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MDC is losing moral and political authority to oppose
Courage Shumba, New Zimbabwe
June 13, 2007

THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change's failure to unite and advance the cause of Zimbabweans as one opposition will be very costly in our struggle against despotism.

Zanu PF with all their differences and disorganisation have done a pretty job, realising the little hope of survival they can scratch united under their aged dictator.

As for us, the opposition, our egos and ambition are so self-defeating one would think we were the ones in power. This monkeying around is coming at a big price. It is akin to attempting to abort a pregnant revolution that is about to deliver. What real strength is there in an opposition that cannot see that in dangerous and critical times like this, safety is in unity?

Our own history speaks of the importance of unity. The Zanla/Zipra forces were a show of unity in our quest against imperial racism. The Rainbow Coalition in Kenya was a show of unity against 'nationalist' authoritarianism. The infighting in the MDC is misdirection and misapplication of our focus and energy. This fighting reveals shallowness, an emptiness of depth and resolve that can be dangerous if given power. It is unbelievable that instead of keeping our eyes and minds on Robert Mugabe, or whatever his real name is, we have the luxury to create new rivals between ourselves.

Part of being a good governor, before we venture into discussions about good governance, has to do with the ability to make priorities, to be flexible, accommodating, evaluating, reconsidering, take responsibility and being accountable. Accountability requires that not only should the MDC tell us why they have allowed this expensive split to interfere with the core business of the party but why they are failing to effectively deal with it. This fallout has all the traces of weak minds. One would be forgiven for asking if the MDC really knows what the pressing needs of Zimbabweans are outside this self-indulgent struggle for personal power.

Does anyone agree that this crucial episode in our struggle with a dictatorship that is threatening to entrench itself, is the best opportunity to showcase personal distaste for one another over what are rather academic differences about what was right or wrong about participating in 2005 senate elections some two years ago? If it isn't about that fall-out in 2005 over the senate election then what is it about?

People do not become good leaders because they are in government; they become a good government by bringing with them important leadership attributes they hold outside the structures of power. The failure to manage this fallout has a sad telling about the political liability and indecisiveness we may risk remaining entangled in even at the collapse of Zanu PF unless we start thinking as people who wish to take on a much bigger responsibility than running an opposition party.

The MDC leadership has a moral duty to ensure that it does not become itself the reason Mugabe escapes with another unendorsed presidential term. By assuming the responsibility to stand for the people and indeed marry their wishes to its political brand, the MDC is answerable to the masses through whom it claims its political legitimacy. Its leadership needs to understand that Zimbabwe's main problem today is the ruling party and not the structural constitution of the opposition.

The main point that must not be overlooked in all this is that we are not yet in power, and fighting for supremacy in the right to oppose is fighting for fictional and non existent power. Opposition becomes more effective with many and more people fighting against a common enemy together than with small fractious voices of discontent operating separately.

Zimbabwe's crisis today is about leadership. Zimbabwe needs people who can make sound and exceptional decisions than it needs courage, bravado and oratory might. The quality of a decision will be judged by its ability to prioritise the common stand of our people. Our people today are eager and restless in seeking to bring to an abrupt end the treacherous, brutal and fascist continuation of colonial policy in what is supposed to be a free African state.

An opposition that has inherited a dangerous habit of behaving like the enemy we are struggling to remove is not helping that. We are fighting an enemy that turned a promising regional food producer into a refugee producing country. We are fighting a man who like Ian Smith still believes Zimbabweans are the happiest Africans, a statement Smith once made and regretted.We are fighting a man who like Smith believes there will be no democratic self rule in Zimbabwe in his lifetime. We expect no similarities between the party we support and the Rhodesian mentality of the tyrant in charge of our country. We cannot afford to misplace our priorities.

Exactly what are we meant to benefit from Arthur Mutambara fighting Morgan Tsvangirai, and Tsvangirai fighting Mutambara when both blows ought to knock out Mugabe? It is sad that now when Mugabe is fighting dissidents within his own party, the perfect opportunity we should have sent him flying face down, we have chosen to undermine the importance of capitalising on his present difficulties.

I have advised against participation in an election conducted in an environment where free choice is rendered inexercisable. However, if the MDC is to be headstrong, and participate anyway, the real danger is that this present weakened outfit will itself be used to justify its massacre. It will be harder to argue that you have been defrauded when you would have lost anyway.

If this does not matter to the present factions of the MDC, it surely is a matter of critical concern to him or her who last had a square meal yesterday, or the day before, who may skip today's and tomorrow's. If it is not that important to Tsvangirai or Mutambara and their deputies, surely it could have been important to a statesman whose vision includes a good health policy that has sadly failed another Zimbabwean today.

The present situation in Zimbabwe has practical consequences; very tangible implications visibly visited on the quality of lives of the people each day. Each day a solution is not worked out someone dies of lack of drugs. Each day that a solution is not found someone else starves to death. Each day we find no solution another child drops out of school. Each day we delay the finding of a solution another person becomes a first time criminal. Each day we fail to take victory from Mugabe and his puppets, another Zimbabwean crosses the border in frustration. That is the frequency of the desperation by which we demand measurable maturity in politics as a standard.

Politics is not about privilege. That thinking will take us where Zanu PF is dragging us. Politics is about patriotism; patriotism being the inestimable and unquantifiably irrevocable love for one's country and its peoples. Patriotism is the ideology that builds countries. In the absence of patriotic faith, countries collapse from indifference. Patriotism overrides the selfishness of the individual. Patriotism inspires justice, equality and unity. In itself patriotism is a fuel awaiting ignition at the very onset of national betrayal.

This is why Zanu PF will use force, rigging and threats because it has lost the legitimacy to claim to be acting in patriotic interest. It is doubtlessly nothing else but patriotic goals and values that win an election in any democratic exercise. It is therefore very crucial that the priorities of the MDC must be seen to pass the patriotic test. It is clear, from this analysis, that the project to remove Mugabe is far more patriotic and in the interests of national well being, which patriotism is about, than is the administrative issue of who has more recognition, power and influence within the MDC itself.

I believe that before this election which the MDC has a choice to abandon, quite sensibly, takes place, there is a compelling case for leadership re-engagement from the two senselessly warring factions. This should be done for the people of Zimbabwe even if this is a bitter taste for the individuals and a set back to their own personal positioning and ambitions.

Without proper calculation, most of these ambitions will remain a fantasy but whilst that may not be anything of a national crisis, Zimbabwe will have been robbed of a chance to deal with its institutional and structurally entrenched political weakness.

What I am asking these two sides to do is what we have long demanded from Zanu PF without relief - to put the national interest first. It would be a shame for the MDC to continue behaving like Zanu PF -- sacrificing national interest on the altar of pride, ego and personal ambition.

Courage Shumba is a former student leader and human rights campaigner

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