THE dynamic and popular Nelson Chamisa faces no easy political choices in the next few days. This follows the recall of his four MDC Alliance legislators on May 5 2020 from Parliament by the Speaker of Parliament. The four are Chalton Hwende, Tabitha Khumalo, Prosper Mutseyami and Lillian Timveous. All are Chamisa’s top loyalists.
There are contending four schools of thought in the public domain. These are: Total pull out of MDC MPs and boycott of by-elections, seeking legal recourse (external compliance) and an internal political settlement (internal compliance). I intend to unpack all four and argue how they can work best.
The pull out and boycott strategy means the MPs will resign en masse and Chamisa and team will have nothing to do with Parliament. The idea is to delegitimise the ruling Zanu-PF)government and cause regime transition through that path. Reader, this needs no half-baked concomitant actions for a positive result.
Such a pathway needs some form of universal internal acceptance. In the absence of some form of democratic consensus, you risk causing internal bleeding that will manifest through new covert and overt fissures in the short or long term. The legendary Morgan Tsvangirai tried to force his position on boycott of Senate elections in 2005 without universal internal acceptance and this contributed to the split of the movement.
The larger than life Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia faltered on building the same on the boycott path when the Constitution unfairly barred him from contesting in 1996. Had it been more widely honoured, the validity of the elections without Kaunda could have seriously delegitimised the government of the day. Yet even if you get internal democratic consensus, it is not enough. A solo act by Chamisa and team can make this appear as a minor pullout and a low profile case in terms of competing world politics and pandemics.
Therefore, there is need to broaden and build national consensus with critical women’s movements, youth alliances, church leaders, trade unions, and student unions, among others. This will mean framing the response as driven by the will to transform rather than the will to take over power for the sake of it. The new path should not be read as a phantasmagoria act meant to protect the boys and girls’ jobs and money. This will help make the pullout a major one, as it must be. One that scales the delegitimising effect.
Once there is national consensus, on the new radical path, the next logical step is to harness popular discontent and failures of the evil Zanu-PF regime into street protests and other sustained forms of civil disobedience. Off course, the regime will be brutal and vicious in response but from the first Chimurenga/Umvukela (Zimbabwe’s first revolutionary uprising against colonial domination), it is the role of revolutionaries to stand up and fight the good fight. I believe that is the reason why opposition leaders accepted positions of leadership rather than as a turn to eat.
With genuine revolutionaries, the State’s excesses will only make it a high -profile case like when Tsvangirai and team were battered by police in Highfield, Harare on March 11,2007. That was a tipping point. Domestic opposition is already widespread in Zimbabwe and, therefore, the regime is vulnerable.
The problem is that domestic elite opposition that can harness the mass is ineffective and by default maketh the regime comfortable. The leadership cannot wait for the people when the people said lead us and they accepted to lead the people.
The battle for the street becomes more important because the opposition does not affect quorum or functioning of Parliament. This is because the ruling Zanu-PF has two-thirds majority in Parliament and can even change the Constitution without the opposition MPs.
Still, the internal protests will not be enough; one will need regional and multilateral consensus on how to assist Zimbabwe. In addition, walking out of Parliament means losing control of outlets for party and personal survival for some. As a result, a total delegitimisation strategy will need new forms of money mobilised differently. Consistent and game changer will be political will and real political valour from opposition leadership.
Now we look at the proposal to pull out and participate in by-elections. This symbolises a partial boycott. The thinking is that upon en masse resignation of opposition MPs, the regime will follow the law and call for by-elections within 90 days as required by the Constitution. A practical reality is that the regime has used the monster coronavirus pandemic to entrench its authoritarian rule. The government has suspended by-elections in light of coronavirus.
Even the democratic South African government has suspended by-elections, Malawi has postponed the presidential elections and some autocrats the world over are finding a chance to postpone elections. Already Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Finance long argued before coronavirus for a review of byelections laws because of the huge toll on the national fiscus. What an opportunity for Zanu-PF to hide an authoritarian agenda under COVID-19.
Well, even if the by-elections are to be held within 90 days, one cannot vouch the militarised Zimbabwean State will suddenly conduct democratic elections and not serve its common election manipulation menu.
P Zamchiya writes here in his personal capacity