MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai is a hero, who, for the past 20 years, has spearheaded the fight for freedom in Zimbabwe, taking the fight up to an evil and treacherous foe.
By Tapson Muchena
He has endured despite being arrested on trumped-up charges in 2000 and 2003.
He was yet again arrested, incarcerated, beaten and battered in 2007 and in 2008. He was cheated out of a deserved victory in the harmonised elections. He also survived an assassination attempt on March 6, 2009 that claimed the life of his wife Susan.
Now, he is in constant pain as he battles cancer of the colon. We cannot, in conscience, ask any more of this man.
Tsvangirai has run his race. It is time for him to stand aside and to allow new leadership to emerge in his opposition party. If he stands as a candidate in the 2018 elections, Zanu PF will definitely chew him up and spit him out as they have done before. If he retires now, his future will be as an honoured elder statesman.
There is an eerie similarity between the two major parties MDC-T and Zanu PF. Before the new dispensation that brought to the fore former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the political parties led by failing leaders — former President Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai — were reluctant to nominate successors and/or stand down. It was feared that should events overtake them and either leader be removed from the scene, his party could descend into chaos as factions and personalities would vie to succeed each of them. The electorate is watching both sides with deserved apprehension.
MDC-T can wrong-foot
The MDC-T must seize the moment. It would be a decisive stroke and perhaps Tsvangirai’s greatest act of selfless leadership for him to announce his immediate retirement. The emergence of Nelson Chamisa (Tsvangirai’s most likely successor) as the new leader of his party and leader of the opposition alliance will give new impetus for the battle against Zanu PF.
Already, there was a report that the prospect of Mugabe having to face Chamisa in the 2018 election had raised a red flag within the State security apparatuses.
Tsvangirai and the MDC-T must now seize this opportunity to wrong-foot Mnangagwa’s forces and force them to completely change their tactics from a strategy of containment to offensive counter-intelligence, expending their resources in the process.
Groundswell for change
The electorate is weary. How can they be enthusiastic when they are faced with an all-too-familiar scenario? We have the same contending parties: Zanu PF versus MDC-T together with a number of vote-splitting minor opposition groups; the same electoral process conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that answers to Zanu PF; and signs of the same Zanu PF vote rigging. Why would they not expect the same
An MDC-T leadership change could well be the spark that will reignite the fire in the belly of Zimbabwean voters. There is an increasing groundswell for change among Zimbabweans. A new, young, vigorous leader of the opposition will fill their hearts with hope and demonstrate that the MDC-T acknowledges the deep public dissatisfaction with current leaders and recognises that we cannot continue down the same path as before.
Seeing the 75-year-old Mnangagwa pitted against a young, unpredictable opponent will revive their interest and renew their desire to participate in the electoral process. They will believe that change is possible.
Challenges for Chamisa
Chamisa will not only be the leader of the MDC-T, but he also will be vested with mantle of leader of the opposition. He must quickly transform the MDC Alliance into the Zimbabwean Alliance and lead a truly united opposition into the election.
This Zimbabwean Alliance must be a coalition against tyranny and not a coalition for entitlement to political office. As I have written before, a united opposition will require a high degree of co-operation and respect for each other to get behind true leaders dedicated to uplifting the people and restoring the nation. Zanu PF is tearing itself apart because its leaders are locked in a bitter struggle for power. A united opposition must avoid the same pitfall.
A united opposition implies having just one opposition candidate in each constituency, who is supported by all opposition groups. Otherwise the opposition vote will be split and that will be disastrous.
The smaller parties will each make their contribution to a united opposition, just as small streams fill bigger streams that become a raging torrent.
Now is the time for Tsvangirai to deliver a masterstroke against Zanu PF by stepping down from leadership of the MDC-T in favour of a young leader. He will go into a well-earned retirement as an elder statesman revered by a grateful nation.
Tapson Muchena is an academic and a keen observer of the Zimbabwe situation. He can no longer remain silent. Email: email@example.com.