SENIOR STAFF WRITER
LARGER-THAN-LIFE MDC Alliance deputy national chairperson, Job “Wiwa” Sikhala, has advised his principal Nelson Chamisa not to think that popularity will guarantee him to become Zimbabwe’s next leader, the Daily News reports.
The firebrand Sikhala told Chamisa at the weekend that history was replete with popular politicians who later failed to land the number one job in national politics — including the much-loved late MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February 2018.
This comes as Chamisa is involved in a hammer and tongs tussle with interim MDC leader Thokozani Khupe for control of the country’s biggest opposition party.
It also comes as Chamisa has come under growing pressure for failing to tackle President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF effectively, particularly in light of the country’s myriad challenges.
Addressing mourners at the funeral of MDC Alliance MP Anna Muyambo in Chitungwiza at the weekend, Sikhala told Chamisa that popularity alone would not deliver State power to him and the opposition.
Instead, the Zengeza West legislator — who was standing next to Chamisa — said unpopular leaders often became State presidents because of their grit and decisiveness.
“We have lost several party stalwarts since we began this journey. We cannot all perish before we reach our destination … What I have noticed is that popularity alone is not the way to get State power.
“I remember Daniel arap Moi in Kenya when he grabbed power from Jomo Kenyatta and was supposed to be a transitional leader for just six months, but clung to power for 24 years,” Sikhala said amid clapping and ululation from the gathered crowd.
“I also remember that Patrice Lumumba was the most popular leader of the liberation struggle in Africa, but an unpopular Mobutu Sese Seko took charge of Zaire (now DRC) for over 30 years.
“The late (former president) Robert Mugabe was probably the most unpopular leader since the history of mankind and Morgan Tsvangirai was the most popular leader since the advent of politics, yet he died before he took State power,” Sikhala further told party supporters and mourners.
He also said despite Chamisa and MDC Alliance commanding huge support in the country, State power remained a mirage for them.
“We have 2,6 million votes, meaning that our president and the party are the most popular brands in the politics of this country, but we are not in power
“Mnangagwa cannot be voted for by a donkey, yet he is in charge. Khupe is hated by dogs and reptiles, yet she is in power.
“So, power is being controlled by the unpopular, while the popular ones are not in power. So, what is the formula, strategy and plan to translate our popularity into political power?
“If we are not going to find a strategy to unpack that equation, all the leaders — including president Chamisa and me — are also going to die popular, but without taking over power,” the lawyer-cum-politician warned.
“Let us think hard on how we are going to solve that equation. The time has been too long … let us finish this off,” Sikhala added.
In response to Sikhala’s warning, Chamisa said he was optimistic that he and the MDC Alliance would eventually occupy State House.
“I have heard what you said about the journey we have travelled so far. Before I came here I passed through Sikhala’s place to pray with him and give him strength, seeing that he was in jail recently.
“We want strong cadres who do not waver in their commitment to the struggle. This is what Sikhala is all about.
“We thank you because it’s not easy to be this strong. Do not be worried that we may not get State power. The road that we have travelled is long and the scars we bear will be rewarded.
“The brutalisation we are enduring is part of the struggle. This is not a wedding. So, we cannot expect to be eating cake,” Chamisa said.
Sikhala’s warning comes at a time when political analysts have told Chamisa and the MDC Alliance that they risk sinking into political oblivion if they do not respond appropriately to the onslaught from authorities and the Khupe group.
It also comes as the Supreme Court has granted Khupe time to hold the party’s delayed extra-ordinary congress by year-end — in yet another development that has far-reaching implications on the future of the country’s main opposition.
Unless the continuing mindless bloodletting consuming the MDC is halted, Chamisa will also not be able to participate in the party’s leadership contests when the court-directed extra-ordinary congress gets under way.
This is after the party’s interim leadership declared that all MDC Alliance leaders, as well as expelled members, were not eligible to take part in the December elective assembly.
Khupe expelled Chamisa in June this year — which effectively leaves him with little choice but to form his own party, if he still harbours political ambitions.
Chamisa and Khupe have been brawling for control of the party since Tsvangirai’s death on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
The battle has in the past three months worsened with each passing day, with Khupe recalling a total 31 party legislators to date and several councillors who had aligned themselves with Chamisa.
Khupe recently recalled 10 more MPs from Parliament, including Chamisa’s deputy Lynette Karenyi-Kore — who had earned her seat for Manicaland via the proportional representation route.
Others who were recalled are Dorcas Sibanda (Bulawayo proportional representative), Caston Matewu (Marondera Central)), Concilia Chinanzvavana (Mashonaland West proportional representative), Susan Matsunga (Mufakose), Prince Dubeko Sibanda (Binga North), Unganai Tarusenga (St Mary’s), Eric Murai (Highfield East), Wellington Chikombo (Glen Norah) and Etheridge Kureva (Epworth).
Prior to that, the Khupe group had also recalled 21 other legislators — including MDC Alliance secretary general Chalton Hwende.