HARARE, Zimbabwe 

After casting his vote two years ago for Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC), now Benard Mhere has grown bitter, accusing the ruling party of trying to destroy the MDC. 

Mhere, 31, says openly that he feels betrayed.

Opposition being gradually decapitated

A resident of Glenview in the capital Harare, a constituency once dominated by the country’s opposition MDC party over the years, Mhere said he faces confusion as his party is gradually being elbowed out by what he calls “plots” by the country’s ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) “to get rid of the biggest opposition”.

“Soon, we will be left with no genuine opposition party in our country,” Mhere told Anadolu Agency.

In 2018, soon after the death of the opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Nelson Chamisa moved in to assert himself as heir, a move that displeased Thokozani Khupe, once deputy president of the country’s biggest opposition party.

In 2019, Chamisa and his MDC Alliance held an elective congress where he was officially elected the party chair, battling to fend off the legitimacy crisis he faced after seizing the reins of power following the death of Tsvangirai from colon cancer.

Chamisa, who contested for presidency in the 2018 elections, did not accept the outcome of the elections which saw Emmerson Mnangagwa declaring victory.

Even as Chamisa approached the country’s Constitutional Court challenging the elections outcome, Mnangagwa was still declared winner by the same court, yet Chamisa and his MDC Alliance have remained adamant Mnangagwa stole the elections.

Zimbabwean president controls opposition

Apparently desperate for recognition as the man on the seat of power in this Southern African nation, Mnangagwa last year in May launched the Political Actors’ Dialogue (POLAD), comprising of political leaders drawn from the country’s opposition political parties.

Ostensibly, POLAD was meant to have opposition leaders proffer ideas on how Zimbabwe may address its economic woes, but with the country’s biggest opposition party, the MDC Alliance out of the arrangement, analysts have hugely dismissed POLAD as a ploy to destroy the opposition.

Yet, for ordinary MDC Alliance backers like Mhere, holder of a university degree in Information Technology, disgruntlement has become the order of the day as he witnesses the party he supports “facing a ruthless Zanu-PF”.

“Zanu-PF only wants to make sure MDC Alliance accedes to its leadership, which means the party by doing so would cease being an opposition, which MDC Alliance has refused to do,” said Mhere.

Zimbabwe’s leader for 1-party state

In fact, Zimbabwe’s pro-democracy activists like Claris Madhuku strongly believe “Mnangagwa is moving towards establishing a one-party State.”

Although Chamisa contested the 2018 polls under the MDC-Alliance, Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court ruling this year effectively stripped the top opposition leader of his claim over the country’s main faction of the MDC giving the reins to his nemesis, Thokozani Khupe.

Khupe had however participated in the polls under another faction of the MDC, and lost hugely after she managed to get only 45000 of the votes.

Opposition opposes opposition

Based on the Supreme Court ruling, Khupe who is a POLAD member formed by Mnangagwa then went on to fire MDC-Alliance parliamentarians and councilors who refused to accede to her leadership.

Now, to this, Alex Magaisa, a United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean academic and lecturer of law at the Kent Law School of the University of Kent, said ‘Mnangagwa’s strategic goal is not just a threat to the MDC Alliance as an institution, but to the very idea of political pluralism and serious opposition politics in Zimbabwe.’

“Mnangagwa’s dictatorial streak has been most evident in his tireless scheming to annihilate and take control of the main opposition political party, the MDC Alliance,” said Magaisa.

In June this year, Zimbabwe’s military and police helped Khupe to seize the MDC Alliance Headquarters in Harare, a move pro-democracy activist Owen Dhliwayo here said “unmasked Khupe as Mnangagwa’s ally in trying to destroy the genuine opposition.”

Ruling party in charge of opposition

In the face of Mnangagwa’s alleged maneuvers to swallow Zimbabwe’s main opposition considered to be the only serious threat to his power, Magaisa said that “dictators prefer to rule without opposition. If there is any opposition, they would like to control it.”

“For Mnangagwa, the strategic goal is very simple: to weaken the MDC Alliance by taking control of it through his surrogates,” said Magaisa.

To Zimbabwe’s opposition leaders like Wurayai Zembe, the head of the opposition Democratic Party, “one-party state has always been the governance agenda of Zanu-PF and its leaders since formation in 1963.”

But, Farai Gwenhure, an independent political analyst and law student at the University of South Africa, said Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa has no capacity to forge a one-party state.

“He [Mnangagwa] has no capacity to think that far; he is just a vindictive person who is revenging the humiliation of being called illegitimate by Chamisa; he is therefore going after him,” Gwenhuresaid, adding: “He is scared of a possible collaboration between the MDC Alliance and a disgruntled faction of his party [Zanu-PF].”

As such, said Gwenhure, to dismantle the possibility of the equation, the easier side to attack is the MDC Alliance because it is the one with no guns.

“A one-party state is not possible in Zimbabwe, you will have to butcher millions of people to achieve it,” added Gwenhure.

Ruling party always envisioned 1-party state

Yet, Rashweat Mukundu, the Africa adviser of Denmark-based NGO International Media Support, said: “Zanu-PF never abandoned its one-party state dream and Mnangagwa has embraced this with much energy.”

With the MDC Alliance facing extinction through Mnangagwa’s machinations, Mukundu also said: “Organized opposition maybe in disarray because of state repression, but anger and opposition by ordinary people has risen exponentially and Mnangagwa’s government faces the risk of protests by unorganized groups without anyone to negotiate with.”

For Zanu-PF diehard backers like Taurai Kandishaya, the head of the Zimbabwe Citizens Forum — a civil society organization with links to Zanu-PF — the idea of a one-party state here is unfounded.

“There is no dream of a one-party state in a country with more than 100 opposition parties. Unless you are monopolizing opposition space to only Nelson Chamisa whose career died out of his own mistakes,” Kandishaya told Anadolu Agency.

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