By Ben Semwayo
Ever since the MDC was rocked by waves of splits, members of the general public, supported by political analysts and activists, have argued for a return to the party’s original status because together they form a formidable front that is Mugabe’s worst nightmare.
A quick search in the media archives will reveal that the split of the MDC irked most Zimbabweans, who bemoaned the loss of cohesion and the resultant sapping of the force that is crucial in securing a win for Zimbabwe’s most popular party.
Media reports say that Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube and Morgan Tsvangirai, joined by other political leaders, have found one another again and have secured a memorandum of understanding. For many years Zimbabweans have yearned for what we witnessed on Saturday the 5th of August.
This is particularly good news when one considers the confusion that was brought by flirtations with Mujuru. Tsvangirai and Biti both signed memorandums of understanding with her, actions that did not go down well with many people and were roundly condemned in the opposition circles.
Teaming Mujuru with any of the MDC formations would have been an immense mismatch, a marriage of convenience that would have had far-reaching consequences for the success of the campaign against ZanuPF.
The problem with Mujuru is that she has anointed herself the leader of any coalition against Mugabe and is completely inflexible on the matter, regardless of the fact that she has no verifiable following on the ground. It is either she heads the coalition or there is no coalition, she says. What an unfortunate position to take for a person who was an integral part of a system that brutalized Zimbabweans and caused their current misery!
She is also unsuitable as a partner with any opposition party because she has not earned her position among the ranks of Zimbabwe’s opposition politicians.
The sentiments she expresses show that her umbilical cord with ZanuPF still has not been severed, and indeed certain sections of Zanu PF, particularly the war veterans, reciprocate the pleasantries. She is unstable and will hop into bed with anyone who promises her the world. She is also widely believed to be pursuing the presidency for selfish reasons.
The height of the delusion she is under is laid bare by her claim that she has to lead the coalition because she was vice president for decades. To most Zimbabweans she was appointed Vice President by a man who was not legitimately the Head of state as he was in the position as a result of rigging elections, making her Vice Presidency null and void.
So to most Zimbabweans Mujuru was never Vice President, and by constantly alluding to her occupation of that office she is unwittingly reminding Zimbabweans of her very dark past when, as a big part of Zanu PF, she made huge contributions towards the brutalising of Zimbabweans.
She is well advised not to ever mention her Vice Presidency in Zanu PF, let alone try to gain political mileage from it. It engenders indignation in many Zimbabweans who are old enough to have physical and psychological scars inflicted by Zanu PF.
Mujuru and her misplaced dreams aside, it is very sad that when Zimbabwe’s dream has begun to materialise in the form of the historic alliance of the MDC, it has turned into a regrettable fiasco, giving ZanuPF something to crow about. Trouble has brewed in Tsvangirai’s faction, resulting in a Bulawayo provincial meeting being stormed by assailants identified as Harare-based MDC-T youths. During the incident top officials, including Vice President Thokozani Khupe, were assaulted.
The details are still sketchy, but what seems to be happening is that cadres in the MDC factions are not happy because Tsvangirai allegedly concluded the unity without adequate consultation with his party leaders, who have been incensed because they feel he gave away too many seats in an arbitrary distribution of constituencies allocated to the various parties in the coalition.
It would appear there is also an undercurrent of displeasure among some of the MDC-T top officials because with the entry of other parties some influential positions will also have to be forked out to them, disenfranchising some key MDC-T bigwigs who will have to forgo those positions after toiling hard to shin up the greasy political pole, especially in the Zimbabwean political situation, where the price can be life and limb. That explains why some in the leadership were opposed to the whole idea of a coalition, preferring to go it alone and collect all the spoils.
The same resistance has been replicated in some of the other parties. It is reported that some of Tendai Biti’s lieutenants dismissed the agreement as a non event, insisting that the coalition should be entered into on an equal footing for all the stakeholders. Currently the might of MDC-T has been acknowledged, which is why Tsvangirai has been confirmed as the face of the coalition and his party allocated the lion’s share of the constituencies to contest in.
What is clear is that all participants in the coalition need to exercise restraint and make every effort to be level-headed so that they do not scupper any hope of concretizing the coalition that is so crucial in dislodging Zanu PF.
While the cause of the disturbances needs to be established objectively and a solution found expeditiously, the hurdle seems to follow the usual narrative where Tsvangirai is accused of imposing his will without adequate consultation. He is well advised to carry out some serious soul-searching exercise and make adjustments to his leadership style to prevent an escalation of the problem within his party and, in the larger coalition, a repeat of the splits that rocked the MDC in the past. His major weakness has long been diagnosed as making wrong decisions and being hell-bent on having his way even when his decisions are judged by others as defying all logic.
The challenge facing the newly formed coalition is on-going, at least for now, and a solution needs to be found. The popular solution is to hold primaries to elect election candidates. This seems to be a viable solution as it is based on the clear rationale that a candidate is elected on merit and their popularity is confirmable. That should silence moaners and show people like Mujuru, should she become part of the coalition, what little support they actually have on the ground.
If this method is used, MDC-T is likely to emerge with even more candidates than what has been allocated to it. Those demanding that the participating parties take part on an equal footing are most likely to shoot themselves in the foot and end up with much fewer candidates than they have already bagged.
The only problem of course is that some incorrigible moaners will always cry foul, claim that the poll was rigged and decide to run as independent candidates. Such developments must be pre-empted and decisions made in advance on how to handle them should they arise.
Meanwhile the ZCTU has endorsed the alliance and offered to craft a winning manifesto. That is a laudable move. It should go further by encouraging the parties not to look back and to welcome all bona fide opposition parties to join the coalition.
After all this is done the election still has not been won. The coalition should come up with a committee tasked with the full-time role of levelling the political playing field. They should appeal to the SADC and the OAU, organizations that have already indicated that the electoral laws must be aligned with the national constitution.
It is time change was effected in Zimbabwe, and it is only Zimbabweans who can bring about that change.