MDC-T pressing explosive self-destruct button

FOR many Zimbabweans, including progressive forces keen to see the country’s long-cherished dream of genuine democracy and economic progreess realised, the internal strife over leadership renewal which precipitated the violence that rocked the MDC-T last week is most perturbing.

CANDID COMMENT by STEWART CHABWINJA

Last Saturday, among others, MDC-T deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma was beaten up by party thugs at the movement’s Harvest House headquarters while secretary-general Tendai Biti escaped by a whisker. A day later a party activist was beaten up by drunken youths at a rally in Glen Norah: his crime? Alleged allegiance to Mangoma.

In 1999, backed by civil society, labour and student movements the MDC was formed, in its own words, “on the basis of carrying on the struggle of the people; the struggle for food and jobs; peace; dignity, decency and democracy; equal distribution of resources; and justice, transparency and equality of all Zimbabweans”.

Noble goals indeed, and little wonder the electorate quickly reposed its confidence in the MDC-T, which promptly established itself in robust opposition to Zanu PF’s political hegemony.

However, it appears those values and guiding principles have been gradually but seriously eroded, sacrificed as the temporary trappings of power and office took their toll.

MDC-T intraparty violence is worrisome not least because its message of peace and tolerance — among the cornerstones of democracy — struck a chord with Zimbabweans who had come to regard violence as Zanu PF’s stock-in-trade. That on several occasions violence has broken out at the MDC-T’s Harvest House headquarters is instructive.

The likes of the party’s former senior official Trudy Stevenson, director-general Toendepi Shonhe, co-ordinator for policy and research Fortune Gwaze and even journalists have been attacked by party thugs.

Elsewhere violence has regularly marred the party’s rallies. The party’s 2011 congress was preceded by violence and intimidation.

Said Tsvangirai then: “We know those people causing violence. We have records and pictures which show people who were causing problems. We know there are some party leaders who were sponsoring this violence, and they also face expulsion, as they will be investigated thoroughly.”

Despite the investigations no action was taken. Needless to say, the buck stops with Tsvangirai as party leader. Recently, he has personally intervened to “rescue” several senior party officials from the wrath of party hoodlums, including Mudzuri and Mangoma back in January. But instead of playing dubious saviour, Tsvangirai must uproot violence from the party.

Biti’s comments elsewhere in this issue are pertinent: “After all, we have been victims of violence and intolerance from Zanu PF. So for us to then seek to inflict that on ourselves, It is simply not good enough and it’s not acceptable.”

In a struggle, there is always the risk of internalising elements of the enemy being fought against.

As the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche put it, “those who fight with monsters should look to it that they don’t become monsters themselves.”