Give MDC-T Space in the Voice

ONE thing that has emerged from the exchanges between Nathaniel Manheru representing, in his interlocutor's own words, "the more informed components of Zanu-PF" and Tendai Biti, representing the "intellectual component of the MDC-T" is that the MDC (here I mean both factions) leadership has been protected by the years they spent outside Government and without access to the public media platform, and hence public scrutiny.

Their thinking remained more of a mystery to some. Fortunately, that is no longer the case, and if what we have seen from Biti’s contributions is the best that the MDC-T has to offer, then Zanu-PF would do well to give MDC-T officials space in The People’s Voice so that Zimbabweans can see for themselves what lies between their ears.

I will not go into the details of the exchanges as they have been adequately dealt with by the Herald’s contributors, among them Reason Wafawarova, Alexander Kanengoni and Itayi Garande save to say I hope Biti and his colleagues will not chicken out of this captivating debate that has even spread to the pages of NewsDay, of course feeding off the discourse in the leading daily, The Herald.

Be that as it may, there is one overriding question that came out of the exchange, and which begs an answer, which I hope MDC-T leaders can provide.

What does the MDC-T stand for?

Wafawarova, for instance, asked why the likes of Biti claim that people are prepared to die for the MDC, when we have not heard other parties, let alone President Mugabe or even Zanu-PF saying people are prepared to die for Zanu-PF? Doesn’t the MDC stand for something that people can identify as the reason they would die for it?

For instance, we have heard the Zanu-PF leadership and supporters pronounce the principles and issues that make them identify with the party.

Our hard-won independence and democracy, the land reform programme, indigenisation and economic empowerment and so on have all become synonymous with Zanu-PF not just as catch phrases but as tangible programmes already under implementation. The same can not be said for the MDC leadership.

I raise these questions because prior to the formation of the inclusive Government, MDC leaders claimed they were custodians of democracy and the neo-liberal values of electoral democracy. They framed Zanu-PF as a alien to these values but a look at what has transpired since the signing of the GPA shows that it is the MDC leaders who are strangers in town.

The evidence has been there for quite sometime but when the MDC was not yet in government, many may have just taken it as the party’s way of doing things.

A few examples will suffice here.

In October 2005, MDC leaders — there was still one MDC then — convened a meeting of their national council to deliberate on whether or not the party should contest in the Senate elections that were due in November that year.

The council voted to participate; surprisingly Tsvangirai not only refused to be bound by the outcome, but stormed out of Harvest House to hold a hastily convened Press conference at his house in Strathaven where he claimed that the MDC had resolved to boycott the elections.

This misrepresentation of the party position so riled other high-ranking party officials, among them Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda, who sought to suspend Tsvangirai from the party for breaching the constitution but Tsvangirai would have none of it.

He proclaimed himself the "godfather of the MDC" after which he deployed youths to bar Ncube and his compatriots, who were then known as the "Pro-Senate faction," from Harvest House culminating in what we now know as MDC and MDC-T, the T of course standing for the party’s godfather, Tsvangirai.

Then soon after the formation of the inclusive Government, Tsvangirai alleged differences with Zanu-PF saying his party would consult its membership countrywide on whether they should stay in government or pull out.

The party members, we were told, resoundingly voted that MDC-T remain in government, and as fate would have it, Roy Bennett’s case opened at the High Court and Tsvangirai promptly announced his party was "disengaging from government" because Bennett had been hauled to court. Tsvangirai had, once again, refused to be bound by what the majority in his party had said.

And only recently, his party — having dismissed the Kariba draft constitution that his MDC-T helped co-author with Zanu-PF and the MDC — demanded that there be a nationwide constitutional outreach programme in line with the dictates of the GPA.

The other parties duly agreed and the outreach was carried out at considerable cost. When Tsvangirai heard that the views of his party and its sponsors had not found purchase with the people, he disowned the outreach claiming that he wants a negotiated constitution. To him, again, the views of the people do not matter, only what he and his sponsors want is paramount.

I have selected here only three of many examples that show that the MDC-T’s claim that it is a stickler for democracy and rule by the people is just that, hot air.

Having fought to win political independence and having guaranteed the civil liberties, Zanu-PF has now embarked on the real fight, that of enabling people to participate in their economy which hitherto had been monopolised by transnational companies and descendents of white settlers.

The MDC was launched to counter this, hence is found wanting on both the narrow and expansive conceptions of democracy.

Be that as it may, I for one am glad that President Mugabe has announced that he will stick to the letter and spirit of the GPA by ensuring that it does not subsist beyond its 24-month life-span and that elections are held by mid-next year, under the new constitution that the two MDCs have been demanding and which the people have given them.

Zanu-PF must ensure that the people’s views are respected, they are far more important than the views of Tsvangirai or his sponsors who are livid that their money was used to consolidate Zanu-PF’s views. This is why Tsvangirai wants to negotiate himself out of the tight corner he put himself in

Despite having told all who cared to listen that Zanu-PF was afraid of elections, there has been grumbling from the MDC-T and its allies who claim that it’s too early to have elections when they knew very well that their free dalliance in Government was meant to last two years and any further dance would have to be earned not negotiated. What are they afraid of now? Aren’t they the ones who have been claiming that they won the last elections? Aren’t they the ones who claimed they are the biggest and most popular party in Zimbabwe, and that Zanu-PF would never win a free and fair election?

Why not put all this to the test in a poll next year? With all indications pointing to an issue-driven election, it will be interesting to find out what the MDC stands for since the party leadership does not seem to have a clue.

Assuming Tsvangirai gets his way with a negotiated constitution, what would stop him from demanding "negotiated" elections? Ko zvinonzika ukaraidza chembere muto wegwaya inofira mutsime ichida kuraura. This man is turning into a creature of habit, bad habits at that. – The Herald