The buzz-word during the heated council meeting was that the party should “disengage” from the unity government with the ageing President Robert Mugabe because of the veteran leader’s naked violation of the global political agreement and the adamant refusal to find a closure to the outstanding issues of the pact.
Tsvangirai was stunned by the candidness of his fellow council members and their willingness to walk out of the inclusive government and ended up gingerly giving in to the demand for a referendum on the government.
Since then, the party has held several consultative rallies throughout the country where its leadership has been unequivocally told to remain in government, albeit to restore economic stability, democracy and peace at the expense of the MDC’s ultimate goal — attaining power.
It is quite evident that most Zimbabweans do not want to relive the suffering they endured in the past decade, especially last year, when the economy almost ground to a halt. They went for days on end without food and bore the brunt of political violence.
A poll on the MDC website on whether or not the party should walk out of the inclusive government yesterday showed that 61,1% of the 244 voters wanted the party to remain in government. The poll on the website started on September 24.
It is clear from the preliminary results of the consultations and website poll that the majority of MDC supporters and Zimbabweans at large want this inclusive government to continue in operation despite the hurdles it is facing. The hurdles are mainly to do with power relations between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
The reality is that Mugabe still retains power given his control of the security organs of the state and information. It is common cause in politics that the one who controls the security, information and financial apparatus of the government is at the helm.
Tsvangirai has the financial portfolio under him, but without security and control of information, he does not have real power. Senior members of his party, among them, secretary-general Tendai Biti and incarcerated deputy treasurer Roy Bennett have since conceded that they signed a bad deal last September which gave birth to the unity government.
Biti told the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe at their annual general meeting in Nyanga in July that the agreement was “an atrocious document”.
So the fight which Zimbabweans are refusing to be part of at this moment in time is one of power between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. People are more concerned with bread and butter issues and are of the opinion that the inclusive government has thus far delivered.
In any event, does the MDC have any other option to pursue if it quits the inclusive government?
Eddie Cross, MDC national council member and one of Tsvangirai’s trusted advisors, writing on his website recently said the other option for his party would be elections.
Cross wrote: “Zanu PF has to ask itself now, ‘what happens if the transitional government collapses?’ Make no mistake; it will not be back to normal business and looting for the Zanu PF thugs. Sadc would have no alternative but to become engaged and this time there would be no Mbeki to protect Zanu PF interests.
MDC’s position would be quite simple — let’s go back to the people and settle this once and for all.
“For Zanu PF that is the very last thing they want — they and Mutambara want the present transitional arrangement to last for five years in the hope that MDC will screw up and they can benefit from the gradual recovery that is under way.
They also hope that by the end of the five-year term new leadership might be in place in Zanu PF and they might be able to reenergise the party. There is no hope for Mutambara unless the present arrangement persists,” Cross added.
If this is the thinking among MDC leaders pushing for disengagement then they are targeting the trees and missing the forest.
The party should remain in the inclusive government as they stand a better chance of changing things from within the government.
Calling for early polls is not an option before a new people-driven constitution is crafted. Any election under the current supreme law — whether there are international observers and monitors or not — would result in Zanu PF resorting to its old dirty tricks: violence and rigging.
Let me conclude my advice to Tsvangirai and the MDC by quoting University of Zimbabwe political science professor and a noted critic of Mugabe, John Makumbe: “It is important for the MDC to remain in government because all the democratic space they are currently occupying is not in the hands of Zanu PF.
Withdrawing from government will not be good for democracy and the country and will be a negation of everything that the people have fought for since 2000.”