The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is for the first time celebrating its anniversary in the absence of its charismatic founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February this year and efforts are underway to reunite the opposition movement, which has experienced three splits in a decade.
News in depth BY XOLISANI NCUBE
The Nelson Chamisa-led MDC believes the struggle against Zanu PF has just begun following what it alleged was the “theft of the July 30 elections”.
As the party celebrates its 19th anniversary, the MDC hopes to reconnect with its founding leaders, most of whom had left due to leadership squabbles.
Of the first top six, only three are alive and two of them have reunited to “finish what we started” after separating for 10 years.
Welshman Ncube, the founding secretary-general, is back in the fold after leading his splinter MDC for a decade and is now party vice-president alongside Elias Mudzuri and Morgen Komichi.
Ncube believes it would be justified to blow the victory trumpet despite six presidential election defeats and a reduced membership in Parliament.
“We have largely achieved the goals set in February 1999 at the people’s working convention,” he said.
Ncube said challenging “a military regime” was never going to be easy.
“I would say we have achieved largely what we set ourselves. We wanted to challenge a one-party state that pertained at the time,” he said.
“We set ourselves to democratise the country and ensure we hold the rulers accountable.
“We wanted to be an alternative and a viable alternative to the establishment. As you know, fighting a military system has never been an easy thing to do.”
Despite suffering at least three splits and losing its founding top four leaders, the party has remained the largest opposition movement since 1980.
“Everywhere you go in the world, wherever you find the military involved in civilian politics, change has never been easy,” Ncube said.
“If you look at Egypt since the 1990s when the military took over, they have changed the modus operandi, but still remained in power although taking various forms and shapes.
“Even here in Zimbabwe, today we have the likes of (Vice-President Constantino) Chiwenga, (Agriculture minister) Perrance Shiri and your SB (Sibusiso) Moyo (Foreign Affairs).
“They are military people in civilian politics and this will take more energy and collective mass to fight for what we want.”
He claimed that Tsvangirai won at least two presidential elections, but was denied the chance to rule by the military.
“We need to do what (Robert) Mugabe says; not allowing the gun to lead politics. Until we do that, the struggle is far from being over,” Ncube said.
At the initial congress of the party held in December 1999, the two trade union leaders, Tsvangirai and the late Gibson Sibanda, were elected to lead the MDC.
The late Isaac Matongo was voted as chair while Ncube emerged the secretary-general. Fletcher Dulini-Ncube was the treasury-general and the late Learnmore Jongwe was spokesperson with the current president Nelson Chamisa being the boss of the youth wing.
“As young as we have been, harmless with no guns, facing a tyrannical regime that uses guns to remain in power, we have really achieved quite a lot,” Ncube said.
The party believes in social democracy and democratic socialism. It draws much of its political ideas from western democracy which advocates for freedom of association, majority rule, freedom of the press, freedom of movement, among other things.
Among the success stories, the MDC claims are controlling Parliament in 2008 and winning the presidential vote but denied the right to govern by the “military”.
The founding secretary for lands and now deputy chairperson, Tendai Biti, said the highs included winning the speaker of parliament post in 2008 and delivering a “people-driven constitution”.
“I remember very well in 2000 when we got 57 seats out of the 120 seats available. It was a momentous occasion and we brought hope to our people. In 2002, president Tsvangirai won the presidential elections, but he was denied the right to govern,” Biti said.
“In 2008 we won, we won everything on offer.
“I remember very well the day we voted for Lovemore Moyo as speaker of Parliament.
“It was really a momentous occasion. We have really travelled a road littered with landmines, but we have conquered. The fascist regime is terrified; it has no clue on how to deal with us.”
Biti believes the MDC has survived because of “prayers and wishes of the people who are the backbone of the movement”.
“I can only describe the journey as a miracle and grace,” he said.
Besides winning the majority in Parliament in 2008, its founding leader Tsvangirai was the prime minister for five years as he shared power with Mugabe.
“We gave Zimbabweans hope, we gave them reason to smile unlike this system which knows nothing, but plunder of resources,” Biti said.
The party suffered three splits, in 2005, 2014 and the latest one this year when Tsvangirai’s long- time deputy Thokozani Khupe broke away from the Chamisa-led party.
“Definitely the demise of our icon Tsvangirai and other forebears has been a challenge to us as the party.
“The election theft by Zanu PF of 2008 and subsequent death of thousands of our supporters really gives us a reason to fight hard,” Biti said.
“We cannot let their blood go just like that. Zanu PF and its quasi-military system stole the people’s victory in 2008; innocent lives were murdered in cold blood for power.
“Thousands were displaced and millions of our wealth looted. Indeed it is for that reason we shall fight to the bitter end.”
At its peak, the party had 110 MPs against 100 for Zanu PF and controlled all urban local authorities.
The tide changed in 2013 with the MDC suffering its heaviest election defeat in history.
Many believe the goodies that come with state power eroded Tsvangirai’s ethos of being a “people’s leader” as he hopped from one scandal to another.
His ministers were accused of neglecting the masses as they enjoyed life which included top-of- the-range vehicles, security aides, unlimited fuel and power.
“We did all we could do for our people. Zanu PF stole the people’s victory in 2013 just as they did it in 2018,” Biti said.
The party was forced to cancel its anniversary celebrations that were scheduled for Harare yesterday after police banned public gatherings due to the cholera outbreak that has killed 28 people so far and affected over 4 000.