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Blessing Denhere: Mwonzora and Khupe the flip side of the same puppetry coin

By Taona Blessing Denhere

A mid-century novelist Nelson Algren once said, “Never trust a group that claims to work for God, Country and Liberty, as any or all three are unlikely to be well represented”. To this catalogue of sagacity, I might give a Zimbabwean twist and say: “Never trust a group that claims to work for constitutionalism, rule of law and tolerance, as any or all three are unlikely to be well represented.”

Former MDC-T interim leader Thokozani Khupe says she regrets working with Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora
Former MDC-T interim leader Thokozani Khupe says she regrets working with Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora

Accordingly, the Judicially Modified MDC-T, held its much delayed and long overdue Extra-Burial Congress on the 27th of December 2020. It was euphemized and christened as an Extraordinary Congress. Nonetheless, it was in all its intents and purposes a political elegiac process in which the four putschist praetorian guard of pseudo constitutionalism obituarised and eulogized their lifeless political lives in the hearts and minds of the public court of opposition ecosystem.

Suffice it to say, the indurate “EOC” of MDCT, was a spectacle of a cocktail of disorganisation and primary school playground tomfoolery. It descended into a dog-eat-dog fratricidal bedlam of four warring parties.

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The mobocracy which plagued the so-called EOC played out in real-time in the full glare of the public. Thus, it became apparent to both concerned and neutral observers that all four presidential contestants were nothing but just power-hungry political rejects. Their touting of constitutionalism was a facade to mask their opportunism and insatiable power-hungry proclivities.

However, in the smouldering wreckage of the plane crash disaster of the mobocracy that engulfed the Rainbow Towers on the 27th December 2020, there was a schadenfreude moment when Douglas Mwonzora emerged as the new sheriff in town for the MDCT through becoming the controversial winner of the race to become president of MDCT.

Therefore, this opinion piece aims to unpack the likely ideological trajectory or lack thereof of MDCT under the stewardship of Mwonzora. I argue and expose that, just as under Thokozani Khupe, MDCT under Mwonzora will not enjoy any ideological realignment. But, rather there is going to be ideological reinforcement of business-as-usual approach to the politics of puppetry.

Turbo-authoritarianism

Whilst the other three losing presidential contestants were counting their costs and licking their wounds, the official twitter account of President Mnangagwa as well as his New Year’s address was punctuated with profuse congratulatory messages to the controversial winner Douglas Mwonzora.

Thus, this endorsement was perceived that the puppet master was satisfied and happy with his latest recruit. In a nutshell, the MDCT “Extraordinary Congress” provided a puppetry buffet of the four political charlatans and puppets for the puppet master Emmerson Mnangagwa to pick and choose. Therefore, the puppet master was spoilt for choices.

However, there are significant takeaways and tell-tale signs that the MDCT “EOC” has a DNA imprint of ZANU PF vested interests. This is demonstrated by the conspicuous and unprecedented showering of State freebies and goodies to the MDCT which are usually the exclusive privilege afforded to ZANU PF.

For instance, ZUPCO buses were provided to MDCT to ferry their delegates to the venue. Coupled with the booking and provision of the Rainbow Towers amphitheatre for MDCT to use as an electoral venue for their “EOC”.

This unprecedented obscene provision of state largesse to opposition political parties was never even provided to the late Morgan Tsvangirai, even at a time that he was a Prime Minister in the Government of National Unity. Neither the then PF ZAPU of Joshua Nkomo was ever provided such red-carpet treatment by a malevolent ZANU PF government.

Needless to say, that, for the past two years MDCT under Thokozani Khupe had a hand in glove incestuous relationship with the ZANU PF government.

Thus, Thoko Khupe was an ever-obedient Trojan horse of ZANU PF. She had performed the role of opposition to the main opposition MDCA exceedingly well. Coupled with the fact that Thoko Khupe and MDCT were the permanent and the lead violin in the POLAD orchestra. Which was a tick in the box for fulfilling the conditions set by the puppet master.

The irrationality of rational disputation

Opposition political parties in both mature liberal democracies and fledgling illiberal democracies are by their very nature adversarial to the governing parties. They are instinctively primed to adopt a very uncompromising oppositional stance to the ruling parties.

Thus, they aggressively critique and hold the ruling party to account, both for its omissions and commissions in executing its governmental duties. Hence, in some situations debates in parliaments can descend into volatile and nasty verbal and physical confrontations.

Countries like Taiwan, Ukraine, Kenya, and DRC have recorded episodic moments where the parliament has been turned into a boxing ring. Additionally, in South Africa, the radical left-wing EFF with its brand of disruptive participatory democracy has turned the South African parliament into a volatile theatre of democratic accountability.

