POLITICAL analysts have warned that the country’s opposition, and especially the MDC Alliance, risks being decimated completely ahead of the 2023 elections – unless it changes its modus operandi.
This comes as the senseless infighting within opposition parties continues to escalate, leading to more recalls from Parliament of their leading lights and the defection of others to a delighted Zanu-PF.
It also comes as the Daily News has been a lone independent voice in calling out the increasingly suicidal tendencies of opposition parties and their leaders – to the ultimate detriment of the country.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, was among those who said yesterday that the MDC Alliance, in particular, now needed to re-strategise to avoid implosion.
“The MDC Alliance as a parliamentary entity has been completely annihilated given the number of legislators it has lost so far, especially considering now that it has lost its big guns, including its vice president Tendai Biti.
“This leaves it in a very precarious position. Considering also that there is a parallel process of mass defections to Zanu-PF and the internal convulsions in the party, there is scope for re-configuration.
“It would be dangerous for the party leadership to continue with a ‘business as usual’ approach because … there is no guarantee that Nelson Chamisa’s popularity will not start to be affected negatively as well,” Masunungure told the Daily News.
“The only realistic way out of this is fashioning out a new entity altogether with a new name, taking advantage of the fact that we are still two years away from the next election.
“What will happen to this party will surely depend on what the leadership does and what it does not do,” he added.
Another highly regarded academic, Professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (OAS), Stephen Chan, also warned that Chamisa could find it difficult to win back the parliamentary seats that he has lost if by-elections were held at some point.
“The question is whether he still has the funds and the people to organise a well-run series of constituency campaigns.
“If his own former MPs were not good constituency MPs, he would have a reduced foundation for seeking support from the people.
“Ensuring that their MPs performed well at constituency level has always been a fault of whatever version of the MDC party that has been in Parliament,” Chan told the Daily News.
However, he also said while Chamisa appeared weakened at the moment, he could still salvage his political fortunes – riding on the fact that a genuine opposition to Zanu-PF remained an aspiration of a significant number of Zimbabweans.
“It is not yet game over for Chamisa and Tendai Biti. Even Zanu-PF has senior members who recognise Biti’s skills and experience in economic planning.
“The opposition needs to speak for the poor in the streets. So it is important that someone with the verve and voice of Chamisa should retain a parliamentary base.
“Having said that, we shall see what electoral strength he (Chamisa) still has as at some stage, by-elections should be held,” Chan further told the Daily News.
“There is still a need for him (Chamisa), together with a parliamentary support base of his own – to be a meaningful actor in Zimbabwean politics.
“You can’t have even an imperfect democratic system without a charismatic figure who speaks to the government with an eloquent opposing voice,” he added.
MDC Alliance deputy spokesperson, Clifford Hlatywayo, said the coalition would not be changing its name as some people want it to.
“Last year we had nationwide consultative processes on a number of issues. The people unequivocally said no to a change of name.
“We are the MDC Alliance and we remain so. That’s the stance and position we were given by the people.
“MDC Alliance is a party of the people. Everything we do is informed by what the owners of the struggle decide on their movement,” Hlatywayo told the Daily News .
This comes as Biti and five other legislators have been recalled from Parliament by their People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Announcing Biti’s recall on Wednesday, National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda said that he and the five other MPs had been withdrawn after PDP secretary-general Benjamin Rukanda wrote to the august House saying they had ceased representing the party’s interests – pursuant to Section 129 (k) of the Constitution.
This section says “the seat of a Member of Parliament becomes vacant if the Member has ceased to belong to the political party of which he or she was a member when elected to Parliament, and the political party concerned – by written notice to the Speaker or the President of the Senate, as the case may be – has declared that the Member has ceased to belong to it”.
“Pursuant to the above, I do hereby inform the House that vacancies have arisen in these constituencies by operation of the law.
“The necessary administrative measures will be taken to inform His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of the existence of the vacancies in line with Section 39 (1) of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) as amended,” Mudenda said.
Apart from Biti, the other legislators who were recalled are Willias Madzimure (Kambuzuma), Settlement Chikwinya (Mbizo), Sichelesile Mahlangu (Pumula), Kucaca Phulu (Nkulumane) and Regai Tsunga (Mutasa South).
In his notice to Mudenda, Rukanda cited the MDC Alliance Agreement as the basis for the action taken against the legislators.
“Each (MDC Alliance) member party chose its own members of Parliament given under each quota and retains the authority over the same.
“Our party is a political party and these members belonged to PDP at the time of the last election in 2018,” he said.
This came days after the Daily News had reported that the tendency of Zimbabwe’s ever brawling opposition parties to self-destruct continued unabated, with the PDP at the centre of the latest such ritual suicide.
The newspaper had also reported that the PDP’s mayhem was set to have a knock-on effect on the MDC Alliance as Biti and the five other legislators had lost their bid to remain in Parliament, after the High Court ruled earlier that they could all be recalled from their positions.
Apart from Biti and the five other MPs, several councillors are also facing the chop, including suspended Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume – all of whom have since last year been fighting a push by the PDP to have them withdrawn from their respective areas of deployment.
But Mafume has said that they had since appealed against the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court – implying at the time that there would be a stay of execution of the order until the matter was further mediated.
On Wednesday, two former senior members of the MDC, Obert Gutu and James Makore, also became the latest high profile opposition figures to cross over to Zanu-PF.