HARARE – As MDC president and MDC Alliance leader Morgan Tsvangirai battles with his health, there has been serious talk about the lack of a succession plan within his party.
The Daily News spoke to a number of political and social analysts who believe the MDC has the necessary leadership material, even outside the current presidium, to survive another decade, or two and even beyond.
We put it to the analysts to say if Tsvangirai was to step down today and an extraordinary congress is held, who would best fit in his shoes among his three deputies; Nelson Chamisa, Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe.
Political analyst, Elliot Pfebve, believes an extraordinary congress does not restrict candidates to the deputies but that all posts in the MDC from branch to president will be up for grabs.
“It is up to the electoral college which is the congress to determine the best candidate based how they have convinced the electorate. That’s the best democratic approach and the party constitution upholds that.
“The best talent will emerge from both integrity and leadership vision. Nothing is certain until contenders present their manifestos and articulate them,” said Pfebve.
He says it’s only people outside MDC who panic on the thought of succession, “those who are true cadres understand the constitution’s provisions. Meanwhile, we remain steadfast on our support for Tsvangirai as the MDC Alliance candidate.”
Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, said should Tsvangirai choose to step down on health grounds, the question must not be about who should take over, but more about allowing internal democratic processes to guide the party in a process to choose a leader to take the movement forward.
“Party members and observers should focus less on individuals and more on democratic systems and processes. The MDC must set in motion a transparent and democratic process that allows the best candidate to emerge as leader of the party,” said Mavhinga.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the issue was that the MDC, just like Zanu PF has many people who can and have potential to run that party and government far better than Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
“The current issues around succession in MDC are not dissimilar to those in Zanu PF. It’s all about longevity by founding leader, poor governance of the party, lack of succession plan, well-oiled system of patronage and personality cult-like politics and failure to run a party in a manner the party is bigger than the leader.
“Tsvangirai has been at the helm of the party for 18 years while Mugabe for 35. None of them groomed a successor. Both parties have very educated and experienced politicians and leaders who can run the parties well and efficiently but were sidelined by a system that makes the leader bigger than the party and everyone else.”
Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya added that whenever there is an elective congress; it is usually difficult to predict the trajectory because the dynamics are fluid.
“To say ‘who should’ is radically different from ‘who will’. Who should depends on electoral popularity? Who should, as I see, must be one who is capable of unifying the nation, with strong leadership skills, energetic and young enough to extract enthusiasm from the young voters. He or she must have little baggage,” said Ngwenya.
Political analyst Precious Shumba says overall, Tsvangirai’s deputies are not the only ones who have the capacity to take over from Tsvangirai.
“There is Douglas Mwonzora, who has been very vibrant in his administration of the party affairs. To me he represents a new way of tackling Zanu PF, which is robust and unpredictable, which keeps his enemies within and outside the party guessing about where he will end up.
“However, Mwonzora has not been in the MDC for a long time to have the trust of party loyalists. But he has not compromised himself and has been consistent in his articulation of what needs to be done, and that is something the youths in the MDC would find commendable,” said Shumba.
Below are some views on the strengths and weaknesses of Chamisa, Mudzuri and Khupe:-
“Nelson Chamisa has a wide appeal with the people, although it is not certain how internal party dynamics will play out. This is because political parties, including the MDC are complex organisations, internal party dynamics are not always in line with who appeals to the general voting public.
“Chamisa is energetic and his youthfulness could infuse the midas touch in the MDC. We would not know if his experience is enough to run the State, but with the necessary backing and correct advice it is possible. He is hard working and educated, and has been a government minister as well as successful party spokesperson.
“Beyond charisma, he will need to be grounded in the social democratic tenets of his party to successfully execute its ideology. Chamisa has high name recognition across the political spectrum and to a number of people see in him the dream candidate for democratic forces should anything to Tsvangirai who is obviously the best foot forward,” — Vivid Gwede, political analyst.
“In a contest between the old and the new, Chamisa is the natural successor and a reflection of what a new Zimbabwe leadership looks like. His challenge is that in front of him stands the old guard as represented by both Mudzuri and Khupe who may claim seniority based on the past leadership structure,” — Rashweat Mukundu.
“Chamisa is charismatic, youthful and articulate on various national issues. He has potential to grow and manage the dynamics within the MDC, without compromising the struggle for a democratic Zimbabwe. Another advantage is that he has been there in the MDC for a long time and knows almost everything there is to know about the ropes.
“However, Chamisa is repeatedly mentioned as the transport provider for Gushungo Holdings, owned by President Robert Mugabe. If that is true, then this business linkage compromises his standing among the die-hard MDC supporters,” — Precious Shumba
“Chamisa seems to fit in that matrix, but would fall short in terms of the basics of political experience that Khupe and Mudzuri have,” — Rejoice Ngwenya.
