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Comment: A Tough Call
for War & Peace Reporting
(Africa Reports: Zimbabwe Elections No 06, 11-Feb-05)
Welshman Ncube in Harare
to contest the elections was one of the hardest it has had to make.
Making tough choices
is part and parcel of politics. The decision by the MDC National Council,
at an extraordinary meeting on February 3, to reverse its earlier refusal
to participate in the elections and enter the fray under protest, was
the toughest decision the MDC leadership has had to make since its birth
five years ago.
The MDC’s executive
had said last August that the party would suspend participation in the
elections pending the Zimbabwe government’s full compliance with the Southern
African Development Community’s newly adopted protocol on Guidelines and
Principles Governing Democratic Elections.
At the time, the MDC
retained a degree of optimism that President Robert Mugabe would act in
the interests of Zimbabwe and the SADC region and honour undertakings
he had given to other regional leaders to bring Zimbabwe’s electoral framework
and political environment into line with the new SADC standards.
Regrettably our optimism
proved unfounded. Mugabe and his ZANU PF government remain uninterested
in extending to Zimbabweans the rights and freedoms enjoyed by our brothers
and sisters across the SADC region. The reforms that have been introduced
are cosmetic and self-serving and fail to properly address democratic
deficits that preclude the possibility of a truly free and fair election.
of the Zimbabwe government on the issue of comprehensive electoral and
democratic reform made boycotting the elections a compelling option for
the MDC leadership.
Decisions in the MDC,
however, are not made by individuals at the top operating in isolation
– but in consultation with the party’s structures. Decision-making is
a collective exercise. The party leadership is guided by what the people
on the ground want and acts in accordance with their wishes.
Since the announcement
last August to suspend participation in elections, the MDC leadership
has travelled to every corner of Zimbabwe canvassing views from our structures
and from civil society organisations on the issue of election participation.
We have held district assembly meetings in all of Zimbabwe’s 120 districts
and held provincial assembly meetings in all twelve provinces. Each district
and each province was asked to submit resolutions to the National Council
stating their views. The resolutions that were submitted were overwhelmingly
in favour of participation.
All the various constituencies
that make up the MDC expressed similar reasons for wanting to participate
in the elections. The businessmen we spoke to in Masvingo, the unemployed
youth we spoke to in Chipinge, the factory workers we spoke to in Harare
and the ex-farm workers we spoke to in rural parts of Manicaland all expressed
their desire to exercise their inalienable right to vote, regardless of
the negative democratic conditions on the ground.
Amongst our working
class support base the determination to see the implementation of RESTART,
the MDC’s economic policy agenda for job creation and sustainable economic
recovery, appeared to strengthen their resolve to take part in the elections.
RESTART rejects the neo-liberal approach to economic development and focuses
on the need to create a more socially cohesive society in which there
is equal opportunity for all and a fairer distribution of the nation’s
The manner in which
the decision to participate was made is indicative of the subordination
of the MDC leadership to the internal democratic processes of the party
when it comes to decision-making.
It also reflects the
unity of purpose which binds the MDC and which has enabled it to overcome
everything which has been thrown at it by ZANU PF over the past five years.
Without this unity of purpose the MDC would have disappeared from the
political map and become another historical footnote.
Contrary to the accusations
of our critics, both inside and outside the country, this unity of purpose
is not based solely on the objective of replacing the current government.
It is a plural phenomenon, rooted in the MDC’s civic society origins.
The MDC evolved out of civil society, in particular the labour movement,
and was formed in direct response to the failure of the government to
address pressing socio-economic grievances.
The political and
socio-economic context in which the MDC was born means the party is very
much a broad church, consisting of a wide range of constituencies ranging
from labour, youth and women to business. We are the leaders of the social
liberation struggle in Zimbabwe.
There is a perception
that the MDC’s diversity is its achilles heel, paralysing efforts to formulate
a common programme. Nothing could be further from the truth. The various
constituencies that make up the MDC are united in their collective desire
to not only usher in a new beginning but also to build a new Zimbabwe
based on the social democratic values of solidarity, social justice, freedom,
democracy, equity and equality.
It is this shared
vision of the future, and the ideological principles on which it will
be based, that binds the MDC together.
The forthcoming elections
offer a glimmer of hope for change. We will, however, remain vigilant
of the ruling party’s capacity for electoral malpractice. If conditions
on the ground deteriorate, extinguishing all glimmer of hope, we have
reserved the right to take corrective measures.
Ncube is Secretary General of the Movement for Democratic Change in Harare.
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