It’s all about cushy seats



IN her letter to the Zimbabwe Independent in the October 28 issue, Trudy Stevenson is quite right in arguing that our struggle against tyranny can take many forms. The problem is that MDC leaders

and MPs always choose the soft option: remaining in parliament, drawing salaries and perks and, now, contesting pointless elections for a cushy seat in the senate.


When MDC parliamentarians walked out of the opening of parliament in protest against the stolen presidential election in 2002, President Robert Mugabe quickly whipped them back into line. Their resistance quickly crumbled and saw them sitting, passive and chastened, back in parliament the moment Mugabe threatened to remove their parliamentary benefits.


Righteous indignation soon mellowed into a self-serving mantra of “using democratic space” – so cunningly provided by Mugabe to lure them into legitimising his presidency. Having lost one stolen election after another, MDC MPs now routinely and submissively swear under oath that they will uphold a constitution that Mugabe trashes with equanimity, and then meekly take their seats.


What kind of resistance is that? Stevenson mentions other types of resistance, such as strikes and demonstrations. But where was the MDC when thousands upon thousands of the urban poor lost their livelihoods and homes to chanting policemen and bulldozers? Sitting in parliament!


But the complete lack of leadership is betrayed by Stevenson’s challenge: “Let us see the people on the streets protesting, and I can guarantee you every single MDC MP, mayor and councillor will join these people.”


It is not “the people” that must lead the protests, but the leaders! How can we expect “the people” to overcome their fears of being battered, bruised and incarcerated, when our leaders themselves are scared stiff to come out and protest, preferring to retreat to the safety of parliament?


The people yearn for iconic actions, such as Gandhi’s salt march. Some of your readers will remember the grainy black-and-white footage of Martin Luther King in 1962 – right in the front – linked arm-in-arm with other civil rights leaders, having cans and rubbish thrown at them by rednecks as they marched through the streets of Atlanta.


The MDC leaders must lead. The order in which we march should be the order of seniority in the party: the top six in front, followed by the national executive and MPs, followed by provincial and district committees and councillors – then I can guarantee Stevenson that every single person will join them!


In justifying her own presence in parliament and her perks, Stevenson takes a cheap shot at NGOs. After all, it is people like Lovemore Madhuku who leads the National Constitutional Assembly and Jenni Williams the national coordinator of Women of Zimbabwe Arise and their followers that have borne the brunt of street protests – not MDC MPs.


Instead of pointing fingers at the many NGOs, which are the natural allies of the MDC, we should remember that many of those who drive fancy cars and earn incomes to match are leading professionals from international organisations that do so much to feed the poor and aid the sick in our time of need.


Mugabe is a ruthless and tenacious leader, but Stevenson gives him too much credit for splitting the MDC over the senate issue and dividing the party along ethnic lines. The MDC, and especially its leadership, must take full responsibility for the chaos that has engulfed the party.


She argues that Gukuruhundi provides a motivation for our Ndebele members not to give up their strongholds to Zanu PF without a fight. This, however, is a spurious and selfish argument.


There are very many more useful and effective ways of fighting Zanu PF than sitting in an utterly useless senate. In fact, almost any other form of resistance that Stevenson mentions would be preferable.


Second, contesting senate seats is not a fight against Zanu PF, but its very legitimisation; all the more galling because it was the stolen election that gave Zanu PF the constitutional majority to set up the senate in the first place.


Third, the Ndebeles must think nationally for strategic solutions, and not think that they have a right to go it alone. Ndebele participation is capitulation, not a fight.


And, what are we to make of David Coltart’s assertion that there is grassroots support for participation in the senate elections, when recent research across a wide spectrum of Zimbabweans, including those in Matabeleland, shows that not a single constituency believes that now is the time for senate elections?


I have a deep respect for Coltart and others who support participation, especially Paul Themba Nyathi, but it is the decision of Morgan Tsvangirai and his “kitchen cabinet” not to participate in these ridiculous senate elections that resonates with the people.


Dale Doré,

Former MDC councillor,

Harare.