The Shona have a wise saying: Kangoma karirisa kave pedyo nekubvaruka, implying that there is always a limit to the amount of pressure the drummer can exert on his instrument while playing it and anything beyond what it can absorb can result in its disintegration and the music coming to an abrupt end.
These words can explain expelled MDC-T treasurer-general Elton Mangoma’s drama resulting in his subsequent suspension before expulsion from the MDC-T.
However genuine the leadership renewal agenda is, what can hardly be disputed is the fact that its execution was a catastrophic disaster with far-reaching consequences not only for Mangoma, secretary-general Tendai Biti, treasurer Roy Bennett, Elias Mudzuri and party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, but for the party itself and its relationship with the donor community.
A new terrain has been opened up to be explored by all parties involved in the drama as the status quo has changed never to be the same again.
Indeed, apart from the institution of the party itself, Biti appears to be the main loser from this debacle and not Mangoma, although all along he pulled his strings from behind, leaving almost everyone to guess where his allegiance lay.
Not only did the renewal team misfire in its grand plan to unseat Tsvangirai unconstitutionally, but their agenda became shallow and vulnerable on scrutiny, considering the fact that while they claim to be advocates of democracy, they don’t respect not only party decisions reached at by consensus but also its constitution .
Mangoma rejects not only his suspension, but also the expulsion which the renewal team erroneously views as null and void.
In light of these contradictions, how can Mangoma, Biti and Mangoma’s lawyer Jacob Mafume, who was also legal adviser in the then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office, justify their attack of Tsvangirai for being a dictator who doesn’t abide by the constitution, yet they themselves have no respect for the ideals they claim to champion?
These contradictions raise all sorts of questions which remain unanswered, thereby diluting the renewal team’s argument.
As a compromise, the party had given in to the idea of bringing forward the date of the congress a year earlier as opposed to 2016 where elections for the new leadership were to be conducted, a climb-down that should have resolved the impasse amicably.
Unfortunately for Mangoma and the renewal team, this isn’t enough for Tsvangirai is supposed to resign now and not tomorrow, outside congress. Where is the democracy that the renewal advocates purports to champion?
Beside refusing to acknowledge his suspension, which Biti rubbished as null and void, Mangoma nicodemously held meetings throughout the country with party structures in violation of his suspension terms.
Does a genuine democrat with presidential ambitions and the party at heart behave in this rogue manner?
Without doubt, Mangoma and the renewal team have no respect whatsoever for the party and their loyalty instead lies with the donor community.
This is a monumental mistake in the execution of the renewal agenda for the idea of removing Tsvangirai outside congress, although popular with the donor community, is resented by grassroots supporters who constitute the incumbent’s power base.
Mangoma and team greatly misjudged this equation, hence their plan getting into smoke. Tsvangirai, just like Mangoma and Biti, made numerous blunders in the past from which he should draw lessons.
In the same way, Mangoma and Biti were among the team of negotiators during the Government of National Unity (GNU) who failed dismally to bargain in favour of the opposition.
Their failure is Tsvangirai’s and vice-versa, except for the incumbent’s private love affairs.
For Mangoma and Biti to distance themselves from the failures of the opposition during the lifespan of the GNU but instead blame all this on Tsvangirai is being hypocritical and meant to please the donor community.
Grassroots supporters don’t buy this cheap narrative for they are wiser than is assumed by the renewal team.
Or, could it be that Mangoma’s manoeuvres are meant for nothing other than publicity?
One wonders for whose benefit besides the former treasurer-general, if his agenda is funded by someone else? Isn’t there a realisation within the rank and file of the renewal team that they are oiling Zanu PF’s propaganda machinery to the detriment of the party?
Or, do they care after all? Exploring these issues in depth raises serious questions which unfortunately remain unanswered, for instance, the Zanu PF connection which most party members fear as well as the role of the donor community.
To what extent is Bennett, one of the worst victims of Zanu PF’s evil machinations, aware of Mangoma’s game which, to an extent, appears to draw a Zanu PF connection?
Indeed, Mangoma’s manoeuvres become suspicious, more so when he attempts to drag the party to the courts with the full knowledge that the judiciary is allegedly compromised in favour of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF and it would not be expected to rule in Tsvangirai’s favour in this case.
One wonders why Mangoma just does not leave the party peacefully after being expelled and form his own party, or join one of the several parties that have mushroomed including Lovemore Madhuku’s NCA?
Also, not to be underestimated is the part played by outsiders including the donor community in fuelling the renewal agenda.
Isn’t it in the public domain that those funding the renewal offensive already have names lined up to succeed Tsvangirai?
Advocates of the renewal agenda did make a monumental blunder in failing to realise and respect their power base which is the ordinary people in Chiendambuya, Chikwakwa, Checheche and Mzilikazi for that is where their umbilical cords are buried and not in London or Berlin.
They are answerable first and foremost to the grassroots structures and not the donor community for they are the ones who elevated Tsvangirai during the previous congress and subsequently, reserve the right to demote him accordingly if they so wish.
That is the democracy Zimbabweans yearn for.
Tsvangirai may have moderate education, but he appeals to the electorate better than professors for he is a man of the people and is well aware of his support base, unlike Mangoma. In any case, what is education if it is devoid of conscience?
That being said, it should be emphasised that debate on the succession issue in the MDC should be encouraged as acknowledged by Tsvangirai himself for renewal is the natural process of guaranteeing continuity.
Even the Chinese, in spite of their long history of dictatorship, have realised the necessity of changing leadership once every 10 years as a natural way of perpetuating the life of the Communist Party and economic development.
Let every post be contested for in the forthcoming MDC-T congress and there should be no sacred cows.
If in South Africa ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe squared up against President Jacob Zuma, why shouldn’t Biti, Mudzuri, Bennett or Chamisa challenge Tsvangirai for the top post without tearing the party into pieces? That is democracy; not advocating the resignation of the incumbent without a vote?
Democracy entails Tsvangirai participating in this contest unless he is not interested as long as that is in line with the constitution of the party.
In addition, the opposition should guard against external influences that may destabilise its operations and survival. In order to succeed in this endeavour, reliance on donor funding should be curbed with immediate effect for donors don’t fund political parties for peanuts, but for influence.
Either the opposition becomes self-reliant and determines its own destiny or they thrive on crumbs from the donor community and subsequently lose their voice for he who pays the piper calls the tune.
The renewal agenda in the MDC is a noble idea in itself for it guarantees continuity, but once it is hijacked by greedy and self-serving individuals like Mangoma with a hidden agenda, it loses appeal and is subsequently resented by the ordinary card-carrying party cadres.
Mangoma overestimated his appeal among party members and ended up overplaying his drum, hence its disintegration into pieces as he was expelled from the party.
Muchayi is a pro-democracy political analyst who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org