By Dumisani Muleya
Even if the Zim Supreme Court has ruled that Thokozani Khupe is the legitimate leader of main opposition MDC – and not Nelson Chamisa – the judgment is ineffectual, it’s meaningless thunderbolt (brutum fulmen); it’s largely unenforceable given what has happened since the party founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai died in 2018, too many irreversible events, developments and issues, let alone since 2014 when the problem actually started.
The real position of leadership and attendant political power has now shifted to Chamisa who got over two million votes in the 2018 disputed presidential election won by President Mnangagwa by a wafer-thin margin, compared to Khupe’s 44 000.
First, the timing of the judgement in the middle of the global Coronavirus pandemic is just wrong. It’s really an unnecessary distraction from a big issue out there.
Secondly, it can’t and won’t change Chamisa’s de facto position and control of the MDC, his popularity and influence across the party and political landscape.
Thirdly, Zanu PF (which has been funding these small opposition parties) has a vested interest in all this: it would like to discredit, weaken Chamisa, throw his leadership and party into chaos and contain his demands for a transitional govt. It would also like to renew, fuel and deepen MDC leadership wrangling by continuing the succession fight long after Tsvangirai’s death, but this might have unintended consequences, for instance galvanising Chamisa’s social base or give him a fresh start beyond his controversial seizure of power.
Fourth, Khupe has no necessary national influence and gravitas to outmanoeuvre Chamisa, fight Mnangagwa. She has also been significantly compromised by Zanu PF (financially and politically, Polad talks charade etc).
So in the mind of an average MDC supporter, even if Chamisa grabbed power ahead of Khupe, he is their best foot forward to oust Mnangagwa and the ruling party.
Of course, that sets a dangerous precedent, but the battle for power is always fraught with unpleasant Machiavellian manoeuvres, ugly events and illegalities.
Fifth, in the end, the only material impact of the ruling perhaps is the take over and control of the MDC’s headquarters, Harvest House and party assets, but even then it has no meaningful political impact; it remains meaningless thunderbolt.
Otherwise, such a judgement is simply unenforceable, whatever its merits (there are there) might be. That’s why party political power struggles must be resolved politically, not in the courts.
Constitutionalism and the rule of law matter a lot, but political leaders are not elected by the courts, but by the people. It’s that basic and simple. This issue is about politics, not constitutionalism and the rule of law even though they’re underlying imperatives and thus loom large.
Dumisani Muleya is a Zimbabwean journalist