Who will succeed Tsvangirai?

via Who will succeed Tsvangirai? – DailyNews Live by Gift Phiri  13 NOVEMBER 2013

Four months after the MDC’s devastating electoral defeat, the rhythm of politics in the opposition party makes one’s head spin.

Irreconcilable social forces are on the move and tending towards a clash. The moment for clarity has arrived.

Among all the candidates vying for the MDC presidency, Tendai Biti, Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe clearly have the edge when it comes to a real shot at the top MDC job after Morgan Tsvangirai is gone.

It is trite to note right at the outset that Tsvangirai has a mandate which runs until 2016.

The MDC leader has not stifled leadership renewal debate, but called for internal MDC discourse, not in the press.

This is worrying and wrong at so many levels. There must be free and open debate on MDC succession, even in the press, without fear of opprobrium.

It seems, the MDC, just like Zanu PF, is averse to succession debate.

But it need not be this way.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai are not ordained to rule forever and this discourse is healthy to Zimbabwe’s democracy.

Pundits of every political stripe have commented on Engineer Elias Mudzuri’s dream to take over the leadership of the MDC while Tsvangirai — an opposition leader with star quality — is still at the helm.

If events at the MDC congress held in 2011 at Barbourfields Stadium are anything to go by, then Mudzuri’s shot at the presidency is a very, very long shot indeed.

Those familiar with events in the MDC will attest that Mudzuri does not stand a chance of a snowball in hell against Tsvangirai at the extraordinary congress being mooted.

Mudzuri will be buried by Tsvangirai, the same way the Harvard-educated engineer was vanquished by Chamisa.

At the 2011 congress, the MDC party overwhelmingly elected Chamisa as its new organising secretary, handing the veteran incumbent and  former Harare mayor a humiliating defeat.

After the loud crowd reaction that followed Chamisa’s victory and Mudzuri’s vanquishing, even the most jaded political reporters admit that the former ICT minister is something rare and special.

In each generation, a few public figures come along who have a personal magnetism that makes strangers care deeply about them. Call it star power, call it charisma, this infrequent gift is akin to the power that great actors have. And Chamisa has that magical quality.

Chamisa is able to turn a room full of strangers into a community rich in shared meaning, just as a great actor creates such a community within a theatre.

Chamisa articulates a vision for the MDC that those in the audience can quickly make their own. He has amazing power of garb.

Charismatic leaders and their followers are interdependent; they feed and energise each other.

The transformational leader gives the audience hope and makes it believe that, together, they can create a better future.

Biti, Zimbabwe’s immediate past Finance minister, also has that star quality.

Biti’s rhetoric is always suffused with optimism. He purveys not fear, but shining new possibilities.

The football-loving lawyer was the chief negotiator of the power-sharing deal with Zanu PF, which culminated in the 2009-2013 inclusive government, where he displayed unparalleled leadership.

The lawyer has been instrumental in civil society start-ups, including of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the National Constitutional Assembly, which has been campaigning for a new constitution but has been transmogrified into an opposition political party.

Just like Chamisa, Biti is a former union leader at the University of Zimbabwe, who loves shooting from the hip against opponents.

He has been credited as a steady hand on the economic till.

But critics say he is undiplomatic, bookish and lacks the chemistry to connect with the crowds with ease, a major strength of both Tsvangirai and Chamisa.

The feisty Khupe, who was Tsvangirai’s running mate in the last general poll, is another dark horse.

As vice president, Khupe is an MDC leader who must be ready to step in and be president if anything happens to Tsvangirai. No doubt, Khupe’s working-class roots and media experience has helped Tsvangirai.

She is a holder of a degree in Information Technology from Turin College in Italy. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies.

Contrary to widely-held belief, Khupe is extremely popular in the MDC.

At the last MDC congress, she polled 3 047 votes for the MDC vice presidency, defeating Thabita Khumalo who garnered a lowly 99 votes and Norman Mabhena’s 347 votes.

Khupe has deep roots in the trade union movement. She served in the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Union (Zaru) from the 80s, where she cut her teeth in trade union politics in 1987.

In 1991 she was elected secretary for the ZCTU Women’s Advisory Council and also a General Council member of the ZCTU.

Khupe, 49, a single mother of three — twins aged 28 and a teen daughter aged 18 — is known for her plain-spoken approach and penchant for speaking from the cuff, and she has taken the traditional vice presidential candidate’s role of political attack dog with amazing gusto.

