BY SHARON HOFISI
This article uses the “big picture” or political analytical approach to show that both the MDC-A and MDC-T under Thokozani Khupe ought to examine the political, social and constitutional contexts they are working in before choosing their political targets or tactics.
Linked to this is the need to critically examine the forces (third or friendly), which hinder or expedite their ability to move from tactics to effective political strategy.
At the moment, it is not clear as to who holds the greatest influence in the recall process between the MDC-A and MDC-T under Khupe.
If the mass resignations succeed, it may be easy for Khupe to assert her legitimacy.
It is also not yet clear as to what outcomes the MDC-A is faithfully headed for.
We have not been apprised of the strengths and weaknesses of the mass resignations save the fact that Zanu PF is involved in the recall of MDC-A MPs.
If the MDC-A is indeed strategising for democratic change, and considers popular constitutionalism — the constitutionalism driven by the majority of its supporters to be non-negotiable — then, it is critical for it to chart a sequence of outcomes that enable it to build its own theory of change in the management of the best, worst and likely scenarios after the mass resignations.
If the only assumption is that Zanu PF is the third force that is elbowing out MDC-A MPs from Parliament, there is no need to pre-empt the exit strategy without first testing the assumption to see if it really holds.
It is always next to impossible to make a unique difference on a huge problem.
The MDC-A needs to “cut” its problems into issues that stabilise it as a tried and tested political party.
From history, we now know that the late Morgan Tsvangirai left the MDC in a manner that resembles what Alexander the Great did to Macedonia.
Alexander died without naming a successor and his last words were, “To the strongest,” but the words condemned Macedonia to wars between generals.
Beyond mass resignations, the MDC-A needs to deal with the dangers of personality politics.
Perhaps, a historical analysis is needed to deal with the poor management of MP recall processes in 2016 that saw the MDC under Tsvangirai recall Tendai Biti and others in a lose-lose situation leaving Zanu PF in a winning position.
Added to this is the need for the MDC-A and opposition parties to draw lessons from the politicised popular constitutionalism that renewed Zanu PF in November 2017.
The MDC-A needs a power-mapping strategy, which also borders on faithfully and earnestly thinking through the strategies of confrontation and consensus.
This enables it to essentialise points of influence or change, and stimulate ideas for mature political participation.
From the perspective of representative democracy, the mass resignations definitely fly in the face of the electorate that brought the MDC-A MPs in Parliament.
The MDC-A has many MPs who can further its interests in Parliament.
Both the MDC-T and MDC-A should draw from the apt remarks of Masipula Sithole and John Makumbe, who warned that if the MDC (however it is called) had to thrive politically, it wasn’t supposed to give Zanu PF the chance to renew itself.
Zanu PF obviously benefited from the divisions that split the National Constitutional Assembly from the united MDC.
It also benefited from the splits that threw the MDC into MDC-M/N/T/1999/Renewal and MDC-A.
The mass resignations can serve as a political blind spot in that: Firstly, Zanu PF has the two-thirds requirement to wield the political power to amend the constitution or control Parliamentary direction.
In political parlance, power is the currency of politics. With the two-thirds majority, Zanu PF cannot be seen to violate the doctrine of constitutionalism in instances where the mass resignations lead to serious political ramifications such as the proclamation of a political Sabbath that suspends elections for seven years.
Zanu PF will consolidate its power for good and even allegations that it is weaponising the Covid-19 crisis to elbow the MDC-A out of politics will die a natural death.
Secondly, the MDC-A is likely to face a mountainous task in challenging the constitutionality of the recalling process in the High Court.
Its failure to challenge the Supreme Court judgement that gave Khupe the presidential legitimacy over the MDC-T may lead the High Court to invoke the political question doctrine.
While the High Court is a court that can issue constitutional remedies if political rights have been breached, the court may use the Khupe judgment to allow Parliament to be the proper forum to deal with the recall process.
Alternatively, the High Court may make a finding that the MDC-A would be barking up the wrong tree or embarking on what is generally called forum shopping simply because they didn’t challenge the Supreme Court judgement.
Essentially, the Supreme Court judgement becomes the point of reference to determine whether the Speaker of the National Assembly made an administrative decision that adversely affected the MDC-A MPs and warrants the need for any administrative remedies.
From another angle though, the mass resignations may amount to a political activity or action that allows the MDC-A to craft creative effective strategies to spring a strong political comeback.
But this depends on creative brainstorming and not just impulsive calls to pull out of Parliament.
The resignations can provide the perfect tonic for the MDC-A to articulate their beliefs about political power and agency to its supporters.
The MDC-A can then essentialise, ideologise and particularise its vision until by-elections are held.
The obvious advantage with this route is that the Nelson Chamisa and Khupe camps can meet their electorates differently.
The MDC-A and MDC-T MPs will go to elections representing stand-alone political parties.
The party that commands a big following will score big and the other result will follow the cause.
The only challenge to this approach is that it is dependent upon Zanu PF and the MDC-T under Khupe.
If the national constitution is amended and the MDC-T is allowed to appoint MPs, the mass resignations can allow the MDC-A’s rivals to throw political spanners along the road to the by-elections.
Essentially, this will condemn the MDC-A to the concept of “elbow politics”, explained by Alex Magaisa through the plans to have a power-sharing arrangement between Zanu PF and a weaker opposition, which would be used as a tool to suspend by-elections or elections for a period of seven years.
From the foregoing analysis, the mass political resignations by the MDC-A MPs must be given serious thought so that they don’t constitute a huge political misstep that removes the MDC-A from the political space and map.
A strong opposition should emboss the constitutional democracy that is built upon multi-party politics.
l Sharon Hofisi is a University of Zimbabwe law lecturer and PhD candidate.