THIS year promises to be interesting as different parties gear up for a hectic political calendar which will see the two MDC formations holding their second congresses since they split in 2004 and the drafting of a new constitution, followed by a referendum.
Debate on the next elections will also intensify as the three parties are divided on when they should be held and whether they should be harmonised or just presidential polls.
Also to be seen is whether the government of national unity (GNU) would be extended to 2012 or President Robert Mugabe will have his way — that is elections this year.
While there is no possibility of any leadership renewal in the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, MDC-M is likely to change its name to MDC-N when its secretary-general Welshman Ncube takes over the reins of power from outgoing party president Arthur Mutambara.
Zimbabweans are also waiting to see whether Ncube, the law professor, will elbow out the robotics professor Mutambara from the deputy premier’s position.
MDC-M says it would usher in a rare breed of democracy in Zimbabwe’s politics by having a smooth leadership transition, something that is unprecedented in the country where there is no talk of leadership renewal in Zanu PF and MDC-T, both of which believe that Mugabe and Tsvangirai are the faces of their parties and there is no one else suitable to take over from them.
The smaller MDC formation is holding its elective congress tomorrow and incumbent leader Mutambara has pulled out of the race after most of the provinces nominated Ncube.
While Zanu PF says the succession debate is not an issue and it was up to Mugabe to decide when he wants to step down, MDC-T’s national council resolved that Tsvangirai should not be challenged at the congress scheduled for May 10. Now Tsvangirai is expected to remain at the helm of his party after that resolution and after the MDC-T constitution was amended outside a congress to remove the two five-year term limits.
Last week, speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent in his personal capacity, MDC-M Bulawayo province spokesperson Edwin Ndlovu said 2011 presents a rare opportunity for Zimbabweans to realise that MDC-M stood by democracy tenets.
“As a member of the so-called smaller faction of MDC, I expect to see a phenomenal change in Zimbabwe’s political landscape. After our January congress, in which we expect Professor Welshman Ncube to be elected leader, Zimbabweans would experience real democracy,” said Ndlovu.
He said it would be an opportunity for other political parties, Zanu PF and MDC, to learn “the transference of political power in a democratic manner”.
“What would happen would be unprecedented, a smooth power transfer would be demonstrated and all Zimbabweans who believe in democracy should join us,” said Ndlovu.
But Zapu spokesperson Methuseli Moyo expects “a hectic year as the political calendar would be congested” though saying it was difficult to predict how it would pan out.
The constitution-making process is set to be concluded by September, followed by a referendum and then elections.
“Generally, 2011 is shaping up to be a hectic year. The Global Political Agreement (GPA) tenure is drawing to an end, which naturally would tend to heighten political tension with political parties campaigning for elections,” said Moyo.
However, he was quick to say that political activities should not interrupt agricultural activities. In the past, most of the violence and intimidation occurred in the rural areas in the run-up to elections and immediately after.
“However, with talk of a referendum to pave way for elections that could be held in September, this should not disrupt farming activities as most people in rural areas depend on subsistence farming.
“We feel elections, practically, should be in 2012 but Zimbabwe politics is unpredictable and Mugabe could call and set election dates anytime,” said Moyo.
Brilliant Mhlanga, a media scholar at the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom, said 2011 should for Matabeleland region be a year of making very important decisions and taking stock of all that has happened.
Looking back at 2010, he lamented the “sad occurrences where three late Matabeleland gallant sons” were denied heroes status.
Despite calls from the region and beyond to have the Ndebele paramount Chief Khayisa Ndiweni, former MDC-M deputy leader Gibson Sibanda, and Akim Ndlovu (one of the commanders of Zipra) conferred with national heroes status, President Mugabe’s Zanu PF turned a deaf ear.
Ndiweni (97) died in August in his sleep at his home in Ntabazinduna, about 30 km from Bulawayo. He became chief in 1939 and was one of the longest serving traditional leaders in the country.
He was buried at his homestead.
Mhlanga said: “2011 should also be a year of generational renewal for us, re-aligning of ethos and political engagement; especially with the young generation clearly taking a stand in politics and political positions while at the same time aligning with those of the generation of liberators and freedom fighters.”
“For instance, despite the loss of our loved ones, they also provided us with an opportunity to begin to ask whether we need to have our heroes interred at Heroes Acre in Harare? Second, it was a fateful challenge for us to imagine why we do not have our own national shrine?”
Another major highlight in the region was the erecting of late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s statue.
A North Korean-made three metre statue “honouring” Nkomo described as “small and pitiful” was erected in the middle of the night in Bulawayo at the intersection of Main Street and 8th Avenue.
Weeks later, co-Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi commissioned and decommissioned the statue, saying “the family objected”.
Another statue planned for Harare at Karigamombe Centre in Harare also sparked controversy.
Karigamombe — which means felling a bull — smacked of Zanu PF triumphalism over the late Vice-President’s Zapu party whose symbol was a bull.
Nkomo’s son, Sibangilizwe upped the battle by calling for his father’s remains to be exhumed from Heroes’ Acre in Harare for reburial at his family’s home village.
Sibangilizwe claimed that in his final days, Nkomo complained bitterly about the direction the country was taking.
“My father said he had tried to mould him (Mugabe) into a proper leader but he feared that his efforts were to no avail,” he said.