In May 2013, I wrote an article warning the MDC-led by Morgan Tsvangirai, otherwise referred to as MDC-T,on the need to re-strategise or face death.
I pointed out some of the glaring weaknesses inherent in the opposition political party which I predicted would lead to it’s “death”, included the fact that there was no rallying point in the party and nothing which put them together other than just to oppose Zanu PF. I highlighted that it is difficult to sustain an opposition political party without an enduring ideology and a point which mobilises all in one direction. And if one looks at the MDC-T today and then, there is a big difference which signifies to a great extent this slow death, especially as represented by what happened two months later on July 31 in the harmonised elections.
I am not endorsing those elections as “free and fair” but I suppose a good strong opposition makes it difficult or impossible for the ruling party to retain power after losing election. So whether there was a Nikuv or not, it still points to the weakness of the opposition.
After the July 31 elections, the opposition party was divided with then secretary general Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma leading the formation of the Renewal Team.
So in essence the real strong MDC-T became weakened. Biti has since left and in the MDC-T Nelson Chamisa seems aloof. The 21 MPs who had aligned themselves with the Renewal Team have been recalled and the party is boycotting the by-elections slotted for June 10 2015.
Tsvangirai’s close ally and deputy Thokozani Khupe would have wanted the party to participate in the by-elections. The party seems headed for an implosion. By-and-large the signs of death are becoming clearer.
The campaign, No Reforms, No Election which the MDC-T is touting has between little and no potential to produce results, especially if one considers that they are dealing with Zanu PF, a party known to behave badly when faced by a tricky situation. To imagine that Zanu PF will assist in effecting reforms which may make it difficult for them to win is not very practical.
Having attended one of the No Reforms, No Elections rallies where the main message did little to depart from just enumeration and highlighting the wrongs of Zanu PF, including abuse of public media, nothing gave the impression that the campaign will successfully bring the much-needed reforms.
What I find curious is the fact that for more than four years, the MDC-T was in government together with Zanu PF occupying some very strategic portfolios, including finance, home affairs, and other organs such as the one for national healing, but failed to effect any significant electoral reforms. This was the time when Tsvangirai was the Prime Minister and he met President Robert Mugabe weekly. Why didn’t the MDC-T use this leverage to push for the reforms whose campaign they are running now? One would have thought that in terms of political strategy the opposition party was much more well-positioned to cause these reforms than they are now. Is it because the MDC-T did not consider this as very important until they lost the little power they had? The fact that even in the House of Assembly the MDC-T had more MPs than Zanu PF would have made it easier for them to push for these reforms. The MDC-led by Welshman Ncube would have certainly supported this move. In fact, put together they had more MPs than Zanu PF. They had a number of platforms to have pushed effectively for these reforms including cabinet, parliament, other organs, and own political party platforms. But with Zanu PF now enjoying about two thirds majority in parliament, it would seem an insurmountable task to achieve reforms of this magnitude.
In my view, the mistake which the MDC-T made in 2009, when the inclusive government was formed is that, all the influential members of the party were moved to join government and left the business of the party unattended. Many of the MDC-T ministers really committed themselves to government business and the party suffered politically such that by the time we got to July 2013, MDC-T was not in good standing, but the leadership was confident of winning elections. Comparatively, Zanu PF employed a different strategy with many of its key members retreating to the party to re-organise, mobilise and re-strategise.
So while I entirely agree with the MDC-T that the electoral reforms are in order, I am not confident that this could be achieved through rallies. The opposition party had many more strategic platforms to have pushed for these reforms, which they did not exploit. This is exacerbated by the fact that Zimbabweans seem to have been fatigued by politics, choosing to pursue their lives on their own.
In view of that, the opposition has a role, firstly to awaken and re-ignite the political appetite of Zimbabweans and make them believe again and then engage them on serious political issues.
The ruling party is clearly overwhelmed by the demands of a sinking economy, poor infrastructure, poor service delivery and very weak social support system. We are in a state where we cannot hope for a better future with Zanu PF alone sitting in the driver’s seat. It is not possible that the party we were with yesterday, grappling with the demands of political independence, can still be the one to take us into the future where we seek economic prosperity. While Zanu PF is intoxicated with the independence narrative, we need to pursue interdependence where we live in harmony with neighbouring nations and benefit from each other’s strengths.
We are grateful for the role Zanu PF played in the fight for political independence and achievements in the early years of Zimbabwe when many of us got access to education, health and land. We however, cannot fail to notice the serious disturbances which rocked “infant” Zimbabwe with many losing lives in the Midlands and southern parts of Zimbabwe. Having said this, we desperately need a strong opposition political party to challenge Zanu PF strongly and perhaps take us into the future. I have no confidence in Zanu PF doing that with us.
While other political parties can come on board, in itself a good sign of a multi-party democracy, I still think that there should be a Lazarus moment for the MDC-T anchored on clear national political values beyond just opposing Zanu PF for the sake of it.
l Kudzai Kwangwari writes in his own personal capacity. He can be reached on email@example.com or 0775 093 384.