Square peg in a round hole: Time to reimagine opposition politics

By Richard Gandari

There comes a time, when one needs to sober up and face the cold, hard truth, especially if it will ultimately decide one’s own destiny. Since 1997, Zimbabwean opposition parties have individually and collectively intensified their spirited efforts to unseat ZANU PF.

To varying degrees of success, a myriad of opposition parties has tried everything under the sun to unshackle Zimbabweans from tyranny, poverty and despair, in that order. Yet the elusive new dawn sought by longsuffering Zimbabweans, remains a mirage in a sprawling yellow desert. Pinning their faith on charismatic opposition leaders once every 5 years, Zimbabweans have repeatedly endured cycles of great expectations, followed by shattered hopes.

Against this background, there is serious need for objective interrogation, to understand why the opposition has failed to dislodge the Soviet-styled regime in Harare. Furthermore, not only has ZANU PF remained in power, it has actually snowballed into a humongous megastructure.

On the other hand, opposition parties have continued to crumble from structural failures, with some literally falling off the wagon as the going gets tough. Not even attempts to establish coalitions have done much to attract better winds in their sails, as personal egos and loose lips sink their ships. The curse of mistrust among opposition cadres only plays into the hands of ZANU PF.

Another fatal defect within opposition parties is the scourge of unbridled ambition. Like a wild horse, ambition bolts from the stable, whether dressed or naked. Yet respect for leadership is the bedrock of intra-party cohesion. Faced with the political juggernaut that ZANU PF is, positions and fancy titles count for nothing.

Palace coups and factionalism inevitably lead to splits which only drive opposition parties into political oblivion. Encouraged by prospects of becoming Zimbabwe’s next president, every faction leader blindly pays for the rope that he is ironically hanged with. The situation becomes totally hopeless where no constitution exists at all, to define a clear hierarchy or leadership structure.

Tragically, that is the situation bedeviling the Citizens Coalition for Change, touted as Zimbabwe’s main opposition party. With its roots in the MDC-Alliance of 2018, the CCC is a heterogeneous conglomeration, comprising social movement affiliates and anonymous citizens led by a nucleus of prominent lawyers.

It almost beggars belief, that such a sterling team of legal minds is allowed to preside over a party with no constitution, clear structures nor fixed abode. In its current form, the CCC appears to be largely a passive beneficiary of protest votes against the ruling party. Suffice it to say, for a party founded in January 2022, the CCC has not done so badly in all the elections and by-elections it has contested.

Unfortunately, a miss is as good as a mile. In Zimbabwe’s winner-takes-all politics, there are no consolation prizes for losers. In fact, given ZANU PF’s offensive scorched earth policy, the loser must actually surrender his soul and apologize for daring to compete at all. Hence the existential battle the CCC finds itself in today. The leader of CCC, Advocate Nelson Chamisa, is a man locked between the horns of a political dilemma. Doomed if he stays up there; equally doomed should anything happen to dislodge him. If the CCC implodes due to internal squabbles, it will be déjà vu for Advocate Nelson Chamisa.

In 2021, Advocate Chamisa was hounded out of the MDC-Alliance by Dr Thokozani Khupe who took over as the party leader. She would later get a taste of her own medicine when she was hounded out of her position by Mr Douglas Mwonzora, the current leader of MDC-T. Interestingly, Dr Khupe is a serving member of the CCC led by Advocate Chamisa. She is actually a Senator for good measure. Since its inception, the CCC has enjoyed a lion’s share of Zimbabwean opposition politics but questions remain: Is it really our best foot forward? Is the CCC equal to the task or are we not trying to force a square peg into a round hole?

Today the Citizens Coalition for Change is in turmoil. The recalls of its Members of Parliament and Senators at the behest of one Mr Sengezo Tshabangu, is a sad case of recent history already repeating itself. Some analysts expect more recalls to be announced in due course. In the meantime, Advocate Chamisa has directed all his elected and deployed officials to disengage from Parliament, Senate and local councils for at least a fortnight since 11 October. An ultimatum issued to the Speaker of Parliament, Honorable Jacob Mudenda, is unlikely to be respected, which could easily plunge Zimbabwe’s so-called main opposition party into deeper crisis.

Naturally, many have quickly pointed fingers at ZANU PF for sponsoring, nay, authoring the challenges threatening the existence of the CCC. A very compelling argument but still debatable. Based on our tortured history, it would be naïve to entirely absolve ZANU PF of any wrongdoing but in this particular crisis, the leadership of the CCC should take responsibility for their actions, or lack thereof. It is counterproductive to always blame the ruling party for the glaring shortcomings within the opposition. Advocate Chamisa’s unprecedented strategic ambiguity has not lived up to its billing. It might not even be a strategy at all, anywhere in the universe.

Whatever the reasons may be, the demise of the CCC, should it happen, creates a void that needs to be filled. This is a clarion call for authentic, structured parties like ZAPU to step up to the plate and be counted. Organize your party and respect your constitution. Promote intra-party cohesion and close ranks. Announce a shadow cabinet to articulate your economic policies as an alternative government. Be a formidable party and mobilize citizens nationally, for open membership and self-funding. Build a vibrant website and responsive social media handles. Establish offices countrywide and parade your regalia in broad daylight. Revert to the basics of grassroots political mobilization and public awareness. It is time to reimagine new possibilities.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button