A RENOWNED academic and political analyst has advised punch drunk MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa to urgently rebrand and re-think his strategies if he is to salvage his waning local and international standing.
Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday at the weekend, Professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Stephen Chan, said Chamisa had a lot of work to do to convince the international community that he was a potential ‘president-in-waiting’.
“He really does have to convince possible future allies in Sadc, the African Union and the world beyond that he is a president-in-waiting.
“Obviously, the first part of this is giving the impression of being a commanding opposition leader. At the moment, this status is being stolen from him in pretty much broad daylight.
“The question outsiders would ask is why he did not see this (his current troubles) coming. The reinvention of himself should have started long ago, together with the rebranding of his party,” Chan told the Daily News On Sunday.
“Achieving a clear identity is a key to any opposition movement or party.
“The second question outsiders would ask is why have some of his own MPs deserted him? Is it just because of temptation from Zanu PF or because of dissatisfaction with Chamisa?
“A good opposition leader ensures that this does not happen by example and consultation, then decisiveness, that he commands loyalty.
“So, as well as rebranding his party, Chamisa needs to rethink himself and his approach. He has got to be seen to be inclusive of all his followers, and that will signal that he can be inclusive of all Zimbabweans,” Chan further told the Daily News On Sunday.
He also said while Zanu PF was taking advantage of the chaos engulfing the MDC Alliance, what was happening within and around the coalition reflected poorly on its leadership.
“Oh, I think that Zanu PF has certainly been brandishing ‘safe landing pads’ to all who have deserted Chamisa.
“But, as I have said before, this is very common internationally, especially in the history of Indian parliamentary politics. All the same, you only desert if you think there is no future where you are now.
“So, even without inducements, members of Chamisa’s MDC would be asking whether confrontation and defiance are the only strategies. Is there also a multi-faceted way forward?
“Only when they start thinking like that, and not thinking that their leader has any answers, does inducement work,” Chan also told the Daily News On Sunday.
He also bemoaned the lack of viable strategies by the alliance to target and attract key national constituencies, including rural voters.
“In the rural areas, where electronic communication is still at a lower level, there is no Chamisa ‘brand’.
“How does he speak to a farmer there? Does he spend a day digging a field with them … even for a photo opportunity? Not just with white shirt-sleeves rolled up, but in blue overalls.
“He has to give the impression that he is reaching out, that he is well educated, but still a man of the people.
“Right now he would still command a respectable vote in the presidential elections, more than (Douglas) Mwonzora … but people might vote for him, but not vote for his party.
“In other words, even if he became president, he could not count on an assured support base,” Chan told the Daily News On Sunday, adding that Chamisa’s 2023 chances were dim.
“He could still take more than a third of the presidential vote. I hope he does and simply to show that someone opposes.
“But what is left of his party will take a lower share of the vote than it did in the last elections.
“The opposition is bereft of coherent funding and at war with itself, no clear policies as to how they would do better than the Finance minister’s slow drip approach to stabilisation.
“Chamisa has not put forward the stark and dramatic alternative to this in terms that can be quantitatively measured. So people will stick with the devil they know,” Chan added.
This comes as MDC Alliance insiders say the coalition has reached a critical point, where it now has to make many tough decisions about its future.
It also comes as both Zanu PF and the main opposition MDC led by Douglas Mwonzora are cranking up the heat on the alliance’s leaders, amid a biting resources drought that is making planning for the crucial 2023 polls difficult.
At the same time, the divisions that have been ravaging the alliance over the past two years are worsening, with some hawks in the coalition said to sharpening their knives against one of the pact’s leading lights, Tendai Biti.
As if to drive this point home about the alliance’s deepening troubles, Mwonzora’s spokesperson Lloyd Damba also asserted in an interview with the Daily News On Sunday recently that there was “only one MDC” and that the alliance was now led by his boss.
“There is only one MDC in this country. The MDC Alliance is not a single political party but a conglomerate of seven parties which are led by the MDC that was led Morgan Tsvangirai.
“In Article 1 of the Composite Political Co-operation Agreement, known as the MDC Alliance Agreement, the parties agreed that the name of the coalition would be called the MDC Alliance.
“The MDC-T was the largest component among the seven coalition partners … the parties also agreed to operate as independent parties … The MDC Alliance Agreement goes further to state that whoever is the leader of the MDC-T shall become the leader of the MDC Alliance,” Damba said.
“In other words, the current leader of the MDC Alliance is now president Douglas Mwonzora … This agreement is due to expire in 2023 because it has a life-span of five years, and so it’s still operational.
“So, make no mistake about who is the MDC and MDC Alliance leader. It is Douglas Mwonzora,” he added.
An MDC Alliance insider who spoke to the Daily News On Sunday admitted that the coalition had reached a pivotal point where difficult decisions now had to be made.
“Things are very rough right now. With everyone aiming their guns at us and funding still a problem, we have reached a defining moment where we have no choice but to take difficult decisions now.
“Any more dithering on all the outstanding issues that need to be resolved could spell disaster for the party. As you have seen, our enemies are not relenting.
“Top of the issues that we have to decide on now, for me, is a new name for our party as we need to break away from the mess that the MDC name has become, while also assuring tired supporters that we have a viable plan going forward,” the senior alliance official said.
“Secondly, we must learn to manage leadership differences better going forward as we have tended to always open up easy attack corridors for our enemies through our unnecessary internal bickering.
“Lastly, we need to start raising money fast and in a sustainable way as 2023 is now around the corner, also accepting the harsh reality that Zanu PF will never give us back our money that they are giving to Dougie (Mwonzora),” the insider added.
In the meantime, alliance vice president Biti is being accused by his internal foes of allegedly competing with Chamisa.
This comes after the United States of America (USA) recently condemned Biti’s recall from Parliament by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) — something Washington did not do when similar fate befell other MDC Alliance bigwigs before that. – Daily News