ONE of the worst things about Zimbabweans is that they have absolutely no memory. The immeasurable disdain that was poured on the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) president Lovemore Madhuku by politicians and citizens alike shows the abscence of memory in many of us and a degree of immaturity.
The scorn recently directed at Madhuku after receiving Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) vehicle has left some quarters shocked.
He has been called a “sellout”, “charlatan”, “greedy politician”, and an “unprincipled” leader.
Could it be that Madhuku is a sellout or simply a victim of political betrayal living the realities of the obtaining political environment?
Is he an unprincipled leader or someone who has separated himself from a groupthink philosophy to chart his own way?
He is perceived as someone who has sold out and not as someone who has been betrayed.
The vehicle is seen as a freebie. Which politician is entitled to receive freebies from government in the form of vehicles?
Madhuku, since 1997 when the NCA was formed as a civic organisation, has been consistent with his philosophy that can be understood as the “small is big” narrative.
The 2013 transformation of the NCA from a civic group to a political party also reflects the determination of Madhuku to contribute to the national political discourse apart from being a “pressure group.”
The “small is big” philosophy by Madhuku is easy to relate to.
In 2000, the NCA with the united opposition, MDC, pushed for a “no” vote in a constitutional referendum that rattled late former President Robert Mugabe’s administration into a major shift on the local political landscape.
That 2000 constitutional victory showed that the mantra “tisu tine vanhu” (we have the people’s mandate) does not always work as the NCA, small as it was and is, achieved political altering outcomes.
Madhuku’s criticism of the presidential powers then bestowed on Mugabe was his strong technical argument that led to that constitutional victory.
As a result, the MDC under Morgan Tsvangirai went into the 2000 parliamentary elections riding on the premise that they had initiated the “no” vote movement and stopped Mugabe’s power ambitions.
Despite making contributions that changed the political landscape in Zimbabwe, Madhuku and the NCA were in successive years not availed a platform to contribute more politically as activities were only seen as correct through the Zanu PF and MDC frames. National politics became a big boys club.
In the run-up to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) negotiations after the 2008 presidential election run-off, the NCA called on the MDC to work towards defeating Mugabe on the presidential powers technicality. Here Madhuku advocated for Mugabe to be pressed and have his powers clipped.
However, what emerged was that even those in the MDC were also keen to enjoy the same undiluted powers that Mugabe had, if given an opportunity.
This explains why at the inception of the GNU in February 2009, the NCA was elbowed out of political deliberations by politicians who could not listen to the views of a “pressure group”.
That was the beginning of the fallout between Madhuku and his colleagues whom he had supported in challenging Mugabe.
Again, the 2013 constitution-making process which the NCA opposed as not “people-driven” laid bare the intentions of the political principals behind it: Power!
Ultimately the NCA became a political party upon realising that politicians will only accommodate each other and have no obligation to engage “pressure groups.”
To its advantage, the MDC in its many formations has been engaging the government on various platforms, among them Parliament.
Since the previous elections, Mnangagwa’s Polad initiative has been seen by the NCA as a window to engage government even without parliamentary representation.
As a Polad principal, Madhuku has been against Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2, saying it gives the President unwarranted dictatorial and undemocratic power, a similar scenario he fought against Mugabe, but which his colleagues did not want to deal with because it was in their favour.
He says through Polad, “losers must work with winners” and that “there should be no other dialogue that should exist outside Polad”.
He thinks Polad is an opportunity to engage government on what is good and what is wrong with our politics.
To Madhuku, Polad as a concept should be a model in Africa for which the continent can build its own form of democracy. He is now a firm believer in democracy through dialogue.
Why does Madhuku appear to be changing course and modus operandi?
Because of experience and learning new things over his 24-year journey and association with the NCA, he was bound to be flexible.
If what Madhuku has done in accepting a Polad gift is wrong, it should be wrong too to MDC parliamentarians who claim they do not recognise Mnangagwa, but accept vehicles and want a share of the Political Parties Finance Act.
The Political Parties Finance Act should not be about Zanu PF and the MDC’s alone.
This explains Madhuku’s argument based on section 67(4) of the Constitution concerning political rights that says: “For the purpose of promoting multi-party democracy, an Act of Parliament must provide for the funding of political parties.”
To him, Zimbabwe is not a “one-party or two-party democracy” but a multi-party system.
This, therefore, requires the amendment or the alignment of the Political Parties Finance Act to the Constitution.
What Madhuku has done and is doing is in line with the obtaining political situation in Zimbabwe.
It would be absurd to say Madhuku has sold out, but rather he appears to be a man, who was betrayed by his colleagues in various MDC formations and is out to chart its on way.
When the MDC was formed in 1999, Madhuku was against the conflation of labour and capital.
The workers received funding from white former commercial farmers of which he and others like Munyaradzi Gwisai were against.
The end result was that the objectives of the MDC were hijacked by capital.
More so, Tsvangirai’s death in 2018 was to Madhuku an opportunity for whoever was taking over to return the party to its 1999 base, a democratic party.
That has not been the case. The party has continued on its trajectory which breeds intolerance.
The party has a leadership which campaigns for the international isolation of Zimbabwe through writing to international financial institutions urging them to withhold any financial lending to Zimbabwe.
In the end, Madhuku has become his own man in politics. He is beholden to his philosophy.
It is unfair for people to see Madhuku as a sellout today when he was betrayed by politicians in the GNU and when they endorsed a constitution-making process which did not accommodate the will of the people. He is a betrayed man.
Those who say “tisu tine vanhu” should espouse the view that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
As small as his party is, Madhuku still believes he will do big things as those the NCA pressure group did unto Mugabe.