DIVISIONS rocking the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai have exposed the party’s lack of preparedness for presidential and parliamentary electi
ons scheduled for March, a development which might hand victory to Zanu PF on a plate.
The opposition has recently plunged into serious infighting on virtually all fronts, from the women’s assembly, disagreements over inter-party talks, and candidate selection for the elections.
The divisions have seen the opposition diverting attention from canvassing electoral support and shaping a convincing campaign strategy to fighting itself. The dissolution of the women’s assembly opened the infighting, which the MDC had tried to conceal.
Former assembly chairperson Lucia Matibenga lashed out at the MDC leadership, accusing it of violating the party’s constitution. She went to court seeking an interdict to stop an extraordinary congress held last Sunday, a bid she describes as designed to force the MDC to respect its constitution.
Matibenga argued that the MDC’s standing committee had no powers to dissolve the women’s assembly as that power was only vested in the party’s national council. She said the party’s constitution was clear that changes in the make-up of the women’s assembly could only be effected after an extraordinary party congress.
“The MDC leadership is showing it is allergic to strong women, they want women they can manipulate, ” said Matibenga.
Other women in the MDC said the latest episode was driving all the party’s positive energies into the ground. The development has put Tsvangirai under a barrage of criticism over his leadership.
Political analysts said the instability in the MDC ahead of a crucial election against Zanu PF could tilt the electoral scale in favour of President Robert Mugabe despite a plethora of opportunities which need to be harnessed. The MDC has failed to use the worsening economic crisis, price blitz and food shortages as opportunities of advancing their cause.
Political commentator Eldred Masunungure said the turbulence in the MDC — which is driven by an uncontrolled quest for power — drastically militates against winning next year’s elections.
“The MDC are shooting themselves in the foot,” Masunungure said. “Instead of consolidating their support base, they are alienating it. They have a penchant for pressing a self-destruct button at the wrong time.”
Masunungure said it was disturbing that the MDC was scattering their support and greatly diminishing their chances of putting up a formidable challenge against Zanu PF because of unnecessary squabbling at the leadership level.
“The MDC is failing to harness public anger into support,” he said. “Instead of working tirelessly to capture more support for themselves, they are sowing seeds of confusion amongst supporters, a development which might force supporters to stay away from the election.”
Masunungure said the MDC kept on facing these groundless squabbles because of a lack of a unifying factor between supporters and the leadership beyond personalities.
“Unlike Zanu PF, the MDC lacks a unifying force and an ideology which glues the leadership and supporters towards one common goal. Their politics are the politics of poverty. It is politics of survival whereby those seeking to be elected members of parliament or councillors have not achieved anything in life. Politics is the only industry they know.”
He said the squabbles led to the split two years ago and it is conceivable that there could be another formation.
“It won’t be surprising to see another formation sympathetic to Matibenga emerging and that would signal the demise of the MDC,” he said.
Masunungure said public opinion polls conducted in May showed that the MDC was losing ground and instead of concentrating on gathering support, they are fighting each other. Analysts said the MDC support base was fast diminishing because of the party’s failure to capitalise on economic developments and convert growing public anger into a meaningful resistance.
“MDC paid a deaf ear to ordinary people’s cries and anger from the time of Murambatsvina, the price blitz and still continues to do so in the current food shortages plus the deteriorating economic situation,” one analyst said. “Their failure to articulate developments and offer alternative solutions is tantamount to letting down supporters, leaving them doubting its ability to rescue them from Zanu PF tyranny.”
Zimbabwe Peace Project chairman Alouis Chaumba said all the democratic forces were worried about the developments in the opposition, which he said were diluting the momentum to unseat Zanu PF.
“It has become a tradition in the opposition that whenever they are faced with a crucial election, they find themselves disagreeing over petty issues,” Chaumba said. “Their focus then changes from facing the common enemy and resolving national issues to personalities, giving away the election.”
Chaumba said the opposition was letting down its supporters considering the magnitude of disgruntlement over how the leadership is handling developments in the party. Under normal circumstances these failures to resolve internal politics should ring alarm bells to the leadership if they entertain hopes of becoming the next government.
“Conflict in general is not bad but what becomes wrong is the failure to deal with the disagreements internally,” he said. “It casts doubt on whether the party is prepared to embrace democracy at national level.”
Other analysts said at this point in time the opposition should be consolidating its electoral strategy. They should be rolling out campaign strategies for the elections, which are only five months away. They should be identifying constituencies and beginning to rally their supporters behind possible candidates from the grassroots levels. The MDC should not wait for Zanu PF to set the agenda and tone of the elections.
They should be ahead of the ruling party so that its duty would be to counter their strategies and not advance theirs.
The analysts said the MDC would have only themselves to blame for a dismal outcome in the forthcoming elections if they do not put their house in order now.
The uproar coming from the women’s assembly dispute has been described as having tendencies of autocratic management associated with the Zanu PF way of doing things and has attracted criticism from key MDC allies, forcing leader Tsvangirai to call an emergency meeting this Saturday.
One of the MDC’s key allies, the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu), came out in support of Matibenga arguing that the decision to relieve her of her duties broke the party’s rules. Zinasu warned Tsvangirai that the people would punish the MDC by voting for Zanu PF, justifiably so if an end was not found to the mudslinging.
“What kind of government do we want to be when we cannot honour our own covenants and respect the will of the people?” asked Zinasu president Promise Mkhwananzi in a solidarity letter to Matibenga. “What guarantee is there that the MDC as it currently stands will deliver a new constitution to the country and bring back our freedoms?”
Mkhwananzi said they were all devastated at what was going on in the MDC, more so at a crucial period before elections.
“I know that you are the heroines that stood with Tsvangirai during his time of need. We stood with him together with you, because of our genuine desire for a new society based on the respect for and promotion of human and gender equality, but today we are confused. We do not know whether we stood for the right thing or not — the October 12 question remains unanswered.”
The MDC’s latest troubles are testing even Tsvangirai’s most ardent supporters, particularly female backers who feel the party is frustrating ambitious stars in their ranks.
Many backed Tsvangirai when half the MDC’s MPs broke away from him after he rejected a vote of the party’s national council on October 12, 2005.
The MPs accused Tsvangirai of being a dictator when he vetoed the party’s decision to field candidates in senate elections later that year.