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MDC-T opposition leaders
The Independent (Zimbabwe)
August 16, 2013
of a defective voters’ roll and claims of widespread rigging,
the recently-concluded July
31 general elections may be remembered as an exercise where
President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF resurrected to trounce his March
2008 conquerors, outgoing premier Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T.
The 49 parliamentary
seats the MDC-T secured in this year’s elections (even including
the 21 women for the National Assembly garnered under the proportional
representation system) was a nosedive from the 100 it won in 2008,
which gave it a slight parliamentary majority, the first ever by
an opposition party since Independence.
Combined with the MDC,
then led by Professor Arthur Mutambara and now Welshman Ncube, the
two MDC parties had control of the National Assembly even though
they did not have a two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.
Mugabe was trounced by
Tsvangirai in the first round of polling and was heading for a crushing
defeat until he resorted to a campaign of violence and intimidation
to retain power amid bloodshed and killing of over 200 people.
who led the first
round of the 2008 presidential poll with 47,8%, this time around
received 1 172 349 votes, or 33,94%, while Mugabe got 2 110 434
votes (61,09%). Ncube won a mere 92 637 votes, or 2,68%.
This left Mugabe and
Zanu-PF firmly back in power amid allegations of rigging and fraud,
while the MDC formations and other parties were in disarray.
This begs the question:
Where to for opposition parties? Opposition parties have never really
flourished under Mugabe’s rule since Zimbabwe’s Independence
in 1980 for different reasons, main among them, political repression
and a climate of fear.
Of course, lack of proper
leadership, organisation, resources and an enabling environment,
are also some of the factors which have stunted opposition growth.
Among the prominent opposition
parties which have come and gone are veteran nationalists Joshua
Nkomo’s Zapu, Edgar Tekere’s Zimbabwe Unity Movement
(Zum), Ndabaningi Sithole’s Zanu Ndonga, the late former chief
justice Enoch Dumbutshena’s Forum Party of Zimbabwe and war
veteran Margaret Dongo’s Zimbabwe Union of Democrats.
Mugabe and Zanu-PF used
security forces, mainly the military, to attack and destroy Zapu,
while the others parties choked under asphyxiating repression and
fear as well as poor leadership and lack of organisation.
MDC-T which has massive domestic popular support and huge external
funding made inroads in attempts to bring change and possibly democracy
So due to the political
and economic meltdown at home which led to a protest vote for it
against Zanu-PF and solid support from abroad, the MDC-T came agonisingly
close to ousting its rival which has mainly survived due to support
from the state apparatus, particularly the army.
Had Mugabe not resorted
to the military, violence and intimidation, Zanu-PF would almost
certainly be history by now. When history is written it will show
Mugabe and Zanu-PF have mainly survived due to abuse of state structures
and resources as well as the military.
In the case of Zapu,
Mugabe threw everything at it, including the military which intensified
repression, fear, and killings to destroy it. He unashamedly used
ethnicity to fight his former liberation struggle comrades, dividing
the population and the country, one of the legacies of his checkered
But earlier opposition
parties, which enjoyed little if any international support, were
simply forced into political oblivion, and so were their leaders,
save for Nkomo, who later became vice-president through the Unity
Accord of 1987.
He writes eloquently
in his book, The Story of My Life, about Mugabe’s ruthlessness
in a bid to win and consolidate power. However, when the MDC, which
later split in 2005, emerged in 1999 things changed.
It appeared it was going
to be only a matter of time before Mugabe and Zanu-PF were defeated
and pushed out of the political arena.
So Zanu-PF’s defeat
in 2008 came as no surprise, especially given the political and
economic meltdown largely caused by Mugabe’s failed rule.
However, after four-and-half
years in the coalition government, nobody ever dreamt Mugabe and
Zanu-PF, saved by the army in 2008, would bounce back.
But through a mixture
of hard work, electoral institutions and military support, and rigging,
Mugabe and his party are back with a bang.
While it is clear how
Mugabe and Zanu-PF won, the question is what went wrong for the
MDC? Where to from here for the opposition parties?
Could it be that the
MDC parties mainly have come full circle after failing to topple
Mugabe and it is now high time for a new opposition party? Notwithstanding
the alleged chicanery, the magnitude of Zanu-PF’s victory
has raised the real possibility of the MDCs being consigned to the
political dustbin already littered with the carcases of so many
other opposition parties which since Independence 33 years ago have
tried and failed to unseat Zanu-PF.
Political analysts say
the MDC parties failed to use the coalition government respite to
strategise and campaign, while Zanu-PF regrouped. They point to
a lack of leadership and strategic thinking in the MDC parties,
complacency and even arrogance.
Brian Raftopoulos, a
senior research mentor at the University of the Western Cape, told
the Zimbabwe Independent there was “little doubt that Zanu-PF’s
deliberate obstruction in fully implementing the reform measures,
in particular changes to the security sector, made it difficult
for the MDC parties to fully exploit any political spaces that may
have opened up under such reforms.”
“However, the performance
of the MDC parties left much to be desired and their lack of political
co-ordination allowed Mugabe to weaken their effectiveness and exploit
the differences between the two factions,” he said.
The MDC parties slept
on the job, analysts say. So Sadc seemed, to quote celebrated African
writer Chinua Achebe, “to weep louder than the owners of the
corpse” in their steadfast insistence on the reforms.
That only served to bring
out renewed aggression and unsavoury diatribe of profanities from
Mugabe who targeted Lindiwe Zulu, a member of South African President
Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team. So given the shortcomings
of the MDC parties and failure at the last elections, is it not
time for a new political party to emerge?
In the recent past there
have been abortive attempts to launch so-called “Third Way”
consisting of moderate Zanu-PF elements and progressive members
from the MDCs.
After the 2004 Zanu-PF
internal strife, Zanu-PF heavyweight Emmerson Mnangagwa, assisted
by former Information minister Jonathan Moyo and those in his faction
then, reportedly tried to form a new “Third Way” party
- United People’s Movement. There was another attempt before
the 2008 elections to form another one, the New Patriotic Front.
Political commentator Godwin Phiri says conditions are not ripe
for another political party, particularly a “Third Way”,
arguing “it cannot happen because it would require a significant
number of people leaving both Zanu-PF and the MDCs to make it possible.”
“Right now, Zanu-PF
is on the ascendancy, so it would be foolhardy for anyone to jump
off the gravy train and join with disgruntled MDC members to form
a third way,” said Phiri.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute
director Pedzisai Ruhanya said a new party could only emerge if
it is guided by the idea of filling an ideological void, not as
a reaction to the recent elections results.
“Parties come in
to fill ideological vacuums, so which one would this ‘Third
Way’ be coming in to fill?,” asked Ruhanya?
He said the MDC parties
had a solid social base resulting from strong social movements based
on labour, civil society and students but they allowed it to disintegrate.
So they need to go back to the drawing board to regroup, restrategise
and fight back.
Some analysts however,
say only a new party can make a difference if it carefully works
out the political and ideological space it has to occupy, comes
up with good policy alternatives and real-world competent leadership.
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