THE MDC has suspended the official launch of its 2008 election campaign originally slated for September 9 pending the outcome of the inter-party mediation
talks led by South African President Thabo Mbeki.
To avoid confusing the electorate, it is imperative for the MDC to stop dithering and avoid rushing into launching an election campaign when its position on participating in the elections is not yet finalised.
If the MDC later decides to launch its election campaign as expected, it should send the clearest signal that it is, with certainty, gearing towards locking horns with the ruling Zanu PF in a gruelling battle for votes next year.
The intention behind participating in any election of this nature, for any opposition party, is to win and become the new government. It must therefore be crystal clear to all in the MDC from the onset that the 2008 general plebiscite is no child’s play.
It follows that the real prospect of becoming the new government next year for the MDC poses the practical risk of losing power for the increasingly paranoid ruling party.
For President Robert Mugabe and the Zanu PF regime, losing next year’s elections has grave implications given their notorious history and human rights record since 1980. The MDC must appreciate that the political stakes in this plebiscite are extremely high and those who intend to be part of this contest must be equal to the task.
There are three critical imperatives that the MDC must satisfy to ensure victory in next year’s elections.
First, the MDC must take advantage of its election campaign launch, when it comes, to clear the air and assert the reality that there is only one MDC which is led by Morgan Tsvangirai as founding president.
The party must reiterate that those who are confusing the electorate today by clamouring for splinter group status are in fact intractable defectors who can only be persuaded to rejoin the MDC or be left to tramp in the political wilderness.
Second, the MDC needs to dispel the defeatist myth that the election results are foregone. Through credible primary elections, the MDC must assemble a winning team in the form of its candidates for the elections.
Third and critical, the MDC needs to immediately adopt a potent, vibrant, deliverable, and functional strategy as it gears up for 2008.
It is of essence for the MDC to realise that for them to confound critics in 2008, they must do far better than Zanu PF where commissariat politics is concerned.
The illusion that Zanu PF is now terminally weak or crippled and in self-destructive mode should be discarded completely.
It is the Zanu PF government that is suffering a form of functional paralysis not the political party.
As a party, Zanu PF is still alive and vibrant, its tactics ever more polished and devious, its machinery perfected through more than 40 years of political existence. Its commissariat is still as efficient and well oiled by looted public funds.
The MDC needs to understand that, discounting vote-rigging and political violence, among other impediments, any election is won in the commissariat department.
The MDC national organising secretary Elias Mudzuri, who is the equivalent of Zanu PF’s national commissar Elliot Manyika, must be told that he has the unenviable task of doing better than his Zanu PF counterpart and deliver victory to the MDC and the suffering masses.
Mudzuri should know that as national organising secretary, he is the chief warden and executor of a deliverable election strategy that will give birth to a new Zimbabwe.
The deliverable election campaign strategy for the MDC should have among its core components a programme of comprehensive rural outreach and mobilisation and a programme of voter registration for all eligible voters in the diaspora.
For the MDC, next year’s elections like all general elections in Zimbabwe will be won on the basis of mobilising majority rural votes and harnessing the votes of Zimbabweans in the diaspora.
Those Zimbabweans living abroad but have visas that allow them to return to Zimbabwe time and again should be persuaded to come back and register as voters before next year’s elections in the event that President Mugabe predictably bars the postal vote.
Those who are registered already should be reminded to come back in the same manner they visit during public holidays and vote next March as they owe it to posterity.
Over 500 000 Zimbabweans living abroad are known to visit Zimbabwe every year during the Christmas holiday alone, most of them from South Africa and the UK. Zimbabweans living abroad constitute a crucial vote with the potential of making a difference in next year’s elections.
This is where MDC structures in South Africa, USA and the UK should stand up and be counted by mobilising party members to come and vote next year.
If Zimbabweans living abroad renege on this moral responsibility to come and vote for change, citing whatever reason, then they will confirm the general suspicion that they are sellouts more interested in personal comforts than the total freedom of all Zimbabweans.
The law of diminishing returns should be instructive to the MDC commissars as they seek to deliver change in practical terms next year. While consolidating power in traditional strongholds, the MDC must deliberately and with mathematical care, break new ground by mobilising a majority following in the rural areas which are traditional Zanu PF strongholds.
While it is true that in 27 years the Zanu PF regime has perfected the art of rigging, it is also true that in the past the MDC has won elections in several urban constituencies against the same Zanu PF machinery.
The urgent matter is for the MDC to create the conditions in rural constituencies that have made vote-rigging in urban constituencies difficult if not impossible for Zanu PF.
The MDC must, by any means necessary, seek to establish an imperious presence in the rural areas before next year’s elections in order to pre-empt the Zanu PF rigging machinery and preclude the regime’s tendency to steal elections when the MDC is not looking.
But it should also be obvious that the belligerent Zanu PF regime will not give its strongholds to the MDC on a silver platter because as we speak the ruling party is already in election campaign mode and vowing to “win at all costs”.
The tragedy of the current revolution, however, is not the mistaken notion that we have outsourced the struggle to South Africa and the international community.
The tragedy of the current struggle is the reality that many a Zimbabwean is outsourcing the struggle to the next Zimbabwean.
Apparently, a majority of Zimbabweans, for some reason, prefer defining the struggle for a new Zimbabwe as the sole responsibility of specific opposition leaders and activists.
These Zimbabweans prefer to take the secure position of spectators and commentators opting to watch a match they should be playing and often blaming others where it is themselves who are culpable by omission.
Zimbabweans conveniently forget that the 1970s liberation struggle which brought about Independence was waged on the shoulders of ordinary citizens who collaborated with freedom fighters without necessarily belonging to any of the nationalist movements or their military wings, Zipra and Zanla.
It is preposterous to think that the around 50 000 vociferous war veterans and their principals in Zanu PF and PF Zapu who in1997 demanded gratuities for their role in the liberation war were the only notable executors of the struggle.
Zimbabweans have clearly raised the premium of their services in the struggle against the carnivorous dictatorship by demanding leadership positions, heroism, recognition or even remuneration.
It is sad reality that Zimbabweans are already demanding gratuities before the struggle is won.
That is why even late comers to the struggle have demanded that they be assisted to replace founding leaders of the struggle in exchange for their strategic services.
But before the dream of a new Zimbabwe can become reality all citizens must make urgent and deliberate steps towards owning the struggle and embrace the magnanimity and indeed the courage that will allow them to serve in the humble but crucial role as unknown soldiers.