LIFTING THE NELSON CHAMISA LEADERSHIP VEIL

                                         

INTRODUCTION

In developing countries, leaders of the opposition don’t get much scrutiny like leaders of the opposition in advanced countries. The expectations are different. In advanced countries, the opposition leader is expected to do a good job of opposing the government and holding the government accountable in case the country becomes a one-party state. A healthy democracy is expected at all times.

As such, a weak opposition leader can potentially lose his job if it is felt that the government is getting an easy ride. This is not the case in developing countries. The scrutiny is very much on the government unless the opposition leader were to do something out of the blue or unexpected. Rarely does the opposition get intense scrutiny into its operations because they hardly influence policy or parliamentary proceedings.

The approach then in developing countries is very simple. The government is seen as bad, and the opposition is good. If progress is to be made beyond this simple approach, it’s vital that there should be equal focus on both the government and the opposition. This will help raise standards in the political landscape.  

It’s essential to look at the substance of what leaders say, do and not take the attractive stuff they show us at face value. People deserve to know the real and authentic state of their politics. They need to see if the attractive and shiny stuff they get exposed to by political parties is worth anything at all or if it’s artificial. It’s in this spirit that this article came about especially considering recent events.

From Protecting the Public to Gatekeeping for the Corrupt

A week ago, Nelson Chamisa rightly predicted or knew that the Zanu PF government was planning on giving money to ministers. This money like previous payments is essentially an abuse of taxpayers’ money.

On twitter Chamisa said “A crazy season is upon us, be vigilant. They will be pouring in serious money into various pockets. Some will fall for it and fall by the wayside. Be careful.”

Chamisa’s tweet was prescient as the Zanu PF government paid ministers US$500 000 and deputy ministers $350 000. This was obviously going to cause pandemonium in parliament especially from the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) ministers. To keep their mouth shut, the government paid them US$40 000 each.

When the public heard about the matter, especially supporters of the CCC, they were outraged. They were outraged that the country is dysfunctional because of corruption and looting by the government yet their ministers accepted bribes from the same government. They could not fathom the hypocrisy that highlights everyday that the government is corrupt, that there are no cancer machines in the country, no medicine in hospitals yet agree to help the government abuse more taxpayers’ money.

This bribe had the effect of instantly capturing the CCC opposition ministers and compromising them from doing the job they were elected to do. Put simply, they cannot oppose the government anymore as evidenced by their silence since the payments were made. No opposition minister uttered a word about the half a million paid to ministers and deputy ministers.

This is thought provoking to many people who hate the fact that Zimbabwe is practically a failed state. The fact that opposition ministers who are meant to oppose the government and hold them accountable have put themselves in the same class as government corrupt leaders.

There was no official statement from CCC or from Chamisa on why his ministers took money from the government. People want two crucial questions to be answered:

  1. Did Chamisa give his ministers permission to take the money?
  2. On what grounds did the CCC take the money?

Chamisa never came clean on the reasoning behind taking the money. What he did however was post a video from a mobile phone saying that his ministers were wrong to take the money, that they drank from a poisoned chalice. He called the payments a bribe and went on to say the voters will punish his ministers at the polling station. That was his response on the matter.

In terms of showing effective leadership, this was very poor by Chamisa if not deceptive. A week ago, he knew that these payments would take place, but he did nothing about it. Instead of being proactive and telling his ministers not to take the money as it would look bad in the eyes of the public, he fell below the standards of a prudent leader who would have done the right thing.

The fact that there is no official statement from CCC on such a damaging issue has been inferred to imply that the ministers took the money with Chamisa’s permission. No one believes that the ministers would have taken the money against Chamisa’s will. Even if they were to take the money against Chamisa’ will, what would that say about his authority over his ministers? However way one looks at this debacle, it’s a leadership issue and it stops right at Chamisa’s door.

