Tsvangirai: lessons on democratic process
For some reason party leader Morgan Tsvangirai whose position on the senate issue has always been clearly against participation in the controversial elections decided that 33 to 31 was a tie.
He felt as leader,
he was obliged to cast the deciding vote against participation in the
senatorial elections scheduled for 26 November.
Interestingly for the MDC, the top six were dissolved so there does not seem to be a presidium to give direction, so Morgan Tsvangirai had to give the direction.
It was always dangerous for a leader to ignore the simple majority (33 votes) or even the significant minority (31). Emotional as the situation became during and after the national council voting process, questions can be raised about who exactly is advising the party leader because convening a press conference under the circumstances had not allowed for enough time to validate the wisdom of his decision.
Then you have the usual “experts” like Dr Madhuku who say that there was no need to put the matter to vote because it was, in his view, clear that the senate was a waste of time and money. Dr Madhuku says that democracy is not just about debating because even undemocratic organisations debate issues. It is a question of principle, he said.
It might be the practice in the National Constitutional Assembly or other NGOs to make such big decisions on someone’s principle but whose principles are more important? Each party has its own way of doing things and it happens that in the MDC they seem to vote when it comes to big decisions like this one.
So why did Morgan Tsvangirai overrule or cast the deciding vote when 33 votes were to most of us more than 31votes and the two spoilt votes making the difference? The party leader is reported to be saying that he will not tolerate a situation in which "infiltration, manipulation and ZANU-PF machinations" prevent the MDC from helping Zimbabweans who needed direction. The leader needs to understand his people well and respect them because some of these people have really stood by him in many difficult situations.
I am not suggesting that the MDC has no alternatives but as part of the consultation process alternatives should have been discussed as well. Yes, the state apparatus would have gotten wind of the ideas and pre-emptied the plans but what else are you going to discuss that the state will never know if they are efficient enough.
An unnecessary conflict was generated during the debate by the excessive language used by the Hon. Nelson Chamisa, for instance calling the senate a "warehouse of geriatric politicians". Then the President himself went on to call those interested in the senate “sell-outs”. It might have been better for the leader to sell plan B to assure his followers first before calling them “sell-outs” or infiltrators etc. That way, people with bad memories of the “final push” and operation povo yaramba meant to resist operation Murambatsvina, would have decided with an alternative option to fall back on.
Now that Tsvangirai is sensible enough to realise that they cannot remain in the lower house (parliament) if they are not in the senate (upper house) in the bi-cameral system regardless of how new system came about, another crisis is in the making because some MPs may not be willing to loose their parliamentary seats which they fought hard to win. Then there is going to be another more difficult conflict between the people who do not wish others to be in the senate but who might themselves are not willing to withdraw from parliament. A good example would be a case where Hon. Nelson Chamisa refuses to withdraw from parliament after speaking so strongly against the senate as the MDC Youth Chairman.
The most difficult task now for the MDC is to motivate the people who have been overruled on the senate issue. To take on Zanu PF outside parliament effectively means the leadership needs everyone’s support and they have to go back to the same people they overruled and ask them to take part in what has been described as democratic resistance. The people of Matabeleland and Midlands have their memories about how the government may respond to any action that may be interpreted as destabilising the country. It is interesting to see how this situation will be handled by the MDC but it requires a lot of mediation by people with gravitas. The MDC congress is around the corner so the solution to the leadership issue is likely to be settled then.
But Zanu PF is not without its nightmares over this senate issue as well because not everyone will go into the senate and there are no primaries being held which means there are some people who will feel excluded. Given the way the economy is performing at the moment and the fact that the MDC is no longer contesting the senate seats are now as good as appointments. If no-one else apart from Zanu PF candidates stand for the senate then the infighting in Zanu PF is likely to intensify over the free ticket to the senate.
The MDC which has been in the headlines has a significant role to play in the democratisation of our country only if the leadership could now renew its mandate and inject new ideas by looking far and wide. Big political parties like the MDC can survive crises as long as they grow. The Third Way that some people wrongly attribute to Prof Jonathan Moyo is a philosophy that can be adopted by anyone including both the MDC and Zanu PF.
The Third Way as an idea has been around at least since Pope Pius XII who called for a third way between socialism and capitalism at the end of the 19th century. The idea has appeared in several contexts over time. Of late the Third Way is said to rest on three cornerstones: the idea that government should promote equal opportunity for all while granting special privilege for none; an ethnic of mutual responsibility that equally rejects the politics of entitlement and the politics of social abandonment; a new approach to governing that empowers citizens to act for themselves. No political party is beyond the Third Way which is simply an approach not just a collection of disgruntled politicians without a sound track record. Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are the modern practitioners of the Third way if we can some faces to the Third Way.
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