Political turmoil around MDC amid mounting COVID-19 epidemic in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 lockdown has been extended for two weeks until May 3. At the time of writing there are 28 confirmed cases, and four deaths, due to the virus. But given the acute shortage of testing, the inability of large numbers of Zimbabweans to physically isolate and to practice hygiene rules, the hunger that will be pervasive during the lockdown, and the lack of personal protective equipment for health workers and lack of ventilators and other hospital facilities, the impact from the virus is bound to greatly increase.

Amid all this difficulty for the people, on April 1, 2020, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier High Court ruling that Nelson Chamisa is not the President of MDC-T, that the rightful holder of the post of Acting President of MDC-T is Thokozani Khupe, and that she must convene an elective Congress of MDC-T within 90 days – by the end of June, 2020. Since it was Nelson Chamisa who had appealed the earlier High Court ruling, there is no doubt that this is a political setback for him and those around him who seized control of MDC-T on the death of Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018. As well, there are significant issues of ownership of assets and the use or misuse of state funds provided to the MDC Alliance following the July 2018 national elections.

Harvest House is the headquarters of the MDC Alliance, and now the issue of exactly who owns it will be thrashed out.

The 5-week COVID-19 lockdown ends next week. While helping to slow the spread of the virus, it will have greatly damaged the already very weak domestic economy of Zimbabwe, and will fuel further inflation as its currency weakens even more. South Africa has been hit harder by the virus already, and in fact all of Africa will need substantial international support to cope with the pandemic. While this shock makes any reform by the Mnangagwa government harder to achieve, the very shock of this situation is also another opportunity for the government to initiate deeper change and to demonstrate to both its people and the international community that it deserves sustained support, critical though that support must be.

Zimbabwe Information Centre, Australia
April 25, 2020