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The comeback preacher who wants to run Zimbabwe

With all the drama of the Pentecostal preacher that he is, Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa can work a crowd.

He will now put that charisma to the test in the general election on 23 August when he will once again face President Emmerson Mnangagwa after losing to him in a disputed poll in 2018.

Mr Chamisa will run for the presidency under the banner of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), the party he formed last year after he was thrown out of what used to be the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

It came after a vicious power-struggle broke out in the party following the death of its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mr Chamisa was accused by his MDC rivals of staging a coup to wrest control of the party, and as the battle became increasingly vicious he was evicted from the party’s headquarters, and lost a court battle where his claim to the leadership of the party was challenged.

It marked a low point for Mr Chamisa, but he made a comeback with the formation of the CCC. The string of victories it notched up in parliamentary by-elections was heralded by his supporters as a yellow revolution – a reference to the party colours.

On the campaign trail he has sounded optimistic about his prospects, despite saying that the political field is tilted against the CCC, with little access to state media, and an electoral commission he says is staffed by ruling party supporters.

However, President Mnangagwa has said the elections will be free and fair.

‘A formidable opposition’

The 45-year-old’s campaign has focused on his relative youth, with supporters chanting the Shona language slogan “ngaapinde hake mukomana” meaning “let the boy in”.

But it remains to be seen if he can defeat 80-year-old Mr Mnangagwa, known as the “crocodile”, who has been in politics longer than Mr Chamisa has been alive.

Still hugely popular among urban and youth voters, Mr Chamisa is credited with transitioning into his own brand of opposition politics in the last two years and creating an identity divorced from the man he regards as his mentor, Mr Tsvangirai.

“Creating a formidable opposition in a short period of time has been his greatest victory,” says political scientist Alexander Rusero,

Like the late Mr Tsvangirai, being the face of the opposition has made him a target. Mr Chamisa says 63 meetings have either been banned by police or disrupted – potentially a preview of the upcoming elections.

Moreover, members of his party have been arrested and convicted in what Mr Chamisa describes as fabricated charges aimed at weakening the CCC.

He says he has faced threats to his life, which have made him extremely cautious and mistrustful – including escaping an alleged assassination attempt in 2022 when his convoy came under attack during by-election campaigns. He also suffered a cracked skull during a clampdown on the opposition in 2007.

He has previously told the BBC that he rarely eats at public events, for fear of getting poisoned.


Source: BBC

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