Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party leader has been forced to quit the movement that he started last year after “an imposter” recalled its legislators and local government representatives.
Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), on Thursday said he was leaving the party with immediate effect because it had been hijacked by proxies of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF.
CCC denied President Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party a two thirds majority in the elections held in August last year, which international observers said did not meet regional standards.
Chamisa, a 45-year-old lawyer and pastor, got 44 percent of the presidential election vote against the 81-year-old ruler’s 52.6 percent but refused to accept the outcome saying it was rigged.
Barely a month after the elections, Sengezo Tshabangu, a little-known activist, claimed that he was CCC’s interim secretary general and started using a controversial law to recall the opposition’s elected representatives.
The law allows political parties to recall legislators and local government representatives elected under their banner if they no longer represent their interests, but critics say the provision is subject to abuse.
CCC described Tshabangu as an imposter, but institutions such as parliament and the courts endorsed the recalls that have led to by-elections where the opposition party’s candidates are being barred from contesting.
The episode marked the second time Chamisa has lost control of a leading opposition party in Zimbabwe after he was ousted from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance two years ago following a controversial court ruling.
MDC Alliance was Zimbabwe’s biggest opposition party until the formation of CCC in January 2023.
Chamisa said he remained “a citizens’ champion and leader”, sparking speculation that he is working on forming another party.
“This is to officially, and under my hand, inform you fellow citizens of Zimbabwe and the world that with immediate effect, I no longer have anything to do with CCC,” he said in a statement.
“As a patriot, I remain active in public service. I also remain a loyal citizen listener, freedom advocate, a citizens’ champion and leader.”
Chamisa, who rose to prominence as a student leader and later as an activist in the MDC led by Zimbabwe’s late former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said he was not abandoning politics.
“Zanu-PF can take everything that we sweated for; take the party and its name and the money. And whoever is a beneficiary of this fraud is a certified fraudster,” he added as he directly accused Mnangagwa of hijacking his party after the controversial elections through state institutions.
“CCC has now been rendered an extension of and been taken over by Zanu-PF. CCC has, to all intents and purposes, been criminally handed over to Zanu-PF.
“Our politics has been defiled by schemes of personal aggrandisement upon a runaway pursuit of politics of positions, title, benefits, trinkets and trappings of office.”
Chamisa’s decision to quit CCC might lead to mass resignations of elected representatives and more by-elections.
Critics accuse Mnangagwa of pushing for a one-party state by clamping down on the opposition and freedoms of assembly and association.
The veteran politician rose to power six years ago after leading coup that toppled long time ruler the late Robert Mugabe, after serving as his confidante for since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
He promised “a new kind of democracy” in Zimbabwe after years of authoritarian rule under his predecessor, but he is now accused of being a worse dictator.