MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s recent shock elevation of Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri to the posts of deputy presidents forced some critics to predict another split in the main opposition party on tribal lines but some see the move as a stroke of genius.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Tsvangirai announced on July 15 that he had appointed Mudzuri, a former Harare mayor and Cabinet minister and Chamisa, a rising lawyer and former minister as additional deputies.
The two joined elected vice- president Thokozani Khupe to deputise the former prime minister at the helm of the crisis-ridden party.
Khupe, secretary general Douglas Mwonzora and spokesperson Obert Gutu are some of the senior party officials that were said to be unhappy with the appointments.
However, a senior MDC-T official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chamisa and Mudzuri’s appointments were what the doctor ordered for the party ahead of the 2018 elections.
“These two are not new to the system and they have been in the terrain of the MDC-T leadership.
“They have held senior positions and distinguished themselves as outstanding leaders,” the official said.
“Mudzuri is a Harvard University graduate, a businessman, both former mayor and minister and has been organising secretary for the party.
“The man has shown capacity and many people believe he will be able to assist the president.
“Chamisa is a youthful charismatic leader who has served the party since formation. When he was the youth leader, he led the majority of people who are now in different senior positions.
“He has also served as spokesperson and organising secretary and he worked well with all age groups. His appointment shows that MDC-T has confidence in youths.”
An MDC-T MP who also refused to be identified defended Tsvangirai’s appointments, saying the former PM did everything according to the party’s constitution.
“Let’s allow Tsvangirai to sort out his succession. I think those people are the best to replace him but in the meantime, we need to give them support,” he said.
“If they fail in their mandate, then we will have every right to have them removed.
Gladys Hlatywayo, a political analyst, said Chamisa and Mudzuri’s elevation were long overdue given the party’s performance since 2013 and Tsvangirai’s announcement that he was suffering from cancer of the colon.
“One hopes that the two will turn around the fortunes of the party,” she said.
“Chamisa is young, energetic and a likable character, especially among the masses of Zimbabwe.
“Mudzuri is mature and might be very helpful internally in terms of building a cohesive party.
“Nevertheless, I am not convinced that the method or procedure that was used was the best.
“Given the court cases that we are now seeing and some senior members threatening to leave, the MDC-T needs to learn from its past mistakes. Decisions must be made procedurally and in a manner that keeps the organisation united.”
Chamisa’s political history dates back to the late 1990s when he was a student activist at Harare Polytechnic where he was elected into the student representative council and then Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) as the secretary general.
Zinasu was at that time opposed to the ruling Zanu PF, with most student leaders joining the opposition MDC at its formation in 1999.
Between 2000 and 2006 Chamisa became MDC’s national youth chairman where he managed to lead the youth wing into a vibrant force, particularly to equalise the hostile Zanu PF youths who were aggressively trying to stop the rising opposition.
In 2003 Chamisa was voted Kuwadzana MP at the age of 25, becoming one of the youngest legislators voted into Parliament of Zimbabwe.
In 2006 his stock continued rising and was voted MDC-T spokesperson at the party’s congress held in Bulawayo, a position that he held until 2011.
As the spokesperson he proved to be an articulate orator and a shrewd politician who managed to keep the party’s image intact even after a draining and damaging split.
The split saw the former secretary general Welshman Ncube leaving Tsvangirai’s camp with other senior leaders, including the late Gibson Sibanda following sharp differences.
In 2011, Chamisa successfully campaigned for the position of organising secretary and took over from Mudzuri in what turned out to be a very acrimonious battle.
After serving for three years in that capacity, Chamisa gunned for the secretary general’s post following another damaging split with a group led by the former party’s secretary general Tendai Biti.
However, Chamisa unexpectedly lost the race against the party’s former spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora. Following that defeat, he was forced to take a back seat before bouncing back recently as one of the vice-presidents.
Chamisa is a holder of several degrees and is a practising lawyer. He has been MP representing Kuwadzana East since 2003. He served as ICT minister during the inclusive government era.
Most people alleged Chamisa’s loss to Mwonzora was engineered by Tsvangirai himself after discovering that the charismatic politician was too ambitious and could soon challenge him for his throne.
Others claim Tsvangirai was rewarding Mwonzora for spearheading constitutional amendments that watered down the powers of the secretary general after the two successive splits.
Chamisa’s new peer, Mudzuri, who at one point nearly became an outcast for showing interests in the party presidency, started his political journey as the first publicly elected Harare mayor, defeating Zanu PF’s candidate Amos Midzi in 2002.
A trained civil engineer, Mudzuri had several brushes with former Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo during his short tenure as executive mayor of Harare.
He was suspended in April 2003 by Chombo over trumped up charges. The charges fell apart in November of the same year after the High Court ruled in Mudzuri’s favour.
In 2005, he was dismissed from his position on allegations of maladministration and defying ministerial directives.
He was replaced by Sekesai Makwavarara, an MDC member who later defected to Zanu PF.
From the mayoral post, he went on to become MDC-T’s organising secretary but his bid to renew his term suffered a knock after a crushing defeat in 2011 at the hands of Chamisa.
A respected official within MDC-T, Mudzuri, who is also serving his second term as Warren Park legislator. He was appointed the minister of Energy and Power Development during the inclusive government in 2008.
Mudzuri was dismissed in June 2010 during a reshuffle and was replaced by former MDC-T deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma.
He had to endure embarrassing moments following accusations that he wanted to wrestle the party presidency from Tsvangirai.
A section of MDC-T supporters would bay for his blood while others booed him at the party’s public events.