A charmed few years followed the formation of the MDC in 1999. But, as the novelty wore off, cracks began to appear, widening into the complete split of the party in 2005.
The MDC was a broad coalition, with membership ranging from trade unionists, intellectuals, to business interests.
As with any other party, people were drawn to the MDC for different reasons, thus conflict in this already too diverse movement had the potential to escalate to enormous proportions.
As long as its diverse elements were shoulder-to-shoulder against Zanu PF, the centre would hold; it was easy to keep them together.
But as the MDC soon found out, rallying against opponents is far much easier than choosing who to lead them among themselves.
New issues emerge just as people are grappling to deal with old ones.
Now we have two MDCs: one led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the other by Welshman Ncube after succeeding Arthur Mutambara.
I would ascribe this parting of ways to deep-seated differences over political approach than tribalism per se because Ndebeles and Shonas occupy prominent positions in both parties.
If a leader is seen to be pandering to one constituency over another, there could be further division.
A wise and capable leader will lead his party past these and other divisions. Open-mindedness is the shortest distance between us all.
The past decade has been the most politically turbulent in Zimbabwe.
Recovery is proving to be slow because of political posturing and greed over the Chiadzwa diamonds and other precious natural resources.
Mostly it is economic disadvantage finding political expression in tribalism, the same way land reform was couched in racist terms by politicians to justify their grabbing of farms.
Some of the problems getting regional expression are actually found nationwide. It’s just that they are accentuated by language differences. The mind shuts out the inconvenient truth.
Political leaders should use power for the well-being of the people. Zimbabwe, like any other country, has always had its share of populists, such as the ones who destroyed the economy through misguided, short-term politicking and the ordinary person is paying for that.
People organise and reorganise. While there is need to maintain focus, relevance and visibility in this fast-changing political terrain, there is also need to avoid the cult of personality.
Says former South African President Nelson Mandela: “One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image I unwittingly projected to the outside world: of being regarded as a saint. I never was one, even on the basis of the earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying.”
Going on to 31 years after independence, Zimbabwe is still caught up in messianic nationalism with propaganda bombardments from all directions.
Some leaders are projected as beyond reproach and blameless.
They have been built up into messiahs promising and capable of deliverance from all manner of trouble and hardship.
They become excessively preoccupied with issues of power and prestige, which is closely linked to self-centredness.
They feed on excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback.
They have the urge to control and apportion blame, get self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ views, and are unaware of others’ needs and of the effects of their policies or lack thereof on the people, and insistent that others see them as they demand to be seen.
The inability to tolerate setbacks, disagreements or criticism makes it difficult for such leaders to be accountable.
This “messianic democracy” has been described as “democracy by force”, an effective tyranny that demotes democratic principles to rhetoric.
Zimbabwe has not only been financially bankrupt but ethically so. It’s difficult to uplift a country in such a condition. The political climate must change.
Democracy cannot be interrupted because somebody with a sense of entitlement has lost the election.
Former United States President Bill Clinton says: “America is more important than any one issue, President or Senator” and that “it is the rules, the institutions and the systems that enable us to keep forming a more perfect union”, adding that people should always play by the rules, know the facts, and stay close to those facts.
While there are competing visions for the future, leaders should not be seen to be feeding rabid, vulgar, unsubstantiated claims by followers or membership.
They should be wary of those who racialise and tribalise everything.
There is residual racism and tribalism; these feelings cannot be completely wiped out.
Let’s use strong but tasteful language.
Violence has deep roots with local tensions exacerbated by inflammatory political language.
Political leaders should always have in mind that the tone is set at the top.
To be a leader is not a mere job title, but job description.