ZANU PF, its shadowy affiliate Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) and state actors are taking advantage of a series of cumulative problems that have rocked the Nelson Chamisa-led opposition CCC since its origins from the ashes of the MDC-Alliance until the 23 August elections, to destabilise the party.
Right from the beginning the party was on contested terrain, having risen from the ruins of the MDC-Alliance which had roots in MDC-T.
First there were divisions over whether to form a new party or fight to salvage the MDC brand, after MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora with the help of state actors moved to claim the MDC-Alliance.
Mwonzora took over from Thokozani Khupe who initially contested Chamisa for the MDC-T leadership, by virtue of being elected the party’s Vice President at the party’s congress in 2014.
In July 2016, Tsvangirai, who wanted to manage his succession, violated the party constitution by unilaterally appointing Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as vice-presidents outside congress.
The crisis created by the unconstitutional act has haunted the opposition party and its various mutations since then.
Tsvangirai died on 14 February 2018. His death ignited power struggles over his succession, with Chamisa, Khupe and Mudzuri all claiming entitlement to the party presidency in an acting capacity.
In May 2019, the High Court ruled that Nelson Chamisa was illegitimately acting as the MDC-T leader, declaring his appointment as vice-president and subsequent appointment as president null and void.
This placed the party in Khupe’s hands before she was dislodged by Mwonzora, who seized party funds, and headquarters with the assistance of state actors, before recalling some MPs and moving to claim the MDC-Alliance from Chamisa.
Party insiders however say Chamisa was keen to break away from the MDC’s toxic past and distance himself from its legacy issues, so he pushed for the establishment of the CCC.
Chamisa however did not use the traditional route of having a general consultative meeting, going to congress, adopting a constitution, choosing office bearers and establishing structures.
“This meant that he was the only recognisable leader although he was not given a mandate by congress. Initially, party officials thought they would assume the same roles and positions from the MDC-A, but Chamisa shot down the idea,” a senior official said.
“Congress elects people to key positions such as the president, chairperson, secretary-general, treasurer-general and spokesperson, so it meant that Chamisa was everything in one. In order to have a semblance of a structure, he appointed Amos Chibaya as organising secretary, Fadzai Mahere as spokesperson, Gift Siziba as deputy spokesperson and later Promise Mkwananzi as spokesperson, but the decisions were unilateral.
“Ahead of the elections, Chamisa also abandoned the primary elections and came up with an ambiguous selection process, which was open to manipulation and imposition. Veteran opposition leaders such as Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube were controversially sidelined or elbowed out through this process,” the official said.
“There was an imposition of candidates throughout the country, but the problems were magnified in Bulawayo because of divisions between Chamisa and key Bulawayo figures such as Ncube and Khupe. Tshabangu spoke out against the imposition during the selection process. The confusion resulted in chaos during the nomination process.
“These divisions created fertile ground for the problems in the party today, which state actors, Faz and Zanu PF are now exploiting to destroy the opposition.”
Faz and Zanu PF are now riding on these problems and sponsoring bitter officials such as Tshabangu to destabilise the party.
Taking advantage of the lack of constitution and structures in the CCC, Tshabangu has recalled 15 MPs and eight senators, ascribing himself the post of interim secretary-general.
Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda accepted Tshabangu’s letter using the same loophole.
Tshabangu has since written to the Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) saying only he and two other individuals can sign th4 nomination papers of candidates to participate in the 9 December by-elections on the CCC ticket.
He is hinting at organising a congress to bring the party to constitutionality.
In a live chat with Ezra Tshisa Sibanda, a seasoned broadcast journalist, documentary and film producer, Tshabangu insisted that he will continue using his role as a national interim secretary-general to make further recalls.
He said he had to appoint people from Bulawayo to sign for candidates who will participate in the by-elections so that there are no double candidates.
“We have criminals around president Chamisa who are imposing candidates and things in the party. They are imposing their girlfriends and friends in various posts. The candidates we recalled were therefore imposed and not chosen by the people. In areas like Bulawayo South the people who were the first choice were not put as candidates.
“In ward 4, David Coltart was not on number one and Pashor Sibanda was not the favourite in Cowdray Park.
