By Tafi Mhaka
The substantial danger in believing that political change will inevitably happen some time and somehow is President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF will certainly win the 2023 presidential and general poll.
The government managed to crush the July 31 demonstration and it is currently hard at work subduing civil rights activists, politicians and independent journalists.
This while ordinary people are being routinely denied basic human rights and Beatrice Mtetwa is most questionably denied an opportunity to represent Hopewell Chin’ono in what is clearly a nonsensical and malicious trial.
Worse still, Zimbabwe has all but fallen off the global political radar again, as all eyes are on the Belarus demonstrations and the bloodless coup in Mali.
Yet all is not lost.
The unprecedented crackdown has demonstrated that Mnangagwa will not brook dissent and allow popular and democratic sentiment to dictate his government’s actions.
As far as the president is concerned, Zimbabwe is doing perfectly well and doesn’t need to enact extensive reforms or establish a strong and progressive human rights culture.
This established and stubborn position demonstrates why the MDC Alliance must adopt a new political strategy.
The MDC Alliance has long believed that even without a complete overhaul of biased political institutions it can still be an effective opposition party and provide critical parliamentary oversight.
However, this could not be further from the truth.
Even with the MDC Alliance in parliament, Zanu-PF has tightened its stranglehold on power and the costly system of patronage employed to deadly effect under former President Robert Mugabe’s rule remains intact.
Even with the MDC Alliance shadowing government, millions of dollars are being spent on funding POLAD and dubious political missions to the USA.
Even with the MDC Alliance attempting to hold government to account for its wasteful spending, state capture is rife and billions of dollars have been lost to shady government schemes and tenders.
And even as the MDC Alliance is exposing its repressive ways, Zanu-PF is trampling on people’s human rights and moving ahead with plans to criminalise dissent.
Indeed, left to its own aggressively selfish designs, the Zanu-PF leadership will further destroy Zimbabwe.
Only the MDC Alliance, it seems, can tame Zanu-PF’s destructive ways.
As things stand, however, the MDC Alliance has been slow to act.
But inaction is not a viable strategy.
Not while Mnangagwa’s resolve to silence the opposition remains strong.
He will, as the arrests of Chin’ono, Jacob Ngarivhume and Job Sikhala have demonstrated, target and silence pro-democracy advocates.
He will, as Mugabe did, dismiss and debilitate the opposition with extreme nationalist pretensions and brutal force.
And he will, as Mugabe repeatedly did, threaten church leaders and reject criticism from foreign quarters.
So, the MDC Alliance must embark on a nationwide mobilisation drive to gather comprehensive support for peaceful demonstrations and democratic reforms.
It must be highly visible on the ground and lead the fight for change.
Its leadership structures must criss-cross the country beating the drum of nonviolent struggle for democratic change.
And it must, without delay, move to protect our constitutional right to express dissent and let it be known that Zimbabwe is ours too.
Fighting for democratic change, despite what the government may claim, is not a crime.
It is our duty and inalienable birthright.
Surely, as Zanu-PF targets civil and political leaders, the MDC Alliance can’t expect widespread demonstrations to materialise out of thin air.
On January 21, MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa described 2020 as the year of ‘demonstrations and action’.
He must remain true to that declaration and not let us down.
The party must evolve with our contemporary struggle: simply castigating Mnangagwa as a bad, ruthless leader in local and foreign forums is not enough.
We, the people, must help change the course of our current trajectory.
This is the message that the MDC Alliance has to relay to the millions that want to experience economic and political change.
This is the message that must be shared in MDC Alliance meetings, from cell to cell and district to district in urban and rural areas around Zimbabwe.
This is the struggle the MDC Alliance must plan, implement and lead.
If it doesn’t do so, what would compel the government to change its repressive ways and accommodate extensive changes?
If it hesitates to act decisively, what would stop Mnangagwa from crushing opposition to his rule?
This is it really.
This is the struggle the MDC began in 1999.
This is the fight it must win today.
The MDC must mobilise the masses and hold demonstrations.
Tafi Mhaka is a Johannesburg-based writer and commentator. His debut novel, Mutserendende: The African in Us, is scheduled for release in 2020. Follow him on @tafimhaka / tafi.mhaka