HARARE – With only a few weeks left before this year’s tricky general elections, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, faces a dilemma over who to appoint as his deputies, amid fears that poor choices could create ripples in the marriage of convenience that brings together seven opposition political parties.
By Maxwell Sibanda and Fungi Kwaramba
The Daily News on Sunday can report that there is intense jockeying behind the scenes among alliance leaders who signed a Political Cooperation Agreement (PCA) that gave birth to the MDC Alliance on August 5, 2017 for the positions of deputy president.
But to avoid creating unnecessary friction in the Alliance ahead of make-or-break polls on July 30, sources said Chamisa was more inclined towards deferring the decision on the matter to after the general elections, a position shared by some of the MDC Alliance leaders, including Welshman Ncube.
The Alliance is basically an electoral bloc formed between seven political parties, most of which are splinters from original MDC, founded in 1999.
Formed to contest the forthcoming polls, its members include Chamisa’s main MDC, Ncube’s MDC, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by Tendai Biti, Transform Zimbabwe (TZ) led by Jacob Ngarivhume, the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), led by Agrippa Mutambara, Zanu-Ndonga and the Multi-Racial Democrats.
By choosing to contest under one umbrella, the MDC Alliance put itself in a position whereby its leaders would have to agree on a structure of government, assuming the coalition wins the upcoming plebiscite. Apart from a president, that structure would also have two vice presidents in line with the national charter, most probably to emerge from the PCA signatories.
Sources said there was intense jockeying between MDC Alliance partners for the positions, which has put Chamisa on the spot. According to analysts canvassed by the Daily News on Sunday, the 40-year-old Chamisa would have to summon all his wisdom to pull this one — taking into account the need for inclusivity, regional and ethnic balance — to stabilise the MDC Alliance ship.
MDC national chairperson, Morgen Komichi, told the Daily News on Sunday that Chamisa would definitely deal with this potentially hot potato at the appropriate time.
“When the time comes, the president will appoint the best people as his deputies; that question has not arisen yet,” said Komichi.
MDC Alliance spokesperson, Ncube, believes Chamisa will only appoint deputies if the coalition wins the elections.
“It will only arise after the elections — the issue is who will be appointed by Chamisa if he wins and for now that does not arise,” said Ncube.
In terms of the PCA, the parties agreed to establish a non-competing electoral Alliance for purposes of contesting the 2018 harmonised elections.
Without specifying the method to be used in selecting the candidates, the agreement says that “the party which is strongest electorally in a given constituency must field the candidate for the coalition”.
While the PCA has provisions to “accommodate any additional alliance”, it goes on to give Chamisa carte blanche to select the other coalition partners.
According to the pact, the MDC leader would appoint a “national State executive of vice presidents, ministers and deputy ministers” balancing regions, gender and including all political parties, in the event that he wins the elections.
Most of the MDC Alliance partners will fill positions in the other organs of the State although a lot will depend on whether the coalition would have secured enough numbers to push its agenda through.
For example, Biti’s PDP was offered the deputy speaker of Parliament post while TZ would nominate all parliamentary chairpersons.
This would, however, require the MDC Alliance to have the numeric advantage in the National Assembly to get its people nominated into these positions.
The Ncube-led MDC would nominate the president of the senate with the ZPF also accorded its share of the cake.
Political analyst, Vivid Gwede, said the issue of a deputy in the MDC Alliance, or at least that of a running mate, would be resolved when the nomination court sits.
“It is likely that the MDC Alliance will present the running mate together as a collective of parties. Obviously, in the matrix regional balance, inclusivity and experience will have to be taken in to consideration.
“Given that the big day of the election has been announced, the wait could now be very short,” said Gwede.
He added that the final decision and freedom to choose should lie with the presidential candidate.
“This is the standard practice in countries such as the United States because the two presidium occupiers, the president and his vice, should have an understanding in order to have order in the cockpit.
“We have seen in the recent years, how former president Robert Mugabe seemed to be always quarrelling with his deputies. That is not an enviable situation.”
Political expert, Maxwell Saungweme, said if unresolved the issue of the MDC Alliance deputy presidents would have grave consequences for the opposition which is currently showing a veneer of unity.
“The delays in clarifying the deputies shows that there are prolonged talks on the issue with two power-hungry lawyers who lead smaller fractions of parties in the Alliance poised to take the positions.
“It’s not an easy one. It’s likely that Chamisa will end up mimicking Zanu PF and have two VPs one Shona and one Ndebele giving room for both Biti and Ncube to fit in.
“But now that elections are so near and campaigns are in full throttle this issue of deputies and chaos marring election and determination of MP candidates presents the Alliance as a political outfit in disarray at the 11th hour.
“In such cases defeat becomes a clear possibility when faced with a competitor who has advantages of incumbency yet your camp is shambolic.
“You can only stand a better chance against an incumbent when you are better organised than them,” said Saungweme.
Crisis Coalition spokesperson, Tabani Moyo, said constitutionally, it’s unavoidable for Chamisa not to choose a deputy for the MDC Alliance.
“He shall have to bite the bullet on that one. I strongly think the chaos that ensued in the primary elections would only entail that we make the correct move after the interested parties have completed their race for the show of interest at constituency levels,” said Moyo.
“Remember both the presidential candidate and their running mates do not compete at constituency level. Now that the proclamation has been made and the elections are going to take place on July 30, 2018, which decision will be out in the open.”
Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika, however, says Chamisa has the obligation or power to appoint a deputy for the MDC Alliance.
“It is an alliance of political parties which already has full structures and given this, if a deputy is to be appointed beyond the two main portfolios allocated or Alliance president and spokesperson, I’m quite sure it will not be Chamisa’s decision but that of the Alliance as represented by its principals.
“Logic would dictate that if this Alliance is fully functional then part of the agreement also has to be about how responsibilities and power is shared in the Alliance,” said Lewanika.
Media and social analyst Rashweat Mukundu said: “Let us remember that the MDC already has a deputy in the name of Elias Mudzuri and until that changes or the Alliance decides otherwise, I think Chamisa is well covered and supported by the existing structure. The MDC is also finalising its candidate selection and it could be that once this is done the party may focus on other areas.”
Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya could only say: “Our Constitution has no provision for running mate. It is not urgent. It can wait until after the elections.”