Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that his leadership was illegitimate as the process that made him president after Tsvangirai died was “illegal”. The court said the party must hold an election within three months.
Those elections happened on 28 December, leading, amid much chaos, to the appointment of Douglas Mwonzora as the new leader of a smaller faction of the MDC, asserting its claim over the whole party.
It created a mess, with two distinct factions both claiming to be the only bona fide party. In the end, the courts recognised Mwonzora’s group as the legitimate MDC — and, with the help of the police, Chamisa’s faction was evicted from the head office, which the party had occupied since 1999.
And that was just the start of the chaos. Soon Mwonzora’s faction began recalling legislators who had been elected on Chamisa’s MDC Alliance ticket. The MDC Alliance was formed to contest the 2018 elections and was a merger of seven political parties.
To date, 39 MDC-Alliance MPs and 81 local councillors have been “recalled” by Mwonzora, who says he’s the only legitimate leader of Tsvangirai’s original MDC-T.
The upshot, experts say, is that Zimbabwe’s opposition is more feeble than ever.
“The opposition is without doubt weak,” says political analyst Rashwheat Mukundu. He points to divisions and splinter groups as well as to the recall of the MPs and councillors and what he describes as “biased” court rulings that led to the MDC Alliance losing its office.
And it doesn’t help that Mnangagwa has cosied up to Mwonzora. Astoundingly, Mwonzora’s parliamentarians recently voted alongside ZANU-PF in favour of constitutional amendments to give Zimbabwe’s leader more powers.
Amid all this, some officials from the MDC have also recently defected to Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-F — implying that power, rather than ideology, is their priority.
The MDC Alliance’s Lilian Timveous and Blessing Chebundo crossed the floor in February. They were followed by Wilson Khumbula, Crosswell Takawira Mugombi, Patrick Chitaka, Nelson Chibhi, Samson Sithole and Simon Simango.
Still, political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya believes the opposition could mount a strong challenge to Mnangagwa in the 2023 elections — but only due to the unpopularity of ZANU-PF, rather than any internal coherence.
“The bulk of Zimbabweans are against the government. If [Mnangagwa] were to call for an election, he would not win it,” he says.
In other words, any victory for the MDC isn’t a statement of its own popularity, but rather a statement of how loathed ZANU-PF really is.
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