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MDC-T must urgently curb violence within
in Zimbabwe Coalition
April 20, 2011
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torture, manipulation of the party structures, tribalism, nepotism,
cooked up voters' rolls, intolerance, vote buying, elections
taking place under the cover of darkness, the use of long incumbency
to remain in power and the imposition of candidates by the party's
All these read
like a Zanu PF script of conducting the national electoral process
that has led to the decade long legitimacy and governance crisis
Zimbabwe has been grappling with.
Alas, it is
not Zanu PF this time around. The above describes how the leadership
of the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) is managing
its provincial congresses ahead of the party's national congress
in Bulawayo at the end of April.
Like the Zanu
PF elite, the "democratic elite" in the MDC have shown
that their political values and culture differ little from their
political foes, particularly the way the culture of violence and
impunity in the party has been left to spread within its structures.
Apart from the Mashonaland West provincial congress where the leadership
there was elected in a decent manner, the majority of the MDC electoral
processes and gatherings were marked by acts of violence, alleged
vote rigging and vote buying.
of a fine thread of violence in the MDC has been going on for some
time and this has led to both de facto and de jure impunity in the
party. The party disciplinary machinery has been rendered impotent
because people who commit acts of violence and other violations
of the MDC constitution do it at the behest of members of the powerful
standing committee of the party. A case in point is the failure
by the MDC disciplinary committee to bring to book Prosper Mutseyami,
the provincial organising secretary of Manicaland and former Minister
of Home Affairs Giles Mutsekwa, on allegations of violence against
party supporters, including the assault of Thamsanga Mahlangu -
the party's national youth chairperson in 2010. Mahlangu,
despite his national position, was asked to go back to Matabeleland
because he would not be allowed to operate in a "foreign province",
Mutare. These incidents happened during the restructuring of the
party in that province.
about the Mutseyami controversy is the persistent allegations that
he is linked to a vigilante group made up of party youths called
"Hunters". This group commits acts of violence against
its opponents. It is alleged that the Hunters do so at the behest
of Mutseyami and his handlers in the standing committee of the party
who avoid being disciplined by the party. There are worrying allegations
that the MP for Mutare Central, Innocent Gonese, is being hounded
by this group which says that he should go back to his home province
of Masvingo. It is therefore not surprising to hear reports that
Gonese had to run for his life during the party's provincial
congress in Mutare last weekend after the thugs threatened his life.
They accused him of being a "traitor", not because he
is one, but because he does not share their Zanu PF tendencies in
organising the party.
If it is true
that the MDC is fighting against impunity, why does it seem apparent
that those who abuse the rights of party members are left scot free;
why are these people allowed to continue holding party positions
without recourse to an internal justice system?
I would want
to draw similarities between Gonese's incarnations on tribal
grounds to that of Paul Mangwana who was hounded out of Mashonaland
West by Zanu PF politicians and relocated to his home district of
Chivi in Masvingo where he was elected MP in the 2008 elections.
of the vigilante group, Hunters, in Manicaland, is similar to Zanu
PF's vigilante groups such as Chipangano in Mbare and Top
Six in Mashonaland West.
By failing to
address these cases of impunity, violence and tribalism, the MDC
leadership is failing the nation by mimicking Zanu PF's political
culture that many Zimbabweans and most of its supporters are fighting
against. Others lost their lives attempting to create a society
opposite to that established by the Zanu PF dictatorship.
a new Zimbabwe that is founded on the rule of law; a country that
does not discriminate on the basis of creed, tribe, sex, age, colour,
political affiliation and gender. The party leadership is also sending
a message that theirs is a struggle for power and not necessarily
a democratic struggle because all the incidences described are inimical
to the values of a liberal democracy that Zimbabweans want to establish.
gives an impression that the party is attempting to create a pseudo
democracy that serves the interests of the "democratic elite"
in the MDC.
and the prodemocracy movement in Zimbabwe have been fighting against
vote rigging and lack of transparency in the administration of the
voters roll by the Registrar-General's office.
that the MDC supporters were complaining about the same tactics
by their rivals at the party congress. Some party structures were
manipulated at the provincial level and endorsed by members of the
standing committee whose interests will be better advanced by that
group during the congress.
By doing that,
the MDC congress runs the risk of being divisive and a circus because
it violates what is expected from a party that has been fighting
to democratise the affairs of the state for more than a decade.
It is not too
late to change course. The party is in some instances doing business
similar to the way Zanu PF has been behaving until the people of
Zimbabwe lost patience with the regime and decided to dump it beginning
with the February 2000 constitutional referendum.
The MDC and
those who blindly condone the growing undemocratic tendencies in
the party should appreciate that the chickens will come home to
roost, as Zanu PF knows well. In the early 1980s, Zanu PF and its
leader President Robert Mugabe committed wanton human rights violations
in Matabeleland and Midlands. Those who questioned the acts of genocide
when more than 20 000 people were killed were dismissed as sell-outs.
The party blindly
claimed that it was popular and would never lose power as it relied
on Stone Age repression.
My frank advice
to the MDC leadership is that they should read and follow the history
of all dictatorial regimes, including that of Zanu PF, and they
will realise that people can never be taken for granted. As a democratic
movement, the MDC should promote a culture of tolerance of different
opinions and even the acceptance of defeat during internal electoral
This is critical
as the party prepares itself for a possible electoral victory in
the next national elections.
It is generally
true that the accepted norms of democracy which emphasise non-violent
solutions of problems such as the ones arising out of the MDC provincial
congresses and the institutional structures prevent political parties
or governments from utilising terror as a way of resolving disputes.
The MDC leadership
should make sure that its internal dispute resolution structures
are functional and that nobody, especially those in the standing
committee of the party, should work to subvert it. The selective
application of party rules to protect thugs is inconsistent with
what the party stands for and what a new Zimbabwe requires.
If the MDC uses
democratic structures in the party constitution, its members will
realise the futility of using repression as a tool to retain power
and decrease the benefits leaders in these rogue provinces might
have from violating the rights of their supporters.
party leaders are using violence as a tool because the party's
internal justice system is dysfunctional and less dependent on the
opinion of the ordinary members, but those connected to the "democratic
elite" in the party's standing committee. The MDC standing
committee should urgently appreciate that of all human rights, the
most basic is to be free from arbitrary violence and impunity.
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