With the benefit of hindsight, most would believe mainstream opposition leaders ought to have made better decisions on various key issues dogging their parties and opposition politics in the country.
By Robert Sigauke
Unlike Zanu PF, the opposition
MDC T enjoys the benefit of having most of their 1999 founding members still alive, who, seasoned in labour union activism, took the game a notch higher and shifted battle fronts to politics. Maybe labour activism is different from political playing, I don’t know.
If these two are different in nature, substance and protocol, the MDC veterans and office bearers must be applauded, they gave Zanu PF a run for their money on first and subsequent contestations.
Who can forget the sweet 2000 referendum “Vote No” triumph? Who does not marvel at the 62:57 seats feat of the 2002 elections? How about the sweet 2008 first defeat of former President Robert Mugabe since independence!
The MDC did well despite obvious harsh environments. However, if labour activism and political gaming translate to more or less the same and therefore one, these veterans are flushing national aspirations down the gutters despite their scars in the trenches dating way before the MDC itself.
The unfortunate incidence of it all is that regrettably, politics in Africa follows personalities.
Fully knowing that a breakaway candidate has a zero chance in hell to win an election, some people will still vote for such candidate.
Whether Zimbabweans have become strong believers in miracles or what, I think Paul Sanyangore’s antics are to blame. The Morgan Tsvangirai 47%, Mugabe 43% and Simba Makoni 8% scenario of 2008 speaks true of this.
Mathematics will prove that had Makoni backed the MDC, them being friends by virtue of having the same enemy in Mugabe, history would have changed course.
Arthur Mutambara knew Makoni had zero chance of getting 50% plus one vote, but the opportunist professor went on to back Makoni anyway, hence the 8%.
The benefit of Mutambara under the global political agreement, which bore the Government of National Unity (GNU), has its own sins. I believe it was the start of what culminated in the 120 political parties we have today in Zimbabwe.
Envious of Mutambara’s opportunistic grand entry into government under the GNU, all these briefcase parties are ploys to enter government through the same smooth way. Talking your way all the otherwise long rough road into government.
What this means for serious political leaders is that break away activity hurts all and sundry. Not only through breakaways, but also the spiralling suspension and expelling of significant players. They not only go away with their cups and picture frames hanging in their offices, they go away with people. That is the politics on the ground.
Madam Thokozani Khupe is right. As an elected deputy at congress, she drew her mandate directly from the people. This should have been respected by the national council members and other leaders.
While Tsvangirai could easily dismiss Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri, them both appointees, the same could not easily be done on Khupe without serious repercussions as her mandate and office was an electoral result of congress.
It is important to note also that the national council, itself holding powers of congress in trust, authorised Tsvangirai to appoint a further vice president, not two, but one. What this means is that one between Chamisa and Mudzuri is a creation of unauthorised action and therefore, ultra vires.
Further, the argument raised by Khupe that she is a deputy president, not a vice president, brings debate into the fray on whether these two terms actually or were meant to mean different things.
The constitution of the MDC T must give direction and with the party having so many lawyers, these clever big boys of Harare must speak up. Unless the contrary is proven, the constitutional and legitimate leader must surely be Khupe.
Her dissatisfaction was mainly strained by the accommodation of and wholesale allocation of seats to Welshman Ncube in Matabeleland. On this too, Khupe’s argument has all the fabric of correctness.
There was absolutely nothing suicidal in forming alliances in other provinces except Matabeleland. The strategy and moral of forming alliances is to strengthen where there is no strength.
The MDC is stronger in Matabeleland than most parts of the country and this is the region that has consistently formed the bedrock of opposition politics in the country.
Ncube has no single elected seat in this region, so what has he to bring on the table if the voters jumped ship from him? However, he has proven to be a formidable administrator and leader in his own right.
Therefore, his accommodation within the alliance ought to have took narrow lines, specifically to tap into his skills in the leadership of the MDC Alliance and in anticipation of forming the next government.
The seats allocated to him are indeed a donation, undeserved. The same goes with Tendai Biti. He is an able administrator, not politician. Elton Mangoma is neither. The other briefcase parties in the alliance surely do not deserve a mention.
Chamisa too, is right. In my previous article (MDC succession, heads or tails? February 12, 2018), I submitted that though principles win arguments, numbers win seats.
While Khupe unarguably brings regional relevance and gender balance, the politics on the ground are still too conservative for a woman, without grassroots support out of the ordinary, and Ndebele for that matter.
While it is tribalistic and patriarchal, unfortunately, these dynamics cannot be ignored in Zimbabwe today. I, for one, consistently advocate for the breakdown of tribal and gender prejudices. Chamisa has proved he has grassroots support out of the ordinary, next only to Tsvangirai. Chamisa has the charisma, next only to Tsvangirai. He has used these to his utmost advantage.
The main motivation in advancing Chamisa’s ascendancy to the detriment of Khupe is that the battlefield at the moment requires numbers more than principles, and arguably it has always been like that especially in an election year.
Zanu PF afforded to chase the Joice Mujuru and cabal en masse in 2014 citing principles, it was not an election year. Zanu PF chased out Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling party was targeting his cabal en masse, citing principle infringements, it was not an election year. They could afford to do that and still have ample time to recover. That is why Chamisa tried all to engage the good lady.
In all her years in labour activism and political gaming, with the two assumed as one and same in the introduction of this article, Khupe ought to have learnt that life in general does not follow its own textbook rules many a time.
Khupe ought to know that at this juncture, the MDC needs a political win and not a legal or constitutional one. The MDC and all its cadres ought to know that they are better together than separate, they need each other.
With Khupe now shown the door, she will go with her regional relevance credentials, character, and gender balance clout.
Ours being a society fraught with politics of personality and tribal temper, Khupe will go with people. Biti was big like Khupe, but he went without people. Khupe will go with people. The is beyond individuals now, it has become regional and tribal.
Lovemore Moyo’s resignation, himself a top official albeit with little grassroots base outside Matabeleland, no doubt adds moral compass to regional dissatisfaction.
Chamisa, confident in his support base, had little to fear nor lose to agree that a congress be organised to elect leadership.
Khupe had advocated for a special congress, tacitly citing if she lost she will give Chamisa her blessings. After all, Obert Gutu on StarFM admitted it would not take more than three days to gather funds for a special congress. What then was Chamisa afraid of?
Robert Sigauke is a legal advisor, author, entrepreneur and political analyst based in Johannesburg. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook page: facebook.com/TheRobertSigaukeDialogue