At a time when the MDC-T appears hell-bent on remaining internally focused — that is sniffing out the so-called rebellious councillors and mayors as well as incessant leadership struggle — Zanu PF appears hell-bent on wiping the MDC-T, off our memory.
Column with Rashweat Mukundu
Instead of rising above petty differences and what many see as unbridled political ambition either to assume or hold on to power, there are no signs of frank introspection on the part of the MDC-T, more so no sign of a leadership prepared to rejuvenate the party.
The Mutare “victory” rally was a damb squib whose objectives were never clearly defined and whose message remains unclear. Till now, many committed MDC-T supporters are still asking: What is going to happen?
Is this the end? At a time the MDC-T maintains its ostrich position, Zanu PF appear working hard to wipe the MDC-T off the national political psyche.
What appear to be “usual” in Zanu PF usual operating methods are being done by Zanu PF and key are efforts at engaging civil society, the media and indeed a strategy to talk less and less of their main political rival, the MDC-T. Apart from the electricity challenge which the not so new Zanu PF government is struggling to resolve, partly because the Ministry of Energy is headed by a clueless individual, there seems to be action all over the country from efforts to combat poaching to Media minister Jonathan Moyo talking of licensing new TV and radio stations.
Many in the media where bracing for the worst with the appointment of Moyo back to the ministry he infamously turned into a media-attacking machinery from 2000 till his dismissal from Cabinet and later from Zanu PF.
Moyo has, however, extended an olive branch to the media.
Not so much that his thinking on the media has changed, but he is playing to the new political game in town, that is making Zanu PF the place, the party where we all go to for solutions, engagement.
At the same time Zanu PF is already changing the script of its election manifesto saying the promised more than 2 million jobs might not be possible because of sanctions, yet as Small and Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni says, the party and government are prepared to engage and support business.
President Robert Mugabe is talking of tackling corruption. And no event marked this than the high-sounding nothing threats by the President aimed at the former head of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, whom we all thought would be in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison by now. Zanu PF is keeping its doors open for “engagement” and this way denying the MDC-T the sympathy and allies that it has relied on in the past. Zanu PF, as political analyst Eldred Masunungure stated in one forum, is a learning party that realises that the MDC-T has been spurred by an anti Zanu PF agenda driven by the common cause of human rights violations and dictatorial tendencies.
In response Zanu PF shifted gears to win the election technically, and not violently. Zanu PF is creating a new reality in the mindset of the citizen that it is open to all, and concerned about people’s lives than the MDC-T.
The MDC-T needs a counter narrative and needs it yesterday. In the mindset of the average citizen even some within the so-called middle class, there is confusion caused by the new Zanu PF strategy, more so when such a strategy is linked to one’s, survival, that is the provision of cheap urban land, actions to resolve Bulawayo and Harare’s water woes, and rhetoric on indigenisation and empowerment.
Zanu PF ministries are equally reaching out to civil society groups with the message of engagement and working together and not confrontation, hence Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo inviting residents to a public discussion.
The reality is that many of these promises may never be realised and life in Zimbabwe will likely remain pretty much the same. At best, Zanu PF will keep things as they are with few adjustments. Yet what drives politics in many instances are perceptions and images we create in our minds.
In some instances these are images of hope of what could be, and these influence how people act politically. Having found a “winning” formula, which is to maintain rural communities in regiments, supplying their few needs, MPs who literally bribe their constituencies as well talk of empowerment, Zanu PF is not stopping and might be working to shrink the MDC-T even further. More dangerous for the MDC-T is that its memory may be wiped off our national psyche.
Fewer and fewer will notice, think about, talk about and identify with the MDC-T.
Unless the party realises that its struggles are with Zanu PF at a political level, and a struggle to convince us that the party is an alternative at an ideas and leadership level, then the MDC-T space in the national psyche will continue to shrink.
The mayors and councillors debacle is a clear sign of lack of leadership. Many of those councillors and mayors may have never believed in the MDC-T in the first place, they actually believed in the Zanu PF rhetoric of self-empowerment and fighting for oneself. They were never politicised before and immediately after the July 31 election on what being MDC-T means.
Hence we notice how politically cheap they are, as some were allegedly bought for $500, probably a month of groceries for an average family.
The MDC-T leadership can no longer rely on sympathy, if you want political office, you work for it. While it may take time, the rest of the international community, including the West, will engage Zanu PF.
Even warring parties end up at the negotiating table. If and when this happens, Zanu PF’s recognition will be sealed and the MDC-T will need to work harder as the political perception of and about Zimbabwe will dramatically change internationally.
As stated earlier, Zanu PF is well on the path to create a new reality for the people of Zimbabwe, this reality may well remain a pie in the sky, and the MDC-T needs a counter reality that brings the party to the centre of political discussions in the streets, failure of which the party may consider closing shop.