WHY MDC ALLIANCE LOST THE ELECTIONS


The elections in Zimbabwe have come and gone and just like in any contest, there had to be a winner and a loser. In this instance,  Zanu PF emerged victorious after capturing 145 out of the 210 parliamentary seats with the closest rival, the MDC Alliance capturing 63 seats. The other three seats were won by the National Patriotic Front, and two by independents. In the Presidential elections, Emmerson Mnangagwa won with 2 460 463 votes, (50.8%) to Nelson Chamisa’s 2 147 436 votes (44.3 %). 

Touted as the most peaceful poll in  post-independent Zimbabwe, the elections and have since been endorsed by SADC, COMESA, AU Observer Missions, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) among other Observer groups. Although in its interim report released on 1 August 2018, the EU observer mission was rather critical of the playing field not being level in terms of fair access to state broadcasting for all parties, they too stated that “The campaign was largely peaceful, with freedoms of movement, assembly and expression respected.” 
The MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa has refused to accept the results of the election, labeling it a "coup election," and has vowed to challenge the results in court. This is however not unexpected, as the Alliance had already said in advance that they would not accept an outcome of an election in which they are not winners.
It is however sad and regrettable that this legal course of action which is a right of any contender is being exercised after the unnecessary loss of six lives in the unwarranted violence that took place on 1 August in the capital of Harare. The trouble started with the opposition claiming they had won the election and it was “stolen” from them. The Alliance leaders declared victory before the game had even been played.
So, days after the election, with the hope of all that the country can start to move forward and heal the wounds and rebuild our economy, we are making headlines on the global media as if we are the first country to hold disputed elections. Those for whom arresting the country’s march forward, the likes of Jonathan Moyo, Robert Mugabe and the G40 group and those with an axe to grind with Mnangagwa are celebrating the country’s arrested development and their success in creating the atmosphere of a crisis.
I am convinced that these are the people handling Chamisa at the moment. It is a combination of settling old scores and massaging huge egos.
While the opposition outfit exercises its right to contest the elections, they need to introspect and look at themselves in the mirror at how they conducted the election campaign. They will see a lot of strategic and tactical errors that are pointers as to why they lost this election which some of us have been talking about since the beginning of the campaign.


The democratic movement became undemocratic.
There are a lot of people, me included, who have stood by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change all their lives, and have scars to prove it, from the endless battles they ran with the Mugabe regime. They would be the first to stand by the Movement, based on the conviction of what it stood for: democracy, freedom, constitutionalism, and tolerance, in fact, everything that Zanu PF under Robert Mugabe was not.
Alas, following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai, undemocratic tendencies within the MDC started to manifest themselves more vividly in a rather worrying manner. To be brutally frank, these tendencies started with Tsvangirai himself. His appointment of Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa as Vice Presidents was outside the constitution of the MDC, and this is the genesis of the mess the party came to be.
When Tsvangirai died, Chamisa swiftly imposed himself on the MDC-T as President, claiming he was "anointed "by Tsvangirai to take over the party.
The likes of Thokozani Khupe waived the party Constitution but were silenced. They were eventually vindicated by the courts, and MDC-T is now headed by Khupe. Nobody within the Chamisa legion of followers, including the two Constitutional lawyers in his team ( Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube), has bothered to address this fact, but that is a red flag that many saw.
Within the Alliance, Chamisa also defied the agreement entered into with other Alliance partners, on the allocation of parliamentary seats, leading to the shambolic primary elections in which some constituencies ended with two Alliance candidates and an unnecessary loss of those constituencies. A good example is Goromonzi West where the combined votes of the two Alliance candidates was greater than the vote of Energy Mutodi, who went on to win it for Zanu PF. Were it not for that, probably a colleague I hold in high esteem, Luke Tamborinyoka would be headed  for the August house.
The fallout with  Khupe, cost the Alliance 45,573 Presidential votes that went to Khupe. Although those votes would not have been significant to change the outcome, the point is that this confusion arose as a result of the unconstitutional power grab by Chamisa that started to ring alarm bells as to whether he was the right person to promise change and deliver democracy.