Saying his ministers were wrong to take the money is not good enough. It’s a dereliction of duty considering the state of the country. The country is dysfunctional, and his party advanced that dysfunction by getting bribed. It does not send the right message to those who want a new government to transform the country. People feel badly let down.

In the real world, if a leader were to make an unconventional decision that result in the detriment or disrepute of the organisation, that leader will be held accountable and potentially lose his job. The former British Prime Minister, Liz Truss made a budget which was deemed to be unconventional given the state of the economy. Her budget destroyed the markets and businesses, and people lost a lot of money. The Bank of England had to step in to reduce the impact on the financial markets. Subsequently, Liz Truss resigned because her own party told her there was no other option for her since her unconventional budget was bad. She was only in power for 44 days. 

In a normal country Chamisa would have faced a leadership challenge for the debacle that caused his ministers to accept a $40k bribe from the government.

What this bribery scandal shows is that it’s a symptom of Chamisa’ s leadership style and the state of his political party.

Chamisa’s Leadership Style

Trying to ascertain Chamisa’s leadership style is like trying to catch a slippery fish. It’s deliberately evasive. The best description that one could give to his leadership style is that it’s unconventional. It’s opposite of what is generally expected of leadership. One significant feature of his leadership style is he leads from the back. It’s quite an idiosyncratic approach to leadership.

Most successful leaders tend to lead from the font as compared to Chamisa. One gets the sense that he’s not sure of himself or he’s scared to take the initiative on important matters. There are many important matters to pursue in Zimbabwe given how nothing seems to be working. Chamisa is quite happy to take the back seat as if he’s not the opposition leader. You will never see him take the fight to the corrupt government. He never delves into policy matters or serious ideas that could transform the country.

He prefers to have people in front of him even though he’s the leader. There are people (not in his political party) who are quite vocal on social media and understood to speak on his behalf. Why he doesn’t speak for himself is strange. It doesn’t look professional and well organised to see people who are not his spokespersons engage on serious matters about the party. It seems there is a genuine fear on his part that if he were to lead from the front, he could make mistakes and be blamed for it. He prefers people to take more action than him and take the blame when they make mistakes. He never commits because it will expose him. Hence, it’s difficult to understand his leadership style.

He’s the only political leader in the world who leads his party from outside parliament. In the 2018 presidential election, he did not run for a constituency which he could have won easily. As such, since 2018, Chamisa has never been to parliament. What possible explanation can one give for this? A leader of a political party who doesn’t see parliament as serious enough to warrant his presence. While he was out of parliament, President Mnangagwa has been amending the constitution so he could grab more powers. Last week, parliament passed a dodgy patriotic law which provides that people can get arrested for saying anything negative about the government. Chamisa’s intentions are questionable here. This is clearly helping the government.

Chamisa should have been in parliament leading from the front and taking the government to task from the dispatch box. Why is he in politics and leading a political party when he does not go to parliament? His absence in parliament is clearly giving the government a clear passage to make detrimental laws and consolidate power. Parliament is practically dead because leaders like Chamisa don’t take it seriously.

Watching him in action, one can easily conclude that politics does not come naturally to him. Politics is causing him unnecessary stress. It’s inconveniencing his life. It’s making him live a life that’s contrary to who he really is.

He excels at gatherings especially rallies where he can speak to crowds without anyone opposing him or questioning him. This is because rallies have the same feel as crowds at an evangelism event where the speaker can ignite the people. In a place like this, Chamisa comes alive. This comes natural to him. He’ll be in his elements. Martin Luther King had the same gift of igniting crowds, but he was wise enough not to run for a political position. He could speak truth to power from the pulpit.

Chamisa could take a leaf out of Martin Luther King’s book and perhaps pursue his natural calling which is being a pastor. Maybe he could go around Zimbabwe winning souls for the lord which is understood to bring bigger rewards than politics. Who knows what might happen in a functional Zimbabwe, the country might decide to build a Church of Zimbabwe and Chamisa could be the Archbishop of Zimbabwe. It would be a rewarding experience with less stress and praying and fasting for Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe will always need prayers.

