MDCs: Poll boycott or defeat boycott?

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IF there is anything that the MDC-T and its twin offshoots led by Mai Holland and Professor Ncube are offering the people of Zimbabwe at the moment, that thing is confusion.
The sad reality is that the opposition is contributing to its own continued demise more than ZANU-PF and the alleged abuse of state apparatus have ever done. The opposition house is literally crumbling to ashes because its leaders have decided to burn it down in the name of going after an intruding snake.
We have by-elections coming up in June, and the plebiscite was parented by the egoist Tsvangirai/Biti war, and right now Tsvangirai commands the bragging rights of having gunned down Tendai Biti, never mind to the great benefit of the arch-enemy ZANU-PF.
We read that the MDC-T resolved not to participate in the scheduled June by elections, and it is also reported that the move is in the spirit of sticking to principle, upholding an earlier Congress resolution that the party would not be participating in national elections “until electoral reforms” are implemented.
This is a voluntary submission to electoral defeat, of course coloured in what is hoped to be political rhetoric impressive enough to fool the electorate or, at best, overawe international observers into the solidarity so much hankered for.
The boycott of the pending by-elections is a very convenient escape route from the inevitable humiliation that is most likely to come through participating, and there are reasons to support this.
In the by-elections held so far in Harare and elsewhere, in which the MDC has participated, especially local government ones, what has been happening is that ZANU-PF has managed to mobilise their supporters to come back to the polls, and MDC-T supporters have not seen any reason to retain any of the seats, lost in whichever way since ZANU-PF has two thirds majority in the bag anyway, garnered from the 2013 romping victory.
The MDC-T knows that ZANU-PF is likely to grab all the seats on offer, not exactly because MDC-T supporters will be crossing the floor, but mainly because they will simply not bother to participate in the by – elections. A good example is the by election that took place in Mbare Ward 12 last year, pitting Albert Mponda of the MDC-T and Maureen Nyemba of ZANU-PF, among others.Advertisement

Nyemba bagged in the seat because only 835 MDC-T supporters chose to turn up for the vote, far less than half the number of voters that had won the seat for the MDC-T in the 2013 election. Nyemba just needed 843 ZANU-PF supporters to turn up, and that did the trick for her. 
The MDC-T behaves like its leadership has suddenly forgotten that the 2013 election was endorsed by both the SADC and the AU, and that there have been a number of elections elsewhere across Africa after our own, some of them far more problematic than those of Zimbabwe. Take the latest Nigerian election where at least 41 people were killed in the North, and yet the result has been upheld as an expression of the Nigerian people’s will. Simply put, Zimbabwean politics stands too normal to warrant international attention as things stand, and the MDC-T leaders must be the first people to realise this, since they normally thrive on the politics of international attention.
The other odd against the opposition’s decision to boycott the upcoming by elections is the fact that the 2013 election faced no strong condemnation from the West, apart from a few mild statements from White House, so uncharacteristically uncomplemented by Europe and other Western outposts like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
To the contrary, Western countries have been easing sanctions on Zimbabwe, with the EU even resuming direct funding through the government of Zimbabwe. If the decision by the MDC-T to boycott by elections involving 14 seats were something that had happened in 2007, Andrew Harding would have secured several headline spots at the BBC, and other Western media outlets would equally complement the opposition’s political move by giving them unlimited coverage. I have searched in vain for any foreign media outlet that has bothered to report on the MDC-T’s latest political move. Not many people are concerned at all, and the fatigue is purely a product of the MDC-T’s own failures.
There is no more political will to see through the aspirations of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on the part of the West, and ZANU-PF must be gleefully watching these developments, knowing fully well that all they are facing for now are tired and splitting political failures in the opposition–no more international pressure of any kind. Hardworking Chinamasa has so far managed a few feats in mending Zimbabwe-West relations, and is likely to play a few more impression games.
It is more likely that if the 2018 elections were to be held under the conditions we saw in 2013, not many people from outside Zimbabwe will have issues with that, and the elections would even appear cleaner in the absence of Mr Tsvangirai and his party, with new political outfits like the NCA hankering to grab the spoils from the MDC-T confusion. Of course we are a country renowned for producing chancers, and we will never disappoint.
If the MDC hullabaloo about Nikuv and the theory of rigging could not gather momentum soon after the 2013 elections, there is virtually no good reason to suspect or even imagine that claims of unfairness could be weightier in between elections.
The MDC went to court, the wrong one for that matter, and finally withdrew their own case citing “lack of evidence,” and it is hard to think that people who approach political affairs in such a clownish manner can be taken seriously thereafter.
The fact that the MDC-T split soon after the 2013 elections does not help matters, especially given that the by–elections the MDC-T is boycotting a direct product of that discommodious split. MDC supporters no longer see victory in sight, and no one can blame them for that, given the breathtaking confusion within the leadership of the party. What people see in the MDC-T right now is a fast dying party, not the fighting warriors Obert Gutu tries to portray through his unenviable role as the depleting party’s spokesperson.
The MDC-T is evidently broke now, and it can safely be taken as fact that the party’s Western backers have been irretrievably smitten by donor fatigue, and to many of these former donors, the party is now considered a lost cause.
Journalist Chofamba Sithole suggests that a total withdrawal from Parliament and local government could help the MDC-T in a way, and he suggests the action could ignite the dying Western interest, and that it could also create a sense of illegitimacy on the part of ZANU-PF.
Firstly, neither democracy itself nor ZANU-PF derives legitimacy from the entity of the MDC-T. Legitimacy is a product of constitutionalism, and so is democracy. The presence or absence of any political party from the political spectrum cannot, and does not in itself constitute a legitimacy crisis, unless such a move has the backing of constitutionalism. In short politics does not breed legitimacy. The law does. ZANU-PF is most unlikely to be worried about the withdrawal of the MDC-T from the political scene.
This is a party that has in the past ruled Zimbabwe with only the Chipinge seat belonging to the opposition, and the party definitely longs for those long forgotten golden days. Tsvangirai seems keen to help bring back them back. After all he is a ZANU-F son, is he not?
One Farayi Maruzani is convinced that if the MDC-T withdraws from politics, the economy will do a better job felling ZANU-PF from the government throne. But surely not when ZANU-PF knows what to do in re-engaging the West, and also reinforcing the existing deals with the East. It is hard to believe that the economy can be worse than what it became in 2008, even given the current phenomenal hardships.
The MDC cannot put their political hopes in economic failure. Firstly that is an unpatriotic thing to do, and secondly the Western sanctions have increasingly become irrelevant to the economy of Zimbabwe. The economy has mutated into a largely informal one, and what could cause public anger before 2000 has become the norm of today in some instances.
The MDC-T cannot hope that they can mobilise for an uprising on the backdrop of economic hardships, not when Tsvangirai is calling for such an action from the comfort of a government issued mansion. Besides, no one in the opposition has enough clout to mobilise the nation of Zimbabwe into any form of rebellion.
It is only ZANU-PF with that capacity, as the party showed through the land reform program.
With all these odds against the MDC-T, it is hard to believe that the recently announced election boycott will achieve anything politically, except quickening the demising process of the opposition party.
I would like to hear what other Zimbabweans think about the options of the MDC-T at the moment, and whether or not the party has a bright future, given the way it is taking its decisions at the moment.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

REASON WAFAWAROVA is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia.