Candid Comment

Cancer at the heart of MDC woes

By Joram Nyathi

WE have been following with interest the twists and turns in the ongoing MDC saga. It is nothing to be proud of.


Come tomorrow, Morgan Tsvan

girai’s faction will be battling it out for the Budiriro seat. We still don’t understand what the party hopes to achieve even if it wins the constituency after it passed a resolution at its congress in March not to take part in future elections under current laws. So far as I am aware, the rules of engagement have not changed and still favour Zanu PF.


There is a cynical sense in which one is made to feel that rather than following any defined principle, the aim is to humiliate the Arthur Mutambara camp despite evidence now coming out that there was more to the MDC split than the senate election. Zanu PF is no longer the enemy.


Thanks to a very illuminating report by Brian Raftopoulos, I now know more about the problems in the MDC than when I first wrote in this column earlier this year saying there was room for synergies between the two factions. There is none.


In an article titled “Grubby patina of ethnicity” on March 3 I expressed the view that there was a lot of tribal innuendo in the attacks against Mutambara’s entry into the MDC on the side of Gibson Sibanda. I said then that he would have to be “more than an ordinary man to withstand the barrage of attacks and make his decision abide” because there was a feeling that he had “betrayed” the people by joining the “wrong camp”.


So far Mutambara has stayed put and Raftopoulos has vindicated my point about the tribal cancer at the heart of political discourse in this country.


He reveals in his report that there was a firm position in the MDC that nobody should challenge Tsvangirai’s presidency. Specifically, there was an unwritten caveat that whatever happens to the party, a Ndebele should never be its leader.


While President Mugabe was saying Tsvangirai would “never ever” rule Zimbabwe, the latter was also making his own vow that no Ndebele should ever lead the MDC.


It was in this context, Raftopoulos’s article reveals, that Tsvangirai set up the infamous parallel decision-making structure in the MDC that came to be known as the “kitchen cabinet” to override the decisions of the management committee and fight for Tsvangirai’s presidency ahead of the congress. It was this parallel structure that used violent unemployed and hungry youths to attack party leaders who did not “toe the line”.


Soon after this, the leadership struggles in the MDC took on an anti-intellectual dimension in favour of those who did not question Tsvangirai’s decisions. At first it manifested itself in the attacks against former Information minister Jonathan Moyo as the author of all the country’s problems. But soon it was evident that the title of “professor” was being used pejoratively to deride anybody in the MDC who differed from the herd mentality or opposed mobocracy.


The senate debate came as a grand opportunity for both Mugabe and Tsvangirai — it enabled the former to deliver a coup de grace to an MDC already wrecked by internal leadership convulsions while the latter took it as a chance to get rid of those challenging his leadership style.


This explains the “big lie” about a 50-50 vote in the National Executive Council on October 12. It explains the big lie about Welshman Ncube trying to sign a second Unity Accord with Zanu PF, and a third big lie about a plot to assassinate Tsvangirai by “our erstwhile colleagues”.


Tsvangirai was more than happy to see a divided MDC so long as he was able to keep his post. It is for these leadership conflicts and party militia that former MDC legal secretary David Coltart’s efforts at reunification have been in vain. It is unfortunate that voters are being fed lies about what actually caused the MDC split. The senate election was never the reason. It was the excuse for the break-up.


It is to Mutambara’s credit that he has refused to pander to petty ethnic inclinations by those who have no solution to the fight against entrenched tyranny.


It is a pity that a most promising project like the MDC has been wrecked and the truth buried under a sludge of lies after so many people lost their lives or careers in the hope of a better future. It is also a pity that those purporting to fight for democracy and the rule of law don’t want to be bound by the same.


As the MDC fights itself in Budiriro this weekend we are being fed woolly explanations like proving “who is the legitimate” MDC between the two factions. What I find disappointing is that nobody says what is in it for the people of Budiriro who have been engaged in strife since the date of the by-election was announced. Beyond attempts to build a personality cult, there are no issues being raised.


Nobody is talking about skyrocketing rates and water charges or the uncollected garbage since Operation Murambatsvina this time last year. Nobody is talking about school fees or medical charges. Long grass on road verges is creating many blind spots for motorists while street lighting belongs to a bygone era. How is the Budiriro seat going to solve these problems that Zanu PF has evidently forgotten about? Yet people are happy to support and pursue ethnic agendas. Perhaps the sages of yesteryear were right after all — people get the government they deserve.