Tsvangirai’s MDC had a “T” at the end – which stood for Tsvangirai himself. This was to distinguish his MDC from the Welshman Ncube MDC which had cut ties with Tsvangirai. Ncube was the founding secretary-general of the MDC.
Just before he died Tsvangirai had agreed to bring back former “rebels” who had been founding members of the party. This included Welshman Ncube, Tendai Biti and Job Sikhala. For his part, Chamisa agreed to accommodate and rope in his former “comrades-in-arms” into his election campaign.
The coalition under their umbrella became known as the MDC-Alliance party just before Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections. The reason for the name change was that former MDC member Thokozani Khupe was arguing in the courts that her formation was the bona fide MDC-T.
A succession puzzle was created in the MDC-Alliance when Tsvangirai, as president and before his death, appointed Chamisa as head of policy and research and then as one of three deputy presidents of the party. This muddying of the waters appears to have been deliberate. It meant that Tsvangirai could easily play his deputies against each other if he felt threatened by any one of them.
But having three vice-presidents – Chamisa, Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe – didn’t do the party any favours. After Tsvangirai’s death a bloody battle for succession ensued, and led to another split in the party.
The MDC’s May congress has inevitably sucked in the ruling ZANU-PF. The two have been at loggerheads since 1999 when the original MDC was formed. A succession of bruising electoral contests, including the highly disputed 2008 elections which the MDC-T was widely believed to have won, galvanised the ruling ZANU-PF party into resolving to weaken, if not destroy, the MDC brand.
It’s against this backdrop that ZANU-PF is being accused of having a role in the unfolding MDC-Alliance drama ahead of the impending congress.
Some top MDC-Alliance leaders in Chamisa’s camp have been claiming that the governing ZANU-PF has set aside between US$4 million to US$6 million to pay MDC delegates to vote for Mwonzora at the party congress. Biti, who is currently the party’s vice-chairperson, has said he will reject any candidates sponsored by ZANU-PF.
As party leader Chamisa has the opportunity to foster peace, tolerance and democracy. He should make sure that the lead up to the congress is violence- free and that party members who are in good standing can contest any post without being intimidated.
He needs to be wary of political sycophants within his party who want to turn him into a demigod, as was the case during Mugabe’s long reign as the leader of ZANU-PF. Chamisa has already shown that he has nothing to fear from a fair contest.
By Tapiwa Chagonda for The Conversation