She is a loyal deputy to Tsvangirai and has wormed her way into the hearts of MDC supporters because of the powerful personal story she shares, for her deep knowledge of women affairs, and for her long record of exemplary service in the trade union movement.

In October of 2010, she was elected president for the United Nations Aids/Global Women Power Network for Africa — an arm of the powerful world body responsible for creating a new and sustainable network of female legislators and ministers from Africa to fight HIV/Aids and implement the agenda for accelerated country action at national and regional levels.

A leader in the 8th Zimbabwe House of Assembly, she cuts a figure of a proud person to those who do not know her. But she is in fact a very decent, caring and humble mother.

Khupe’s overwhelming endorsement with little effort that left her challengers languishing way down in the polls, was an endorsement that really matters.

Although politicians cultivate and covet such endorsements for their value as publicity and evidence of momentum, Khupe’s actual power is real.

She did not need to do hours of blabber to win casual uncommitted voters.

Critics say she owes her position to gender and her tribe. Like Zanu PF, the MDC has maintained a delicate tribal balancing act in its presidium, ensuring the vice president is Ndebele.

But besides this requirement, Khupe is actually very popular if the last MDC congress is anything to go by.

But in the current campaign, the  favourite in the succession race is clearly Chamisa.

The camera loves him. His supporters love him. He has a special chemistry with the rank-and-file, especially in the rural areas. Chamisa has a strong rural background, which he has used to his advantage.

It is the cacophony that greets him whenever he is introduced that  always fazes reporters.

There is a feeling that Chamisa — a natural leader — stands a good chance to be the next MDC leader.

He has bided for time, staunchly rallying behind Tsvangirai even at his lowest. The MDC leader also has a soft spot for him and there is talk he would love to relinquish power to him if the former trade unionist feels his time is nigh.

Chamisa’s unique capacity to inspire should not be undervalued.

Before the MDC picks its next leader at congress in three years time, voters should give great weight to what a candidate with charisma would bring to the table.

Just like Tsvangirai himself, his charisma is infectious.

But doesn’t history caution against putting faith in a charismatic leader?

True, some of history’s worst villains — Adolf Hitler, of course, springs to mind — have been dangerous demagogues with a stranglehold on their public’s fears and aspirations, which they have abused for their own wicked, self-aggrandising schemes.

A far more mundane disappointment in charismatic individuals is that they sometimes reveal themselves to have been smooth-tongued empty suits without the capacity to deliver results.

But not Chamisa. He has done exceptionally well as the party spokesperson and minister of ICT.

He has amassed a string of degrees, with the latest being a masters degree in international relations.

He already has  a degree in political science and has one semester left to complete his Law degree.

There is a sense that he is too young, but one has to look at the new breed of leaders in emerging democracies the world over. At the next congress, Chamisa will be 37.

Some say Biti will have to square-off with Chamisa for the big prize at the next congress where Tsvangirai is expected to step down after serving 17 years as president.

That will be a battle of the titans. But even if Chamisa loses that next MDC presidential vote, he has age on his side.

In Chamisa, it seems there is an unusually strong character and good temperament — thus negligible risk of demagoguery.

But yes, even voters who find him spellbinding are well advised to satisfy themselves about his and any candidate’s character.

Moreover, the capacity to deliver results is essential.

And in his capacity as organising secretary, particularly in these times of great challenge; it is precisely in this regard that many believe his extraordinary capacity to inspire would empower him to lay the groundwork for his final bid for the presidency.

His ability to deliver solutions for the extraordinary range of problems the MDC faces, including getting over the July 31 disaster and proving the attendant ballot fraud claims, intra-party violence, sliding popularity ratings, will define his future.

An inspirational leader could restore a sense of agency to the MDC, imbuing it with the confidence it so desperately needs as it goes into the decisive phase of the struggle against Zanu PF.

Not to say Tsvangirai has failed, far from it.

Chamisa no doubt has the star quality if the audience reaction at several MDC rallies is anything to go by.


