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Congress will weaken MDC


Guest Column: Brian Sedze

THE MDC congress scheduled for next month will deliver a weaker party without strength in diversity.

There is a significant number of articles expressing opinion that the subtle fights for positions within the MDC are acts of self-destruction, which may split the party.

A split (or formation of new outfits) is inevitable due to the leadership pursuit of and insatiable appetite for a somewhat “divine” right to rule and the obtaining of absolute power. Some with decades in the struggle trenches face retrenchment to political dustbins and wilderness.

What I think as the greatest threat though is that the congress is likely to deliver a weaker MDC. It’s likely to be a party both deficient in skills, depth and diversity.

The idea in brief is that the party must restructure first before congress and deploy silos reserved for certain groups to ensure strength in diversity. The congress outcome must celebrate diversity by inclusion of women, ensure generational renewal with consensus, build new coalitions to increase capacity, reinforce tribal balance, appease alliance partners, have requisite skills and have a voice across the broad spectrum of society.

The party’s drive for a congress seems driven by the desire to tick the constitutionality box and appear to follow certain edicts of obscure principles of democracy. I also believe there is also a great desire to obtain absolute power and exorcise the Morgan Tsvangirai ghost.

What should have preceded the congress is skills or key competence profiling. It is a self-serving, pleasing and yet defeating narrative to blame all election defeats on rigging. The party has skills deficiencies that prevent it from winning and leading. A congress must be designed to ensure obtaining a diversity of skills and voices that enable winning.

There is also a self-serving denial of reasons on reduced number of Members of Parliament. The denial is an albatross that prevents audit of the good and the bad of the 2018 elections. The party will hold a congress that will carry forward the bad and may face defeat again in 2023.

It is possible that an audit and skills profiling approach may result in addition of new positions and expansion of the executive. The end justifies the means as expansion is a better evil as it will be informed by the obtaining skills that ensure a strategic fit to deliver a winning team. Just the level of debate (or non-contribution) in Parliament shows somewhat that the need for renewal starting from the top is an imperative.

The congress is an attempt to deliver a new winning team using the old structure and a losing formula. A new party design with new skills and strategy may deliver a winning formula. Proceeding with the congress on the backdrop of the old may result in the party being opposition in perpetuity.

This proposed diversity seems to have been at the founding of the MDC of 1999. The present scenario has diverted MDC’s DNA from being a voice of a plethora of society to that of past and present activists.

The congress may fail to deliver strength in diversity, which I believe is a requisite in building a strong team to win and lead. It will ensure the party is a government-in-waiting instead of it being a perpetual opposition. The congress seems to be about ticking the constitutionalism boxes and satisfying some democratic principles, however obscure the principles. To a large extent the rehash of a congress is a path to obtaining absolute power.

First, despite purported superior arguments, policies and ideology, the party has shown no aptitude to win the rural and Mashonaland votes. The congress outcome is likely to entrench those election losses, exacerbate the challenge of rural voter apathy and increase the inability to attract first-time voters.

The team, so far, has risen to its highest level of incompetence and “new” blood with abilities to deliver the rural vote needs to be injected at the highest level. This new blood is outside the party.

Coalitions or incorporating new talent from the old ruling party stalwarts may infuse talent, good enough to understand and navigate the rural terrain. I do not see the MDC winning it alone in rural areas.

Second, the MDC used to be a melting pot and voice of widespread interests, including academics, civic society, students, industrialists, farmers, labour and so forth. The present MDC now seems a forte of activists, with many of the key players of the 1999 MDC losing their voices. A congress outcome premised on such a hijacked party will fracture the party along the “them” and the “rest of us”.

In addition, the party requires a diversity of ideas and show a semblance of a government-in-waiting. It is pertinent that silos are reserved for professionals in various areas of study like finance, engineering, law, social sciences and many others. It does not only enhance the quality of decision-making, but also ensures balance and diversity of ideas .

Professionals become a fodder of deploying senior executives to assume government positions like ministries and government technocrats. Chanting of slogans and charisma should be replaced by deploying cadres based on merit and character. The present quality of debate in Parliament shows just how disabled the party is in terms of depth.

Third, generational renewal is a great concept, but should ideally be married with inter-generational consensus. Voting based on age is not exactly renewal. A party requires wisdom and the participation of everyone. Diversity should include the fusion of skills and ideas from the broad spectrum of society. The new generation must bring the new beyond just age.

The purported new age to drive renewal seems not to show the strategic and political edge.

I do not see independence of thought, any plausible new agenda. The new seems to be a clique of dedicated slogan-chanting bootlickers, impervious to new thinking, new ideas and have an entrenched belief in a new version of “one-centre of power”. It occurs to others that this generational thing is simply a convenient way to use age to exclude others.

Fourthly, without a new structure of the party prior to the congress, there is no guarantee of women participation. Without reserved women seats, there are no guarantees of women inclusion, participation and inclusion at the top of the party.

This lack of diversity is not good for image and attraction of reputable global partners in politics and business. Women are a key decision-making unit, more alive to the needs of community, women and children. More often than not, they bear the greatest burden and brunt of misgovernance.

Sixthly, some of the leading lights in the MDC may unfortunately fall by the wayside. The present congress structure will not guarantee the inclusion of alliance partners like Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube and others. The MDC will be bleeding much as a party and as an opposition in Parliament. I doubt it’s a great idea to have the present coalition partners outside the decision-making matrix.

Seventh, the country is greatly divided along tribes and provinces. There is limited loyalty to a one Zimbabwe. It will be naïve to forget that we face uncommon challenges, have different aspirations and fragmented visions based on tribes and provinces. Unfortunate as it may, for cohesion, the congress outcome should ensure tribal balance in its top positions. The party should at worst come up with rotation mechanisms on the vice-presidency.

Eighth, some positions like that of treasurer and the deputy require certain knowledge, skills and abilities. At times finance also knows and follows skin colour.

The position requires understanding of financial reporting, budgeting, financial engineering, donor engagement and experience in dealing with capital. Unfortunately, financial skills cannot be obtained through sloganeering, but through education and or experience.

Treasury positions must match or exceed donor expectations. This is because there is significant donor fatigue; people have low disposable income and there are no significant innovations on party financing models. This all means party finances may be in tatters for the party to mount a significant challenge against the well-oiled Zanu PF. Donors lay the golden egg. The bravado of broke people sponsoring their struggle is a misplaced strategy. It’s a strategy that may lead to capture by a person or a closely-knit group of people.

The MDC requires a new strategy and new skills. The party should diversify through inclusion and expand its skills set. At the moment, it does not present itself as a government-in-waiting.

 Brian Sedze is strategy consultant and president of Free Enterprise Initiative. Free Enterprise Initiative is an advocacy in less government, free enterprise, fiscal and public policy. He can be contacted on brian.sedze@gmail.com

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