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Hopewell Chin’ono: MDC congress in Gweru should produce substance and not just populist outcomes

By Hopewell Chin’ono

The cynic in me thinks that the MDC-A would have made a fundamental fatal mistake if they elect Morgan Komichi to be one of their Vice Presidents.

Hopewell Chin'ono
Hopewell Chin’ono

Just listening to him speak in the attached video is enough to come to that conclusion based on what he thinks are the values that he espouses that should make him elected, values that include loyalty to the party President.

People whose main political currency is loyalty to the party leader are dangerous to democracy and political growth of an organization, there should be more substance than just loyalty.

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were rivals and yet Tony Blair and his friend Peter Mandelson were smart enough to realize that their New Labour project would be much more successful with Brown at the top table.

As I said two weeks ago, Nelson Chamisa should not be afraid to be surrounded by a team of rivals that includes Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, those are his best and practical minds at senior level that can be in his top four.

Electing Komichi would weaken their party and turn off a lot of people who are looking for a viable political home to support that can generate hope with a genuine political pathway to power, and also deliverable aspirations for CHANGE.

Zimbabwe is a country that is extremely ethnic conscious in both mind and geographic make up and yet we pretend that ethnicity doesn’t matter in politics.

Morgan Tsvangirai had ethicized their party and it was wrong to do so regardless of whether it was deliberate or not.

The MDCA leadership should have a national outlook and not what Tsvangirai had done, making it a party with Number 1 to 3 coming from the same ethnic group and region.

It would therefore be wise to have a nationally representative top team of Nelson Chamisa (Karanga, Masvingo), Welshman Ncube (Ndebele, Midlands), Tendai Biti (Zezuru, Mashonaland), Lynette Karenyi Kore (Manyika, Manicaland) and Tabitha Khumalo (Ndebele (Matabeleland) at the top table.

That would make the MDCA leadership truly national and it would draw in a lot of fence sitters who ordinarily would stay at home on poll days or are currently disillusioned with the opposition politics.

Now the mainstay of this post is Morgan Komichi, he is up against Tendai Biti who is light years ahead of him in regards to political and policy substance.

Morgan Komichi is from Masvingo and is Karanga like Chamisa, and before many say it, ethnicity really matters in this country’s politics!

You can’t have a political party where Number 1 and Number 2 are from the same ethnic group and home area, it becomes a “Chinhu Chedu” mentality.

The MDCA has too much on their hands including attacks from outsiders who are determined to stop Chamisa’s political surge and destroy his party.

Chamisa can’t afford to create unnecessary problems of that nature by allowing his loyalists to be the only ones on the top table.

I think that Chamisa will prevail but only if he plays his cards right, this upcoming party congress will either enhance and cement his leadership or destroy the party and himself in the process.

He should surround himself with a representative national leadership rooted in both intellectual and political work, a strong political bulwark of lieutenants that will protect him and the party from what will become incessant attacks from ZANU PF.

Tendai Biti is a political heavy weight who understands policy and has the international reach that the MDCA so badly needs at this moment in time.

Currently they are suffering from a confidence deficit internationally, so the inclusion of Biti in their top four would greatly enhance how they are viewed internationally.

Locally they will be taken seriously too by many voters who have been turned off by what has been happening in the opposition.

There are more voters outside political parties than inside, those folk are key to winning a national election and they matter more than the party base that is driven by populist demagoguery.

Democracy is not only about internal elections, it is also about putting the political party in a position to win the national elections by fielding the right candidates in key positions.

Maurice Nyagumbo beat Simon Muzenda to the ZANU Vice Presidency at their 1984 Borrowdale Race course party congress.

However Robert Mugabe explained to the party faithful that democratic outcomes should not destroy the party, he couldn’t rule the country with two Manyikas at the top without a Karanga, Edgar Tekere was the party’s Secretary General.

That party electoral result was reversed in order to accommodate Simon Muzenda who was Karanga from Masvingo, it was meant to maintain party political cohesion.

Komichi is right when he says that he is a loyalist, but is this the time for Chamisa to be rewarding his loyalists at a huge cost to his party and also at a massive cost to his prospects of becoming a President of Zimbabwe?

I think if Komichi and many other Chamisa loyalists are serious and have the interests of their party at heart, they would allow the best hands on the top deck and work hard as foot soldiers for a national electoral victory then their rewards would come.

What would you rather be, a top official of a losing team and political party or a top official of an elected government?

Politics shouldn’t just be about populism, it should also be about substance and policy rigour, those are the key things that determine a country’s success.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker.

He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow, CNN African Journalist of the year and CNN Television Journalism Fellow. He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa Leadership Institute.

Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

The late superstar Oliver Mtukudzi wrote the soundtrack for State of Mind.

It was recently nominated for a big award at the Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes in France, in the UK at the Heart of England International Film Festival and in Texas at The US African Film Festival (TAFF).

You can watch the State of Mind trailer below. You can contact Hopewell at [email protected] or twitter @daddyhope