The MDC alliance was a One- man show:
The MDC- Alliance was Nelson Chamisa, and Nelson Chamisa was the MDC Alliance. One needs to only look at the Presidential and Parliamentary results to prove that.  The Presidential count was a close call compared to the wide parliamentary gap between the Alliance which took only 63 parliamentary seats out of the 210 under contestation. That being said it is important to applaud Chamisa who did extremely well.
What does this tell us? It tells us that there was a whirlwind phenomenon around the person of Chamisa as a candidate rather than the collective outfit he represented. If MDC Alliance represented something along the lines that reflect the Chamisa phenomenon, they would have picked more seats in parliament, perhaps enough to dictate the agenda of the house for the next five years. As it is, even if Chamisa were to contest his Presidential win, he would be a sitting duck President at the mercy of a hostile Zanu PF-dominated parliament. He would never know peace.

A Fractured opposition:
The MDC Alliance represented a fractured opposition. The Presidential candidate was a rib off the MDC-T  that he tussled with Khupe following the death of Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai failed to manage his transition and hung onto the leadership of the opposition to his death, even at a time it was clear he was not going to live to participate in the election. That robbed him the opportunity to appoint or have an elected   successor who would take over the party smoothly without contestation. It also weakened the opposition in terms of the zest to contest for the elections.
By the time elections were held, Chamisa had (and still has) no political party. His election achievements for a person without a sponsoring party, are simply phenomenal.
Lack of a clear campaign strategy and campaign message
The MDC Alliance   released its Manifesto on 7th June 2018, only six weeks to elections, and long after Chamisa had hit the campaign trail. It means prior to this date the Alliance was not sharing what it stood for other than the removal of Zanu PF. For Chamisa, this was an opportunity to market and sell himself, and he did that commendably.
That process apparently dictated the rally approach as the campaign strategy and it turned out to have been the only strategy. This strategy has had its own pitfalls and is the source of the problems and hallucinations we are now afflicted with.
Rallies and the allure of the crowds:
Chamisa held a whopping 75 rallies during his campaign and drew commendable crowds in all of them. There was evidence especially towards the end, that Chamisa’s rallies were well funded. He and the likes of his sidekick Tendai Biti, got carried away by the crowds he was drawing and concluded that these crowds at rallies equated to votes. 
In a tweet in April 2018 that he termed Election 101, Professor Jonathan Moyo advisedly said that “a rally isn’t a structure”, and “In elections, it’s Votes, stupid”. It is irrational to conclude as a fact that people who attend your rallies would translate to votes let alone that they were all registered voters. Chamisa needs to know that he created the "Rockstar" sensation and a figure of curiosity, and some people would attend his rallies just to see the phenomenon that he had become.
The success of Chamisa’s own rallies was counter-productive for the Alliance team as the other Alliance Partners failed to pull any crowds on their own. Whenever other MDC Alliance partners tried to campaign on their own, they garnered extremely pitiful crowds. The rally Tendai Biti had in Mabvuku Tafara, had a handful of supporters, who were again fed the usual boring and uninspiring anti-Mnangagwa vitriol rather than the message of what the Alliance stood for. The rally that Welshman Ncube had in Gwanda was also very poorly attended. In the end, the likes of Biti abandoned their own campaigning and were comfortable accompanying Chamisa to his rallies, where they sat on the front sofas and enjoyed the glare of the cameras.
