Who is Nelson Chamisa? A profile of the man disputing the Zimbabwe election results

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, declares 'a day of mourning for democracy' 

Ben Kelly@BenKellyTweets
Friday 03 August 2018 16:22
Nelson Chamisa
Nelson Chamisa

The 2018 Zimbabwe elections saw the country's president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, take a narrow victory while the country's opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, declared "a day of mourning for democracy" after he rejected the results.

It was the first time since the young country's establishment that Robert Mugabe had not appeared on the ballot, having been deposed in a bloodless coup in 2017.

The country’s citizens were given an unprecedented opportunity for change and as the results came in it was Mr Mnangagwa, the ally turned enemy of Mr Mugabe, who took the victory.

The opposition leader, Mr Chamisa, who received more than 44 per cent of the vote, said “unverified fake results” had been announced by the electoral commission, and called on the commission to “release proper & verified results endorsed by parties.”

“The level of opaqueness, truth deficiency, moral decay & values deficit is baffling.”

Mr Chamisa has led Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since the death of former leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018.

Born in 1978 in the former Rhodesia, he was just a baby when the nation of Zimbabwe was born. He was educated at the University of Zimbabwe and works as a lawyer in a Harare firm in addition to being a preacher.

In 2007, he was attacked at Harare Airport during a crackdown on political opposition, and had his skull cracked.

Aged 40, Mr Chamisa is almost half the age of Mr Mnangagwa, and a youthful charisma permeates his campaign – useful in a country where more than half the population is under 25.

His popularity is evident from his large rallies, to his Twitter account with almost 300,000 followers. His frequent use of the hashtag #GodIsInIt shows religion is never far away from his political ethos.

Mr Chamisa is nevertheless gaffe-prone, and appears at times to be generous with the truth. Earlier this year he claimed Donald Trump had promised to inject $15bn (£11.4bn) into the Zimbabwean economy if MDC won the elections. The US State Department said the statement was false.

Campaigning on a platform to restore the country to its former glory, the website of Mr Chamisa’s MDC party promises “a transformed Zimbabwe in respect of which strong institutions, big ideas and a functional state prevails over tyranny, autocracy, big men syndrome and fear”.

Mr Mugabe caused surprise during the election by refusing to back his own Zanu-PF party. He said, “I must say clearly I can’t vote for those who tormented me, no I can’t.”

He later went further, and actually voiced his support for the young opposition leader. “Nelson Chamisa seems to be doing well by his rallies,” he said. ”He wants a legitimate government to be in power and an end to one brought about by military intervention. I would certainly wish to meet him if he wins.”

This has given fuel to supporters of Mr Mnangagwa, who have suggested some sort of pact has been made between Mr Mugabe and Mr Chamisa.

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