‘Tsvangirai still the undisputed opposition supremo’ – Report

HARARE – Notwithstanding the emergence of splinter outfits and their competing leaders, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai remains the most popular opposition leader in the country by far, a recent survey undertaken by local political think tank, the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), reveals.

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The report, titled Political Parties split in Zimbabwe: The case of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), analyses the effect of the fracturing of the country’s biggest opposition party and how this is eroding its support base.

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A number of disaffected MDC luminaries — including its then secretary-general Tendai Biti and former deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma — walked away from the party last year, accusing Tsvangirai of acting tyrannically.

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However, in its just-released report, ZDI says although Tsvangirai was weakened considerably by the 2014 split, the splinter party that was christened the Renewal Team started its life even weaker than the main MDC.

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“The renewal group emerged from the split more bruised and tattered than Tsvangirai’s group. A majority (87 percent) believe the Tsvangirai group is way stronger when compared to the Tendai Biti group against 13 percent who think the other way round,” reads part of the report.

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In his foreword, well-known human rights advocate, Dewa Mavhinga, said Zimbabwe’s opposition parties should coalesce if they are to form a formidable movement that can challenge the faction-riddled ruling Zanu PF, as was the case in 2008 when President Robert Mugabe was forced into a coalition government.

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“This study established that the MDC-T split seriously weakened the party, although the Morgan Tsvangirai group remained significantly stronger than the Tendai Biti group in terms of grassroots support.

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“Although the party was confronted with significant challenges, a split was not necessary and the party could have done more to avert it. The split has serious implications on voting intentions in 2018,” Mavhinga said.

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Although Biti’s party and that of another former MDC secretary-general, Welshman Ncube — who was the first to walk away from the mainstream MDC in 2005 — are on the brink of uniting, the report says the fractured state of the country’s opposition political parties is a gift to Zanu PF.

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“But with the 2005 party split and the recent 2014 split, there are concerns that divided opposition political parties can only serve to ensure Zanu PF’s continued stay in power.
\n“While the MDC-T once proved to be a viable opposition capable of articulating problems of the day and presenting voters with coherent electoral alternatives, the continual splits might weary the electorate and wane the party’s support,” the report reads further.

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It further argued that Biti and Tsvangirai must come together and set aside their personal ambitions if they are to enhance the opposition’s chances of defeating Zanu PF at the 2018 polls.

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“It might appear that re-unification is impossible, but in the sober interests of the democratisation of Zimbabwe such a step can easily be taken in a stride.
\n“This is especially so considering that the MDC-T was able in September 2008 to cobble a political agreement with arch-rival Zanu PF leading to a power-sharing government between February 2009 and July 2013,” the report said.

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With Zanu PF in a state of “terminal decline” due to unending and often bitter factional flights and purges, the report adds that the MDC in its current weakened state did not have the capacity to change the country’s political status quo.

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“It can be argued that the road ahead for the MDC-T after the 2014 split might be a long and tortuous one. Although the party will be in existence, it will face a challenge in wrestling power from the ruling party especially when it is weakened by splits.

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“While the MDC-T party may continue to play a central role as a pillar of democracy in the wider society, it will remain in the periphery as long as it lives.

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“The gains made by the establishment of the once vibrant party in 1999 are going down the drain and diminishing as disintegrations continually limit the party’s influence, making change in power through elections even more unlikely, thereby negatively impacting on the struggle to democratize through elections,” the report concluded. daily news