WHEN Sengezo Tshabangu, a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist claiming to be its interim secretary-general, made the shock move to recall 15 of the party’s legislators this week, it created a sense of déjà vu.
Before this week’s dramatic political developments, analysts had warned that the CCC was in danger of giving ammunition to the ruling Zanu-PF.
There were many mistakes the party’s leader, Nelson Chamisa, had made, they said, pointing to lack of structures under his “strategic ambiguity” strategy.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party is known for its ability to exploit fissures in opposition parties to consolidate its grip on power.
This week’s events were the latest example of this, following the split of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) into many breakaway factions, which ended with Chamisa establishing CCC.
The MDC emerged as the first real threat to break up the Zanu-PF hegemony in 1999, but its troubles began during the split, which some say the ruling party played a part in.
On Monday, Tshabangu also recalled 17 CCC councillors from Bulawayo Metropolitan, Matabeleland North and South, claiming they had ceased to be members of the party.
In the most shocking move, he also fired Chamisa from the party.
Jacob Mudenda, Speaker of the National Assembly, quickly declared their seats vacant. He made this official through letters issued on October 4 and 6, addressed to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana.
While CCC has cried foul and described the recalls as illegal, analysts said with proper structures, this would have been avoided.
“What seems to be transpiring is what should be expected in a proper legal system,” Wilbert Mandinde, a leading lawyer, told the Zimbabwe Independent. “You have someone who is saying he is the interim secretary-general, notifying the Speaker of the National Assembly to say he is recalling people who ceased to belong to his party.
“The Speaker is obliged to notify Zec of the vacancies being declared. That is a legal perspective. But you also need to look at the political argument.
“Why is the Speaker acting on a letter from someone if he was notified that in terms of the procedures of CCC communication, Chamisa would handle such?
“That is the political question. There are also issues like who do you recognise as this particular person (Tshabangu) is said to be a fraudster?”
Tsungirirai Bondai, a legal and political analyst, argued that CCC had no constitution, hence the problems it is currently facing.
“He (Chamisa) wants to do what he wants and that is not good for democracy. His supporters will call him a nonconformist. I would rather see it as it is and call him a recalcitrant,” Bondai told the Independent.
South African-based political and social commentator Ricky Mukonza said the whole CCC fiasco revolved around manipulation by Zanu-PF.
“You have Zanu-PF’s tacit interference in opposition politics,” Mukonza said. “But you also have signs of expressions of disgruntlement from party cadres not happy with Chamisa’s leadership.”
He also blamed CCC’s “incompetence” by failing to deal with basic organisational and tactical issues, leading to this week’s political crisis.
“In the end, one is forced to invoke Anthony Hincks’ words: ‘a salted fish will always invite maggots to the party’. The opposition is doing things that make it easy for Zanu-PF or state institutions to interfere in their affairs,” Mukonza added.
Alexander Rusero, a leading academic, said a considerable judgment of this chaos as a product of Zanu-PF would require time.
“The CCC, rich with lawyers in its rank and file, ought to know the consequences of running a political party with postures of a secret society,” Rusero said. “You can’t have a party existing in form and character without known office bearers, legal parameters outlining their roles and responsibilities. The manifesting confusion, which is likely to trigger a repeat of the bizarre recalls of the MDC Alliance era is on the horizon.
“There were basic things Chamisa ought to get right as a leader of a political party. It was simply to have defined, known party bearers and an operational constitution spelling out who does what, where, when and how.”
Rusero said lack of structures and a constitution within CCC was an “own goal”.
Hamadziripi Dube, a political and social commentator, said CCC was also affected by lack of trust.
“Chamisa is trying to threaten others from suspected dining with the revolutionary party. CCC is opening its armpits on how that organisation is disorganised of late,” Dube said.
“How can a party withdraw a candidate which they seconded to Zec a few months ago? This organisation has no structures and it’s not doing its mandate of ameliorating people’s problems whether in cities or wherever. The recalls are a demotivation, which will affect the party’s members as well as sympathisers.”
Dube said the recalls were tantamount to imprisonment of the self-proclaiming big opposition party in Zimbabwe.
“They lack commitment to their mandate. They lack professionalism and oneness as far as politics is concerned. They deserve to lose the by-elections if they come by,” Hamadziripi said.