Former president of the Citizens Coalition For Change Nelson Chamisa.
When Nelson Chamisa emerged as Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader after the demise of Morgan Tsvangirai, his youthful charisma helped secure a creditable performance in the
2018 and 2023 elections.
But the old guard who formed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) with Tsvangirai in 1999 felt disrespected, believing in an age-based hierarchy. It didn’t help that Chamisa’s succession did not follow due process, and he fell out with Tsvangirai’s deputy, Thokozani Khuphe.
Further splits in the MDC, and a vicious battle for the party’s name and funds, led to Chamisa creating the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in 2022.
Fearing infiltration, he abandoned traditional party structures, instead building a “people’s movement” under his leadership. But by concentrating power on himself and lieutenants such as Fadzayi Mahere, Amos Chibaya and Gift Siziba, Chamisa made it more difficult to
rebuild relations with established figures like Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube.
The absence of clear party structures also left CCC vulnerable to confusion
about who was in charge.
This became painfully clear when Sengezo Tshabangu — a shadowy figure claiming to be a founding MDC member — announced he was the CCC secretary general, then targeted elected CCC MPs and councillors, “recalling” them on the spurious claim their nominations hadn’t followed procedure.
Tshabangu is believed to be working for the Zanu-PF government, which facilitated recalls in parliament and the courts.
And rumours persist that his actions are supported by former MDC leaders who have a score to settle.
If the plan was to force Chamisa out, it succeeded when he resigned on 25 January,
with no clear statement about his future.
The vacuum this generated has triggered a damaging succession battle. With rivals such as Tshabangu, Promise Mkwananzi and Jameson Timba competing for dominance, the credibility and cohesion of the opposition could hardly be lower.
Edson Ziso is a lecturer in the department of politics and international relations at the University of Adelaide. This analysis was produced in collaboration with Democracy in Africa
This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper produced in partnership with the Mail & Guardian. It’s designed to be read andshared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here