Zimbabwe needs some intellectual heavyweights and big characters to push back on the Zanu PF government. That is why Job Sikhala is in prison. He terrifies the government. His ability to galvanise and ignite people is something the government is not prepared to see materialise.  Hence the persecution and false imprisonment. There is a sharp contrast between Chamisa’s approach to politics and someone like Job Sikhala. Job Sikhala will always be in the front addressing the government directly. On the contrary and with respect, Chamisa is a lightweight. It would be unfair, unjust, and unreasonable to put the hopes and aspirations of a country on a lightweight project. Ideas and setting out a vision for the country is not his forte judging by his performance.

Constitution and Structures

In creating a new political party in a country like Zimbabwe, one would think that a robust constitution and structures would be at the core of the organisation. In addition, one would expect strong values, mission statement and a compelling vision to complement the constitution and structures. This should be standard practice in any political environment but essential in a political environment like Zimbabwe. Chamisa is not guided by such thinking unfortunately. His party CCC does not have a constitution and structures.

Zimbabwe has a serious democracy deficit with human rights and rule of law. State institutions have been captured by the President from the Judiciary, the Army, Police – they are an extension of the government’s arm. It’s a dictatorship which is pronounced more by the coup which brought the current president into power. In essence, an orderly way of doing politics does not come easily to Zimbabwe. Morgan Tsvangirai with his Movement for Democratic Change tried to create a political party based on democratic principles. He did well, and it showed in the constitution and structures of the party.

Chamisa said on many occasions that he was raised and taught leadership by Morgan Tsvangirai. He’s known to say he is a democrat. What many people cannot fathom is why his new political party CCC is built on a philosophy that is contrary to democracy and accountability. They don’t understand why his party does not reflect the reality on the ground and exhibit the hope that people have for an orderly politics.

His party CCC was created 9 months ago, and we are 6 months away from presidential elections. No one knows what CCC stands for from an ideological perspective. No one knows it values. No one knows its mission statement, and no one knows its vision. Chamisa said he intentionally decided not to share these crucial details.

As a consequence, CCC is effectively a one-man band. By virtue of not having a constitution and structures, CCC looks like a continuation and reflection of the environment that people are trying to change. For a country that suffers from tyranny and dictatorship, Chamisa is not doing a good job of showing that he’s different from the governing Zanu PF.

What people don’t see is, CCC is a huge vacuum which is made worse by the fact that power abhors a vacuum. In essence, CCC is an empty shell, there is nothing inside. The only distinctive character is its yellow colour and its two spokespersons who were fortunate enough to be the only two people given official positions by Chamisa. Apart from that, it looks like a little dictatorship in the making.

Impact of Not Having a Constitution and Structures

A constitution would naturally outline what the political party is about and generally what it stands for, can do and what it cannot do. Most importantly, the power structure in the party would be made crystal clear with what powers can be exercised by certain positions. This creates a sense of order to ensure that the party functions effectively. It also demonstrates to the world and those interested in joining how the party operates.

As the CCC does not have a constitution, there is only one person who represents the centre of power and that is Chamisa. There is nothing written on how much power he can exercise or how many people are needed to vote when making decisions at the highest level of the party. Everything is entrenched in him. There is no separation of powers or any structure that shows how he’s accountable or if anyone can raise an objection if not in agreement with Chamisa. This does not generate the needed confidence considering the abuse of power in the country.

The $40 000 bribe that Chamisa’s ministers took from the government can be attributed to the fact that there are no structures in CCC or sense of order. In the natural course of things, every minister would know the provision in the constitution on taking bribes and the implications of doing so. Since there is no such provision by virtue of CCC not having a constitution, ministers can plead that there is no guidance from the party on the matter although it would be absurd. There is an open goal here for ministers to test the absence of a constitution and structures. It’s negligent of Chamisa to think he can run a political party as a one-man band.

