THE possibility that either of the two factions fighting for supremacy in the opposition MDC was bound to say “we-told-you-so” over the senatorial election outcome was a forgone conclusion.
What was doubtful was how harshly the electorate would judge either faction for squandering voters’ goodwill and attempting to take them for granted.
But last Saturday’s poll outcome appears to have squashed all apprehensions the electorate had about an event tailor-made to suit the ruling Zanu PF’s designs.
And it left no doubts who between a pro-senate faction led by secretary-general Welshman Ncube, fronted by his deputy Gift Chimanikire or those against led by party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai had the luxury to say they had their finger on the pulse of the electorate.
The MDC still has a vision to confront government and change the political mindset that seeks to acquiesce to Zanu PF’s misrule.
“Our call was a demand for a people-driven constitution, a free and fair election and an end to dictatorship, corruption and the cruelty we are suffering under this regime,” Tsvangirai said.
Commenting on the poor showing by the pro-senate faction, MDC information and publicity secretary Paul Themba Nyathi bemoaned having to vote amid division within the party.
Critics had said participation presented unfair advantage to Zanu PF candidates.
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) vice-chairman, Douglas Mwonzora, said: “It was clear that the senate was meant to be a cushion for Mugabe’s exit. There is no way the Zanu PF machinery would not manipulate this election to suit Mugabe by allowing the opposition to win a few seats to legitimise a flawed process.”
The NCA, a key ally of the opposition MDC, joined the anti-senate lobby and rehashed its campaign to demand a new constitution through nationwide demonstrations. The Constitutional Amendment Act that re-established the senate was a creation of a skewed process, it argued.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), another key MDC ally, ratcheted up pressure on government to reverse deteriorating living standards. Both issues run in the same vein along MDC’s political agenda.
“The decision made by millions of Zimbabweans is a decisive statement against any piecemeal and half-baked approach to the national crisis,” Tsvangirai said in a statement soon after the poll result.
“We have been vindicated. We were proved right in our assessment of the national sentiment. This was a vote of no confidence in Zanu PF and its allies,” he said.
Of greater political significance for both losers and winners is the way forward after the senate.
Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro of the University of Zimbabwe and MDC advisor says if the party has to play a relevant role in the politics of this country, differences must be resolved through the political process not through the courts.
“A court of law can never decide who should run the party although there are people who seem to think this should be so.”
Mukonoweshuro added: “A party should be run on the basis of the will of the people.”
Tsvangirai says the polls outcome demands of the MDC leadership a major paradigm shift that focuses on resolving the national crisis and legitimate forms of pressurising Zanu PF to accept a new road map to change, based on a new constitution.
He says the MDC leadership must change gears from discredited election processes that bring pain to the electorate to an era of democratic mass confrontation with the dictatorship — an era of non-violent mass resistance.
“That is the way forward,” Tsvangirai said.
Zanu PF party spokesman for senatorial polls Webster Shamu said the poll result demonstrated the electorate’s support for President Mugabe and confidence in the ruling party.
“We are calling on all Zimbabweans to join hands and focus on the development of the country and addressing the economic challenges that the country is facing,” Shamu says without elaborating on how Zanu PF’s victory would help achieve this.
Critics say the senate is an additional burden on the taxpayer and a millstone round the ailing economy’s neck. “It is just another way of broadening the areas of patronage,” Mukonoweshuro says.
But Parliamentary Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa says the electorate can expect a harmonised, concerted approach in legislation “in pursuance of economic recovery”.
“The priority at the moment is turning the economy around and senators are expected to make major contributions in debating ways to achieve this. We expect they will sponsor bills targeted at attaining this goal,” Chinamasa says.
“They (senators) are expected make valuable input in the Zimbabwe College for High Education Bill, the Zimbabwe Development Bank Bill and the Zimbabwe Investment Bill when senate opens on December 13.”