THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Inclusive government - Index of articles

  • MDC-T must urgently curb violence within
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    April 20, 2011

    Download this document
    - Acrobat PDF version (922KB)
    If you do not have the free Acrobat reader on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking here

    Beatings, assaults, 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 top leadership.

    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.

    The emergence 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.

    What stinks 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.

    The creation 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.

    They envisioned 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.

    This culture gives an impression that the party is attempting to create a pseudo democracy that serves the interests of the "democratic elite" in the MDC.

    MDC supporters 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.

    It's sad 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 processes.

    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.

    Currently MDC 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.

    Download full document

    Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe fact sheet

    Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.