The forthcoming MDC congress is critical as it will settle once and for all, the legitimacy question dogging the leadership of Nelson Chamisa, political analysts have said.
Chamisa assumed the reins of the country’s main opposition party ahead of his rivals following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai — the party’s founding father — last February, albeit, under controversial circumstances.
The 41-year-old was accused of using his then assumed closeness to Tsvangirai’s widow, Elizabeth, to torpedo the ambitions of the likes of Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe who were also eyeing the post.
A titanic leadership battle subsequently ensued in the party, which eventually led to Khupe forming a breakaway faction which went on to perform dismally in last year’s elections.
Chamisa ultimately prevailed over his party competitors after a consultative meeting of the MDC, which was held at the party’s Harare headquarters — and which was attended by 639 delegates from 210 party districts.
The meeting endorsed him as Tsvangirai’s successor and the party’s presidential candidate in the 2018 polls.
Political analysts canvassed by the Daily News on Sunday said Chamisa has a chance to iron out the issue of legitimacy surrounding his leadership.
Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group said formal endorsement at congress is important for Chamisa as it would help remove remaining doubts about his position from many.
“Some, of course, will be dead set against his leadership, whatever the outcome. This will also be influenced by how credible the membership feels the delegation selection process has been.
“How the reconstituted MDC Alliance structures operate in this regard will be essential and it’s critical for Chamisa that these processes retain as much integrity as possible and are seen to have done so,” said Pigou.
The platform, according to political analyst Maxwell Saungweme is also an opportunity for the MDC to elect leaders with unquestioned mandate and legitimacy.
He said it is important, where possible, that all positions are contested and where someone challenges someone’s favourite, and they are not labelled.
“Democratic institutions are not built by ring-fencing positions or attaching labels to genuine contestants. Leaders who emerge from that congress, contested, feel elected, legitimate and holding real mandate.
“I don’t think we need negotiations in Zimbabwe but dialogue that leads to win-win outcomes in terms of having inclusive governance and having the economic problems unlocked.
“He must be able to dialogue with (president Emmerson) Mnangagwa and others if his interest is a prosperous Zimbabwe. His suffering two million-plus supporters want the country to progress and he will be made to dialogue for a better Zimbabwe,” said Saungweme.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the MDC congress will end once and for all the noise around Chamisa’s legitimacy.
“It’s an issue that is advanced by Zanu PF using the State media and its activists but never an issue within MDC as Chamisa was legally put in that position by the relevant party structures,” said Mukundu.
“What Chamisa and the MDC must do is to deliver a democratic congress that demonstrates their capacity and values as an alternative to Zanu PF.”
Mukundu added that the congress offers a fresh start for Chamisa as a post-Morgan Tsvangirai opposition leader and gives him leverage to define the future of the party.
“I think the congress will simply strengthen Chamisa’s hand in deciding on MDC political trajectory, and essentially put the Chamisa stamp on the MDC away from the shadow of the late …Tsvangirai which still looms large on the MDC.
“I think the MDC position on the dialogue is well defined and unlikely to change. What will happen after congress is that Chamisa will have more time and space to focus on national politics and not worry about internal political party issues.”
Another political analyst and civil rights activist Gladys Hlatywayo said the supposed legitimacy deficit is a creation of MDC detractors.
“Yes, president Tsvangirai left Chamisa in an acting position but this acting position was confirmed by the highest decision making body in-between congress which is the National Council.
“The congress is only important in as far as it is the first after the departure of the revered founder and a continuation of the democratic culture of subjecting leadership to the will of the people,” she told the Daily News on Sunday.