Contrast this with the Zanu PF campaign strategy where the deployment of the campaign machinery was spread among a broader spectrum of players. Mnangagwa himself did not campaign as much as his team, in particular, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga. You had the Ministers and political party hierarchies deployed all over the country and constituencies. You also had the War veterans as ground soldiers adopting tactics such as door to door campaigning that was a far cry from the violent approaches of the past.
Targeted messaging:
Chamisa made a commendable use of his youth, charisma and oratory skills in his campaign, but he had a one size fits all message because of the rally campaign strategy he adopted. He started to sell promises that turned out to be Utopian. He sold bullet trains, spaghetti roads, and promises of huge $15 billion bailouts from Donald Trump if he wins, promises that lived out to be untrue and Utopian. He talked of re-establishing relations with Israel, as if the boys in red, the vanguard in black, and the old dancing lady knew or cared where Israel is. He focused on changing the names of cities and the country.
While these messages would have traction  with some discerning audiences in the cities, it would have very little meaning or relevance to those who attend a rally in the rural areas. For them, bread and butter issues, repair of the roads, and availability of cheap fertilizer and farming inputs have greater meaning than creating a digital economy and availing wifi to cows and goats.
Alienating some constituencies
Chamisa also alienated a number of key constituencies because of some of his gaffes. A key constituency he offended was women, by implying they were sex objects whose place was in the kitchen and the bedroom and offering his 18-year-old sister to Mnangagwa if he won. In Zimbabwe, women constitute 52 % of the population, and deserve respect. Coupled with the fact that the Alliance fielded only seven women of the 210 constituencies, one felt the leadership of the Alliance had no room for women or plans to provide them with a seat at the high table going forward. There were the attacks of the ZEC Chair Justice Priscilla Chigumba which had very sexist undertones.
Chamisa also made age an election issue, denigrating his challenger ED on account of his age. He even did press-ups at a rally just to show that he was still young. While this resonated with the youths mostly in the cities, this was not only un-Presidential in decorum but a view not  shared. It is a  known fact that 70 % of the registered voters are in the rural areas where  by the young  have a cultural reverence for elders.
Juxtapose this campaign strategy (or lack thereof) against the message that Zanu PF focused on, and there is a difference. ED and his team talked mostly about reviving the economy, creating jobs, jobs, jobs. They talked about re-engagement with the international community in order to attract investment, which would, in turn, create those jobs. As if to emphasize the focus on this, ED continued to do work and opening up business even as electioneering was at its peak.
Zanu PF targeted groups of constituencies with a message that appealed to their unique and specific needs; The white community, the colored in Arcadia, the Indian community; the business community; the students, the youths. The strategy was to chip into MDC strongholds that Zanu PF knew it would not win, and at least narrow the margins of loss. The results of elections show that losses by Zanu PF in these urban enclaves was narrower than the losses of MDC Alliance in Zanu PF strongholds in the rural areas.
Hunting with the Hounds:
In life we are judged by the company we keep. Chamisa ran this election in association with political allies of questionable credentials. The choice was not based on an assessment of the value they bring to his campaign, but rather on past personal friendships and the dangers inherent in political Alliances. Let us look at how this affected his campaign.

