THERE seems to be an ill wind that blows no good within the MDC-T. The labour-based party has of late been making headlines –– albeit for the wrong reasons.
Report by Stewart Chabwinja
Recent events suggest the party is hamstrung by lack of focus, coherence, unity-of-purpose and –– most importantly –– leadership paralysis.
Senior officials of the party have been making public statements on a variety of burning issues, only for the party to dissociate itself from the same, leaving the officials and party with egg on their face.
Only last weekend MDC-T deputy organising secretary Abedinico Bhebhe told a rally in Matabeleland South the party had made too many concessions in the Copac draft, and encouraged party members to vote “yes” in the referendum as the constitution would be reviewed if the party assumed power.
Hastily, as a damage-limitation measure, the MDC-T rebutted Bhebhe’s utterances, saying it had no such intentions. Suffice it to say, it is not the first time an MDC-T official has claimed they intended to use a new constitution to get into power, after which they would rewrite the constitution.
This latest episode is microcosmic of a growing MDC-T problem in which the party appears disjointed and rudderless, coming as it does hot on the heels of reported clash between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora over the Freedom house survey.
Mwonzora was reportedly reprimanded after his dismissive remarks on the damning survey which says the MDC-T’s popularity is plunging.
Now, more than at any other time in its brief but quite dramatic history, the MDC-T needs strong, focused and decisive leadership. The party, much like fellow unity government protagonists Zanu PF, is at the crossroads. The imminent crunch elections are a make-or-break affair where defeat could be terminal, relegating the party to the national scrapheap of has-beens like Zum, Zanu Ndonga and Zapu.
The MDC-T thus needs all hands on deck to help steer the democracy ship through the stalled constitution-making waters, reform process and election strategy and campaigns. But instead, we have a party that sometimes appears to be on auto-pilot, going through the motions of maintaining a challenge to Zanu PF’s toxic hegemony.
As the constitution-making process hobbles towards finality one way or the other and crucial elections beckon, Tsvangirai –– still the face of the protracted pro-democracy struggle –– appears increasingly distracted by personal issues at a time he needs to keep his eyes fixed firmly on the political ball, or risk a Zanu PF recovery. Indications are that the PM’s 12-day visit to Japan, Australia and New Zealand cost the constitution-making exercise 10 days as principals were required to peruse the draft and make their input.
His current visit to the US means the principals can’t meet to discuss the politburo’s amendments to the contested Copac draft.
Yesterday, yet another twist to Tsvangirai’s love life was splashed in the media, with “ex-wife” Locadia Karimatsenga claiming US$15 000 in maintenance while declaring the two were still customarily married. Fighting the claim in the courts or drawing up a settlement would be an unwelcome headache. The PM has also been linked to several other women, including Loretta Nyathi with whom he has a child he is maintaining.
One can only imagine how much of his time the PM is expending in sorting out such private but damaging distractions, including issuing damage control press statements, to the detriment of his demanding duties as MDC-T leader and Prime Minister. And preparations for his wedding slated to coincide with the signing of the Global Political Agreement –– September 15 2008 –– add to his onerous to-do list, as the arrangements are certainly demanding.
To compound matters, Tsvangirai has occasionally left crucial meetings to attend to private business; a case in point is the recent Sadc Summit in Maputo which he left prematurely to fly to South Africa on personal errands.
Having marched thus far on the journey towards genuine democracy in Zimbabwe in a leadership capacity, those who have invested hope in the MDC-T as the only viable alternative to Zanu PF –– which it still largely remains –– must be wondering if the party is about to stumble just when the finishing line in sight. Tsvangirai, as indeed his entire party, must refocus himself to the arduous pro-democracy campaign for which he has made many sacrifices in order to take Zimbabweans to the land of “change” the MDC-T promised.
No doubt Tsvangirai might have his own explanations for his shortcomings and indiscretions, but as the saying goes, “Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses.”