MDC-T lost last week’s election because it concentrated on wrestling power from Zanu PF in the four years it was in government instead of trying to win the hearts of the electorate, analysts have said.
BY CAIPHAS CHIMHETE
Some MDC-T officials were busy accumulating individual wealth and forgot about their constituencies, they said.
However, others believe that Zanu PF robbed MDC-T of victory after putting up a well-organised rigging system that even observers and monitors could hardly detect.
In a result that shocked many, Zanu PF got more than two-thirds of the parliamentary seats which will enable it to make crucial legislative changes without hindrance.
University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political science lecturer, Shakespeare Hamauswa attributed MDC-T’s heavy defeat to complacency by the party during the period it was in government as well as rigging by Zanu PF.
He said when the coalition government was formed in 2009, most senior MDC-T officials got government positions leaving the party vulnerable as there was no one to direct the once vibrant labour-based party.
“There was a lot of complacency when they got into government,” said Hamauswa. “In the process, a lot of them forgot to focus on retaining their seats and some never visited their constituencies.”
Analysts said it was difficult for key MDC officials to hold their new government portfolios and at the same concentrate on their party duties.
They cited, for example, Finance minister Tendai Biti who had the complicated task of handling public finances, saying it was a difficult task for him to balance party business and his ministerial mandate which involved frequently travelling abroad.
Biti, the MDC-T’s secretary-general was often blamed by Zanu PF for failing to raise salaries for civil servants and providing support to new farmers. In the end, the party was portrayed as insensitive to the wishes of the people.
Analysts also noted that while the youthful and energetic MDC-T officials were busy enjoying their newly-found fame in government, experienced Zanu PF politicians — some of whom had been in government since 1980 — were strategising and plotting on how to reclaim their lost political space well before last week’s elections.
They started campaigning vigorously and even expounding unrealistic populist policies, which fortunately for Zanu PF, resonated well with the voters.
The Zanu PF party also urged its supporters not only to register, but to also vote.
“Zanu PF was on the ground with people and the MDC-T failed to do the same and this showed their political immaturity,” said Hamauswa.
His comments were echoed by analyst and playwright, Denford Magora, who said while in government Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai turned his attention almost exclusively to chasing “reforms” and fighting Mugabe for more power.
Magora, writing on his blog said Tsvangirai, thought he could afford to “park his supporters” and only come back to engage them when he was ready.
“This was a deliberate tactic on Mugabe’s part: keep Morgan busy with little, inconsequential fights in government while Mugabe himself kept his eye firmly on the next election,” said Magora.
He said MDC-T made the mistake of treating Mugabe on the basis of 2008 defeat and it was inconceivable to them that the 89-year-old leader could pull off a win. But in a short space of time, Mugabe travelled the width and breadth of the country mobilising supporters.
“The scale of this mobilisation for the registration exercise, being conducted when no one had any inkling that an election would be called on July 31, was monumental,” said Magora.
Another analyst who requested anonymity said Zanu PF’s populist policies such as non-payment of rates in urban areas, distribution of free food and indigenisation, found favour with the ordinary people.
But another political analyst Thabani Nyoni believes that the vote was stolen from the MDC-T which was supposed to win overwhelmingly.
He cited the shambolic voters’ roll, bussing of people during voting as well as the sudden recruitment of army and police officers a few weeks before the elections.
“The magnitude of manipulation was very high,” said Nyoni. “The situation on the ground showed the party is unpopular. It showed during its rallies and that is why it was bussing people all over the country. I refuse to subscribe to the thinking that Zanu PF has suddenly become popular.”
Tsvangirai disputed the results saying they were manipulated. He cited the thousands of people that failed to register as voters, duplication of names on the voters roll, 40% voters being turned away, bussing of voters and use of traditional leaders to intimidate voters.
“In our view, the outcome of this election is illegitimate,” said Tsvangirai. “But more importantly, the shoddy manner in which it has been conducted and the consequent illegitimacy of the result will plunge this country into a serious crisis.”
‘Tsvangirai made costly blunders’
One of the MDC founder members, Moses Mazhande blamed Tsvangirai for last week’s dismal loss to Zanu PF. He said when Tsvangirai was appointed Prime Minister, he forgot the workers and civil society that propelled him into office.
Before joining politics, Tsvangirai was the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which in 1998 spearheaded massive food protests that shocked Mugabe.
“He exchanged his trademark leather jacket for designer suits and completely forgot about the people — especially the workers,” said the former Democratic Party (DP) secretary general. “With his fame, he started chasing after women and got himself into scandal after scandal.”
Since the death of his wife Susan in 2009, Tsvangirai has been linked to a number of women including Nosipho Regina Shilubane of South Africa and Locadia Karimatsenga Tembo. He finally settled for Elizabeth Macheka.
Mazhande said corruption by MDC-T councillors could also have cost the party.
“We know Zanu PF councillors are also corrupt but Zanu PF publicised the corruption by the MDC-T councillors and even gave evidence,” said Mazhande. “MDC-T should have countered that if it needed to remain relevant.”