There are several partners that Chamisa was relying on within the Alliance. One such person would be Welshman Ncube. Others would be people like Dr. Sibanda, Presidential spokesman for the MDC Alliance, people like Alex Magaisa, former Advisor to Morgan Tsvangirai, and other people within the MDC like Morgan Komichi who is the national chairman. None of these, however, have a relationship I would see as poisonous to the stability of the country or the political career of Nelson Chamisa. For this reason, they do not deserve mention in the context of bad electioneering advisors.
The two exceptions are Chamisa’s links with Tendai Biti, and his under- the- carpet partnerships with the Mugabe's.
Here is how.
The liability that is Tendai Biti
If ever there is one person that has been the biggest liability of the Chamisa campaign and will prove to be Chamisa’s political Achilles heel, it is that man called Tendai Biti. The man runs his politics on emotions and says things that are so irrational  for a lawyer a Constitutional expert. In Biti’s world, there is only black and white, and no shade of grey. He is always right and if you do not agree with him, you must be a fool. He is incapable of differing with you in a dignified and respectful manner. 
He is cunning and power hungry, and extremely divisive. One needs only look at how in 2014, he walked out of the MDC leading 23 Parliamentarians out of their seats, a move that weakened the opposition.
None of the colleagues who crossed his path were spared like Welshman Ncube whom he called a sellout and a Zanu PF project when the professor left MDC to form his own party in 2005.
Just for the record, Biti tried to topple Tsvangirai in April 2014, after holding a meeting at Mandel Training Centre, only for Tsvangirai to be rescued by the MDC –T Parliamentarians, and this led to Biti being expelled from the party.
Biti went on to have a fallout with Elton Mangoma, and many others whose livelihoods and political careers he sacrificed by leaving the party and then being recalled from Parliament. Chamisa was smart then not to join, though Biti was at pains to encourage Chamisa to leave, not because he needed Chamisa, he wanted Tsvangirai and the MDC –T to collapse.
The moment I saw Tendai Biti gain a closeness to Chamisa as part of the campaigning, praying together in the bush along Mukuvisi river and invoking the name of God in their campaign, I knew there would be trouble for the Alliance. He had seen that Chamisa had something he didn't have and needed, and was endearing himself to the young politician.
Already we see how  Biti has taken to the cameras and speaks on behalf of the Alliance, yet the Alliance spokesman is Welshman Ncube. 
Biti’s campaign platform
True to form and character, Biti has run this election on insulting Zanu PF Presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa and other people like Chiwenga, rather than selling what the Alliance stands for. It was Biti who sold the idea of winning an election before it was held, and the idea of rejecting an election outcome that did not favour them. Poor Chamisa bought it. I have no doubt Chamisa will live to regret being led down the gutter, if he isn’t already.
Chamisa’s options
Chamisa is coming out as an extremist, something those who say they know him say he is not. I totally agree with that assertion, if there is one person I know who has a good head on his shoulders, its definitely Nero. But now He is going all the way for the kill or as we put it in Shona, "shaisano," and has chosen the road of dragging the country in the mud. Or, as Khupe has called it, “holding the country to ransom.”
He has refused to accept the election result, and is declaring himself the winner, something reminiscent of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga and the last Kenyan elections. Some armchair keyboard supporters are even calling for Chamisa to declare himself the People’s President, perhaps as a way to force a coalition with Zanu PF or some form of recognition.
Someone needs to advise Nero that you cannot do a copy paste on political solutions. Kenya is not Zimbabwe, and neither is Zimbabwe Kenya. They have different political histories. Chamisa is not Odinga, and Raila hails from a political dynasty, he's the son of the National hero Jaramoji Oginga Odinga, who fought side by side with Kenya’s Founding father Jomo Kenyatta, both of whom imprisoned together by the British for the fight for independence.
Raila leads the Luo tribe who feel marginalized in the tribal politics of Kenya. Raila himself is a very seasoned politician, who has been arrested and imprisoned as way back as 1982 for political activism. He has rubbed shoulders with the likes of former Presidents Daniel Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, and now Uhuru Kenyatta, and has been Prime Minister of Kenya. He is not a novice to politics. Raila is soft-spoken, and not emotional, and every move of his is calculated and well thought out. He is a very shrewd politician, and well respected within the political circles in Kenya.
None of these circumstances apply to Zimbabwe, and certainly not to the 40-year-old Chamisa.
It is on record that Odinga was very close to Tsvangirai, and was gracious to attend Tsvangirai’s funeral. It is also known that Chamisa seeks the ear of Odinga, and is probably in touch with him over the current election crisis.
As he seeks counsel of anyone he likes, Raila included, Chamisa needs to take into account the different circumstances mentioned above before pasting this copy onto the Zimbabwean political A4 paper.
But I digress.
Back to Tendai Biti
In one short interview with a journalist on 1 August 2018 when asked about the outcome of the elections, this is what Tendai Biti said:


