Tuesday, 17 April 2018

KHUPE, CHAMISA AND THE REALITY OF A POPULIST DRIVEN MOVEMENT
















This blogpost argues that the MDC-T does not share the democratic values it demands from government and from ZANU PF. It is the putative advocate for, rather than bona fide practitioner of, democratic governance and constitutionalism. These central tenets of the MDC-T's advocacy narrative cannot be found within its own political culture. High level contestations pitting democratic principle against popularly backed expediency are consistently resolved in favour of the latter. The original rupture of 2005, subsequent disunion of 2014 and the ongoing disagreement with Dr. Thokozani Khupe have all been sites of democratic flight from, and populist fortification within, the MDC-T. In this context, the rise of Nelson Chamisa is only the MDC-T’s latest procedurally questionable yet highly popular manoeuver, bearing an eerie resemblance to the military coup d’├ętat of November 2017. 

The 2005 split in the MDC went beyond the question of participation in senate elections; both factions would actually contest in senate elections only three years later.  It was, at its heart, a confrontation between a powerful president and an equally powerful national council backed by the constitution.  Faced with an institutional check on his presidential powers, Morgan Tsvangirai opted for personal supremacy at the expense of structural checks and balances: 

"Well you have voted, and you have voted to participate, which as you know is against my own wish.……No I cannot let you participate in this senate ... I am President of this party. ... If the party breaks so be it. I will answer to congress." 

In that famous dictum, Morgan Tsvangirai rejected the notion of the MDC as a coalition of interests with equal voices under the constitution. His interests reigned supreme and were only subject to congress. He was not, in the words of Barry Driscoll, a big man of Africanist social science at the apex of a web of patrimonial relations, but the big man that fashioned himself as the center of unchecked power. Those that believed in procedural orthodoxy left the party, whilst retaining its original name. This is because the matter was neither litigated in the courts nor subjected to the parliamentary process of recall. The emergent big man could not risk a dent on his popular legitimacy through an adverse finding by the Mugabe-appointed judges or the ZANU PF led parliament.  


The MDC-T emerged from this melee as the party coalescing around the popularity of Morgan Tsvangirai. Thokozani Khupe became Deputy President, Tendai Biti Secretary General and Nelson Chamisa party spokesperson.  They even removed the presidential term limit from their constitution; underscoring the shift from structural aids to democratic governance. This amendment would later haunt Tendai Biti, Elton Mangoma and others in 2014 when they asked their populist leader to consider stepping down to enhance democratic practice and allow for leadership renewal.  Just as in 2005, Morgan Tsvangirai called for congress to reinforce his popular backing whilst those calling for democratic practice faced violent rejection. 

Thus, it is hardly surprising that Morgan Tsvangirai elevated Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri to be his Vice Presidents. As far back as 2005, he had been accused of giving power to persons outside constitutional structures, the so called kitchen cabinet. Even though Dr. Khupe was the trusted Deputy President from the time of the first split and stood by Morgan Tsvangirai through the next rupture, she was forced to contend with two male appointees granted equal power without requisite electoral or constitutional legitimacy. The appointments circumvented the constitutionally ordained process of succession whilst increasing the powers of the president in the succession dynamics. 

Notwithstanding political affiliation or preferred candidature, there is something to be admired in a person from marginalized and minority groups refusing to be treated as a second class citizen – if nothing else, it deserves respect. Dr. Khupe is vilified because the MDC-T is a movement of people who coalesce around the most popular politician of the time. Nothing will stand in the way of that goal, no matter the constitutional dictates. This makes it that much harder for women and minority groups to be considered for top leadership. Nelson Chamisa’s appeal also relates to the allegation that he received Morgan Tsvangirai’s final blessing. To this extent, the MDC-T is not an electoral democracy which determines leadership by election at congress as required by its constitution. Leadership is bestowed on the person who receives the last anointing of the patriarch as in Bronze Age Palestine and other medieval/feudal societies. 

The MDC-T will continue to present the electorate with the most realistic chance of breaking ZANU PF’s hegemonic dominance in Zimbabwean politics. Be that as it may, they are hardly practitioners of their own prescriptions. Zimbabweans are, yet again, condemning the sobering and measured considerations of law and procedure just to secure the most popular outcome. This is consistent with ill-fated elation towards the military coup d’├ętat in November 2017. Such seismic political change without any economic benefit should make us reconsider our desire for change no matter its moral content or democratic implications. 

David T Hofisi is a human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe. 

22 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much for taking the time my brother.

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. I totally agree with your observations here.

      Delete
    4. Thanks so much my brother.

      Delete
  2. So true. Your closing statement sums it all up!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the insights David. Chirungu chete chakanyanya.. wakanganwa kuti tiri vekuma ology?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aaaaa ology inoziveiko...muri seiko va Chirenda, long time! Thanks so much for the kind remarks.

      Delete
  4. This is a well written piece. Well argued and clearly structured. It cuts to the chase raising key questions about the utility of the political opposition in advancing a genuine democratic agenda. It speaks not only about the fickleness of political institutions but the banality of political behaviour as well. A must read for anyone with interest in making sense of the Zimbabwean political opera.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for the lovely response!

      Delete
  5. well written articule, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for taking the time!

      Delete
  6. David, I found this interesting reading. I agree with you to a greater extent. The recent political stokvel (the MDC Alliance) presents further exclusion of intra party democratic processes. Imposition of candidates etc. I also see the capture of the MDC-T by a pro-Chamisa ex tertiary education leadership that seeks to exclude the rest. #chinhuchavo

    ReplyDelete
  7. David you are somewhat correct but there are points I humbly ask you to reconsider.The Tsvangirai refusal to participate in the Senate led to electoral amendments that delivered the 2008 victory,so his wisdom was vindicated.The elevation of Khupe was not on merit but the gender balance persuasion to match the elevation of Joice Mujuru in the opponent.I love women so much but subscribe to merit and talent.In 2014 we all agreed that the election was smartly rigged,so the frustration of Tendai and Mangoma was misdirected.The other observation .Thokozani Khupe and Mujuru ascendecy were all not based on merit.We should never subscribe to a gender balancing void of merit and talent because its an insult to women who get on top through merit and talent.

    Lastly I humbly beg you to reconsider and visit Morgan Tsvangirai press conference of promotion of Mudzuri and Chamisa. The president stressed that we also are addressing succession which I believe is a critical component in leadership.Morgan goes on to introduce the MDC alliance and Chamisa took up the concept and started a megaphone invitation to Biti and Mangoma.The reasoning was simple the MDC N and MDC T would have won 26 additional seats if it was in a coalition in 2013 while in 2008 could have been even more.Morgan Tsvangirai was a leader who knew that winning an election is half the job while to deliver you need talented workman to deliver on promises.His reaching out to Biti ,the austerity g enious converted now to turnaround and depression economics magician and the admistrative magic of Professor Devolution Ncube is what is needed to ensure he is ready.Democracy should never mute the visionary abilities of the leader ,no wonder America has the electoral college.

    Chamisa is a natural leader and if you were watching their campaign track before the death of MT it was disgusting to see them score on the weekend and only to be shadowed by succession the whole week

    final points are
    1) Morgan Tsvangirai Senate boycott was perfect and yielded electoral amendments that helped the 2008 victory.
    2) Morgan Tsvangirai refusal of renewal based on rigged election and without planned succession led to Chamisa's asecendency which has energised the base.
    3)The National Council is more than perfect in exercising its mandate to appoint a leader than to risk two brutal divisive congress and primary election.
    4 )Democracy fighting military mafia will never yield any power that you need to gradually democratize,--Uganda perfect example
    5) Women equality should not mean death of merit and talent cause it is counterproductive and an insult to talented women.
    6) The MDC must change to popular democracy like Switerland type but remodel parliament to ensure qualitative and technocratic arm to help decision making
    8) please forgive my waffling and dump thoughts I wasn't really good at school.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for taking the time, your great insights will definitely help in shaping my views on this matter.

      Delete
  8. Very thought provoking and insightful. I like the bravado to cal a spade a spade and also the realism to note that the MDC-T -for now- will be the most portent vehicle to challenge ZANU PF hegemony. You summed it up when you talk on the lack of democracy culture. We pronounce it with zest but never want to walk the words of our preaching.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the kind words my brother.

      Delete