AFTER 14 years in the trenches on a rugged political terrain where it appeared to be on the verge of finally wresting power from Zanu PF, the MDC-T seems to be now radarless in the aftermath of its heavy elections defeat.
The labour-backed MDC-T, which presented the first formidable challenge to President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political dominance since entering the political fray in the 2000 elections, appears to be in disarray amid renewed infighting. Zanu PF secured 197 of the 270 seats while the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T won 70.
Mugabe won 61% of the presidential vote while Tsvangirai secured nearly 34% in what observers said could mark the end of his political career. However, the MDC-T maintains the polls were flawed owing to systematic rigging.
Thus, the MDC-T will mark its 14th anniversary at Sakubva stadium in Mutare tomorrow, heavily weighed down by uncertainty at a time intra-party wrangles are widening as a result of the setback and the on-going self-introsepction process.
It is rather ironic that the party will mark the anniversary under the theme “Claiming the People’s Victory” when it is still licking its wounds.
However, party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora defended the theme arguing the party was celebrating after losing a “stolen election where the people’s will was subverted by Zanu PF”.
“The celebration which comes soon after the stolen victory in the just-ended election could not have come at any better time as the people of Zimbabwe seriously need to reflect on this monumental indictment of a people’s march to victory in the history of mankind,” the MDC-T said.
The MDC-T insists it lost elections because Zanu PF, through state institutions, manipulated the electoral processes although some political pundits blame the party for being complacent, failure to organise structures, naivety, imposition of candidates as well as lack of a strategy to unseat Mugabe.
MDC-T organising secretary Nelson Chamisa and his colleagues have been widely criticised for the party’s defeat.
Despite what appears to be a devastating electoral setback, political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said considering that Tsvangirai has been a major threat to Mugabe’s rule since 2000, the party had done fairly well.
“In its 14 years the MDC-T has had both the good and the bad as can be expected,” said Nkomo. “It’s been a mixture of all, but we should give them credit for standing against an authoritarian Zanu PF regime,” he said.
In its maiden electoral participation in 2000, the MDC-T won 57 parliamentary seats against Zanu PF’s 62, but the number dropped to 42 seats while Zanu PF garnered 72 in 2005.
Nkomo said the MDC-T’s performance between 2000 and 2013 indicated the party managed to create nightmares for Mugabe and Zanu PF and has thus made history.
However, another political analyst Chamu Mutasa said despite the MDC-T’s bravado in previous years, the party was in a panic mode and it doesn’t seem to have a plan on how to extricate itself from below the Zanu PF landslide and regroup for the next elections in 2018.
Nkomo laid into the MDC-T for numerous cases of corruption involving councillors from the previous government, while factionalism and imposition of candidates impacted negatively on the party’s image.
But the MDC-T has defended its performance saying: “It is not an illusion that over the past 14 years the MDC has established itself as a formidable political force in Zimbabwe and characteristically our most ardent critics and enemies are always unsettled and unnerved by this gesture of our periodic renewal. It is therefore not surprising that perennial and rabid critics from Zanu PF get incensed and would go all out concocting all sorts of ill-conceived ideas and myths towards our well intended gesture to the people of Zimbabwe.”
However, despite the concerted efforts to convince Zimbabweans that all is well in its camp, events on the ground suggest it is becoming increasingly difficult to paper over the cracks Tsvangirai’s 14-year hold on the party could be under serious threat amid reports that some senior party officials are baying for his blood as they demand leadership renewal even before the elective congress in 2016.
Among those said to be interested in Tsvangirai’s job is MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti who is said to be pushing the ‘2016 agenda’ where the leadership is set to change, according to MDC-T insiders.
However, Biti has denied moves to topple Tsvangirai. While the original MDC constitution had a two five-year presidential term limit, Tsvangirai pushed for an amendment which scrapped the term limit.
Tsvangirai stands accused of imposing candidates including his close ally, former Housing minister Giles Mutsekwa, to contest in the July 31 elections despite him losing primaries to lawyer Arnold Tsunga in Dangamvura constituency. Tsunga went on to beat Mutsekwa.
In what is certain to be a worrying development for Tsvangirai, senior provincial members have taken to the social media to air their discontent over the alleged “stifling of internal democratic expression” by the party’s top brass. The celebrations tomorrow will offer Zimbabweans the chance to gauge the cohesion and strategy of the MDC-T going forward.