THE rise of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the late 1990s took Zimbabwe by storm. It brought excitement to the people and sheer panic and pandemonium among the political elite. Never before had the forces of change been experienced at such a high magnitude, embodying the wishes of ordinary men and women but the elite.
And so too was the intensity with which the machinery of brutality was unleashed against this defenceless and legitimate quest for democracy. The movement was attacked day and night, door to door with unparalleled dynamism and accuracy that has, so far, deflated all the momentum.
It is a fact that the political elite within the established Zanu PF have successfully contained the MDC threat. The means through which this was achieved are perhaps subject to debate. I point no fingers at the establishment but I am not oblivious to the fact that the MDC corroborated to aid its demise.
But why has the MDC failed so dismally in Zimbabwe? Is this credit to Zanu PF strategy or sheer lack of strategy on the part of the MDC?
Well, I say neither.
Both Zanu PF and the MDC have demonstrated a clear strategic vision for the country. At different times both have articulated sound policies to improve the wellbeing of the electorate. I am not saying all policies were sound and agreeable perhaps the opposite but I accept the policies were favourable to their support base. So, why the failure at an unprecedented scale?
The weakness of the MDC has been in leadership. Yes! They have leaders who are not necessarily an alternative to the establishment but, perhaps coining a phrase from Latin America, “the other side of the same coin.” The movement realised this weakness in leadership earlier on, leading to the 2005 split. Be it that tribalism was blamed for the split; the splinter group led by Welshman Ncube/Gibson Sibanda was a replica of the MDC- T, only smaller in size. It achieved absolutely nothing but was of great benefit to Zanu PF as it diminished the opposition. The second split, led by Tendai Biti/ Elton Mangoma, shared the same DNA of weakness but, even worse, lacked progressive agenda and had no political economy to rely on.
Morgan Tsvangirai has been the face of the MDC and perhaps this is the making of its fate. Tsvangirai and the movement became one- so inseparable that his own personal failures easily became the failures of the organisation. Tsvangirai lacks judgement. This has been acutely reflected in both his own personal life and public life.Advertisement
His greatest achievement, I suggest, would be the mobilisation of the biggest opposition in a locked down country. The political capital gained however has been ravenously squandered by the architect of the movement, exposing entrenched weaknesses that are driving the movement into an abyss. Tsvangirai was going to be praised for bringing economic and political stability through the Government of National Unity but, on reflection, this contribution is being dwarfed by his failures across the board.
One may ask: if opposition is founded on democratic principles, why does it present the same leader who has failed in successive elections? I was touched by the recent elections in the United Kingdom where three opposition leaders resigned within an hour following their failure to win an election. Yet Tsvangirai has continued to fail to win and worse still has failed to read failures ahead of him. Now he says come 2018, he will win the election, but Alas! That sounds like a broken record.
The once popular leader is no tactician. He is weak to act and slow to react. He is too cautious for Zimbabwean politics. We are told that he won the 2008 elections and could have declared himself the winner but he preferred to wait for his opponents to declare him the winner. Even Biti, his then secretary general, was agitating to claim victory.
The nation is also aware that Tsvangirai waited for the end of the Government of National Unity to push for electoral reforms; and reforms which, to this date, have yet to materialise. What political mileage was squandered by one man’s indecisiveness!
Now the nation has seen the recall of MPs who are members to the Biti breakaway group. The recall would have made sense if Tsvangirai was going to field alternative candidates loyal to the MDC-T. Thanks to his poor judgement, he has now gifted Zanu PF with a handful of seats, giving them once again an opportunity and time to regroup and reorganise after recent problems within the ruling party.
I understand the argument about principles in boycotting the by-elections but I maintain that it is ill-thought, unreasonable and shows lack of inability to understand Zimbabwean politics. Seriously, who cares about principles? Which one of you serves Principles on a dinner table and feed their hungry children to eat? Where were principles when opponents of the establishment were made to pay the ultimate price for their genuine opposition?
It is this catalogue of poor judgement in my opinion that has split the opposition twice and each time well-meaning lieutenants are left with no option but to breakaway because the leader is driving into a cliff. And the end is catastrophic.
At a time when Zanu PF is facing unprecedented internal problems which the likes of Jonathan Moyo once described as an implosion, Tsvangirai is backing off from driving forward. Tell me if this is not weakness of leadership. Spending all energy and resources fighting Biti and his Renewal Team comrades when attention should be directed towards finishing off a weakened Zanu PF! And you tell me that the movement has principles to boycott the by-lections! I am sorry but I think the leader has lost his marbles. The people deserve better.
Faced with incessant failures it is now time for the people to boycott failure and look at those not seeking personal glory. The champions of democracy are those sacrificing personal mileage and political capital for the greater good of the nation; the ones seeking to unify opposition against the establishment.
I cannot see Tsvangirai taking part; he is now a biblical Moses and will not lead the children of Zimbabwe from here to the Promised Land. Instead, he continues to lead them all into exile. Under his leadership the movement is marking time in the wilderness.
Perhaps there is truth in the adage that leaders are born and not made. This is one leader made up by the movement and yet leaders aren’t made. Hence he has been swept into irrelevance. And so is the fate of the struggle he represents. Sadly that is also the case with most of his erstwhile political disciples and their respective breakaway movements. The movement needs a biblical Joshua to take over and lead the people from this political quagmire of confusion and indolence. Men and women of our generation stand up and be counted!
Armstrong Mvura is a post graduate Student at the University of London. He is not affiliated to any political party. Views expressed in his article are personal and not representative of any organisation/institution that he may be affiliated to.