The MDC-T should embrace democracy in letter and spirit
By Shingi Chimwaza
Most politicians in Zimbabwe from across the political divide have often coined democracy as a word at will, albeit without a clear picture of what the word stands for in letter and in spirit.
ZANU PF may be exempted from the argument I intend to put across for the mere reason that all opposition parties and most civic organizations came into being as a result of a realization of a lack of democracy in the former.
I therefore find it more newsworthy to critically analyze the actions of the proponents of democracy in our society and shine light on essential indicators portraying them as democrats or the opposite.
The general conception of democracy is that of a form of governance in which all eligible citizens participate equally either directly or by way of elected representatives, in the proposal, development and creation of laws thus amounting to political self-determination.
What this should mean to opposition parties in Zimbabwe is that when an individual is elected into parliament or in council, he or she automatically carries the burden of “people’s demands” on his or her shoulders by virtue of the authority and trust vested in that individual by the electorate.
The arguments that the individual may put across in council or in parliament therefore reflect the very characteristics that made people vote for him or her in the first place.
I always believed the democracy that the MDC-T clamors about contrasts with a form of governance where power is either held by one person, as in a monarchy or where power is held by a small number of individuals as in an oligarchy.
I realize the main opposition party shares cordial ties with the Democratic Party in the US, especially given the presence of its president Morgan Tsvangirai at the Democratic Party’s Convention of 2012.
At this convention, I guess Mr Tsvangirai realized the Democratic Party neither function as a single block, (that is for example congressmen voting in unison for a single ideal) nor beat its elected members into submission in any such political maneuverings that betray individual perspectives and ideology.
I guess Mr Tsvangirai heard about the “Blue Dogs”, a grouping made up of US Congressional Representatives from the Democratic Party who identify themselves as moderates and conservatives.
This caucus of Blue Dogs was formed in 1995 during the104th Congress to give more conservative members from the Democratic Party a unified voice after the Democrats’ loss of Congress in the US Congressional election of 1994.
Over the years the Blue Dogs have often times voted against what they feel to be unprogressive policies despite the general Democratic Party’s stand on the matter. In 2005, the members of the Blue Dogs voted 32 to 4 in favor of the bill to limit access to bankruptcy protection.
More recently their arguments with regard to the new Healthcare Law resulted in its landmark amendments in an intra party process before the bill was brought to congress. In short the Blue Dogs do not vote simply because it is Democrat.
It may be important to highlight the fact that the Blue Dogs were never at any moment punished for being rebellious, as they make it categorically clear that they are accountable to the electorate and to the laws of the land.
On the contrary, in the party that is supposed to be our beacon of democracy, the idea of democracy seem to surface only during rallies in reference to the plight of Zimbabweans as a result of the lack of it. It is at these times that they are so loud about the concept so much as to attract scrutiny like I do here.
In practice the more they speak for it the more they act against it, and my fear is that the more they oppose ZANU PF the more they look like it.
A point of reference may be the recent drama in the MDC T councils across the country.
For a MDC T councilor to vote alongside a ZANU PF councilor is regarded as “treason” so much reminding us of the ZANU PF way of doing things which we all agreed need to be changed.
Allegations of bribery against the “guilty” councillors appear to be so flimsy as they are not supported by tangible evidence that may justify the expulsion of an elected councilor and Mayor for example.
It is mind boggling those councilors may be whipped into submission and not allowed to think outside the box and make alliances even with ZANU PF councilors with an ultimate objective of good service delivery in the respective cities.
I agree this is a sensitive issue, but I disagree with the tendency to want to thwart independent thinking which is not in any way harmful to the party, but definitely progressive.
Inter-party deals are done all over the world and there was nothing “treasonous” about Nhambarare being elected a Mayor with ZANU PF having its candidate as the deputy.
The MDC-T leadership may need to be reminded that a day may never come when they shall be the alpha and omega of Zimbabwe’s politics and therefore a good working relationship between the two antagonists at council level may actually be a good starting point in preparation for a time most pray should come when they become the ruling party.
By looking at the ages of a number of the councilors, you realize that, they are a young generation with new ideas of doing things if accorded a chance.
The same kind of democracy which has allowed the MDC-T to remain mum on the issue of Biti representing Gono in a court of law despite some reservations here and there on issues to do with conflict of interest should also be the same kind of democracy that allows Nhambarare to be voted Mayor and a ZANU PF candidate becoming his deputy in a deal I understand is strictly about service delivery and unlocking the full potential of our beloved City of Mutare.
A new era should be allowed to manifest where politics of quarrelling becomes a thing of the past, as inter party debates and deals are done with an aim to address the developmental issues of our society.
Shingi Chimwaza is from the Fletcher Summer Institute Alumni Network, a group under the International Centre For Non-Violent Conflict. He writes in his own capacity.