What should have happened is the ministers who took money should have been suspended immediately to show that the party has zero tolerance on corruption. A disciplinary hearing would follow which would ascertain any wrongdoing. Those found to have breached the rules would be expelled from the party and it would lead to a by-elections. Those found to be innocent would return to their post. None of this is in place at CCC. Chamisa said voters would punish his own ministers at the polling station. This is bizarre that Chamisa is quite happy to see his ministers get punished and lose their seats. As if anyone is going to believe this. This shows lack of respect for the people that support CCC and those who are desperate for a change in government and leadership.

Is CCC Captured by President Mnangagwa?

Vladmir Lenin once said “the best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” There is a strange lack of progress that has gripped the opposition party especially from the time of the previous election in 2018 up to now. Although the political environment can be hostile with persecution of opposition members, there is still a strange lack of progress especially on essentials necessary for democracy and free and fair elections. It’s the stagnation and lack of movement that has caused some people to start thinking whether the opposition has appetite to be in government or whether there is something sinister going on.

The whole country knows that the opposition can never win elections without reforms or fair representation in Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which is responsible for managing elections. What is strange is the opposition never makes a serious plan to push the government back on these crucial matters. When the elections are rigged, the opposition will make so much noise through government’s captured courts. It’s a cycle that happens often. Many wonder why opposition is not proactive in these serious matters.

In light of this there is a line of thought that is emerging, and it seems to suggest that CCC is captured by President Mnangagwa. They say Mnangagwa is practically leading both the government and the opposition party as submitted by Vladmir Lenin. The rational for this is the way CCC is currently designed. It’s not meant to be a threat to Mnangagwa’s government. It’s designed to give Mnangagwa the advantage.

By intentionally choosing not to have a constitution and structures, also considered in light of not having values, vision and Chamisa not attending parliament for 5 years, it renders the opposition ineffective and an empty shell. In the context of power and CCC operating on the premise to be the next government, it’s a futile exercise, pure fantasy, a mission for the birds.

The reason why some people give this line of thought credence is because the infiltration and capturing of organizations is something that fits neatly with President Mnangagwa’s expertise in the intelligence realm. He spent many years in intelligence before independence and built the new intelligence organization after Zimbabwe became free. He knows his way around Zimbabwe and having faced bigger and more complex adversaries than CCC, one can deduce that CCC does not stand a chance against Mnangagwa’s skills. He has done this sort of thing all his life.

A recent and more powerful example is he seemed to have neutralized the military influence in government. The military helped him to get into power through a coup as the government has always been inextricably linked with the army. The military is understood to shape policy from behind the scenes and provides direction for the country. However, with Mnangagwa, it seems the army has been rendered ineffective in influencing and shaping policy. Again, Mnangagwa’s skills from intelligence are believed to have given him the edge over the army.

In the scheme of things, why would Mnangagwa leave the opposition to organize in peace and kick him out of power? It goes against his instincts. The empty shell at CCC as evidenced by no constitution and no structures, no values is the kind of stuff that Mnangagwa would do naturally. No right-thinking leader would have a political party that looks like Chamisa’s CCC in the history of politics. It’s not designed to get into power.

Conclusion

There are worrying patterns about Chamisa’s leadership style. He leads a political party but has not been to parliament in 5 years. No constitution and structures in his political party. Leading from the back. His opposition party would be a dream for any government especially a government that does not play by the rules. His leadership style gives the government room to manoeuvre on issues they shouldn’t have room to manoeuvre.

It would be fair to say Chamisa is not a politician. The way he’s leading CCC defies logic and detrimental to democracy in Zimbabwe. There is enough here to ask which side is he on? If he really thinks, he can become president from the current set of circumstances, then he’s definitely planning on becoming a dictator given lack of constitution and structures in his party. One hopes he’s not inspired by dictators around the world, who still get to do business with advanced countries like Museveni. Zimbabwe has had enough of dictators. It needs order, democracy, rule of law and human rights.

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