Opposition political parties in Zimbabwe have been a great let-down; faced with an important election in a few months’ time they offer only but a whimper. The electorate, like in many elections before, is faced with Hobson’s choice: take what is available or nothing at all.
An incredible number of voters will take the latter. It is projected that turnout in the elections, to be held by August, will be a mere 35%? The electorate is disengaged and the youths are not fired up, hence the anticipated apathy.
A strong opposition is critical for a vibrant democracy. Zimbabwe has a democracy deficit because the opposition, since Independence in 1980, has failed to rise to the occasion except in the first decade of the new millennium when Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) gave the late former President Robert Mugabe (Zanu PF) a good run for his money and won the first round of the 2008 elections before Sadc brokered a power-sharing deal which ran until 2013. After that, opposition parties’ fortunes took a nosedive.
The opposition blames the strongman tactics of the ruling Zanu PF party for their misfortunes. They accuse Zanu PF of using its incumbency to infiltrate and repress opposition political parties and of creating a political environment heavily skewed against multiparty democracy. But a deeper look will reveal that most opposition wounds are self-inflicted.
The opposition has become a mirror image of Zanu PF because of its opaque nature and tendency towards strongman politics perfected in Zimbabwe by Mugabe and now flourishing under his protégé and successor Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Without a doubt, opposition politics in Zimbabwe is now centred on Nelson Chamisa and his Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). Chamisa has given hope for change to millions of people, has a vocal and combative youth following which has turned him into a demigod but the electorate is beginning to see his dark side. Cultic leadership creates corruption and is the genesis of political violence, both traits endemic in Zanu PF courtesy of Mugabe’s legacy.
Chaos reigns supreme in opposition ranks, whether or not Zanu PF is its author or not. The threat of Zanu PF infiltration through State operatives has effectively paralysed Chamisa's efforts to build a strong movement. We cannot dignify Douglas Mwonzora and the circus he leads by mentioning him in this discourse.
Chamisa’s outfit confirmed last week that there would be no primarie s for candidates and that there would be “a convergence where local people choose their representatives.” This is a euphemism for him cherry-picking candidates to run in the polls. These are nascent signs of dictatorship. Without a constitution, the party is being run by decree. No one wishes for that kind of governance in a democratic political party.
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Failure to hold opposition political leaders to account is tantamount to nurturing bad leaders at national level.
Opposition political parties should be subjected to as much public scrutiny as the ruling party.
- Trevor Ncube is the chairman of Alpha Media Holdings