Reform or Die: Chamisa forced to abandon non-confrontational approach

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Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters hold a poster of leader Nelson Chamisa during the party's 19th-anniversary celebrations in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Shepherd Tozvireva)

Damned if he does, damned if he does not.

Amid mass parliamentary and council recalls, stripped of the party headquarters and staring down the barrel of losing his party name, MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa is under intense political pressure from outside and within to abandon his non-confrontational approach with his underlings insisting that failure to reform will relegate the once popular party to the dustbin of history. 

The cry was given impetus through a heated March 24 National Standing Committee Meeting – the MDC Alliance’s highest decision making body –  which resolved to confront the ruling Zanu PF head on with open defiance. 

“The nation should brace itself for a long winter of discontent as we plan to roll out massive protests countrywide,” said a senior party official. 

Squeezed from all sides, the National Standing Committee resolved that the main opposition should abandon its non-confrontational approach. 

“Some officials are now very clear that a non-confrontational approach will not work,” said a senior MDC Alliance official. 

“What is clear is that the opposition has been stripped of everything, from the party name, political finance funding, its headquarters as well as being removed from parliament and council. We cannot continue to behave as if it is business as usual. We have to adapt to survive or die,” said the source.

The standing committee meeting follows the latest recall of MDC Alliance deputy president Tendai Biti and six other legislators.

US department of state spokesperson Ned Price issued a statement on Tuesday saying the recalls were calculated to “subvert the will of voters, further undermine democracy, and deny millions of Zimbabwean citizens their chosen representation.”

The recalls come at a time parliament has seen the ouster of 35 MDC Alliance Members of Parliament and 66 councillors. 

The MDC Alliance narrowly lost to Zanu-PF led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, 78, in the July 2018 polls. Since then Chamisa has refused to recognise Mnangagwa as the legitimate leader of the nation.

We are paralysed because we no longer have a platform to fight our cause,” said an MDC official who declined to be named as they do not have authority to speak to the media.

“We have an opportunity to regroup, strategize and refocus.”

It was agreed during Wednesday’s National Standing Committee that there is now a need to re-energize the base to kickstart a season of protests. 

“There is no better opportunity to relaunch the real movement of the people than this. We are now back to the drawing board and it is the people who will carry this movement. We have all agreed that we should now adopt the characteristics of a real movement if we are to dispose of Zanu PF,” said the official. 

MDC Alliance will employ what is termed “the Bobi Wine strategy” wherein the Ugandan opposition leader confronted the long time ruler Yoweri Museveni in the recently held chaotic and violent elections.

Bobi Wine battled it out with Museveni who had the support of the military and state apparatus.

“We do not have guns but we have the people,” the source said adding: “These are the people who will see us through.” 

In its communique after the meeting, the MDC Alliance said “The party has commenced the execution of Zimbabwe Agenda2021, the roll out of which has reached all provinces in the country… The meeting received feedback on the massive nationwide programme to energise the base in light of the well received Agenda2021.”

Chamisa on Saturday hinted that his party could change its name.

“We are building a great new home for all who are honest, capable, principled, patriotic, incorruptible and selfless. We are availing two vitals, a fresh, strong team and a fantastic great dream. A great Zimbabwe,” Chamisa tweeted.

Reached for comment, political analyst and University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the problems bedeviling the main opposition are at its apex and not the base.

“The decimation taking place is at the leadership level. The popular base is still intact but there is a need for a strategic call and coherent leadership which has foresight and insight,’ Masunungure said.

“Chamisa has to strengthen the party structures and reinvigorate the leadership so that there is direction of where the party’s heading to,” he said.

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