By Chris Zumani Zimba
While the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) chairperson Priscilla Chigumba announced Mr Mnangagwa of the governing Zanu-PF party on Friday 3rd August 2018 as the winner of the historical post Mugabe Presidential vote with 50.8% and Mr. Chamisa of the MDC with 44.3% of the total vote, Nelson Chamisa had already discredited ZEC for its dubious conduct during the counting process and delayed announcement. As far as Chamisa and the MDC are concerned, ZEC rigged the presidential elections because their MDC parallel voter tabulation showed Chamisa with more than 55% while Mnangagwa was below 45% (although almost all local and foreign observers agree with ZEC). All the same, Chamisa described Mnangagwa’s presidential victory as “a coup against the will of the people” and vowed to take legal actions since there is no legal basis for a rerun between the top two.
In this short article, we try to present a summary critical analysis on why and how Chamisa could be treated as the Julius Malema of Zimbabwe as wesll as the president in waiting for 2023. From the onset, it is fair to congratulate a newly appointed and young opposition leader who is just 40 years old in Nelson Chamisa to have managed to scoop 44% of the total national votes against a veteran freedom fighter, former Vice President as well as Sitting Republican President who is 75 years old in Mnangagwa. Recognizing that young Chamisa was contesting the presidency for the first time after taking over the party in few months, his performance stand strongly positive and makes his political future too bright with 2023 promising the possibility of presenting the presidential crown before him if carefully schemed and seriously executed. Although Mnangagwa rules Zimbabwe today, Chamisa seem to be the man with a powerful political future.
With the national voter turnout announced to have been above70% by ZEC, vibrant Chamisa and his MDC seem to enjoy the present support base and vote of many urban elites, street citizens, women, youth and unemployed citizens which makes him to be forcefully stronger for 2023 than the 75 years old Mnangagwa whose ZANU-PF is mainly surviving on rural votes, aged war veterans and seemingly security force support. This means Chamisa must exercise extraordinary political maturity and use all legal options to challenge the results because his 44% total votes collected in 2018 need to be sustained and consequently grown to merely above 7% by 2023; thereafter, he could be certain of becoming the unstoppable president of Zimbabwe with or without Mnangagwa in the next 5 years. Of course, this is open opinion and does not factor the impact of regional and ethnic dimensions of Zimbabwean politics.
Between 2018 and 2023, President Mnangagwa may face a tough test of revitalizing Zimbabwe’s staggering economy after decades of international isolation under Mr Mugabe, high levels of absolute poverty, uncontrollable inflation and high unemployment rate of more than 80% as per Zimbabwe’s biggest trade union. This complex political-economic puzzle for Zimbabwe in the next 5 years if not well managed by the ZANU-PF government may worsen the political strength of Mnangagwa and his party while creating extraordinary positive environment for Chamisa to grow his political popularity and his MDC party. This is another generalized possibility and potential opportunity for Chamisa and the MDC to take note and position themselves if and when it happens.
During his first press conference after being declared winner, President Mnangagwa acknowledged that Mr Chamisa would have “a crucial role to play in Zimbabwe’s president and its unfolding future”. It is empirically clear that from these elections, Chamisa has emerged as a tested and ‘triumphant’ political leader with a future. John Maxwell defined a leader as “one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”. Like Julius Malema of South Africa’s main opposition party, this is what Chamisa has proven in these elections especially that he took over the ‘divided’ party few months before the national vote following the death of his political mentor, Morgan Tsvangirai this year and must crucially demonstrate this needed mature leadership between now and 2023. For Chamisa, this is very possible because he is blessed with distinguished rhetoric, vibrancy, courage, good education, young age and body and enjoys popular support from many educated citizens in Zimbabwe and abroad as compared to the President-elect.
Going by the results of the parliamentary elections which showed that Zanu-PF got 144 seats, the MDC Alliance which is made up of seven parties got 64 seats and 1 seat gone to the National Patriotic Front, this means Chamisa must now work on the institutional weaknesses and vulnerability of the MDC especially in rural areas if 2023 is anything to take serious for the presidency. This is crucial for him because, had Zimbabwe been a parliamentary democracy like South Africa, Botswana, UK, Germany, Australia or Israel, Chamisa would have been a non-political factor today in these elections as results clearly show that his MDC party is still very weak and small against the gallant liberation movement called ZANU-PF in most provinces or regional states. If Chamisa is to sustain the hope of becoming President in 2023, it means he deliberately needs to break the national skeleton character of his party and make it fat almost everywhere as his personal popularity may not be good enough to give him state power either today or tomorrow. If he became president today with such few seats in parliament, Chamisa would be dangerously vulnerable for impeachment by ZANU-PF lawmakers are the majority. But can he turn tables of the giant ZANU-PF Mountain in the next 5 years especially in rural areas?
In conclusion, it is brutally fair to stress that, Nelson Chamisa did very well in these presidential elections given that his age (born on 2nd February 1978 with 40 years now against the Mugabe mentored political guru, “the crocodile” who is now 75 years); his political experience (his party leadership appointment as MDC presidential candidate only came few months before the national vote following the death of its founder leader against Mnangagwa who has been in politics for his entire life from liberations struggles, senior party ranks, Cabinet Minister, Vice President to Head of State and Government); and his financial, technical and human resources (his MDC party lacked national character, reportedly suffered some voter intimidation and some media coverage limitation against the ZANU-PF state machinery that had the sitting president, government institutional support, war veterans, seemingly army and police backing as well as full state media coverage). In other words, Chamisa must quickly realize that he is now the ripe Julius Malema of Zimbabwe as well as the president in waiting for 2023 –this will make him know how to position himself for power than waste both his ripe opportunities, time and resources on amiss efforts.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant