By Dumisani Muleya
THE political drama engulfing the MDC-M (now MDC-N) after its recent controversial congress has provided President Robert Mugabe with a God-sent piece of good fortune which he is now milking to further fracture the already divided party and run it ragged ahead of elections.
Mugabe is making the most of the political windfall to serve his power agenda, including that of presenting the inclusive government as dysfunctional to push for early elections. While his party is divided on the issue of elections, Mugabe is determined to hold the polls before the end of the year with or without a new constitution.
That is why he will continue to scrounge for a plausible pretext to justify polls which many Zimbabweans do not want as yet for different reasons.
In the meantime, the storm of bulldust raging over the dynamic power struggle between deposed MDC-M leader Arthur Mutambara and new MDC-N boss Welshman Ncube (outside the circus of dismissals and counter-dismissals) will intensify. But there is method in the madness.
While all sorts of interpretations and permutations could be worked out on this issue, there are some clues which cannot be clouded in the ensuing chaos. One of them is simply that Mugabe is acting in his own political interest.
He is not doing all this political juggling for the benefit of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mutambara or Ncube. Whatever the game plan, he is doing it for himself.
Although there could be common self-preservation interest between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara in this issue, Mugabe is the one who stands to benefit hugely if Mutambara remains in the government through his goodwill and in his pocket.
There is no doubt that Mugabe is “massively hand-holding” Mutambara and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him in all this fight for calculated political benefit. He may want to perform political smoke-and-mirrors to disguise his intentions, but his game plan is fairly clear.
Mugabe effectively told Ncube on Tuesday and Wednesday that he does not want to remove Mutambara and won’t. Ncube got this message loud and clear. Mugabe even delivered it in Ncube’s native Ndebele language, perhaps for the record and avoidance of doubt. This is what happened on Wednesday at State House.
The point here is that Mugabe is playing power politics. He is in a Machiavellian mode and trying to get his rivals caught in a web of political deceit. He has positioned himself like a political vulture salivating to feast on the MDC-N carcass to emerge fitter and stronger in the inclusive government.
To do that in the midst of this chaos, Mugabe has roped in Mutambara to his side and would unleash him as an attack dog against Tsvangirai at the level of principals, while trying to finish off the smaller MDC party which has not been as helpful as he would have wanted in the coalition government.
Of course the MDC-N is not a threat to Zanu PF but it is a nuisance. If the party is destroyed and Zapu remains as main challenger against MDC-T which Mugabe wants to neutralise mainly in Matabeleland –– its original power base –– the better for Zanu PF. Zapu and Zanu PF, despite their mutual hostilities, can at some level find common ground.
Zanu PF and the two MDC factions can only have a marriage of convenience like they have now in the GPA and resultant GNU. Most Zanu PF officials openly say this and would rather have Zapu winning in Matabeleland than MDC-T or MDC-N.
This is why Tsvangirai must be wary of Mugabe’s intentions on this issue. Besides Tsvangirai must stand on the side of democracy and not end up unwittingly endorsing the same political culture and practices he is supposed to resent and be fighting against.
Tsvangirai must take a principled position and not be associated with Mugabe’s shenanigans. A principled stand will eventually help to boost his reputation in the final analysis and help him protect his Matabeleland base.
Associating himself with such unmistakable Zanu PF deceit and snake oil politics can only damage Tsvangirai’s image as a resilient democratic campaigner who has been badly treated and humiliated by Mugabe in the inclusive government.