two years behind bars has added other dynamics to the saga.
Chamisa quit CCC in a huff last Thursday after its descent into political turmoil due to recalls of MPs and other elected representatives by self-imposed leaders. He said the party had been infiltrated by Zanu PF and its subversives.
The resignation has resulted in a scramble for the heart and soul of the party, with three factions emerging: one loyal to Chamisa, the other which has coalesced around former MDC-Alliance vice-presidents Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti as well as the self-imposed CCC interim steering committee, also known as the recalls committee, led by Sengezo Tshabangu.
There are, however, sharp divisions and mistrust within the recalls committee amid indications that Tshabangu is gravitating towards the Ncube-Biti camp.
The Chamisa camp, which has the likes of Amos Chibaya — the party’s organising secretary, spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi and deputy spokesperson Gift Siziba, met in Belvedere on Tuesday under the Citizens’ National Assembly (CNA), as they sought to control the party. The CNA comprises cluster leaders from CCC bureaux across the country.
CNA members have been trying to negotiate with Chamisa to reconsider his resignation, given the implications it has on the party and elected officials, who have been left in a quandary.
Chamisa’s backers believe the 46-year-old charismatic politician is the best foot forward for the opposition party.
Many legislators also say they will support Chamisa’s vision although they are not willing to resign from Parliament in solidarity with the leader. Only one legislator, Fadzai Mahere of Mt Pleasant, has resigned in solidarity.
The CNA has put in place a committee chaired by Jameson Timba to negotiate with Chamisa, and protect the party from other factions seeking to seize control.
There are, however, divisions even among those supporting Chamisa, as seen by the CNA’s decision to reject Mkwananzi’s move to grab the presidency albeit on an interim basis. The decision was made at the Tuesday meeting, well after Mkwananzi had written letters to various stakeholders, including Parliament, informing them he was now in control of the party.
There are indications that Chamisa will form a movement to further his political ambitions, but the form and shape is not yet crystal clear. He, however, favours a social or political movement that will be citizen-centred and works differently from conventional political parties.
“He wants a clean break from the MDC and the baggage it carries. So whatever he will form will be totally new, so that he avoids the legacy bottlenecks which have affected all parties emanating from the MDC, including CCC,” said an official in the Chamisa camp.
“He had problems asserting control in the MDC-T, then MDC-Alliance and CCC because of legacy issues. The new movement will offer him total control and enable him to get rid of senior officials he does not trust, or those who don’t respect him.”
Chamisa’s backers in the CNA believe the movement which he will form should have its base in the support he already enjoys in the CCC.
The Ncube/Biti faction is unhappy with the way Chamisa has been running the party. They believe he is a dictator, hence his decision to abandon party structures or his failure to ensure the party has a constitution. They believe this weakness was exploited by Zanu PF during the 2023 elections.
The faction believes the party should have structures and has mobilised the MDC-Alliance structures elected at the party’s Gweru congress in 2019. Chamisa formed the CCC after the party was hit by recalls orchestrated by Douglas Mwonzora, who had successfully wrested the leadership of MDC-A.
Ncube chaired an extraordinary meeting of the National Standing Committee, which was elected at the Gweru May 2019 Congress.
The meeting, held on Monday, accepted Chamisa’s resignation. Ncube, Biti and Lynette Karenyi-Kore were elected as vice-presidents at the congress.
Karenyi-Kore turned down an offer to lead the party on an interim basis after siding with Chamisa. Biti and Ncube are the two most senior persons elected at the 2019 congress
In an interview with NRTV this week, Biti declared he was CCC vice-president and was not going “anywhere”.
Following Monday’s meeting, the national standing committee said, after receiving, considering and debating the secretary-general’s report, it resolved that the “resignation of Advocate Nelson Chamisa as President of the party is, with regret, accepted.”
The committee said the party should return to legitimacy.
“This means all legitimate party structures as at the Gweru Congress of May 2019, and which were in place up to and including the 24th January 2022 when the National Standing Committee announced the rebranding of the party to CCC, that is, from branch to National Council are recognised. These structures should carry out their respective responsibilities,” read the statement.
The committee also said all legislators and councillors should remain in office and discharge their duties.
Some CCC officials who had initially sided with the Ncube/Biti camp have pledged loyalty to Chamisa, after seeing that he was still in the game.
Chalton Hwende, who was elected MDC-Alliance secretary-general who gave an overview of the party at the national standing committee meeting, is siding with Chamisa.
Hwende, who is Kuwadzana East MP, wrote on social media: “On Tuesday I had a 2 hr conversation with President @nelsonchamisa and we discussed his resignation statement. He is clear that he will never return to the CCC and he will make an announcement on his next move in the near future. I agree with his decision. Tomorrow I will begin a series of consultations with the people of Kuwadzana East so that I can be guided on the next move. President Chamisa remains our best foot forward to bring change in this country.”
Marondera MP Caston Matewu, for example, has pledged loyalty to the CCC faction loyal to Chamisa, while rejecting co-option as one of the three spokespersons by the group now coordinated by Ncube.
Matewu, however, initially accepted the position and even changed his X handle to indicate that he was CCC spokesperson before making a U-turn.
The other two spokespersons are Nqobizitha Mlilo (main spokesperson), who is loyal to Biti, and Decent Bajila, Ncube’s ally.
The self-imposed CCC interim steering committee is also fighting to control the party and is unhappy that the Ncube/Biti faction has moved in.
The committee has Dingilizwe Tshuma, former legislator for Entumbane-Njube constituency in Bulawayo as chair; Albert Mhlanga (former Pumula MP and deputy); Sengezo Tshabangu (secretary-general); Khaliphani Phugeni (information); Sikhululekile Moyo (interim chairperson for women); Nomvula Mguni (ex-proportional representation MP), Mbuso Siso (treasurer) and Benoni Ncube (youth).
Tshabangu, who has been the face of the committee, is however at loggerheads with his peers as he wants to join forces with the pro-2019 group, where he is eying a prominent role.
Sources in the faction say Tshabangu does not believe the committee has the gravitas to sustain the party.
The committee plotted recalls after consultations soon after the August general elections.
Their main grievance was what they felt and described as imposition of candidates on the party candidates list prior to the elections during CCC’s unique primaries, which the party termed a consensus-based nomination process.
Following nomination, there was a vetting process through which the recall activists claim candidates were imposed.
In order to execute the recalls, a mechanism was needed to drive the process which required a strategy and tactical approach to work in an environment where the ruling Zanu PF — which wanted a two-thirds parliamentary majority — had failed to secure it.
Taking advantage of the CCC’s lack of traditional party organisational structure, national structures, office-bearers, pecking order, offices, bank accounts and other relevant administrative services, the disgruntled activists formed their own structure: interim steering committee.
The recalls were later hijacked by other disgruntled CCC officials, Zanu PF and state security agents as they sought to ensure Zanu PF wins a two-thirds majority in Parliament through the backdoor.
Some CCC officials have remained on the fence to see which faction will emerge victorious.
These include Job Sikhala who was this week removed from prison. Some officials and party supporters view him as a potential leader, given that he is generally considered to be fearless and proactive.
The majority of the players, however, see Chamisa as the best foot forward, given his mass appeal. This includes many in the Ncube/Biti camp as well.