Chamisa banks on Tsvangirai sympathy

Chamisa banks on Tsvangirai sympathy
Published: 19 March 2018 (377 Views)
AHEAD of Zimbabwe's crucial elections this year, the biggest opposition party has selected a charismatic lawyer and pastor to challenge the military-backed president in the first vote without former leader Robert Mugabe in decades.

It will be a hard road for 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, who became head of the MDC-T party this month after the February death from cancer of Morgan Tsvangirai. Chamisa will face President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former confidant of Mugabe. Mnangagwa, 75, fell out with Mugabe last year amid factional squabbling and was sworn in after a military intervention in November.

Chamisa is banking on sympathy for Tsvangirai, a prominent figure who challenged Mugabe and later joined a troubled coalition with him. Without Tsvangirai the MDC-T party has now fractured, with some violence.

"Tsvangirai has been our best foot forward. He had a lot of goodwill and I am inheriting all the positives. We are simply harvesting," Chamisa told The Associated Press in an interview held in a party boardroom adorned with pictures of his predecessor.

Whatever happens at the polls expected in midyear, Zimbabwe will be experiencing something new.

Mugabe, 94, was the southern African nation's only leader since independence from white minority rule in 1980, a period that began with promise and descended into economic turmoil and repression as the aging ruler clung to power. In his first interview since his resignation, Mugabe last week called his ouster a "coup" and said "we must undo this disgrace."

Like the ruling ZANU-PF party, the main opposition party is fielding a new candidate for the first time since it was formed.

Zimbabwe's political landscape is still plagued by disunity. The electoral commission says there are over 100 parties in a country with 5.3 million registered voters.

Mnangagwa, a veteran of the 1970s war against white minority rule and a long-serving Cabinet member, is under pressure to deliver fair elections in order to restore international ties after years of sanctions. He has said elections will be held "as scheduled," between July and August.

Chamisa, 35 years younger than the president, called the "generational issue" central to the election. "I represent the new. Mnangagwa represents the past," he said in the AP interview.

"Mnangagwa was important as a bridge. He helped us remove Mugabe so he is Zimbabwe's door out of the past, not to the future," Chamisa added.

At his first rally as MDC-T president and presidential candidate early this month, Chamisa promised wide-ranging economic and democratic reforms and an upgrading of the once-prosperous country's technology.

Thousands attended the rally in Chinhoyi, which is in Mugabe's home province. Supporters roared in disapproval when Chamisa announced he was shortening his speech because of a heavy downpour.

"We are not going anywhere," some shouted, forcing him to continue after refusing an umbrella offered by an aide.

A few supporters wore T-shirts with an image of Chamisa but most had old Tsvangirai shirts, a sign of the deceased politician's influence.

"Tsvangirai was our Moses. Chamisa is our Joshua," said 67-year-old Pertunia Chigarande. In biblical narratives, Joshua succeeded Moses and completed the deliverance of Israelites to the so-called promised land.

Others have a less charitable view of Chamisa, a former student leader who was among the opposition party's top six officials at its formation in 1999. He has been accused of using violence against his own party rivals, an allegation that he denies.

"Chamisa has an unquenchable thirst for power. He is prepared to use violence to grab power, as he is doing now," said Thokozani Khupe, a party deputy who claims to be the rightful successor to Tsvangirai and whose supporters were involved in violent clashes with Chamisa loyalists this month.

Internal party divisions could cost Chamisa "big time," said Harare-based political analyst Alexander Rusero. He said Mnangagwa's experience gives the youthful Chamisa "a major headache."

Non-governmental organizations allege the ruling party is resorting to old tactics of intimidation by allowing its officials and traditional chiefs aligned to the party to force rural people to surrender voter registration details. The electoral commission said the practice is illegal.

Mnangagwa has denied allegations of vote-rigging for Mugabe in the past and has promised credible elections, pledging to allow Western observers once banned by Mugabe to monitor the polls. He has also promised to accept election results even if he loses.

Some said Chamisa would be careless to believe Zimbabwe's new leader.

"He has a solid social base. He has the backing of youths, women, students, labor and other people who are not necessarily MDC-T supporters," said Phillip Pasirayi, director of the Center for Community Development in Zimbabwe, a non-governmental organization.

"But he needs to be careful because the regime can go to any lengths to retain power and maintain political dominance," Pasirayi said.



- AP

 0

You May Like These Videos

Comments

There are no comments.

Latest stories

France beat Croatia to win SWC

by Sports24 | 15 July 2018 | 114 Views

Why army warning is omnious

by Siphosami Malunga | 15 July 2018 | 262 Views

2 separate funerals for MUgabe's prophet

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 260 Views

Tribal tensions intensifies in Matebeleland

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 170 Views

Chicken Inn beats Nichrut

by Staff Reporter | 15 July 2018 | 97 Views

Makokoba man drinks himself to death

by Staff Reporter | 15 July 2018 | 135 Views

ZEC dismisses Chigumba resignation report

by Stephen Jakes | 15 July 2018 | 188 Views

Mnangagwa accepts that women should not lead!

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana | 15 July 2018 | 176 Views

674 graduate at Masvingo Poly

by Staff Reporter | 15 July 2018 | 94 Views

Obert Mpofu, Mudenda get Mnangagwa praise

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 116 Views

Does Njelele hold the keys?

by Staff rpeorter | 15 July 2018 | 106 Views

ZEC commissioner receives death threats

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 125 Views

$400m for roads rehabilitation

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 96 Views

Glamour has left Dynamos

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 115 Views

'Be principled' says Khaya-Moyo

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 64 Views

Jonathan Moyo's STEM re-launched

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 116 Views

Gurira to break bank with blockbuster Hollywood roles

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 103 Views

Chamisa wants SADC, AU to run elections

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 96 Views

Chiwenga promises modern apartments with swimming pools for Mbare

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 96 Views

Postal votes scam and the forgotten postman

by Tawanda Majoni | 15 July 2018 | 102 Views

Chamisa warns Mnangagwa

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 108 Views

Zanu-PF supporters in fierce clashes

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 120 Views

Mnangagwa had never seen such a huge crowd

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 128 Views

Chigumba hits back at critics

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 107 Views

Strive Masiyiwa bailed Mugabe's govt out

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 115 Views

Trust, not arrogance, will deliver a good election

by Zifiso Masiye | 15 July 2018 | 80 Views

Fears of military interference persist as Zanu-PF denies backing

by Nkosana Dlamini | 15 July 2018 | 98 Views

Winky D 'endorses' Chamisa

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 106 Views

AfDB signs agreements with Zimbabwe firms

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 58 Views

Mohadi brother buried

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 63 Views

Postpone Zimbabwe's elections and address serious issues of concern

by Zimbabwe Election Watch | 15 July 2018 | 77 Views

Chamisa vows to rename Zimbabwe

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 52 Views

Mnangagwa has already won elections

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 50 Views

92,000 'ghost voters' still on new roll

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 40 Views

Mugabe's tactics persist in first election without him

by WashingtonPost.com | 15 July 2018 | 84 Views

Zanu-PF taken to court

by Staff reporter | 15 July 2018 | 42 Views