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MDC ill-prepared to confront Zanu PF at polls
Augustine Mukaro, Zimbabwe Independent
November 30, 2007

THE MDC's preparedness for the 2008 elections is uncertain as the party continues to delay the launch of its campaign for the historic joint presidential, parliamentary and council polls next year with very thin activity on the ground.

Analysts have said divisions rocking the opposition have exposed the party's ill-preparedness for the elections, a development that might give away the much-awaited polls to Zanu PF.

The MDC is fighting on all fronts, from the women's assembly, the talks with Zanu PF and over candidates for the elections. The divisions have seen the opposition diverting attention from canvassing electoral support and shaping a convincing campaign strategy for the watershed elections to fighting itself.

Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said the turbulence in the MDC was caused by an uncontrolled search for power.

"The MDC are shooting themselves in the foot because instead of consolidating their support base, they are alienating it," he said. "They have a penchant of pressing a self-destruct button at a wrong time. It is evident that their attention is facing inward, trying to solve intra-party problems. They need to put their house in order and refocus their strategies towards a common enemy."

The MDC has failed to use the worsening economic crisis, the July price blitz, and food shortages as opportunities to advancing its cause.

"The MDC is failing to harness public anger into support. Instead of working to capture more support for itself, it is sowing seeds of confusion, a development which might force supporters to stay away from the elections," Masunungure said.

He said the MDC lacked a unifying factor for supporters and the leadership beyond personalities.

"Unlike Zanu PF, the MDC lacks a unifying force and an ideology which glues the leadership and supporters to one common goal. Their politics is the politics of poverty. It is politics of survival whereby those seeking to be elected to be MPs or councillors have not achieved anything in life. Politics is the only industry they know," he said.

Zimbabwe Peace Project chairman Alouis Chaumba said democratic forces were worried by the developments in the opposition, which he said were killing the momentum to unseat Zanu PF.

"It has become a tradition in the opposition that whenever they are faced with a crucial election, they find themselves disagreeing over petty issues," Chaumba said. "Their focus then changes from facing the common enemy and resolving national issues to personalities, thus giving away the election."

Chaumba said failure to resolve internal politics should ring alarm bells for the leadership if they entertain hopes of forming the next government.

"Conflict in general is not bad but what becomes wrong is the failure to deal with the disagreements internally," he said. "It casts doubts on whether the party is prepared to embrace democracy at national level."

Other analysts said the opposition should be rolling out campaign strategies for the elections, which are only five months away, identifying constituencies and rallying their supporters at the grassroots level.

The analysts said the opposition should not wait for Zanu PF to set the tone of elections.

However, the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the MDC said it has set in motion its election preparations by setting up a poll directorate to vet candidates for the presidential, legislative and council elections.

Tsvangirai last week met over 200 provincial and district leaders of his faction at Harvest House where the directorate was announced.

Party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the directorate, headed by national chairman Lovemore Moyo, will select and vet next year's election candidates, among other things.

"The election directorate has been tasked to finalise the vetting of candidates who submitted their curriculum vitae for selection," Chamisa said. "It will also be involved in key preparations for the election in both logistical, administration and technical support."

The directorate is expected to finalise the list of candidates for the election before the party's annual conference next month.

To boost its election bid, the MDC has already imported more than 300 vehicles for its provincial and districts structures. The vehicles are easily identified by the party's open palm symbol.

Chamisa said the MDC was confident of winning despite a hostile environment. "Notwithstanding the hostile environment, we enter the race from a position of strength," Chamisa said. "We are confident of victory because people have suffered enough. We are confident that we shall win the popular vote."

MDC deputy organising secretary Morgan Komichi said his party's preparations were at an advanced stage because they had already invited applications from prospective candidates for the elections.

"We are going to field candidates in all constituencies," Komichi said. "We have already invited applications for candidates, which have received an overwhelming response so we will hold primary elections in most of the constituencies."

He said his party was just waiting for the delimitation of constituencies to announce its candidates.

Komichi said the divisions that rocked the MDC last month were just a hiccup. "That was just a temporary hiccup," he said. "The president has explained it and everybody has accepted the process."

He said his party had already deployed vehicles and campaign teams into constituencies to canvass for support.

All this activity has however been overshadowed by intra-party fighting which has rocked the party from the time of the 2005 split to the latest spat which saw Chamisa, former Harare mayor, Elias Mudzuri, deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada, Kwekwe MP Blessing Chebundo and youth leader Thamsanqa Mahlangu, condemning Tsvangirai's action.

Political analysts said the instability in the MDC ahead of a crucial election against Zanu PF could tilt the scale in favour of President Robert Mugabe.

They say while it is agreed that Zanu PF is weak now given internal rivalries and an economy in free-fall, the opposition appears much weaker in a number of respects.

Mugabe is under siege from a collapsing economy blamed on mismanagement, internal wrangling in Zanu PF and internationally isolation.

Tsvangirai is battling to re-establish himself as the undisputable leading opposition politician after the split of his party in 2005. While he has in a way managed to reclaim that mantle, divisions persist.

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