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How Zimbabwean Politics may Play out in 2010

AS Zimbabwe enters the year 2010, it is of interest to consider the various possibilities of how the politics of the nation may play in this year.

The nation’s political direction is somewhat unpredictable and thus has no predetermined or mathematical trajectory.

The political parties in Zimbabwe are likely to face a lot of pressure from within and without, which may result in some structural or operational changes. These changes may be intentional or perpetually enforced.

The MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai may face a year of steep challenges as the party comes under resilience and strategy-adaptation tests.

Given the matrix of their newly found glory of being in a shared government, this has ushered in a new dimensional load, which has previously been non-existent.

By being a new player in a government, the MDC-T faces the pressure of proving their mettle to perform at such a grand political stage.

If the MDC-T is going to convince Zimbabweans of its ability to govern then there is a slightly higher expectation upon them than that of their tried-and-tested Zanu PF counterparts.

The MDC-T has the pressure of creating effective visibility in this government of national unity (GNU). This visibility has to come with some earmarked operational distinctions which must clearly reveal the difference between the traditional way of government and the way government should be, courtesy of the MDC-T’s coming in.

The MDC-T has no luxury of blaming the total failure of the GNU on Zanu PF’s contrary muscling and spanner-in-the-works gimmicks.

Rather there is an expectation of surviving the political marriage they intentionally went into. They no longer enjoy the total, old and assumed public sympathy that was characteristic of their outright opposition tag.

Rather, there is a public expectation of their ability in managing to negotiate their way through the political jungle that they married themselves into.

In this case, the MDC-T will likely continue to give maximum attention to their government duties and roles.

This is also against a background of the need to equally focus on strengthening their party structures, resolve and operations in order to prepare for future elections as well as in keeping the party fluid and in shape.

Given that the MDC-T had to pull all its “strong men” into government and given the huge task of this government, I am left to wonder just how much attention will be afforded to party stabilisation and development.

This year, the MDC-T may start to feel the challenges of bifocal operations — operating in a tiring government and at the same time trying to effectively run the party.

In this regard, the MDC-T also has a challenge of managing their supporters’ expectations. Inasmuch as they are not in full control of this government, there is so much expectation for them to show just how different their ministers’ and officials’ conduct is from what Zanu PF has been since 1980.

This will bear so much on the issues of values, democratic discharge and efficiency.

The other dimension that will critically affect the MDC-T is its ideological standpoint. When the party was launched it seemed to exhibit democratic socialist ideals.

These were characterised by the strong labour base and the paramount consideration of the workforce as the core determinant of party policy and direction.

However, over time the party seems to have transformed to embrace a more social democracy dimension in which labour is no longer as visible as it was in its earlier years. The MDC-T must strongly define its ideological identity.

Zanu PF on the other hand enters 2010 with a more robust voice against its leadership’s imposition of candidates and a clearer call for the prevalence of internal democracy in the party. This was the clear message from their incident-filled 2009 congress.

In that light, the party may face bolder voices that will not only call for circumferential leadership changes but will challenge the presidium’s continued dominance in a time which cautiously introspects on their retirement.

The lonely voices that have previously called for their retirement may be joined by more voices from more objective party supporters and from those hopeful of gaining personal stature from such eventuality.

Zanu PF will not be too focused on improving their performance in the GNU; rather their efforts will be in maintaining control of the power echelons of the GNU.

For Zanu PF, government performance will not be a primary motivation this year as their notion seems to dictate that power entrenchment is a weightier determinant of who runs government and who does not.

This in essence will therefore afford them more time for party business than for government duties. I therefore see Zanu PF going all out this year to start preparing for elections in their party structures.

Zanu PF’s internal pressures from the marked power struggles will also likely cause internal purging of the party, sacrificing those standing with “wrong” presidential hopefuls and those whose credentials and public declarations are deemed sympathetic to the MDC-T.

There may be more leaders in the party who will follow the Basil Nyabadza route or may face the Walter Mzembi debacle.

The MDC-M led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara also has its own dynamics to contend with. In this regard, the party may realise just how fast its honeymoon in government may come to an end should an early election come into being. In that regard, the party will likely spend the year considering which party (MDC-T, Zanu PF or other parties) to dissolve itself into.

Then there is the oblivious Mavambo-Kusile factor, which I think has not taken the political space that many thought it would. Simba Makoni is still regarded with some credibility as an individual, but it is unfortunate that his party has not followed that up with any justified muscle to present any meaningful political option.

Makoni is best advised to brand himself out of this Mavambo-Kusile experiment in order to salvage whatever remnant of political respect that he still has.

We also have the re-launched Zapu party led by Dumiso Dabengwa. The party came into life to reclaim the space of the original Zapu which in 1987 had gone into a lop-sided marriage with Zanu.

Zapu has done well in terms of its presence in Matabeleland, parts of Midlands and in some portions of the diaspora. The party may need to re-strategise if it is to make any meaningful headway.

It must also focus on achieving a national rather than regional agenda. Given this scope, Zapu may stand to be another glide into the past unless it transforms its focus, then it can be a party of the future.

On the outlook however, 2010 may see the emergence of a new and strong opposition political party.

This party will most probably come from new political players who have never been fully tainted by the misgivings of the current political parties.

I see this party being able to come in and try to fill some of the gaps that currently exist from the political composition of the parties in existence.

One of the critical areas would be to offer strong and resilient opposition to the parties in the GNU as the current tirade of political madness requires a checking mechanism.

Trevor Maisiri is the Executive Director and co-founder of African Reform Institute — a political leadership development institute based in Harare also operating as a political “think-tank”.


Trevor Maisiri

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