DURING the fateful MDC national council meeting on October 12 over whether to participate or not in the senate, I made just two points which bear reiterating because they crystallise the crisis my party is in, and emphasise why I intend r
emaining in the MDC:
* The outcome of that meeting was indeed a matter of life and death to the party, but not because of the senate — which was and is relatively unimportant. What is important is that this party must remain intact to continue the struggle against the Mugabe regime — and we must not allow the senate issue to destroy what many of us have given six years of our life to build, many suffering unspeakable violence and trauma, some even dying for the MDC.
* I was absolutely disgusted by the report from Mashonaland East that there was manipulation, vote-buying and intimidation behind the scenes, to the extent that they were not in a position to make a conclusive report on the wishes of their province. If that was what the MDC had come to, I proposed that we should either fold up as a party or I would certainly leave.
I am convinced that the entire senate issue was a very clever plot by Zanu PF to destroy the MDC by putting us into an impossible no-win situation.
If we don’t contest, we give up our strongholds to Zanu PF without any fight whatsoever, which our Ndebele members absolutely refuse to do for strong historical reasons, especially Gukurahundi — and I believe we should respect those members.
But if we do contest, we go against the very strong wishes of many members and supporters outside Matabeleland. So the regional dimension is very cleverly hidden beneath the overt senate issue — and used as a knife to drive further regional and ethnic divisions within our party.
We fell right into the trap of trying to allow our members and supporters to make a democratic decision — see where it has landed us! This lack of strong leadership is an indictment against the very man who is now insisting the party should respect him as its leader.
Secondly and more importantly, I believe that this struggle is not about the senate at all. It really won’t make much difference, in my view, whether we participate or we don’t.
The taxpayers’ money will still be squandered — but on Zanu PF rather than the MDC. Food, shelter, jobs, health and education will not be provided to the people, whether we participate or we don’t. I am willing to take a bet with anyone who says that by this time next year, there will be an improvement in people’s lives if the MDC does not participate in the senate.
For people to become so hysterical as to denounce the MDC because it puts up candidates in an election, at whatever level, is to miss the point entirely. The MDC was born to contest power, and that contest can and will take various forms — elections, strikes, demonstrations, passive resistance and so on.
Every single form of contest is valid — and none is mutually exclusive. Let us see people on the streets protesting, and I can guarantee you every single MDC MP, mayor and councillor will join those people. But meanwhile, let them struggle in their own space, on the many platforms they are given locally and internationally.
As for jumping on the infamous gravy train, parliamentarians’ salaries are barely above the poverty datum line, being currently around $12 million per month — to keep their families, pay for their own administrative costs, constituents’ funerals, school fees, medicines and projects. MPs are supposed to supply the resources for whatever their constituents might need —- a tall order indeed!
On the contentious issue of MPs’ vehicles, it must be noted that MPs have to pay for their vehicles. They are not provided free and do not come out of taxpayers’ money, unlike ministers’ vehicles. MPs have to take out vehicle loans, unless they have adequate funds — and they have to repay those loans.
The only advantage — and I agree it is a major one — is that they are entitled to a duty-free vehicle if they can find the foreign currency to buy one! Even then, they have to pay quite substantial local charges, and cannot re-sell that vehicle for five years.
The real gravy train carries the NGOs and “civil society” organisations, where a CEO earns up to 10 times or more than what an MP earns, and where huge 4x4s and other perks are the norm. But they and others with forex accounts are the ones shouting loudest about the gravy train in this debate!
What has been problematic has been the way in which the senate debate was handled, and to me this was the final straw which broke the camel’s back.