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Beholding The New: Citizens Coalition For Change


The political landscape shifted in a very important manner over the last week; the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa let go of the name and established a new organization, the Citizen’s Coalition for Change (CCC). The change in name came with significant silent furore from the ruling party, ZANU PF, refusing to acknowledge the event. More importantly, the creation of CCC came with broad acceptance from the supporters of the Nelson Chamisa led democratic effort, and with that, new questions and desire have arisen, what would this new creation entail?


The immediate point of call that likely necessitated the change in name to CC was the upcoming by elections that are scheduled to be held on the 26th of March. The toxicity around the MDC brand meant that any risk to enter the by elections and risk causing confusion amongst the populace would quite frankly pointless. And these by-elections have very real meaning. With over 100 elections being carried out at parliamentary and council level, the by-elections are going to be an important dress rehearsal for the 2023 general elections. Moreover, these by-elections and their results are going to provide momentum to the party (ies) that do well. For CCC, it is a chance to show what it quite apparent to most that they do hold significant sway in the political space of Zimbabwe. Considering that most of the by-elections are being held in constituencies and councils in which their candidates won in the 2018 election, winning these by-elections is more important to them than it is for ZANU PF.

All Hail the New Kings and Queens

The formation of CCC marked the most important generational and ideological shift regarding the political landscape of opposition parties in the last twenty years. It was the final nail in the older generation that was made up of Douglas Mwonzora, Morgen Komichi, Thokozani Khupe, controlling the party. Dare I say, it also marked the moment where Nelson Chamisa moved out of the shadow of Morgan Tsvangirai. Since 2018, Nelson Chamisa has repeatedly reminded the populace that he was the political heir and cupholder to the virtues and values that Morgan Tsvangirai advocated. The establishment of CCC was Nelson Chamisa taking the next step into establishing his own brand and political capital based on his abilities and work. Chamisa is also coming in with an important core of actors. Most notably the rise of Advocate Fadzayi Mahere. Several political commentators noticed how the new colours of CCC are very similar to the independent campaign that Mahere used in 2018. With the influential position of National Spokesperson, she seems to have also managed to shift the way CCC is portraying into one in her image.

Ideology Anyone?

Because of the immediate importance of the by-elections, the announcement of the new organization of CCC came with few details around the ideology of the party. At the announcement of the formation of CCC, Nelson Chamisa did mention that the party would be a ‘big tent’ party meaning that it is a party for all. The term ‘big tent’ is one that is used by a number of national parties in Africa with a significant voter base. Using the term ‘big tent’ is meant to make the potential members and members feel like they have a place in the party. This is direct contrast to other political systems such as the ones in South Africa where ‘big tent’ politics is falling to the side replaced by clearer ideological underpinnings. Although using the term ‘big tent’ is ambiguous, this is not to say CCC does not have inherent beliefs. The social democratic values birthed under MDC Alliance will natural flow through to CCC. Additionally, the younger generation that is taking control of the party is not of the same trade unionist mould that underpinned the older generation. It is not far reaching to think that this also means the party is going to move to a more economic liberalism stance similar in nature to the movement of the Labour party in the UK under Tony Blair.

The philosophical underpinnings of CCC are better construed from their name, ‘Citizens Coalition for Change’. There is a deliberate effort to emphasize the need for citizens to be at the centre of the party. Chamisa tweeted, “We've new everything. New headquarters, new name, new constitution, new mindset, new thrust, new focus & a new philosophy. The philosophy being to focus on the CITIZEN. Making sure the citizen is back at the centre & responsible for decision & policy making." The focus on the citizen provides an interesting window. It also raises questions to how citizens will be brought back to the centre besides ensuring each vote counts. Will citizens be empowered by providing them powers of local and national budgets? Will citizens be empowered by returning basic political and socio-economic rights that have been degraded over the last forty years? These are questions that will ultimately be answered in CCC’s 2023 election manifesto.

New Party, New Terms?

One understated impact of the creation of CCC is the effect it has on the old Nelson Chamisa led MDC-Alliance internal structures. Chamisa emphatically emphasized that CCC was a totally new organization. What does this mean for those who won party positions in the last internal elections in 2018? Does it mean that essentially CCC is running in a manner where at district and local level, no one holds an elected position? This is an important question because it gives us an indication of how Chamisa plans on to change the make up of the party and concurrently entrench his loyalists in the new CCC. For example, democratic partners such as Jacob Ngarivhume who has done incredible work in fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe and who is President of a smaller political party, Transform Zimbabwe, can find himself able to campaign for national office positions or run as a Member of Parliament candidate under CCC in 2023. The new party also provides Chamisa the opportunity to essentially start a new term as President of a political party and give him the prospect to run for two more general elections as a Presidential candidate. This is not a small issue because as some will remember, Morgan Tsvangirai going past 10 years as the MDC President led to a split in the party.


CCC’s birth marks another juncture in the transition politics of Zimbabwe. Transition politics is the process of changing political leadership from one leader to the next. Transitions in Zimbabwean political parties have proven to be acrimonious and discordant resulting in splits. This was true in white Rhodesia where Ian Smith’s Rhodesia Front was formed after a split, ZANU PF has had splits in the party and so did MDC. The main reason for this is that the splits are based on pontification of personalities rather than ideological differences. A time needs to come in Zimbabwean politics where the person is not more important or bigger than the party. CCC has a very good chance to do this. However, for that to happen, the next eighteen months are important. The democratic values it espouses needs to be acted out, the organization itself needs substantiation by publicly providing its constitution, ideological clarity is needed and lastly, all efforts need to be made to ensure they give themselves every chance to win the 2023 elections. As noted by Chamisa, the by elections are a starter, but that should never be confused with the main meal.

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