MDC should not play into Zanu PF’s hands

By Pedzisai Ruhanya

RECENT events in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) over leadership differences in relation to the senate election need reflection in order not to allow the Harare regime to get awa

y with its numerous misdemeanours in the administration of national affairs since 1980.


It is my opinion that after the dust has settled, the MDC leadership across the board should seriously reflect on whether their petty differences over the senate election were either in the national interest or the party’s interest.


I submit that the differences were not in the national interest because it is taking the country backwards and allowing President Robert Mugabe to create his grand goal of creating a one party-state in the country which the MDC has for the past six years successfully fought.


It is therefore crucial for the MDC leadership to examine their differences and see whether it would not be better for them to admit that they are losing track by playing into the hands of the dictator.


While recent events suggest that the two groups are irreconcilable, there are a plethora of common denominators that should unite them.


Firstly, the greatest of all evils that this country is faced with – the repressive institution called Zanu PF and its equally repressive state apparatus – are still intact and abusing human rights in the country.


Secondly, the leader of this institution, Robert Mugabe is still defiant and continues to legislate repression through laws such as Aippa, Posa and the Constitutional Amendment Number 17.


Last, but not least, the economic meltdown continues unabated. These issues should unite the opposition more than any other factor.


The opposition would be wrong to concentrate on their in-house problems at the expense of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. For instance, while the MDC is busy fighting itself, Mugabe is busy violating fundamental national and international human rights norms as they relate to freedoms of movement, association and expression.


The recent confiscation of former MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi’s passport should send clear messages to the MDC leaders that despite their differences, Mugabe and his cohorts continue to treat them as “enemies of the state” who should not be allowed to leave Zimbabwe and exercise their freedoms. Today it’s Nyathi, tomorrow it could be Morgan Tsvangirai and the next target might be Professor Welshman Ncube or Tsvangirai’s vice-president, Gibson Sibanda.


It is my submission that the rift over the senate poll should unite the MDC leadership and jerk them into realising that Zanu PF wants to deal with them as a political group.


The Nyathi incident should also enlighten those in the opposition party who suspected that Zanu PF was supporting the other faction.


I do not share this opinion, particularly the belief that Ncube connived with the state in the treason trial of Tsvangirai. It ignores Zanu PF’s history of treason trials of genuine opposition leaders in the country since 1980.


It should be remembered that Mugabe, through the Central Intelligence Organisation, charged all legitimate opposition leaders with treason, starting with the late Joshua Nkomo, Dumiso Dabengwa and the late Ndabaningi Sithole.


These were genuine nationalists with legitimate complaints about Mugabe’s repression. The same applies to Tsvangirai and the MDC.


That Tsvangirai and his colleagues pose the greatest challenge to Mugabe’s political hegemony cannot be contested. That the MDC under Tsvangirai, in my opinion, won the 2000 and 2002 parliamentary and presidential elections, is a popular view among many Zimbabweans that cannot be disputed.


It is against that background that Tsvangirai was charged with treason, not the allegations against Ncube.


Any views to the contrary would be to play into the hands of Mugabe at the expense of healing the differences in the opposition.


Such views are not in the interest of political reconciliation in the MDC because they exonerate Mugabe and the CIO’s roles in destabilising the opposition. This would amount to celebrating Mugabe’s treachery and at the same time allowing him to run away with the gospel.


Mugabe not Tsvangirai, Ncube, Sibanda and Isaac Matongo destroyed Zimbabwe. The MDC should thus realise that and swallow whatever differences the leadership has and confront the dictatorship.


The MDC should also examine why the government did not prosecute Sibanda when he allegedly called for a separate state in Matabeleland. The regime balked because Sibanda never made those remarks. If he had done that and the state had evidence, surely Sibanda could have been charged with treason for calling for secession which is not even allowed under international law. This was CIO work meant to destabilise the opposition.


It could not be taken to court because, like in the Tsvangirai treason trial, where an international conman, Ari Ben-Menashe, was used as a star state witness, even an infiltrated judiciary would find it difficult to convict Sibanda.


Moving around the country denouncing Tsvangirai or Ncube will not assist the democratic struggle that the country is facing, but moving across Zimbabwe denouncing the confiscation of citizens’ passports, food shortages and the huge democratic deficit in our country will make Zimbabweans come together in the call for transparent electoral and legitimate governance in the country.


According to the political spiral model of politics as described by some scholars, Zimbabwe under Mugabe is experiencing the denial stage where the repressive administration is denying that it is violating human rights in the country despite both domestic and international pressure and outcries on the situation obtaining in the country.


What then needs to be done according to this model of politics in the Zimbabwean crisis is to ratchet up both domestic and international pressure on Mugabe and his administration to the extent that he is forced into making tactical concessions by making genuine democratic reforms in the legislature, executive and judiciary.


This should be done through the call for constitutional reforms that will entail the birth of democratic institutions capable of producing legitimate electoral outcomes. This is why the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) route is the way forward.


Zimbabwe almost reached this phase in 2000 after the constitutional referendum but the opposition then became more reformists and in the process lost the momentum by dining in the structures of the regime.


Having realised that he had made some concessions and the opposition was gaining more ground by winning almost all urban municipal elections, Mugabe changed his gears and started to be more repressive. He is now firing elected mayors and tightening his grip on his illegitimate powers. The country is now back in the denial stage.


What the MDC needs to do now is to unite and join civic colleagues in piling more pressure on the regime. It is my submission that such pressure would bear results because the international community is now more aware of the crisis of legitimacy and governance affecting Mugabe. This has been seen through the confiscation of citizens’ passports, the recent UN missions to assess effects of the clean-up and the continued onslaught against the independent media.


This time around, the government should not be allowed to make piece-meal reforms, but far-reaching democratic reforms leading to free and fair elections.


Mugabe should not be allowed to dictate the nature of changes in Zimbabwe’s body politic. He should be made to abide by national and international democratic norms of state behaviour.


* Pedzisai Ruhanya is former deputy news editor of the banned Daily News.

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