  • comment-avatar

    That year 2016 would be a very crucial year for the MDC-T is unquestionably.The party will elect a new crop of leaders,who will take part in the National elections of 2018.The MDC must give it’s leader and founding President Morgan Tsvangaira another chance to lead the party and finaly to be the President of Zimbabwe.This man has suffered for this country.He has a vision for this country.The likes of Tendai Biti,Nelson Chamisa,Elias Mudzuri must get a political apprenticeship from Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai as he is the architecture of the great democratic revolution in this country.To the MDC I say do not loose heart because of the 2013 elections,struggles take long and can be prolonged.

    • comment-avatar
      nesbert majoni 10 years ago

      Its true bro. This is the time MDC T must show unity and rally behind Morgen. In 2018 he will be in the state house and the people of Zimbabwe will be liberated

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      If the likes of Tendai Biti,Nelson Chamisa,Elias Mudzuri must get a political apprenticeship from Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, where must Morgan Richard Tsvangirai get his apprenticeship from?

      We all know he has suffered for this country just as tens of thousands of Zimbabweans have.

      However, so far he has failed at every opportunity to oust this dictatorship. Do we have to wait for kingdom come?

      I strongly believe that the dynamics of the way power is handled within the party has to change. Simply put, we are at war with a regime which has illegitimately hijacked Zimbabwe. For this reason, the MDC needs to compile it’s own Joint Operations Command (JOC) just like Ian Smith and Mugabe have done.

      This is not a level playing field and no one man has the ability to win this war. That is the reason why Morgan Tsvngirai has failed. He wasn’t smart enough to prevent Zanu-pf from stealing the july 31 election. In fact, he broke very rule in the book by allowing the GPA to be parked, no reforms implemented and no voters roll inspection. He should never have taken Zimbabwe into that election under those conditions.

      Since then, we have watched paralysis and squabbling to set in. The leadership matrix has to change and the way operational decisions are made must be made by MDC JOC, not by Tsvangirai alone. I am not saying he should be deposed, I am saying he cannot be allowed to make unilateral decisions. The party has to become more strategic and understand what it is dealing with.

      Unless this happens, Zimbabwe is doomed to increasing poverty and deprivation whilst the chef continue to get fatter and fatter.

      If the people of Zimbabwe want change, that change must begin right now. We cannot wait for the next 5 years for zanu-pf to turn Zimbabwe into another North Korea and Chinese surrogate.

      The time to bite the bullet and put Zimbabwe first in NOW. The people must govern and those who steal the people’s mandate must be shown that while they sit on their blood soaked throwns, Zimbabwe is going to be made ungovernable from those throwns.

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    mucha 10 years ago

    I can succeed Tsvangirai. By just doing what he did over the past 14 years it’s easy and enjoyable.
    ….Receiving and squandering donour funds.
    ….Womanising, Marrying and divorcing at will.
    ….Trotting the globe for western ideas, sleeping in nice hotels.
    ….Waiting to lose each election as it comes.
    ….Telling people, I was robbed by Bob, Pliz don’t fire me.

    So pliz, pliz choose me, I can succeed Tsvangirai.

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    Gift Phiri, leave MDC-T to Zimbabweans and you go and deal with Joyce Banda in your own country. Ndokusaka zvichinzi kurera imbwa nemukaka inofuma youkuruma. Wagutisa

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    Bruce 10 years ago

    Chamisa, Biti and Khupe be wary of ZANU PF witches as in the book of Macbeth. The witches prophesied ofMacbeth becoming a king here after and no one born of a woman was ever going to defeat him or utill a bush comes to town. However the prophesy lacked the time frame and Macbeth murdered the king and thus despised the kingship. Macbeth did not know that amongst them was an enermy not born of a woman, and that they would disguise themslves by planting the bushes over their heads as camourflage and move towards his home. So my polite opinion is that in as much as the three may be leaders, they have to be wary of the timing, and who is influencing those opinions otherwise it might be for their demise politically as in Macbeth

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    Tonderai Banda 10 years ago

    after reading this article im tempted to think that this piece was written by chamisa himself. i wonder what really this gentlemen did as a spokesperson of MDC as well as Minister of ICT that is extraordinary, lets not be naive cdes. All the progression that we witnessed in ICT was just unlocked by dollarisation whcih created an enabling factor in that industry. if there is any policy that he crafted during his tenure that propelled ICT forward i would be so glad if you could share. Chamisa my left paralysed foot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Mr Mixed Race 10 years ago