“The process which selected Chamisa as president was the same process which chose me as interim secretary-general. I was with him from long back. Everyone who was in MDC-T knows me and that Chamisa says he does not know me is surprising,” he said.
Tshabangu said CCC could not produce V11s to sustain a court challenge after the 23 August elections because there were no structures and adequate agents at all polling stations.
He claimed that there is an interim constitution of the CCC that allows him to conduct recall in terms of section 29K.
“We are the authority, we represent the party and we are taking it to the founding principles. We need to go back to Parliament and those who are not going there we are going to visit them,” he said.
He also said he will visit provinces where there were imposed candidates who won elections under the CCC so that he recall them.
“I am not fighting president Chamisa but I want to make him a better leader for 2028. We need to prepare for the future. Elections are done and dusted and there will be no re-run because Sadc has no mandate to push for it for us. We are going to congress very soon,” he said.
History of opposition problems
In 2005, the decision on whether or not to participate in the Zimbabwe senatorial elections led to a split of the MDC after the late leader Morgan Tsvangirai tried to impose a boycot of the polls.
The MDC had announced in mid-2004 that it would not participate in any further elections in Zimbabwe, until it believed a free and fair vote could take place.
However, on 3 February 2005, the then spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi told a news conference: “It is with a heavy heart that the MDC has decided to participate in the elections … This is a decision based primarily on the demands of our people”.
The MDC’s top six were unable to agree on the issue, and so the debate went to the MDC National Council on 12 October.
They voted 33-31 in favour of contesting the election (with two spoilt papers).
However, Tsvangirai told the Press that the debate was tied at 50-50, which included proxies sent by Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh, alleging that these were not recognised by then secretary-general Welshman Ncube, giving him different inaccurate figures.
Tsvangirai overruled the vote, arguing that it was no use contesting an election where the electoral field “breeds illegitimate outcomes and provides for predetermined results.” He argued that the Senate of Zimbabwe was part of the 17th amendment, which the MDC had opposed in Parliament.
The party subsequently split into two groups: one led by Tsvangirai, and another by his deputy Gibson Sibanda with the support of Ncube, Gift Chimanikire and spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi.
The pro-Senate group had one more member in the National Assembly at the time of the split.
However, senior members of the pro-Senate faction subsequently defected to MDC-T led by Tsvangirai, including its chairperson Gift Chimanikire, Blessing Chebundo, the member of Parliament for Kwekwe, the environmental secretary and Binga member of Parliament Joel Gabuza, and Senate candidate for Tsholotsho Sam Sipepa Nkomo.
The pro-senate faction had the bulk of its support in Matabeleland, the party chose academic Arthur Mutambara to lead their party.
In July 2016, the then MDC-T Tsvangirai failed to properly handle his succession and violated the party constitution by appointing Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as vice-presidents outside congress which had been held in November 2014 at City Sports Club in Harare.
Tsvangirai was dragged to court by party activists seeking the nullification of his appointments.
The plaintiffs, Patson Murimoga and George Rice, argued that by picking Chamisa and Mudzuri as his deputies, Tsvangirai violated the party constitution.
The MDC-T leader resultantly had three deputies, including his long-running second-in-command Khupe, who felt betrayed and sidelined by his boss.
Lawyer Zivanai Macharaga for the litigants said the MDC-T leader breached the party constitution which says his deputies must be elected at congress.
When Tsvangirai died on 14 February 2018, power struggles erupted over his succession, with Chamisa, Khupe and Mudziri all claiming entitlement to the party presidency in an acting capacity.
In May 2019, the High Court ruled that Chamisa was illegitimately acting as the MDC leader, declaring his appointment as vice-president and subsequent appointment as president null and void.
This followed a High Court application by a Gokwe-based party member, Elias Mashavire, who challenged Chamisa’s ascendency in the party, saying there was no extraordinary congress following the death of party leader Tsvangirai.
The state went on to support Khupe and she got the mandate to grab the party’s Harvest House headquarters and funds allocated by the government through the Political Parties (Finance) Act.
Chamisa later decided to form the CCC but, again, blundered by not convening a general consultative meeting, congress and crafting a constitution.