On Monday, March 8, the world celebrated the International Women’s Day (IWD).
As is to be expected, many organisations from various sectors of the society commemorated the important day mostly using messages, which were published in the mainstream and social media.
Among the organisations was the opposition party, the MDC-Alliance.
The party, never one to miss opportunities to wring droplets of relevance against a background of waning popularity, sent its co-vice president, Lynette Karenyi-Kore, to Mutare to address women to mark the day.
Its leader, Nelson Chamisa, was at the Harare Magistrates’ Court for a bail hearing for the party’s activists, Cecilia Chimbiri, Joana Mamombe and Netsai Marowa.
Earlier in the day, Chamisa had released a video with his International Women’s Day message on his Twitter handle.
The message was just a collage of images of women, who have accidentally strayed into crossfire in the running battles between law enforcement agents and the party’s youths mostly in Harare’s city centre in the past.
The visuals were punctuated by various written messages from Chamisa on the welfare of women.
To any ordinary MDC-A grassroots member, here was an opposition party working hard to take advantage of international events and commemorations to foreground its brand and amplify its message.
However, to those who know Chamisa and his executive very well, it was just smokescreen to pull wool over political watchers’ eyes regarding the party’s very vile treatment of women.
The party’s mistreatment of women dates back to the time that the late founding leader of the party, Morgan Tsvangirai, was still at the helm.
As far back as 2015, Tsvangirai fell out with his then vice, Dr Thokozani Khupe, reportedly over whether or not the party should participate in the 2018 elections.
Tsvangirai and other senior party executives had agreed on boycotting the poll, while Dr Khupe held a contrary view.
If Lilian Timveos’ recent revelations of bullying by other standing committee members such as suspended secretary general Chalton Hwende, organising secretary Amos Chibaya and youth assembly president Obey Sithole are anything to go by, one fully understands and appreciates why Dr Khupe ended up absenting herself from meetings held at the party’s then headquarters, the Harvest House.
By July 2016, the conflict had grown so bad that Tsvangirai appointed Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as co-vice presidents ostensibly to assist him “in the execution of my responsibilities and preparing the party for the next election”.
Despite claiming that the development was at the instigation of the party’s national council, there were murmurs of disagreement in the corridors of Harvest House. The murmurers were right.
Dr Khupe had been elected at the last congress in October 2014 and there was no need to appoint other vice presidents, but Tsvangirai was not yet done with her.
In August 2017, Tsvangirai and leaders of other opposition parties launched an opposition coalition meant to improve the opposition’s chances of beating Zanu PF and its then presidential candidate, the late former President Robert Mugabe.
The coalition was later named the MDC-Alliance.
Dr Khupe did not attend the event and Tsvangirai was obviously not amused. A day after the launch, Dr Khupe was attacked in Bulawayo by suspected MDC-T activists for allegedly working against the coalition.
This was not the first time that Tsvangirai had used the party’s violent youths known as the Vanguard against other senior party members.
In February 2014, the party’s then treasurer general, Elton Mangoma, had been assaulted by the same youths at Harvest House in the presence of Tsvangirai who did nothing to save him.
He was assaulted for pushing for leadership renewal following the party’s heavy loss to Zanu PF during the 2013 harmonised elections.
Although Tsvangirai condemned the assault of Khupe, the fact that there were no consequences for the known Vanguard members who assaulted Mangoma left many doubting the sincerity of his condemnation.
During the 2013 election campaign season, Tsvangirai attempted to impose Dr Simba Makoni of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) on the constituents of Makoni South at a rally, against party members’ wishes.
One elderly lady rose and complained over Tsvangirai’s decision.
Tsvangirai dressed her down in front of other members. Such has been Chamisa and his predecessor’s record when it comes to treating women in politics.
Chamisa takes pride in his association with Tsvangirai. He boasts of having learnt politics at the feet of his party’s founding leader.
His behaviour indeed shows that he was a Tsvangirai disciple when it comes to ill-treatment of female politicians.
When Tsvangirai passed away on February 14, 2018, within days and while Tsvangirai’s body still lay in a South African funeral parlour, Chamisa seized the party from the rightful heiress and shoo-in successor, Dr Khupe, who was the elected number two to Tsvangirai.
Like Tsvangirai before him, who disregarded the party’s constitution to punish Dr Khupe in 2016, Chamisa also trashed the party’s internal charter to make himself the party leader ahead of Dr Khupe.
He, however, was not yet done with her.
At the Tsvangirai homestead in Buhera during the late party leader’s funeral, Dr Khupe and the then secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora, were rescued by the police after the Vanguard had forcefully herded them into a rondavel and were about to torch its thatched roof.
Mwonzora’s sin? He had won the secretary general post which Chamisa was also eyeing during the 2014 congress.
The same goons attempted to bar Zanu PF national chairperson Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri from addressing mourners, but fearing embarrassment, Chamisa restrained them.
For the umpteenth time, Chamisa and the MDC system were not yet done with Dr Khupe.
Barely a month after Tsvangirai’s burial, the Vanguard was dispatched on a mission to dispossess Dr Khupe of the MDC offices in Bulawayo.
The excitable and violent youths physically attacked Dr Khupe and her driver, Witness Dube, before damaging her Land Rover Discovery.
In May 2018, the police had to intervene again when Chamisa’s supporters hurled insults such as “prostitute” at her at the High Court in Harare where she had gone for a case in which she was seeking to cause Chamisa to be stopped by the court from using the MDC name and symbols.
When Chamisa in his International Women’s Day message rallied Zimbabwe to “unite and defend the rights of women” it sounded hollow and perfunctory because his party is generally against women.
Which rights was he talking about when he wilfully avoided reprimanding Hwende and company from abusing female senior party members such as Timveos when it was within his power to do so?
What rights was he referring to when Dr Khupe suffered assaults, insults and humiliation at the hands of both Tsvangirai and himself?
Which rights was he asking Zimbabweans to defend when he looked aside while Hwende dressed down female party members like party spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere in meetings?
If the old lady from Makoni South, who was dressed down by Tsvangirai at a rally in 2013, heard Chamisa’s IWD message, what would she think about the party and its leadership?
She would not need a political scientist to explain to her that she supports a misogynistic opposition political party led by hypocrites because she experienced it first-hand.
If Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to Senegal, the late Trudy Stevenson was around to hear Chamisa’s message, she would readily tell the world how she was attacked by the MDC youths using stones and a machete on July 2006 for choosing to follow a breakaway formation which was then led by Professor Arthur Mutambara.
What would one say of the MDC-A chairperson, Thabitha Khumalo, who was attacked at her home last week after it emerged that Hwende had removed her and her deputy, Job Sikhala from some Whatsapp groups because he wanted them out of the party like yesterday for various reasons?