    I am shocked to hear that the MDC leader has suffered a lot.How about us in Matebeleland who went through sustained persecution for years in the early eighties?Only a person from my region knows exactly what is state brutality means.The world did not listen to our cries for minimum mercy.This MDC leader and his misguided young school leavers have abused our support by selling us out using their ill-informed decisions for their own quick gains.When you try to advise them they do the opposite because they are arrogant and naive.Mr Mucha you are 100% right in your description of these young guys who are not seasoned politicians.What do you gain by going overseas to entertain these economical refugees who pretend to be political activities when they are looting UK resources? These are the same people who will rush back here once our problems are settled.As long as they are not here their presence is useless because they have no VOTES, SO WHY WASTE VITAL FUNDS TALKING TO THESE FAILURES.Some people might say they contribute by sending limited funds to their relatives.This might appear true but its not correct because these are the same funds which perpetuate suffering and make people not to think straight.Let us liberate ourselves from this evil of ‘DEPENDENCE SYNDROME”.

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    Dokotela 10 years ago

    There are clearly two groups emerging within the MDC. A group who are satisfied with almost winning, winning and loosing rigged elections and yet continue to play second fiddle to zanu, and another group that would like to see zanu displaced in government. Tsvangirai has fought a just and bitter war,we salute him for that and he must be rewarded at some stage. However, it has been proven over time that he is not capable of displacing zanu, even if 90% of the country voted for him. We need a leader who can take us to victory, Tsvangirai will be rewarded for his efforts when MDC is in government. The alternative is to continue being a ‘nearly there’ party, always crying foul after every election.

    Please, nobody tell me that he is the only person who can lead MDC, that is kingdom or should I say zanu mentality and we are in MDC because we think differently.

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    succession yekudii. makamboona succession pa struggle here. Succession ye strugle i coup. So why coup against MT. Makangobvisa MT chete MDC yacho yafa zvachose nekuti kana ini ndinobva ndadzokera ku ZANU. Struggle should continue with MT at the TOP. Noone else will take us to the Land full of milk and honey

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    LoudSilence BlindingDarkness DzimbaDzemabgwe 10 years ago

    A fairly balanced article I must say. The three, Khuphe, Biti and Chamisa hold the key to the future of the MDC. Khuphe and Chamisa would make for an easy transition into the next decade while Biti’s tenure might prove too risky, affluent and aloof and rather too intellectual. Certanily something must be done to offer Morgan the comfort, respect and honor he deserves when his time to retire comes. To call for his ouster is down outright disgusting and smells of a plot rather than a naturally necessary leadership renewal process to about a rebirth and invigoration.

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    Michael 10 years ago

    In the strongest democracies worldwide, the majority of the voting population do not belong to any particular political party, but rather choose their next government based upon the promised manifesto of the party that best suits their needs. Remember that these current calls for leadership change are not directed at Tsvangirai alone, but rather at the entire party leadership because they all share equally the responsibilities of success or failure.

    Personally I would like to see Morgan step down as party leader but remain in the leadership mechanism. I would also like to see Tsvangirai take on one of the Zanu stronghold constituencies as the MDC candidate. Challenge Zanu in the areas where they feel safe.

    The poor performance of the MDC under the GPA and GNU has cost the party dearly, refreshing the leadership would inspire enthusiasm amongst the people.

    These are my thoughts, remember I am not a Zanu supporter, remember I am not a MDC supporter, but I am a voter and my vote counts.

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    Tell me something, is it so desperate to change leadership? Not in the real MDC.Dream and then dream while you are dreaming.All grassroots are for Tsvangirai.We have no time for you those who seek glory at the expense of the revolution.Pese paiwhinha MDC mps who can say he os she campaigned seriously.The Mps won under the banner of the party.So if people really love the party, let us stand up together for some stupid people think there is a crisis.The only crisis is of party partisan electoral body.If you are good journalists, demand voters roll now for journalists seek to unearth the truth and mystery, not to be given money and write about a non existant problem.The only problem we know in the MDC is of outsiders wanting Tsvangirai to go.We will teach you a lessen

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    If tsvangirai is to go he must go wth the whole leadership including Biti, khupe ,mudzuri Chamisa vacho,he ws not leading that party alone if he blundered they all blundered.as for Musdzuri he is azanu pf of which al people in Mdc know that many Mdc leaders are Zanu Spies nw they want to put a Zanu President on Mdc ,to hell wth them those who are being praised dine wth Zanu pf.Morgan ndizvo!!