Candid Comment with Joram Nyathi
I WAS wrong. At least in the eyes of some senior members of the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
A number of commentators who have been writing about a split in the MDC are equally mistaken.
so lost are those like myself who were advocating a mending of fences between the two imaginary camps in the MDC.
There is only one MDC led by Tsvangirai.
I got this enlightenment during an informal discussion with two senior members of Tsvangirai’s camp at the weekend.
Their argument was that there are no factions in the party. Unlike the split that occurred in Zapu in 1963, in the case of the MDC, it was only “a few members of the executive who walked away”. “There was no split down the middle,” they said.
The officials said there was nothing to reconcile over since “there was never a split”.
This despite the bitter acrimony and counter-recriminations prior to the two congresses!
The executives who went away were free to return if they so wished, I was told.
There was a caveat though.
The “erstwhile colleagues” had complicated the rules of engagement by bringing in an unknown factor called Arthur Mutambara.
It would therefore be difficult to discuss anything with Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda because of the Mutambara factor, I was told.
“Who is he and where did he come from?” they asked. “How do we talk of reconciliation or unity with somebody who was never in the MDC?”
I asked if the imaginary rift would not affect the opposition vote.
The answer was the same.
There was only one MDC and therefore the issue of splitting votes did not arise.
The few executive members who left the party did not take away any voters with them.
I was left to ask myself why the party fielded two candidates in the Chitungwiza ward and council elections.
The officials said we were also wrong in reading too much into the number of people who attended the MDC congress in Harare.
The president wasn’t happy about the huge turnout, they said.
But he had to follow the constitution which people have accused Tsvangirai of ignoring.
They said the constitution required that every cell head be physically present at congress.
They strenuously denied that the 15 000-throng was a deliberate show of strength.
For their resolutions to have effect they would therefore need about 9 500 delegates for a two thirds majority.
This meant, I was assured, that the congress in Bulawayo couldn’t pass a binding resolution because there weren’t enough people. In short, they violated the constitution.
We were wrong again to say the party did not enjoy overwhelming support in mainstream Mashonaland — especially in rural areas.
The Zanu PF rigging machine was working non-stop in those areas.
But they couldn’t explain why the effort was half-hearted in other parts of the country where the MDC has been winning, from Matabeleland South to Gweru Rural in the Midlands up to Mondoro.
It was an inauspicious discovery I made.
I realised a party that is in deep denial about what is an obvious reality. Could it be true that we are all mistaken about there being factions in the MDC and the real danger that the party is losing voters?
It is one thing for a court to confirm Tsvangirai as the leader of the MDC, but quite another to face the reality that there are two camps and that voters are divided and confused about the way forward.
By denying the existence of factions, the party is refusing to accept the fact that there are other options in fighting the same evil system.
It is denying the synergies that emanate from democratic forces coming together.
There is a danger of mistaking the individual or individuals for the party and pretending that there is no other way of doing things except the proverbial Zanu PF way.
For the truth is that everybody else from civic groups, business and students to churches and other well-wishers can see the chasm in the MDC and this does not augur well for opposition politics.
When the stakes are so high and the enemy is Zanu PF, there is something to be gained from knowing that this is not the time to be making new enemies.
If losing 23 MPs against your 18 means nothing to a party leader, that party must be very strong indeed. Unless the message is that those who voted for these MPs did so for the love of its leader. While a crowd of 15 000
looks impressive inside the City Sports Centre, in a national election that figure is far too thin on the ground.
I concluded that without a positive change of attitude, we are all doomed.
What I discovered is that all the discourse is framed in such a way as to allow for no alternative — there is no room for accommodation, compromise, or other options and that no fruitful exchange of ideas can take place to break the impasse.
Whatever it is that was decided at the City Sports Centre is cast in stone. I was immediately reminded of the MDC trying to make overtures for dialogue with Zanu PF soon after President Mugabe’s disputed reelection victory in 2002.
What could there be to discuss with losers, Zanu PF’s amadoda sibili or hawks must have asked themselves disdainfully.
Yet the whole nation and the international community felt that therein lay the best option for the country. You can already see that playing itself out all over again.
Even interviews with the party leader have become a journalist’s Holy Grail. It’s a pity the way they all turn out the same for all the differing rhetoric! And Zimbabwe and democracy are the biggest victims.
Candid Comment with Joram Nyathi