The results of the elections and the outcome of the Constitutional Court did not go in favour of the youthful MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and his party, but there remains numerous avenues and options for both Chamisa and his party in the next five years.
It is important for the MDC Alliance to position itself as an effective opposition party whilst proffering itself as a viable alternative to the status quo. Failure to do so will result in the demise of both Chamisa and the MDC Alliance brand.
First of all, it must be said that the youthful Chamisa did extremely well in a heavily uneven playing field. To have amassed over two million votes barely a year after he had taken over the reins of the party was, indeed, a commendable achievement. This was also achieved with a shoestring budget and against an opponent with the glaring advantage of incumbency.
Having said this, it is not enough for the MDC Alliance to merely condemn the elections and outcomes as illegitimate, but they have to move on and reposition themselves if they are to stand a reasonable chance in the 2023 elections. Chamisa actually stands an incredibly good chance of winning the 2023 elections if he keeps his eyes on the ball and rids himself of all vestiges of hoodlum politics and overconfidence.
He is just 40 years old, but has exhibited great resilience and capacity traits by harnessing over two million votes against a man who has been in government for over 38 years. He, however, has to make sure that he manages his political weaknesses, which may result in him being a political casualty both within and beyond his party. The following will be crucial in this regard.
Restructuring grassroots base
The MDC Alliance has to first of all metamorphose into a singular political party with structures at the most basic village and township level in the whole country. They have to ensure that they have a solid membership base of at least one million in the 1 200 wards of the country. This membership base must form the “fulcrum “or foundation of their core funding so as to reduce reliance on external funding. A million members paying a dollar each per year is a million dollars and this complemented by funding from the Political Parties Act should be enough for basic core funding.
Critically, the strength of Zanu PF is in its structures and to ignore this strength will be an act of cardinal self-destruction and mass political suicide. Chamisa and his party must, therefore, have a presence in every single village in the country and this means they will be able to field candidates in every single council and House of Assembly seat that is contested for. This also means that there will be sufficient election agents at every single polling station. The starting point for them will be an audit of all their structures and a four-year plan to strengthen these structures. If they are to stand any chance in the elections, they must also have strongholds in resettlement areas as these are serious Zanu PF strongholds .
Alternative governance model
The MDC Alliance or whatever it will be called after it reconstitutes itself must demonstrate that the provincial and metropolitan councils, as well as rural and urban councils it runs are a model of good governance, good resource stewardship and sound service delivery. If they fail to do so, this will surely be a sign that as a government in power, they will fail. Chamisa and his leadership have to, thus, ensure that the party has a robust local governance framework focussing on deliverables and development.
Parliamentary presence and influence
The MDC Alliance must also maximise its presence in Parliament and not be reduced to an extension of Parliament fittings and furniture. They must make their presence felt in the August House in the same manner that the likes of Sidney Malunga, Lazarus Nzarayebani, Micah Bhebhe, Steven Nkomo, Ruth Chinamano and Byron Hove did in the eighties and later on David Coltart, Priscila Misihairabwi, Blessing Chebundo, Tendai Biti, Jessie Majome and Tabitha Khumalo. Failure to register their presence in Parliament to articulate the hopes of millions of Zimbabweans who are already grovelling in grinding poverty would be tantamount to betrayal. Lessons can be learnt from the DA and EFF in South Africa. Although Zanu PF enjoys a comfortable two-thirds majority, the MDC Alliance must utilise its presence in Parliament as an alternative front.
Chamisa must invest the next few years in reaching out to those that were hurt by his ascendancy to power, including Thokozani Khupe. This will demonstrate true statesmanship and maturity, which are both qualities he desperately needs. Violent behaviour and quasi-militia groups within the MDC Alliance must be dismantled and the primary election process cleaned up.
Alternative policies and leadership
It is imperative for Chamisa to be an effective opposition leader and to also prove that given the chance, he can govern well by proffering alternatives to the status quo and not just lambasting Zanu PF and the government as people will soon get tired of that.
They must embrace the concept of developmental politics, which focuses on how people’s lives can be improved. This will greatly improve the country’s political prospects in 2023.
Dumisani Nkomo writes here in his personal capacity
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