Zimbabwe opposition leader resigns from party

Friday, January 26, 2024
Zimbabwe's main opposition party Citizens Coalition For Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa speaks during a past press conference. PHOTO | AFP
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  • Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, resigned from the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) due to what he calls a takeover by President Mnangagwa’s ruling party. This follows the recall of CCC legislators. Chamisa’s departure may trigger more resignations and by-elections. Critics accuse Mnangagwa of consolidating power and betraying promises of democracy since coming to power after ousting Robert Mugabe in 2017.

The founder and leader of Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party has been compelled to step down from the movement he initiated last year. This decision follows the recall of its legislators and local government representatives by what he describes as “imposters.”

Nelson Chamisa, head of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), announced his immediate departure from the party on Thursday, citing its takeover by proxies aligned with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF. The CCC notably prevented President Mnangagwa’s party from achieving a two-thirds majority in the elections held in August the previous year, a vote criticized by international observers for falling short of regional standards.

Chamisa, a 45-year-old lawyer and pastor, contested the presidential election, securing 44 percent of the vote against the 81-year-old incumbent’s 52.6 percent. He refused to accept the outcome, alleging electoral manipulation.

Shortly after the elections, Sengezo Tshabangu, an obscure activist, claimed interim leadership of the CCC and initiated the recall of opposition-elected representatives using contentious legislation. While the CCC denounced Tshabangu as an imposter, parliamentary and judicial bodies endorsed the recalls, resulting in by-elections from which opposition candidates were excluded.

This marks the second instance where Chamisa has lost control of a major opposition party in Zimbabwe, following his expulsion from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance two years prior due to a disputed court ruling. The MDC Alliance, Zimbabwe’s primary opposition party until the formation of the CCC in January 2023, experienced Chamisa’s leadership.

Chamisa affirmed his commitment to public service and hinted at potential future political endeavors. He accused Mnangagwa of usurping the CCC following the controversial elections, lamenting the degradation of Zimbabwean politics into a pursuit of personal gain at the expense of genuine service.

Chamisa’s departure from the CCC may trigger further resignations among elected representatives and necessitate additional by-elections. Critics accuse Mnangagwa of consolidating power towards a one-party state by stifling opposition and suppressing freedoms of assembly and association.

Mnangagwa ascended to power six years ago after orchestrating a coup that ousted long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, whom he served as a confidante since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Despite promising a new democratic era, Mnangagwa faces allegations of dictatorial tendencies, contrasting sharply with his initial pledges of reform.

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