Zimbabwe’s Opposition Party Faces Internal Crisis with Possible Impact on By-Elections

The drama unfolding within Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), is becoming increasingly farcical and could have significant implications for the upcoming by-elections. After the CCC alleged irregularities in the August election, tensions arose within the party, with some members being expelled or recalled, leading to the need for by-elections. Sengezo Tshabangu, claiming to be the party’s interim secretary-general, has taken controversial actions, triggering a divide within the party. This crisis has raised concerns about the CCC’s ability to present candidates for the by-elections, potentially impacting the political landscape in Zimbabwe.

The CCC’s internal conflict began when Tshabangu expelled or recalled several members of parliament, prompting the need for by-elections. This move was met with resistance from CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, who labeled Tshabangu as a fake and urged the Speaker to ignore his actions. However, the Speaker declared vacancies in the constituencies, and the affected MPs went to court to challenge the decision. President Emmerson Mnangagwa proceeded with announcing the by-elections before the hearings, indicating his confidence in the judges’ ruling. The courts ultimately dismissed the challenge, allowing Tshabangu to continue his campaign of dismissing more CCC MPs and local councillors.

The identity and motives of Tshabangu have come under scrutiny. While the ruling party, Zanu-PF, denies any involvement in the CCC’s internal conflicts, some speculate that Tshabangu may be a Zanu-PF proxy or saboteur. The lack of information about Tshabangu and his sudden prominence raise suspicions about his true allegiance. Tshabangu has expressed loyalty to Chamisa but has also made demands that raise concerns, such as wanting funds for all political parties to be deposited into a bank account under his control.

One of the underlying issues behind the internal crisis is the selection of CCC candidates for the August vote. Tshabangu accuses the party’s leadership of disregarding candidates chosen by the people during primaries and imposing their preferred candidates based on ethnic grounds. His criticisms have often included sexist and misogynistic language, causing further tension within the party. This conflict has highlighted the recurring problem of division within Zimbabwe’s opposition parties, dating back to the split in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 2005.

Some experts and former party members attribute the current turmoil to Chamisa’s leadership style and his personalization of the party. They argue that a clear leadership structure and a governing constitution are necessary to address these issues and establish a democratic alternative to Mnangagwa’s rule. However, others believe this crisis provides an opportunity for reform within the CCC.

The CCC’s internal discord has had severe consequences, including the death of a campaigner, Tapfumaneyi Masaya, who was abducted and brutally killed. Intimidation and violence are common during Zimbabwean elections, and Masaya’s case highlights the risks faced by opposition supporters. The constituencies affected by the by-elections have also attracted significant campaigning efforts from Zanu-PF, aimed at correcting what they perceive as voting mistakes in the previous election.

As the by-elections approach, the CCC has filed an urgent appeal at the Supreme Court to reinstate their candidates. The court’s ruling will determine whether the CCC can participate fully in the by-elections. Meanwhile, Zanu-PF has mobilized prominent campaigners to secure victories in the contested constituencies.

The outcome of the CCC’s internal crisis and its ability to field candidates in the by-elections will undoubtedly impact Zimbabwe’s political landscape. If the CCC fails to resolve its conflicts and participate effectively, it could weaken the opposition’s position and consolidate Zanu-PF’s power. Conversely, if the CCC successfully navigates this crisis and presents strong candidates, it may have the opportunity to challenge the ruling party’s dominance in parliament. The upcoming by-elections will serve as a critical moment for Zimbabwean politics and the future of opposition movements.