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Brian Sedze: The MDC congress will deliver a weaker party without strength in diversity

By Brian Sedze

There is a significant number of articles expressing opinion that the subtle fight for positions within the Movement of Democratic Change( Alliance) are acts of self destruction, and may split the party.

Brian Sedze
Brian Sedze

A split (or formation of new outfits) is inevitable due to the leadership pursuit of and insatiable appetite for a somewhat “divine” right to rule and the obtaining of absolute power. Some with decades in the struggle trenches face retrenchment to political dustbins and wilderness.

What I think is the greatest threat though, is that the congress is likely to deliver a weaker MDC Alliance. Its likely to be a party both deficient in skills, depth and diversity.

The idea in brief is that the party must restructure first before congress and deploy silos reserved for certain groups to ensure strength in diversity. The congress outcome must celebrate diversity by inclusion of women, ensure generational renewal with consensus, build new coalitions to increase  capacity, reinforce tribal balance, appease alliance partners, have requisite skills and have a voice across the broad spectrum of society.

The party’s drive for a congress seem driven by desire to tick the constitutionality box and appear to follow certain edicts of obscure democracy principles. I also believe there is also a great desire to obtain absolute power and exorcise the Morgan Tsvangirai ghost.

What should precede the congress is skills or key competence profiling. It is a self serving, pleasing and yet a defeating narrative to blame all election defeats on rigging. The party has skills deficiencies that prevent it from winning and leading. A congress must be designed to ensure obtaining a diversity of skills and voices that enable winning.

There is also a self serving denial of reasons on reduced number of Members of Parliament. The denial is an albatross that prevents audit of the good and the bad of the  2018 elections. The party will hold a congress that will carry forward the bad and may face defeat in the face again in 2023.

It is possible that an audit and skills profiling approach may result in addition of new positions and expansion of the executive. The end justifies the means as expansion is a better evil as it will be  informed by obtaining of skills that ensure a strategic fit to deliver a winning team.

Just the level of debate (or non contribution) in parliament is sure enough show of how somewhat the need for a renewal starting from the top is an imperative.

The congress is an attempt to deliver a new winning team using the old structure and a losing formula. A new party design with new skills and strategy may deliver a winning formula. Proceeding with the congress on the backdrop of the old may result in the party being opposition in perpetuity.

In addition to skills it is an imperative that the party has diversity in representations opposed to the abused and myopic notion of a generational renewal. This diversity should look at inclusion of elders, women voices, tribal balance, alliance partners, labour, academics, farmers, industry and commerce.

This proposed diversity seems to have been the foundation of the MDC of 1999. The present scenario has diverted MDC DNA from being a voice of a plethora of society to that of past and present activists.

The congress may fail to deliver strength in diversity which I believe is a requisite in building a strong team to win and lead. It will ensure the party is a government in waiting instead of it being a perpetual opposition. The congress seems to be about ticking the constitutionalism boxes and satisfying some democratic principles, however obscure the principles. To a large extend the rehash of a congress is a path to obtaining absolute power.

First, despite purported superior arguments, policies and ideology the party has shown no aptitude to win the rural and the Mashonaland vote. The congress outcome is likely to entrench those election losses, exacerbate the challenge of rural voter apathy and increase inability to attract first time voters.

What should be placed on their strategic menu instead of a congress is to use the elections breathing space to build more coalitions or mergers with unlike forces with capacity to win the rural vote.

The team so far has risen to its highest level of incompetence and “new” blood with abilities to deliver the rural vote need to be injected at the highest level. This new blood is outside the party.

There seems to be innumerable election cycles were the most common complaint from opposition is rigging, violence, intimidation, abuse of traditional leaders and rules tilted in favour of the ruling party. Its not going to change as its with doubt the ruling party will reform itself out of power.

Coalitions or incorporating new talent from the old ruling party stalwarts may infuse talent, good enough to understand and navigate the rural that terrain. I do not see the MDC winning it alone in the rural areas.

Second, the MDC used to be a melting pot and a voice of widespread interests including academics, civic society, students, industrialists, farmers, labour and so forth.

The present MDC now seems a forte of activists with many of the key players of the 1999 MDC losing their voices. A congress outcome premised on such a hijacked party will fracture the party along the “them” and the “rest of us”.

In addition the party to require a diversity of ideas and show a semblance of a government in waiting. It is pertinent that silos are reserved for professionals in various areas of study like finance, engineering, law, social sciences and many others. It only enhances the quality of decision making and ensure balance and diversity of ideas.

Professionals become a fodder of deploying senior executives to assume government positions like ministries and government technocrats. Chanting of slogans and charisma should be replaced by deploying based on merit and character. The present quality of debate in parliament shows just how disabled the party is in terms of depth.

Third, Generational renewal is a great concept but should ideally be married with inter- general consensus. Voting based on age is not exactly renewal. A party requires wisdom and participation of everyone. Diversity should include the fusion of skill and ideas from the broad spectrum of the society. The new generation must bring the new beyond just age.

The purported new age to drive renewal seem not to show strategic and political edge. It presents themselves as captured by dominant forces in activism and leadership. The new perpetuating economic and social illiteracy on the pretense on political wisdom.

I do not see independence of thoughts, any plausible new agenda and are devoid of new ideas. The new seem to be clique of dedicated slogan chanting bootlickers impervious to new thinking, new ideas and have an entrenched belief in a new version of “one centre of power”. It occurs to others that this generational thing is simply a convenient way to use age to exclude others.

Fourth, without a new structure of the party prior to the congress there is no guarantee of women participation. Without reserved women seats there are no guarantees of women inclusion, participation and inclusion at the top of the party.

This lack of diversity is not good for image and attraction of reputable global partners in politics and business. Women are a key decision making unit more alive to needs of community, women and children. More often than not they bear greatest burden and brunt of misgovernance.

Sixth, some of the leading lights in the MDC Alliance may unfortunately fall by the way side. The present congress structure will not guarantee inclusion of alliance partners like Tendai Biti, Professor Welshman Ncube and maybe others. The MDC will be bleeding depth as a party and as an opposition in parliament. I doubt it’s a great idea to have the present coalition partners outside the decision making matrix.

Seventh, the country is greatly divided along tribes and provinces. There is limited loyalty to a one Zimbabwe. It will be naive to forget that we face uncommon challenges, have different aspirations and we have fragmented visions based on tribes and provinces.

Unfortunate as it may, for cohesion, the congress outcome should ensure tribal balance in its top positions. The party or at worst come up with rotation mechanisms on Vice Presidency.

Seventh, some positions like that of Treasurer and the deputy require certain knowledge, skills and abilities. At times finance also knows and follows skin colour.

The position requires understanding of financial reporting, budgeting, financial engineering, donor engagement and experience in dealing with capital. Unfortunately financial skills can not be obtained through sloganeering but through education and or experience.

Treasury positions must match or exceed donor expectations. This is because there is  significant donor fatigue, people have low disposable income and there are no significant innovations on party financing models. This all means party finances may be in tatters to mount for the party to mount a significant challenge against the well oiled ZANU PF.

Donors lay the golden egg. The bravado of broke people sponsoring their struggle is a misplaced strategy. Its a strategy that may lead to capture by a person or closely knit group of people.

The MDC Alliance require a new strategy and new skills. The party should diversify through inclusion and expand its skills set. At moment it does not present itself as a government in waiting.

Brian Sedze is strategy consultant and President of Free Enterprise Initiative. Free Enterprise Initiative is an advocacy in less government, free enterprise, fiscal and public policy. He can be contacted on [email protected]