The attack on the MDC following its congress raises three fundamental issues. It puts a spotlight on the unresolved ethnic issues, the one-party state ideology and the adherence to peaceful and democratic transference of power.
The Ethnic Debate: debate on issues of tribe is shunned in Zimbabwe and yet it dominates our local politics. The tribal sentiments expressed over the election of Welshman Ncube attest to this. It is revealing that there is now a growing consensus in the stables of Shona supremacist that the fact that a Ndebele is president of a political party means that the party is regional.
Interestingly, the fact that the MDC-T and Zanu PF have Shona leaders makes them national. Is the verdict, therefore, that a Ndebele cannot as a matter of fact be considered for President in Zimbabwe? And that therefore those of Ndebele descent have been disqualified from a national leadership contest?
One-Party State Ideology: the second issue that arises from the post-congress debate is the role and relevance of ‘third parties’ and the emerging reasoning that Zimbabwe is not a multi-party system but is, in reality, a contest to replace Zanu PF with another party.
The Zimbabwe democratisation political script has been fundamentally flawed in that it is a versus Mugabe script and not necessarily a creation of multi-party free world. We are focused on the removal of Mugabe and not on a creation of an alternative political system with alternative value systems.
We, as a nation, are bound in this romantic myth of a little girl who is waiting to be saved from a monster by a knight in shining armour and unfortunately it can only be one ‘knight’ in shining armour and not knight(s) in different shades. Anything that does not conform to that romantic image we hate and despise.
For a long time we have continued to romanticise the year 2000, where a united movement almost delivered the ultimate victory. We all secretly still yearn for that period even though the current reality demonstrates that the conditions and circumstances that prevailed in 2000 do not exist. We also, unlike what we publicly profess, have not embraced the concept of multi-partism, we sadly, in our actions, are in fact zealots of a one-party state ideology which seeks to remove Zanu PF replacing it with another party.
The year 2000 was not only miraculous but an aberration, never to be repeated. The coming together of all democratic forces to deliver a NO VOTE response to the referendum was magical. This came exactly after two decades of general disorientation and the trauma of the Gukurahundi.
In what we, in the born-again movement call a ‘vuselela’ (a revival/a rebirth), the NO VOTE campaign inspired a confidence in the Zimbabwean people that just perhaps, it was possible to dislodge Zanu PF. The nation was therefore divided into two camps, those for Zanu PF and those against. For some in the frontlines of that referendum, we know that the vote was simply an anti-Mugabe vote and less about the constitution.
The violence that followed that referendum shifted the power dynamics, to try and ignore the impact and the rupture that violence had on that unity is to live in cuckoo land. It is that denial of that shift that perpetuates the anger against parties that refuse to fit the 2000 mode.
Since the MDC split in 2005, an epitaph or obituary is written on the MDC. Opinion polls are conducted all to justify the issuance of burial orders. After the 2008 elections, we all were put into political dustbins, if not political museums. Ironically, the very same party today continues to dominate the Zimbabwean political discourse.
Is it not a paradox that a party so allegedly insignificant, a party so unlikely to impact on the future politics of Zimbabwe can dominate political debate? The only explanation for such behaviour is that the obsession is driven by our inability to understand a different script, a script that does not make Zimbabweans a choir with one song, but a script that says it is in our difference that we find our strength – celebrating our diversity.
It is tragic that a public service career one once admired and is a part of, is now dominated by a group of people who have no shame in giving blatantly false figures of congress delegates to mislead a nation. How it is possible for someone who attended that event to continue to perpetuate a falsehood of 1,000 delegates is not only sad but frightening.
Any journalist worth their salt only needs to check with the accommodation venues where delegates from outside Harare and Chitungwiza were accommodated. In fact, Harare Polytech alone had over 1,800 delegates, with Belvedere, HIT, YWCA, ZWB and Adelaide accommodating the rest. As is the norm in all political parties, delegates to congress are specified and determined by political parties. The MDC National Council resolved that congress would have a total of 5,200 delegates.
To seek to extrapolate the MDC’s nationwide support base to the number of delegates at congress is pure madness. The lie that delegates were not fed when we had three professional caterers is the limit of gutter journalism. No single delegate slept outside, no-one went hungry and there were no fights. In fact, all journalists were properly accredited and treated with the utmost respect, unlike other congresses we have observed.
Transfer of power: the third and final myth dismissed at the MDC congress was the notion that it is impossible in Africa, let alone in Zimbabwe, to experience a civilised, dignified and descent transfer of power. It is surprising that those who over the years have claimed to be true democrats now describe the change of leadership as a humiliating experience.
Instead of applauding Arthur Mutambara, he is now being portrayed at most as a victim, and at worst as a weakling. Is it our belief now that had there been a change of leadership from Mugabe to Tsvangirai in 2008, that act would have been humiliation for Mugabe? If so, why then are we against those that sought to protect Mugabe’s honour through beatings and the maiming of people?
If the election of Welshman Ncube is now being described as a boardroom coup or a demonstration of a power-hungry individual who has always harboured presidential ambitions, why then should we have a problem with those in Zanu PF who believe that any election that does not produce a leadership from those that held the gun in the liberation struggle is illegitimate or treasonous?
We should, therefore, now accept the notion that it is a crime to aspire or to participate in a leadership contest unless the incumbent have voluntarily relinquished power.