He is known for his sharp suits, flashy jewellery and eloquent speeches. He is also known for his fiery sermons, as he is a Pentecostal pastor with a theology degree. He is Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Zimbabwe’s newest and most popular opposition party.
He will face President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the second time in the general election on 23 August, hoping to end his rule and usher in a new era of democracy and prosperity. He lost to him in 2018 by a narrow margin, amid allegations of rigging and violence.
But Chamisa is not new to politics. He joined the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition party at the time, and became its youth leader at the age of 25. He was also elected as the youngest member of parliament in 2003.
His political journey began much earlier, when he was elected President of Student Representative Council (SRC) at Harare Polytechnic in 1998, where he was studying marketing. He led several protests against the government’s policies on education and student welfare. He was expelled from the college for a time because of his activism, but he did not give up on his dreams.
He caught the eye of Morgan Tsvangirai, the former union leader who founded the MDC in 1999. Tsvangirai took him under his wing and mentored him as a young leader. Chamisa became one of Tsvangirai’s most loyal and trusted lieutenants, accompanying him on many trips and campaigns across the country and abroad. He also stood by him during his trials and tribulations, including his brutal assault by state agents in 2007.
He rose through the ranks of the MDC, becoming its spokesperson, organising secretary and vice-president. He was also appointed as the minister of information and communication technology in the unity government formed after the disputed 2008 election.
He became the leader of the MDC after the death of Tsvangirai in 2018. But his ascension was not smooth. He faced a bitter power struggle with his rivals, who accused him of staging a coup and violating the party constitution. He was evicted from the party headquarters, lost a court case challenging his legitimacy, and saw his party split into factions.
But Chamisa bounced back with the formation of the CCC in 2022. He rallied his supporters behind his vision of a yellow revolution, inspired by the party’s colours. He won several by-elections, attracting crowds with his charisma and charm. He also forged alliances with other opposition parties and civil society groups.
He has also impressed many with his oratoric gifts, using humor, metaphors and anecdotes to captivate his audiences. He has been dubbed “the comedian” by some of his fans, who enjoy his witty jokes and jabs at his opponents. He has also shown his versatility by switching between English, Shona and Chikaranga languages, depending on where he is speaking. He has often used Chikaranga, his mother tongue, to connect with his rural roots and appeal to his kinsmen in Masvingo province.
He has campaigned on his relative youth, promising to bring fresh ideas and energy to Zimbabwe’s politics. He has also vowed to tackle corruption, poverty, unemployment and human rights abuses. He has criticised Mnangagwa’s government for failing to deliver on its promises of reform and development.
But he has also faced challenges and criticism. He has been accused of being authoritarian, divisive and unrealistic by some of his former allies and opponents. He has also complained of being denied access to state media, facing harassment from security forces, and having an electoral commission that is biased towards the ruling party.
However, Mnangagwa has said that the elections will be free and fair.
Chamisa is confident that he will win this time, despite the odds. He believes that he has the support of the majority of Zimbabweans, especially the youth, who make up more than half of the population. He has urged them to vote for change and hope.
He has also appealed to his fellow Africans and the international community to support his cause and monitor the elections.
He is Nelson Chamisa, the boy who wants to be king…