HomeOpinionDemocrats are not yet born

Democrats are not yet born

Jacob Rukweza

THE national executive committee of the opposition MDC has deferred discussion on the contentious dissolution of its women’s assembly until the natio

nal chairman of the party, Lovemore Moyo, presents a comprehensive report on the circumstances surrounding this debacle.

In the wake of the MDC fiasco, Zimbabweans in general and the local media in particular have reacted with outrage, attacking and maligning party leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the process.

A barrage of vituperative expletives has been thrown at the MDC leadership with embittered women calling Tsvangirai a male bigot, while others have called him a dictator.

Others have called him a hopeless politician while the state media has celebrated the current goings-on in the MDC while conveniently flagging the “we told you so” placard.

The hysteria that has characterised the reaction of these Zimbabweans to the controversy surrounding the ouster of Lucia Matibenga should be understood in the context of a desperate populace which cannot stomach watching its dream of a new Zimbabwe seemingly going to the dogs.

However, the clearest signal from this public anger is that Zimbabweans from all walks of life are heavily banking on Tsvangirai and the MDC to deliver a new Zimbabwe.

The MDC national leadership is set to meet again soon to discuss the matter of the women’s assembly in order to come up with a way forward.

In coming up with a viable way forward on this matter, it important to avoid playing to the gallery and take time to correctly locate the dynamics at play in the life of the MDC as a political party.

Party members have used different premises to characterise the problems bedevilling the MDC which they say are as old as the party.

What is notable in the recent frenzy against the MDC leadership is that at the forefront of the crusade are known sympathisers of the MDC leader some of them having stood by Tsvangirai during the tumultuous October 2005 split.

Ordinary party members have called it dictatorship, and fervent feminists in the MDC have been quick to point to male chauvinism.

Officials in the party have talked of nepotism and patronage and MDC MPs and founder members have blamed the “kitchen cabinet” for ill-advice.

Intellectuals in and outside the party have referred to lack of sophistication on the part of Tsvangirai.

What all critics of the MDC leadership have failed to appreciate in all this political grandstanding is the manifestation of a basic instinct in human nature — the pursuit of power.

In pursuit of power (personal or collective), chauvinism, dictatorship, nepotism and patronage are atavistic tendencies conveniently employable by anyone pursuing power in the absence of binding restrictions.

The modern concept of constitutionalism is premised on the appreciation of the fact that human beings are products of the most undemocratic societal unit called family.

For instance, as children human beings do not elect to be born, as children human beings do not choose parents or relatives, children do not choose their race or nationality, they do not choose their religion, lifestyle, diet, attire or the schools they go to.

All these fundamental choices despite their permanent bearing on one’s life are dictated by powerful parents who are not obliged to consult their off-springs as espoused by democratic principles.

Human beings are products of a process of socialisation in which the father or mother as breadwinner and powerful head of the family dictates moral principles, ethics and values with children expected to cooperate lock stock and barrel.

The bottom line here is that because the family institution is an express dictatorship it can only produce power-mongers and dictators.

This short lesson in elementary sociometry may assist Zimbabweans in general and MDC members in particular to understand that because humans are products of an institution that is administered by dictatorship they are bound to revert to this way of life if no checks and balances are put in place to deal with and contain this tendency in human beings.

These checks and balances should not just be put in place, they must be collectively enforced by those who are bound by such regulations.

Human beings are not born democrats — democracy is a virtue that human beings struggle to embrace and practice.

It is one thing for the MDC members to call themselves a democratic movement and quite another thing to practise democracy.

Constitutions whether national or organisational have been designed to deal with the caprices of dictatorship as a human tendency while ushering in a dispensation of constitutional democracy where members or signatories to a constitution are bound by the democratic precepts of that document.

In as much as MDC members have a moral obligation to abide by the dictates of the party constitution they have an even greater obligation to enforce the constitution to guide the conduct of any member who displays the expected propensity to undermine the constitution — including the party president.

More than anything else the current problems in the MDC are a result of ignorant party officials who have failed to appreciate the crucial and forever sacrosanct function of the MDC constitution as a microcosm of the national constitution.

Accusations that Tsvangirai has subverted the MDC constitution only become possible in a situation were timid national executive committee members collectively and consistently fail in their duty to make the MDC leader and members abide by the constitution.

That the MDC constitution has been subverted should not surprise anyone in the MDC.

In any case why do nations and organisations have constitutions if no one is bound to break them?

What should surprise and anger people in and outside the MDC is if and when the party’s elected national executive committee fails to enforce the constitution at its crucial meeting this weekend and in future.

And when it happens, it is not just Tsvangirai who will be culpable but all those elected men and women in the national executive and other MDC structures who have campaigned for leadership positions when they are not clear of their duties and obligations in the party.

The infantile anger that we are currently noticing in the rank and file of the MDC is indicative of a group of weak and undiscerning party officials who have been tolerating the subversion of the party constitution by powerful individuals in the party while naively hoping that one day it would stop on its own.

Already, detractors of the MDC are busy writing the epitaph of the opposition party on the basis of the current divisions spawned by the unconstitutional dissolution of the women’s assembly and the attendant ouster of Matibenga.

Conclusions have already been made by reactionaries and doomsayers who have already written off the MDC’s preparedness to win general elections next year.

The over-excited state media — desperate for dramatic news — is already forecasting another split that, in their wishful thinking, will paralyse the MDC before its burial in the March 2008 elections.

But the future of the MDC will not be decided by clueless media functionaries whose interpretation of national politics is at best pedestrian and often informed by parochial beer talk.

The future of the MDC will be decided by those men and women elected and entrusted with enforcing the MDC’s democratic constitution as a guiding compass towards a new Zimbabwe.

It is also critical to remember that the turmoil rocking the MDC today is not a new phenomenon at all.

It is a common characteristic of political movements in Zimbabwe and across the continent.

A revealing book by the late professor Masipula Sithole — A Struggle Within The Struggle — tells of more colossal upheavals that rocked Zanu as a liberation movement between 1963 and 1979.

The protracted internal powers struggle that characterised the life of the nationalist movement before Independence did not just prolong the liberation struggle thereby giving a longer lease of life to colonialism; it had fatal intra-party ramifications.

The current turmoil in the MDC is not insurmountable.

If anything, it is a test of character for those elected MDC officials who have a collective responsibility to enforce the party constitution as we struggle towards a new Zimbabwe.

However, if the elected MDC leaders collectively fail to manage their affairs meticulously beginning now, the ultimate result will be a delayed new Zimbabwe and prolonged suffering for the masses.

Let it be known that entertaining the futile adventurism represented by the purveyors of the so called “third way” solution will not take the struggle for a new Zimbabwe forward but backwards as the history of the liberation struggle will show.

Misguided elements calling for new leadership in the MDC will find themselves in the same predicament once again if there are no party cadres strong enough to enforce the party constitution and stand their ground in the face of powerful or power-mongering new leaders.

* Jacob Rukweza is a sub editor at the Zimbabwe Independent.

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