HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsMDC-T primaries saga self-destructs

MDC-T primaries saga self-destructs

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The hullabaloo sparked by the MDC-T and its leaders, including Morgan Tsvangirai, Nelson Chamisa and Douglas Mwonzora, over whether or not the people should be given the opportunity to elect leaders of their choice, escalates unabated — without “finality and closure” as one robotics professor would have it said.

Opinion by Tangai Chipangura

The effect of the confusion and controversy is terminally harmful to the party. The picture given is that the party, whose name hinges on democratic tenets, now wants to impose candidates on the people.

Tsvangirai and Mwonzora say sitting councillors and Members of Parliament will not be subjected to primary elections unless people in their areas come out to declare that they no longer want them. They want the people to accept that the existing officials simply need to have a certain number of people in the local leadership hierarchy to confirm they are still popular, and bang – the door for aspiring candidates is closed!

This is what has sparked anger within the party. The people demand that everyone interested in any position of leadership should go through the process of primary elections where the people will vote for them.

This “Confirmation” business is tantamount to a “one-man election race” which, if the party accepts as right, it should not have had problems with the June 2008 presidential election rerun.

In short, the people are clearly telling Tsvangirai and his lieutenants that they have become shameless dictators. Zanu PF, which the party accuses of all sorts of undemocratic tendencies, actually takes all its prospective candidates through a rigorous primary election process in which many longstanding bigwigs have fallen by the wayside.

This excuse of continuity being peddled by Tsvangirai and his acolytes is democratically nonsensical. In fact, now more than ever before, the MDC-T needs to get rid of its graft-stained leadership at both local government and in Parliament. Why strain so much to defend and protect officials that have exposed their rot to sickening levels?

Article 15 of the MDC-T constitution clearly states that: Every candidate seeking to hold office as a Local Authority Councillor, Mayor, Member of Parliament or Senator shall be elected through a Primary Election “and that . . . voting shall be by secret ballot and the candidate polling the highest number of votes shall be declared winner”.

The only reason I can therefore find for the unpopular decision to go against this clear constitutional matter is that leaders of the MDC-T now seem motivated by hunger for power and the attendant fringe benefits. MDC-T leaders can no longer honestly claim to safeguard principles of democracy or to identify with the working majority and therefore can no longer articulate their point of view.

MDC-T seems to be fast transforming into a lumbering organisation with a potpourri membership or just another struggling opposition party with vague plans and inept leadership whose respect for democracy is riddled with bullets of tyranny.

The squabbles within the party — along factional lines like Zanu PF — are largely to do with personal interests which threaten to rip the MDC-T apart. The MDC-T need not be entangled in the gossamer threads of failed ideologies. It should just concern itself with a plain down-to-earth thrust on democracy. While it is common belief that with political maturity comes democratic responsibility, the case does not seem so with the MDC-T.

Maturity in the MDC-T appears to be assuming a new and sinister meaning verging on tyrannical behaviour — the do as I say and not as I do syndrome.

Maybe MDC-T supporters are expecting too much from mere mortals, but to absolve these leaders of their armchair commitment under the all embarrassing and loose “individual priority” excuse would be tantamount to flying against the very expectations that have seen our politicians appointed to high offices.

The bottom line is we expect leadership by example. Democracy should never be betrayed for personal interests. Democracy must be seen to be practiced, not only preached. If grassroots supporters so much as smell a deviance from democracy and, for example, see leaders thrust upon them, they will revolt — they will withhold their vote or sell it altogether!

People are sick and tired of being lied to. Dabbling in semantics as the MDC-T officials seek to do for the sake of political posturing is in itself a dead end.

Tsvangirai’s party cannot draw comfort from the oft-stated excuse: “the MDC is still a young party”. For how long are you supposed to be young? Even at the ripe age of 60, one is still young to his mother. The MDC-T should wake up and act democracy. Verbal acrobatics alone cannot bring change!

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