“Elias Mudzuri has the gravitas, or the solemnity of manner that befits a presidential persona. He is experienced having been a mayor of Harare and government minister as well as party organiser. He is a senior party leader, who has also tried to have little friction with party colleagues.
“Although his inclusion as vice president was surprising to some, it shows MDC leader Tsvangirai’s great judgment. His Achilles heel is inability to sell himself to the public probably because of a guarded ambition, making his name recognition low.
While his great party organising skills were evident towards the 2008 elections, it is not clear from his current dormancy whether he still has fire in his belly. But there is no doubt about his leadership skills and the solemn appearance to match it,” — Vivid Gwede.
“Mudzuri is a capable leader who demonstrated capacity in his tenure as mayor of Harare. He is a sober thinker who has kept his hands clean from as many scandals rocking the political leadership i.e corruption. His weakness is that after his stint as mayor he suddenly went quiet and has not asserted himself on the national political stage. The Mudzuri we know is the mayor not the national politician,”
— Rashweat Mukundu.
“Mudzuri rose to fame after becoming the Executive Mayor of Harare, and during his short stint, he made significant changes in the running of Harare, and service delivery improved. However, Mudzuri is always overwhelmed by emotions and takes things personally when he is not happy, which might become a disadvantage or advantage depending on where one stands.
“Critically, Mudzuri is not a fluent public speaker, and reports indicate that he is more a tribal leader who favours people from his tribe more than other tribes within the MDC, so he is not a unifying force, even though he is an experienced and knowledgeable political leader and administrator,” — Precious Shumba.
“Mudzuri is a people person, yet introvert. So if populist charisma is a necessary trait — that he doesn’t have,”
— Rejoice Ngwenya.
“Khupe is a very educated, seasoned female politician who can run the party and government if our politics looked at substance not political hullabaloo certain names make. She is articulate, smart and experienced. Who would not want such an educated female president for our country if people looked at issues not tribe, gender, sex of ethnicity?
“You can’t compare her to Chamisa and Mudzuri who are political appointees. She is an elected VP whose potential and political clout were neutralised by Tsvangirai when he played a Mugabe and appointed Chamisa and Mudzuri on tribal lines. She is more educated than both Mudzuri and Chamisa too. She also represents two critical groups that have been marginalised in Zimbabwe politics — Ndebeles and women.
“To me the question of who should succeed Tsvangirai is a no brainer. Khupe is there and is capable. We need to redirect our politics and focus on issues and substance not political noise makers or those that are eloquent on spewing hot air at rallies,” — Maxwell Saungweme.
“Thokozani Khupe is a motherly figure, who is highly-educated, benefitting from the current global trend towards women leadership, which is also encroaching into Africa. She has a solid constituency and backing in the party and gained experience as a deputy prime minister in the Government of National Unity (GNU) as well as a parliamentarian.
“However, Khupe’s recent rebellion regarding the opposition coalition was untimely and drew to her a great deal of ill-will. Equally, it is fair to say her ability to manoeuvre Zimbabwe’s murky male-dominated politics is not quite evident. She has not used her seniority to articulate a national vision. However, with enough handholding she will be a good leader,” — Vivid Gwede.
“Khupe is a vibrant political leader, has a long history in the struggle and could persuade marginalised communities and minorities. Her challenge is that politics is still dominated by men and she will have a rough ride overcoming the gender discrimination in our body politic,”
— Rashweat Mukundu.
“Khupe is a strong-willed woman, who has been there with the MDC from the beginning, and has been clear on her rejection of the autocratic rule of Zanu PF. She has been articulate of the MDC vision, and has been able to mobilise women and youths to rally around different causes of the democratic movement in the opposition.
“The major weakness in Khupe is that she is largely seen as a tribal leader, who favours her own tribe and does not go beyond her tribe in terms of her influence on the ground. Previously, she has been fingered as a violent leader who also uses party youths to fight her opponents inside the Party.
“That is not the calibre of the national leader that the MDC would need to unite the opposition. One other disadvantage that she faces is on gender representation of women in leadership positions given the patriarchal nature of Zimbabwe’s opposition politics. Women still face exclusion and marginalisation when it comes to occupying top positions, because the majority of the party leaders are male and were socialised to disrespect women.
“But this can be overcome if Khupe clears her misunderstanding with Tsvangirai over the Alliance, because that incident will always be remembered by the grassroots MDC supporters who regard Tsvangirai as their godfather of politics. If Tsvangirai withholds his support towards her, she will not survive alone, except maybe to depend on her kinship relations,” — Precious Shumba.
“Khupe is an experienced politician, likeable but her handling of the Alliance revealed a degree of intolerance that might cause discomfort,” — Rejoice Ngwenya.