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Opinion / Columnist

Real democracy calls for Chamisa to be contested

10 Apr 2019 at 06:58hrs | Views
There may come a time in life when emotions, personal feelings, hunches and perceptions have to square up with reality. The skirmish between these two (facts and feelings) is never easy to handle for human beings, being creatures of emotion and not of logic. Naturally, the overbearing strength of emotions largely eclipses plain facts. This is a dilemma that humans have to contend with in one way or the other. To a large extent, of course, and based on feelings and personal opinions, many opposition stalwarts believe that the incumbent MDC president, Nelson Chamisa, should go to congress unchallenged. The rationale behind this line of thought is that it is frivolous to change a team coach during half-time.

While it should be the right of people to have the freedom to opine, it becomes sinister when a seemingly intimidatory fence is created to deter other members of the party from challenging Chamisa at congress. I also belong to the school of thought of the lack of wisdom in challenging Chamisa for presidency at the moment, but as I stressed before, personal feelings, perceptions and association with the individual must not cloud our judgment. If, indeed, people in the opposition know what democracy entails, they should find it repulsive to seek to ring-fence the contestation of the presidency ahead of MDC's elective congress. It should be borne in mind that people must rise above the myopia of viewing the MDC party as an institution in existence for the next few years, but as something that should be standing solid 30 to 40 years from now. Now, if the trampling of democratic values is allowed to persist as is currently threatening, then this poses a real danger to the future of the MDC.

Writing in his deeply illuminating book, Thrown in the Deep End, the late MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, alludes to the fact that he had never envisaged himself fighting a system put in place by fellow blacks. He harped on the fact that it was crucial at the time that the country was under black majority and thought things would flow smoothly.
Tsvangirai recognised he had to roll his sleeves and deal with a situation he had never imagined — that of fighting a black system. The reason was that democracy was under threat. In his book, the late MDC president said the very things that had motivated nationalists like Herbert Chitepo, Jason Moyo and many others to join the war were under immense threat. Consequently, he was thrown into the deep end, quitting the presidency of the ZCTU to lead a political formation in a bid to stop the threat democracy was then under. He said it felt awkward fighting people he had held in high esteem as they battled the repressive white rule. At the end of it all, Tsvangirai stated that it was pressing and imposing that he stands in defence of democracy and good governance. It was then that a red-hot young party was formed which kicked Zanu-PF in the shins, awakening it from a deep slumber in 2000.

In the same vein, it is a political gospel that must be preached unto all of Zimbabwe that democracy must not be sacrificed on the altar of one's personal feelings. It is strongly stressed that before his final trip to South Africa, where he died in hospital, Tsvangirai had expressed the desire to have Chamisa lead the party in the presence of some named individuals. This was not bad per se; with his wisdom and political experience, Tsvangirai knew what would work and what would not, hence the nomination.

Nonetheless, Tsvangirai's word, noble as it was, in my view, should never supplant democracy. Democracy demands that no person is threatened for challenging the MDC presidency.
Even during Tsvangirai's time, he had to restrain the dictatorial tendency of people who threatened to unleash violence on those who sought to contest him. The same disease must be battled today. People must not be stampeded into throwing out democracy, based on how we feel. Democracy must be allowed to reign.

As a matter of record, it is my personal view that it is to Chamisa's advantage to allow and give free space to his challengers. Recall the controversy that surrounded his ascendency to power? The time has come for Chamisa to put to rest the view that he immorally imposed himself and took over power before Tsvangirai's burial. Chamisa polled more votes than his party in the last election in a show of personal popularity. There is absolutely nothing to be frightened of. Chamisa must emulate Tsvangirai who would often tell those who wanted to embarrass themselves by contesting him to come for congress. Feelings based on the proclivity that Chamisa should be protected from challengers do not work well for the future sustenance of democracy.

In summation, it must be repeated that democracy should never be sacrificed on the altar of personal feelings. Let the challengers come forth in the spirit of democracy as this would fortify and legitimise Chamisa's presidency.

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Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer and writes in his own capacity

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