As the New Year inches closer, it has become apparent that opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa’s political survival will depend on his ability to work with a team of rivals and win them over.
The situation, although in a different context, has similarities with what happened in 1860 in the United States when prairie lawyer and former one-term congressman Abraham Lincoln stunned the country by prevailing over three prominent rivals—William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates— to win the Republican nomination for President.
Although Chamisa will not be contesting any election next year, Lincoln after being elected President appointed all three rivals to his cabinet—Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney-general.
In a book titled “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” author Doris Kearns Goodwin showed that the extraordinary array of personal qualities allowed Lincoln first to appoint, then to win over, men who had previously opposed him.
The author revealed how Lincoln’s bold and brilliant actions helped him steer the country through its darkest days.
Lincoln’s explanation at the time was that these were the strongest men in the country and declared that at a time of peril, the country needed to have the strongest men, and that he could not deprive it of those talents.
A set of emotional strengths was the foundation of Lincoln’s political genius and he understood that human relations are at the core of politics and that if you deal with people in the right manner, you are going to be able to work effectively with them.
At present, Chamisa is leading the CCC at a time when he has perceived rivals such as former Finance minister Tendai Biti and Professor Welshman Ncube who has already publicly complained about being sidelined in the opposition party.
Ncube held the position of vice-president when the MDC-Alliance transformed into the CCC.
Political analysts told The NewsHawks this week that it is of paramount importance for Chamisa to bring close his perceived rivals and work with them in the face of an ongoing onslaught from Zanu PF through the use of an imposter Sengezo Tshabangu who is decimating the opposition via illegal recalls of CCC MPs, councillors and senators.
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said Chamisa needs his rivals and unity at this stage.
“I have always stated that the only effective opposition is a united opposition, and the only successful leader is one who unites those around him. There is no successful opposition led by a lone ranger. Chamisa, Ncube and Biti all have faults. Together there is considerable strength,” he said.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said by strengthening the collective political leadership, Chamisa will emerge stronger.
“While the recent problems facing CCC have raised the issue of strengthening collective leadership, there are also issues of loyalty. What is needed is not a rapprochement of a few cadres, but a broader reconnection and engagement with the larger array of actors, including civil society, churches, and labour to renew commitments to democracy, inclusive economy, human rights, and constitutionalism in the country. This will probably match the magnitude of the CCC’s internal and external problems as well as Zimbabwe’s backsliding reform agenda,” he said.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said, in addition, Chamisa must initiate dialogue to hear the grievances of his perceived rivals and stitch a way forward.
“Apart from what I am reading in the media, I think CCC should insulate itself from rumour-mongers and create platforms for dialogue handling, and concerns from its senior leadership. The opposition will obviously benefit from a more united cohesive leadership. And, you need a mixture of both the experienced and long-term political actors who have seen it all and young political actors who are also getting into the space.
“Any resemblance of divisions within the CCC are not only fermented by Zanu PF but are also fully taken advantage of by Zanu PF. So, for me, 2024 is certainly a year of re-organisation for the CCC to confront challenges that they faced post 2023 elections,” he said.
Chamisa therefore has an obligation to regroup with his allies and re-strategise. He needs everyone at the moment.
He must put aside his differences with colleagues, and rise to leadership. They need to rebuild the opposition together; start from the foundation to fix the fundamentals and go upwards.
Even though Tshabangu might have had a legitimate grievance and good intention at the beginning, his strategy has been a disaster and overtaken by the state apparatus.
There are qualities which have for long been associated with human greatness that Chamisa can embrace—sensitivity, empathy, compassion, kindness, honesty—are also keys to political success.
On a lighter note, Lincoln actually had a remarkable sense of humour and was a terrific storyteller. He relaxed his colleagues and cheered them up.