Such is the nature of adversarial parliamentary democracy. However, Douglas Mwonzora has come out with an unconventional milk toast concept christened as rational disputation which he defines as his political manual for engaging with a hybrid and competitive authoritarian ZANU PF government. Nevertheless, “rational disputation” is quintessentially mollycoddle and appeasing the malevolent crypto fascist ZANU PF government.

Thereby it will undeservedly give the ZANU PF government an easy and smooth ride in the House of Assembly without vigorously checking and counter balancing it. Thus, “rational disputation” is a political euphemism or political pseudonym for politics of elite co-option, elite pacting and ZANU PF driven elite opposition. Additionally, “rational disputation” is a self-serving vehicle for incorporation into the State subsidised gravy train of elite patronage.

The raison d`etre for the controversial Supreme Court ruling that ordered the holding of this shambolic and amateurish MDCT “EOC”, was premised on the Leninist communist relic of “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves”.

Therefore, Douglas Mwonzora is the latest ZANU PF trojan horse in authoritarian consolidation and power retention shenanigans of ZANU PF.

Nothing new under the authoritarian political sun

William Faulkner philosophically said, “the past is never dead, it is not even past”. Therefore, there is nothing new under the sun in terms of the political chicanery obtaining in the Zimbabwean corrosive body polity. Thus, the political, parliamentary and constitutionally chicanery of creating a pliant, obedient and pseudo-opposition by ZANU PF government was in fact perfected in the crypto fascist right-wing political laboratories of both apartheid Rhodesia under Ian Smith and apartheid South Africa under Pik Botha and FW DeKlerk.

Accordingly, just as the Inkatha Freedom Party of Mangosuthu Buthelezi were the shock troops and attack dogs of the National Party that deployed them to terrorise and destabilise the ANC during apartheid struggle.

Accordingly, the modus operandi of Mwonzora led MDCT will be more or less the same. That is building up to 2023 elections, the MDCT role will be to act as an agent saboteur for ZANU PF. Under the wily fox political chicanery of Mwonzora, MDCT will be more ruthless both covert and overt in destabilizing the MDCA and derailing the democratic process on behalf of ZANU PF.

It is common knowledge that in an unforgiving winner eats all competitive electoral politics, there is no such thing as free lunch. Political competitors especially hybrid competitive authoritarian regimes like the ZANU PF government do not provide political and parliamentary favours to their competitors out of sincere father christmas benevolence.

Therefore, Mwonzora just like his predecessor Thoko Khupe will be perpetuating the same puppetry politics of cosying up and appeasing the ZANU PF government. There will not be an ideological realignment of this politics of puppetry under Mwonzora.

But rather there is going to be ideological reinforcement of Khupeism under Mwonzora. Therefore, it is not by accident, but, rather by design that there is deafening silence from MDCT, and lack of dissenting voices from MDCT after the latest round of extrajudicial and extra-legal persecution and unlawful arrests and detention of pro democratic activists such as Hopewell Chin’ono, Job Sikhala, Jacob Mafume and Fadzayi Mahere.

This script is one written for the MDCT by their puppets master ZANU PF. That is, they must not see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil, when the ZANU PF government is abusing state institutions and innocent citizens. Thus, MDCT, will be a vital cog in sanitizing the excesses of the regime and provide a facade and mirage of a functioning parliamentary democracy to the outside world.

Furthermore, Mwonzora will be likely taking a front row seat at the POLAD gathering of political rejects and losers. There is greater likelihood that once Covid-19 pandemic is under control, we will be seeing Mwonzora and his team under the instructions of ZANU PF going on a circuit of charm offensive campaigns in the capitals of Global North.

They will be pleading for the lifting of  the regime of targeted sanctions imposed on Harare by Washington. This mission will be mission impossible for the regime acolytes. As they will hit a brick wall because Washington provided a clear roadmap for removal of sanctions, which is simply constitutional and institutional reforms.

Conclusion

Douglas Mwonzora`s controversial elevation as the head of MDCT is just a question of old wine in new wine skins. Therefore, there will be an unbroken cycle of politics of puppetry from Thoko Khupe to Mwonzora. That is, under Mwonzora there is going to be another episode of puppetry on steroids. His so called “rational disputation” philosophy is both ideological and institutional bankruptcy in as far as radical and progressive oppositional politics is concerned.

As such, MDCT will continue to be a cannon fodder in the authoritarian and power consolidation brinkmanship of ZANU PF government. The corrosive incestuous relationship between ZANU PF and MDCT will continue but with devastating collateral damages on the democratic and constitutional infrastructure of Zimbabwe.

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