We will not accept any result other than ours. The people have spoken. You have seen the thousands and thousands of people at our rallies.
ED is unelectable. The man cannot even speak decent English. He is a murderer associated with Gukurahundi, you know that. 
You are a woman, you wouldn’t go out with him. He’s unacceptable. If they could cheat us they would have to kill us on the streets.

WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW FOR FULL INTERVIEW



This video clip went viral.
What could be Biti’s motive?
Biti is seeking to revive his dead political career and of course the provocative statements besides being who he is, are a way to have the limelight onto himself. He tried hard to provoke arrest and become the only Alliance principal to be arrested. He even made the outlandish claim that he has intelligence that Chiwenga is trying to assassinate him and Chamisa. Chiwenga scoffed at those allegations. Speaking to the Daily News, Chiwenga said
“What were they trying to do, to provoke us to arrest him in the middle of an election? We are not stupid,”
A far deeper motive though is to have the international community shun Zimbabwe, a motive shared by Moyo and all those with a bone to chew with ED who is one the other end not perfect. The country is now the victim of political points scoring by yesteryear foes. This will succeed because the likes of Biti are key players in the Zimbabwean political drama. Biti even said we will stop the flow of funds and investors because we know how to do that.

The long and short of it is that Tendai Biti is not and can never be a Democrat, for the simple reason that he is a bad loser, and takes any loss so personally. 
Going forward, I suspect that MDC Alliance will want to transform itself into a political party. Both the current principals will want it that way because there is nothing their small parties can offer. For Chamisa, he has no party so he will be looking for a home. Herein lies the problem and challenge for Chamisa. He will be forced to have the likes of Biti as high ranking members of this “new party” by the default position of being principals. Nelson Chamisa will realize that short-term perspectives in politics can be extremely dangerous.
If Chamisa were to heed free advice going forward, beware of Biti. He is a liability on your political balance sheet.
Cozying with the Mugabe's
Chamisa was either naïve, desperate, or simply immature to cozy up to the Mugabe's as part of his campaign strategy. In his mind, there are votes from Mugabe loyalists ready for the picking if he was seen to have the old man's support and ear. He underestimated the level of hate that Zimbabweans have for the old dictator, worse still for his wife Grace.
All the suspicions of the Mugabe’s funding Chamisa’s campaign, and his failure to rebuff the strong rumor that he did not announce a vice president because he was reserving that position for Vice President, cost him votes among many people. They may not like Mnangagwa, but they will not have Grace come back to Zimbabwean politics through the back door.
Clearly, the Mugabe's would play hardball, and seek something in return. But for a party of excellence to “park “its principles and sup with the devil, is a strategic alliance many cannot accept. ED used this to good effect by stating in his address that to vote for Chamisa is to vote for Mugabe. That resonated with a lot of people.
Where do we go from here?
The issues raised in this article took a closer look into Chamisa and MDC alliance and how they may not seem to have had an impact individually but collectively. While this cost them the elections, there are elements in there that could see them lose credibility as the opposition going forward, unless they take time to introspect and look themselves in the mirror and address those issues.
Chamisa has  rejected the outcome of the election. He also stated that he will use all means, legal, and constitutional, to restore the will of the people.
I read this to mean that he will approach the courts and file his case. It also means that he will, as a law-abiding citizen, abide by the court judgments.
It is however not smart in politics to go down a cul-de-sac and not give yourself the  option of an escape route. If the international community considers the elections “fairly fair” on balance, and you lose the court case, there might be some tails that need to go in between some legs. There are dangers of adopting extreme views and ultimatums, and seeing things in black and white!!
If the case is accepting the court outcome, I honestly ask, what was the point of declaring that the only outcome is one in which I am the winner? Other than to incite supporters to reject an outcome other than yours.
How can you in the same breath say you are a democrat when the only outcome you accept is one that favors you?
But most of all, can you quote constitutional provisions regarding how you want to be treated, but defy constitutionalism in the way you deal with others? Its a case of  removing the log in your eye as well before removing the speck from your brother's eye.
By the way:
My heart goes out to those who died in the violence of 1 August, and condolences to their families. Zimbabwe had managed an election that was free of violence. That alone is an achievement worth celebrating. Those on both sides of the conflict who failed to exercise restraint and  resulting in this conflict should take responsibility for this.
And
I wonder what must have been going through the mind of  ex-President Robert Mugabe when he went into the polling booth and put an X against Nelson Chamisa for President. Must have murmured “I gotcha Emmerson, I gotcha!!!, Asante Sana”





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

AI comes to the aid of visually impaired child

WHAT TRUE FRIENDS OF ZIMBABWE SHOULD DO

Thokozani Khupe, a force to be reckoned with