There is strength in unity

REPORTS emerging from the Movement for Democratic Change’s NEC meeting held in Harare two weeks ago make depressing reading. Quite clearly a significant n

umber of members would rather be fighting the opposing faction of their party than President Mugabe.

At exactly the moment when the country is looking for wise leadership and strategic options to tackle Zanu PF’s delinquent rule, MDC mandarins in Morgan Tsvangirai’s camp have chosen to do battle with their former colleagues led by Professor Arthur Mutambara. And one cannot help being struck by the passion with which they wish to pursue this senseless feud.

Let’s name and shame these political hawks who mobilised against their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai’s appeal for unity.

National organising secretary Elias Mudzuri, youth assembly chairperson Thamsanqa Mahlangu, national chairman Isaac Matongo, deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada, and committee members Ian Makone and Cephas Makuyana were all reported as preferring death to reunification!

Grace Kwinjeh, in opposing unity talks, claimed that all the party had to do was work harder on the ground and victory would be theirs. She seems to think the regime needs a breathing space and evidently hasn’t heard about the outcome of recent rural district council elections!

Women’s wing leader, Lucia Matibenga, also spoke passionately, it is reported, as she accused the Mutambara faction of seeking to “reinfect” the party.

“We are giving ourselves the same disease that led to the split. As women we believe that unity, without addressing the causes of the split, will not help anyone,” she said.

We rather understood those causes as being the use of violence by party thugs and contempt for the party’s rules. It is astounding that as the country faces its most mortal challenge because of Zanu PF’s arrogance and incompetence, leading members of the MDC would prefer to fight each other than find ways to confront the enemy. This is political immaturity writ large.

It is no comfort to hear that this intransigence was reflected in the ranks of Mutambara’s faction. St Mary’s MP Job Sikhala, deputy secretary-general Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, and Nkayi MP Abednigo Bhebhe, argued vociferously at their meeting against unity, we are told. They said the two factions had “irreconcilable differences”. But they nevertheless agreed to set up a committee to negotiate reunification, as did the Tsvangirai camp.

As we stated last December when the party split into two, the MDC was always going to be weaker without unity. The split in the opposition also dealt a severe blow to attempts to come up with a broad alliance as civic society also became fractured along political faultlines caused by the opposition split. Despite the emotional outbursts last year, the two factions have nothing to show for their “resolute” stances. This is one whole year wasted and there isn’t much time between now and 2008 when the presidential poll is due.

As things stand, the Tsvangirai of today is much weaker than the one who lost narrowly to Mugabe in the contentious 2002 election. The party requires serious rehabilitation if it is to regain the strength it had built up five years ago. Part of that rehabilitation is unity and a visionary leadership.

For his part, Tsvangirai has given a welcome lead to unity talks. He told the St Lucia Park NEC meeting that he had traversed the country and held over 60 rallies in the run-up to the rural district council elections and the feeling of the people was that the party should unite. He said his supporters had made an impassioned plea to him to make sure all the democratic forces are reunited to confront the common enemy. While his party had picked up a few RDC seats, unity was a bigger prize for the suffering people of Zimbabwe, he made clear.

This at least is a welcome shift in MDC thinking. Intelligent electoral planning dictates compromise and accommodation. The nation will never forgive those holdouts in the MDC ranks if it means granting Mugabe and his gang a renewed lease on political life.

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