The death of long-term opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai has put the spotlight on his young successor, Nelson Chamisa who will challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the elections later this year. Does he stand a chance, asks Baffour Ankomah.
With the death on 14 February of the longstanding opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's upcoming general election is blown wide open, pitching a David against a Goliath, in the shape of a 40-year-old, Nelson Chamisa of the MDC, and a vastly experienced, politically wily 75-year-old, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu-PF.
Tsvangirai (65), leader of the main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since 1999, finally succumbed to colon cancer, heart, kidney and blood system problems on 14 February in a South African hospital. His party's National Council, still in mourning, met on 18 February (two days before his burial) and appointed the youthful Chamisa as acting president of the party for the next 12 months.
The National Council is the highest decision-making body between the holding of party congresses, and a good 190 of its 215 members were reported to have been present at the meeting on 18 February.
Chamisa is an outspoken MP, lawyer, pastor, and one of the three MDC vice presidents who served under Tsvangirai. Considered by Tsvangirai as his unofficial anointed heir, Chamisa faced opposition even before Tsvangirai died from his covice presidents--Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe--who felt that because of their seniority in age and political experience, they should succeed Tsvangirai.
This led to infighting in the party while Tsvangirai was receiving treatment, a fight which now appears to have been laid to rest by the National Council's decision to appoint Chamisa as acting president--that is, barring any court challenges by the aggrieved co-vice presidents, who have already rejected the National Council decision and are calling for a full party congress to be held after Tsvangirai's funeral to elect a substantive party president.
If that happens, Chamisa, having already secured the support of the National Council, is likely to win. Which means he will automatically become the party's presidential candidate for the next general election due in either June or July, and will face a formidable opponent in President Mnangagwa, who has 55 years' experience of serving in various ministerial positions (including being a vice president) under ex-President Robert Mugabe.