The struggles within the struggle (remember Masipula Sithole) ravaging the MDC-T makes one wonder whether those who aspire to leadership positions in mass protest movements (that masquerade as political parties) ever take time to study the history of and dynamics inherent in such organisations.
Guest Opinion by Alois Masepe
By their nature and orientation, mass protest movements create a cult hero out of their founding leaders. The leaders assume the mantle of being the symbol and face of the organisation. The more the ruling elite vilifies, persecutes and brutalises the “chosen one”, the more the adulation and reverence the leader gets from his followers. As the “ordained one” champions change on behalf of down-trodden masses, he is viewed as a political messiah and a beacon of hope for a better tomorrow.
The vicissitudes of the struggle against the machinations of the status quo present a bonding effect between the leader and his followers. In time, the leader ends up believing that, indeed, he is the chosen one, and his followers will, in turn, also believe that their leader is the anointed one; thus a collective spiritual pact is concluded and signed. Mass protest movements are not bound together by the niceties of ideological inclinations or constitutionalism, but by the promise and vision of a future life that is better than the present.
From the foregoing, it shows startling political myopia, narrow or absent mindedness on the part of Elton Mangoma and his overt and covert backers to attempt to eject Morgan Tsvangirai from the MDC-T leadership on the basis of lofty, but abstract ideals of constitutionalism. The mass membership of the MDC-T do not put emphasis on the above niceties or ideals; they are driven by the yearn for a perceived better political order which Morgan Tsvangirai has promised them.
To the masses, party constitutionalism and functional democracy ideals are luxuries preserved for the intellectual enjoyment of the elitists and the intelligentsia.
Our own struggle for independence history is replete with leaders who dissented against their founding leaders and had the courage to move on and establish their own organisations.
In 1963, Rev Ndabaningi Sithole — instead of attempting to eject Joshua Nkomo from leadership — led a breakaway group from Zapu and founded Zanu. Ndabaningi Sithole did not waste time and energy trying to wrestle with Joshua Nkomo in his fiefdom and home turf. He simply moved out and on, and, in the fullness of time, Zanu — under Robert Mugabe — managed to out-gun and out-manoeuvre Zapu.
In 1972, James Chikerema followed suit (with the assistance of Nathan Shamuyarira, Enoch Dumbutshena, George Nyandoro etc) and, instead of wasting energy trying to dethrone Joshua Nkomo from his leadership of Zapu, formed his own breakaway organisation, the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (Frolizi).
In 1974, the Frontline Presidents, led by Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere, attempted to unify the Zimbabwe liberation movements under Bishop Muzorewa’s African National Council (ANC). The attempt to organically unite Zapu, Zanu and Frolizi under a “United” ANC umbrella suffered a stillbirth because, as explained earlier on, the nature of a vibrant and viable mass movement creates a spiritual bond and pact relationship between the leader and his followers. The strategy to unite the Zimbabwe liberation movements — though laudable — interfered with the propensity of a mass movement to create an unchallengeable cult hero leading a monolithic, loyal and cohesive followership. It is Jesus who said a good shepherd knows his flock and his flock, in turn, knows him and recognises his voice and will follow him.
Suffice to say, by 1975 both Zapu and Zanu moved out on the UANC.
Elton Mangoma and his backers should carefully study the history of Frolizi under Bishop Muzorewa’s UANC from 1974 to 1978 to understand the self-regulating nature of the internal dynamics of a mass movement. While Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe and Ndabaningi Sithole walked out of the umbrella unity under Bishop Muzorewa’s UANC in 1975, James Chikerema decided to bide his time (Machiavellian-style) in the UANC. In 1978, he decided to make a bold attempt to unseat Bishop Abel Muzorewa from the helm of the UANC. Chikerema’s bold/reckless move to upstage Muzorewa was met with derision and shrill hostility from the general membership of the UANC, particularly the vanguard youth league.
History records that Chikerema’s hostile takeover attempt created intense tension within the UANC and triggered factional feuds and skirmishes. Ultimately, some UANC youth members decided to take the matter into their own hands and way-laid Chikerema at the UANC head office in Harare (then Salisbury) and gave him a thorough beating. A few days later, a hand grenade was hurled at Chikerema’s house during the night: it exploded but nobody was injured.
Does all this sound familiar?
Chikerema was subsequently pushed out of the UANC and he then formed a breakaway organisation which he termed the Zimbabwe Democratic Party (ZDP) Enoch Dumbutshena, Stanlake Samkange, a certain Parafin and Zhuwarara were some of the prominent members of the UANC that followed Chikerema to the ZDP.
In the post-independence era, we have a number of leaders that broke camp and moved on, and Mangoma should take a leaf and courage from such precedence.
- Edgar Tekere left Zanu PF to form ZUM in 1989
- Margret Dongo followed suit and left Zanu PF and formed ZUD
- Welshman Ncube established his own MDC-N
- Job Sikala came up with MDC ‘99
- Simba Makoni walked out of Zanu PF to create Mavambo/Khusile.
My strong submission is that Mangoma — by trying to dislodge Tsvangirai from his MDC-T — is dissipating his energy in a futile and lost cause. It is obvious that Morgan Tsvangirai is on home turf in the MDC-T and is organically entrenched. The organisation that Mangoma is fighting to lead is actually called MDC-Tsvangirai, aka MDC-T!
Indeed Mangoma may have a legitimate case but a good idea that is implemented in a wrong way becomes bad.