MDC its own worst enemy

IT is a fact that intra-party squabbles and the tactics of one-upmanship have since time immemorial been known to leave political entities badly bruised and

benumbed from self-inflicted blows. There is nothing to gain from internal strife but the opposition Movement for Democratic Change appears to have difficulty grasping this truism.

For a long time, the MDC has oftentimes pretended that talk about internal squabbling is a creation of the media or political opponents. But the current crisis — spawned by the party leadership — is too obvious to hide.

In a nutshell, Morgan Tsvangirai’s executive stands accused of subverting the party’s constitution by dissolving the women’s assembly leadership and imposing Theresa Makone, the wife of his advisor Ian Makone, to head the group.

This is the worst form of advertising for Tsvangirai as a leader of an opposition party that fancies itself as an alternative government to the hopeless Zanu PF administration. Without any good reason, Tsvangirai and his cohorts have in the past two years elected to refocus the party from the core business of putting pressure on the Zanu PF government to engaging in an embarrassing tangle of infantile fights, backstabbing and gossip.

The pace of degeneracy from the split of October 2005, the failed reunification discourse spanning the greater part of last year, and the party’s failure to respond to the national crisis, has only helped to amplify the extent of the leadership deficit in the party.

It should be noted that at the time of the party’s formation cynics raised doubts about whether the MDC leadership was capable of evolving in tandem with the changing political circumstances in the country and chart a path for its transformation from a mere movement to a political party ready to form the next government. They were right.

The MDC executive, especially its leader Tsvangirai, has failed in the transformation stakes. The party under his watch has morphed into a rudderless entity which owes its current existence more to public sympathy and popular hatred of President Mugabe’s Zanu PF than to prudent leadership.

After the 2005 split, Tsvangirai went around the country tapping public opinion on the way forward. The verdict was clear that opposition supporters wanted unity, and they still want unity. The differences within the opposition — which resulted in the split — had nothing to do with popular will but inflated egos and lack of tact. The current strife is no different. It does not reflect the situation on the ground among grassroots supporters.

One trait of a good leader is an ability to keep a party together — notwithstanding contesting views therein — and to use the energy of the group to march towards a common goal. But alas, in the MDC, it is Tsvangirai who has elected to amplify the differences and ensured superficial cracks developed into crevices and then chasms which over time have become impossible to bridge. Worse still, in the current episode Tsvangirai has worked to create a crisis where there was none in the first place by fighting the influential women’s assembly.

We do not know what Tsvangirai thought he would achieve by fighting Lucia Matibenga and trashing the party’s constitution. This is an unnecessary sideshow on the eve of a crucial election.

One is tempted to think that Tsvangirai deliberately creates problems to test his own leadership prowess and hopefully emerge stronger after solving them to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. He does not appear to be on top of this game.

At a time when the country is crying out for visionary leadership ahead of next year’s elections, the supposed head of the opposition is now fighting for his own survival as party members have ganged up against him. Tsvangirai at the moment has his back to the enemy as he is facing off with supposed allies. A leader in this position is vulnerable from both sides. Meanwhile, there is still Mugabe to contend with.

The MDC today should go through a serious process of introspection. The party should start to question whether the current leadership has been effective in driving the democratic process forward. As things stand, the present approach is not working for the MDC or the country.

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