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Saturday, February 10, 2018

MDCT – Time to split

By. Tyanai Masiya, PhD

The splitting of political parties is neither anathema nor a taboo. It is a common phenomenon the world over, based on important considerations mainly meant to deal with challenges that threaten the life of a political party. Often this rejuvenates the party. Current events in the MDCT call for such a hard decision to be taken.

First, in recent months, contradictions in the MDCT have taken a geographic shift. In view of the previous dangerous politics of geography in this country, the MDCT should cleanse itself of such politics. Robert Mugabe did it and the consequences were ominous.

 Claiming to be a national social democratic party, the MDCT cannot centre its struggle on treating one region as a protected species and intended biggest beneficiary of any prospective victory in the democratisation project. The struggle in Zimbabwe must be a struggle to equally liberate the nation in its entirety without making reference to the colonial tools of division. The MDCT has been entrapped in this type of politics for unnecessarily too long.

Second, the MDCT has of late been infested by rogue personalities with self-aggrandising agendas rather than pursuing people’s power. Some of its leaders no longer see virtue in collective democracy. Every time a key institution of the party collectively takes a decision that is contrary to their views, they publicly walk left once they are out of the meetings. 

Some no longer attend key party meetings yet they must be censured if they miss a certain number of meetings. No action is being taken against them. The unscrupulous behaviour, not only demeans party institutions but also its leader. Troops that constantly defy institutional parameters and their commander cannot help win a battle.

Further to rogue personality behaviours, some office bearers are overstepping the mandate of their offices due to big egos and delusions of grandeur. They now want to be leaders and none wants to be led. There is nothing wrong with ambition, for example a school teacher should desire to one day be a school principal. 

But in the MDCT we have seen an unwarranted avalanche of such desire and impatience, with office bearers clashing with their counterparts. Some leaders now behave like they are bigger than the party. Yet it is the party that made them, even if they were late comers or once deserted it.

Third, the battle over succession has been drawn out for too long. Initially with key politicians being allowed to visit the president in and out of the hospital, and now hospitalised and not seeing visitors, the politically ambitious are making their permutations. This is exacerbated by our cultural view which infers that an ill person who cannot be visited except by the closest of relatives has gotten worse. Further, on SABC, the President’s relatives were at sixes and sevens, with tongues running short of words to describe the exact state of the President’s condition with confidence.

 In addition, because the relatives are alleged to have sent away Mrs Elizabeth Tsvangirai because she appeared to support VP Chamisa means they are also positioning themselves for a future without the President and support the other faction and have tacitly entered into politics though novices. However they will need more skin than being connected to some SABC fellow.

Be that as it may be, it is important to point out that you do not succeed someone because you have been his deputy for a decade. It does not give you an entitlement to ascension. Further, one cannot be given the thrown on the basis of being a women and from a minority ethnic group. It is the leadership quality in you and your perceived ability to pursue  the vision of the party with distinction. 

VP Thokozani Khupe contends that she must succeed President Tsvangirai because she has been his deputy for long. However she has lacked a national profile, preferring to defend the Matabeleland territory from fellow opposition politicians fighting for the same cause and arguing that there is still a problem of masculine parochialism within the party and without. 

As a result she has spent the entire year fighting against an alliance that may reduce her regional influence and is still in the trenches. Matabelelald has a fixed number of parliamentary seats and she and her allies are not willing to give up any after spending years building and consolidating that territory. Her vision of a future Matabeleland is closer to that of Umthwakazi Liberation Front than that of a national social democratic movement.

Another VP, Eng. Elias Mudzuri does not seem like he can command any national support too. His support base cannot be identified and he only has ambition on his side. Despite this, he himself has failed to see it. It is normal though that he sees it this way. Power ambition tends to cloud a person’s judgment.

In contrast another VP, Nelson Chamisa has youthfulness, a national appeal and a clear leadership stamina on his side. He has been able to address big crowds and presided over meetings of the party’s different strata and seems to have learnt from his stint as the party’s chief organiser.

 The huge response to word of his appointment as Acting President and an avalanche of solidarity messages cannot be underestimated. This is an analysis which his opponents will not want to hear and acknowledge. 

Further the elite power competition has not only centred on the three VPs. It has also centred on previous history of contests for other political party positions. The Chamisa and Mwonzora tussle for the Secretary General position has left a lasting dent in the relationship between the two and their supporters that can never be mended. 

Mwonzora, though a contender for the Presidency, is viewed as a late comer in the MDCT. Chamisa and Mudzuri animosity is also around the position of Organising Secretary from years ago. Mudzuri still has a score to settle and the VP appointment seem to have given him a lifeline to return the blow.

Fourth, at this point the party has also failed to handle the escalation of factionalism. People sometimes argue that factionalism is normal but they forget to note that factionalism has different facets and not all types are normal. When factionalism becomes cancerous and eats into the strength of the party, then it ceases to be normal factionalism.

 In the MDCT, factionalism has not only become abnormal but the party has also failed to handle it and the premium on personal loyalties generated by faction leaders. Contending factional leaders have also built followings around them, not necessarily large in numbers but followers who are prepared to destroy political careers of intra-opponents in various ways including violence and character assassinations (e.g. any one against them is labelled CIO, state agent or Zanu PF). 

Due to this animosity, those in the anti-alliance faction have even stated that they will vote for a local MP and not alliance president. Where an MP will be pro-alliance, they will either field an independent or another MDCT MP. Factionalism has reached a crescendo.

Fifth, after 2014, the MDCT entered a period of unprecedented suspensions and expulsions. This was followed by the creation of parallel structures in many of the provinces and the diaspora (in particular South Africa) with support from the National Organising Secretary. Substantively it was not done to reinforce the party but to strengthen one faction.

 This has backfired and led to increasing unpopularity of the office bearers who were responsible for writing or rubberstamping the suspension letters. In addition to this, it has created a wide base of intra-opponents who coalesced around those who were being victimised or intended to be victimised. In particular these suspensions have had a negative bearing on support around the National Organising Secretary and the party’s Secretary General and their future role in the party.

The state of the party at this point in time means that it cannot plan beyond internal fights. The best foot forward is for the contending elite power holders to split. The national council which is the highest decision making body between congresses can be used to sift these contending power holders. The majority decision in the council meeting will carry the day.

 Assuming any of the contending VPs thinks he/she is the one with the mandate of calling for the national council then they can call for it separately and records of attendance will speak. Without a quorum, any of the national councils becomes null and void. However the National Council that shall attain majority can take hard decisions based on majority consensus including suspensions and expulsions.

 If that happens, a number of scenarios emerge that will facilitate an effective split.
The greater chance is that Eng. Mudzuri if he insists will easily go into oblivion as there is no apparent base of followers on his side. VP Khupe has displayed a tendency to fight for geographic dominance, and the chances are that she and her followers will descend into a regional party.

 Further to this, the Khupe group is anxious to enter into a coalition with Joice Mujuru and here group but Mujuru has emphasised that any party that enters her group’s coalition will have to enter under a neutral name. The Khupe group therefore, will not be able to use the name MDC and may not be able to revive it if the coalition ceases.

 That then leaves VP Chamisa with the potential to steer the party without controversy until President Tsvangirai recuperates or until the next congress. An extra ordinary congress at this time is not viable as one faction has effectively manipulated structures.

The party MDC shall leave but what is important now is to rid it of leadership arrogance and instil servantship in its leaders.

*(Dr Tyanai Masiya, Writing in my personal capacity)*

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