Some political scientists have described the next election as critical because of the possibilities to define an era and a generation.
By Tapiwa Gomo
They have compared the importance of the forthcoming election with the historic election in 1980 that delivered Zimbabwe from the Rhodesian administration.
There are, indeed, similarities when we look at these two scenarios in terms of political significance and generational importance.
The change from the colonial administration was as necessary as the change from the current crop of nationalists.
The country now needs a new generation of leaders, who understand the demands of today.
However, in terms of the convergence of factors, there are huge differences between now and then.
It is these differences that may determine the outcome of the next election.
When the MDC was formed in 1999, there was huge momentum and a lot was at stake.
The economy, the jobs and the conditions at tertiary institutions and access to services were at risk and this saw different groups and stakeholders converging to fight the Zanu PF rule.
What made the MDC’s cause stronger and louder at the time was that the project represented the varied interests of cross section of people and groups.
There was convergence of interests and that was a missed opportunity.
The MDC became the sounding board for everyone who had issues with the course Zanu PF had taken.
The MDC’s strengthen since then has drawn from the disgruntled citizens plus the backing of the international community.
Their unfettered audience with the international community helped put pressure on the unyielding Zanu PF.
Fast forward to today.
It may be that the MDC has not realised that the coup last year — which they supported — was a huge game changer and has turned the tables upside down under their watch.
Many people saw former President Robert Mugabe as the face of oppression.
The MDC have not taken this into account or taken time to adjust to this new reality.
They became too preoccupied and excited by power grabbing after the death of their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The coup has reshuffled the political cards, changed opinions and recast assumptions.
The new reality requires fresh narratives and ideas. A new political campus was required before they hit the road.
It seems their counterparts were alive to this reality.
Upon taking over power, the new administration was quick to adopt the same policy ideas that were central to the MDC since its formation.
They promised peace and stability and everything that the MDC has been demanding over the past two decades.
They have acknowledged their transgressions, but argued that the country needs to heal, rebuild and move forward.
They have reached out, promising enabling conditions for economic recovery.
They have successfully won the international community.
They are progressive and not critical of anyone.
They have made it look like the forthcoming election is the only barrier to realising their promises.
But promises are only promises until they translate into reality.
Achieving that reality is another challenge altogether, but in the meantime, the ruling administration has a better game in town — even with the non-voting yet major stakeholders in their corner.
Arguably, the opposition has so far held more rallies than the administration and yet the political pendulum remains uncertain.
Notwithstanding the crowds, with each rally, the MDC has continued to fumble in their political rumble.
Blame it on immaturity or the eureka of a new found freedom to campaign freely — a rarity in previous years.
That is not the only problem.
As the ruling administration shifted its policy positions, the MDC has responded by drifting to the opposite end of everything.
They seem content with being an opposition party instead of being an alternative.
Their political case is weaker in the absence of Zanu PF from the political equation.
For instance, they want your vote because they are younger than Zanu PF.
They are good because Zanu PF has a bad history.
Delete Zanu PF from their case, they remain with nothing in terms of who they are and what they stand for.
In their political metamorphosis, as they orbit around Zanu PF policy positions, they have almost assumed the same position as Zanu PF a few months ago.
The political violence — both physical and cyber, the repression, the autocracy, unilateralism, misogyny, the purging of seasoned members, disregard for constitutionalism and several others.
It is now safer to criticise Zanu PF than the MDC with their vanguard — both cyber and physical ready to unleash.
And for these growing attributes, they have lost the trust and respect of the international community, which explains why they returned home empty-handed after their two trips to the United States and the United Kingdom.
While this may be bitter pill to swallow, these mutations or lack of thereof, have made it easier for the ruling administration to rig the next election — if there is need to do so.
They can be rigged easily and there is nowhere to seek recourse.
Either way, unless the MDC reforms itself, they may as well kiss goodbye to the hopes of ruling after elections and they may face their eventual demise seeing that it is now a loose coalition.
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa