The acrimonious spat in the MDC-T has not only shaken the foundations of the main opposition party, but, at worst, exposed the limitations in the mindset of those purporting to be fighting for freedom.
Not to the surprise of many, Speaker of parliament Jacob Mudenda refused to be dragged in the mud by both the Tendai Biti and Morgan Tsvangirai camps in their tug-of-war through returning the case to each camp with the advice that a court of law was the best avenue to seek redress and not parliament.
This decision is not surprising for several reasons.
First, Mudenda, being a staunch Zanu PF member, did not want to give the impression that he is an interested party in the MDC-T wrangle for the issues at stake are internal to the opposition party.
In addition, wisdom taught Mudenda that parliament has nothing to do with internal matters of a political entity like the MDC-T, for the issues at stake could only be resolved by a court of law and not the Speaker.
In addition, chances are remote that Mudenda could have made an early ruling for how can he stop the music when President Robert Mugabe still dances on the stage?
It is naïve and at worst misleading to assume that the Speaker is not interested in the affairs of the opposition for the longer the confusion drags on in the camp, the easier it becomes for Mugabe to entrench his dictatorship, thus perpetuating his grip on power in spite of his advanced age and misrule. Hence the decision to refer the case to the understaffed courts where it can drag on for years at the expense of the opposition and the oppressed.
Now that the case is back in the hands of complainants Biti of the Renewal Team and MDC-T deputy president Thokozani Khupe, what are the implications of seeking redress in a court of law?
As it stands, neither side is prepared to test the depth of the river as the current is unpredictable, not forgetting the fact that it’s infested with hungry crocodiles waiting to grab even a floating log.
By complying with Mudenda’s advice, both Biti and Khupe would have sought sanctuary in a lion’s den because Zimbabwean courts are considered as being supportive of Mugabe at the expense of those seeking justice, making the MDC-T factions’ move synonymous with seeking treatment from a witch.
It is no secret that under Mugabe’s rule, the judiciary has increasingly been perceived as sadly an extension of Zanu PF’s repressive arm and for the opposition to approach this institution to resolve its internal matters is naïve and at worst unfortunate.
In any case, Biti’s camp would be the first to take such a gamble not only because it has little to lose from this debacle, taking into consideration the fact that expelled MDC-T deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma has pursued this route before although without success in a bid to block his expulsion from the party.
Indeed, the camp may also capitalise on the combined legal expertise of Biti and his new-found ally MDC leader Welshman Ncube to push for a court confrontation, not forgetting Mugabe’s blessings for their agenda as pronounced in his recent utterances when he weighed in into the saga.
Since Mugabe has publicly exposed his interest in the case, it’s a wonder if any judge would dare rule against the Renewal Team; hence it is a better option for the Biti camp to follow Mudenda’s advice.
However, the route is a double-edged sword for both camps as it loosens their grip on the case, leaving it in the hands of someone to deliver a final verdict, which may not be favourable.
In addition, a court tussle isn’t only time-consuming for both camps, but costly financially at a time the Tsvangirai camp especially is in dire financial constraints, a dilemma the Biti camp may capitalise on as they are alleged to have the backing of donors.
In addition, a court confrontation would be a blessing in disguise for the Biti camp as it can be a effective public relations machinery at the expense of the Tsvangirai camp that is likely to be badly bruised even if it wins, for who would opt to dry their pants in public?
How many knew Jacob Mafume (Renewal Team spokesperson) before except that he was a losing candidate for the MDC-T in one of the Harare constituencies before the emergence of the renewal agenda only a few months ago? That is the publicity Biti and his camp strive for before launching their own party and the Tsvangirai camp doesn’t benefit anything from this dogfight for they stand to lose, not gain.
However, of much concern is the newly-found understanding between Biti and Ncube who seem to have made peace with Mugabe with their new common enemy now being Tsvangirai.
In his countless public utterances, Mafume rarely makes mention of Mugabe, a development that raises suspicions more so when the country is on the verge of an economic meltdown, the ugly face of unemployment showing no signs of receding, repression continues, not forgetting Mugabe, 90, continues his reign widely blamed for reducing the country into a basket case.
As the fight rages on, it is Zanu PF which stands to gain for the drama in the opposition camp masks Mugabe’s flaws, thus diverting attention of those fighting for emancipation.
The economy is in ruins, Mugabe isn’t getting any younger and it’s a matter of time before Treasury fails to pay the civil service, and who in their right minds would bother to dwell in triviality as is the case in the MDC camp?
Isn’t this drama synonymous with the folly of the proverbial man who leaves his house in flames to pursue a rat fleeing from it? What then can be done to solve this puzzle?
Both camps would acknowledge that the issue at stake isn’t unique in the history of Zimbabwean politics for Ncube and Arthur Mutambara’s tug of war for control of the MDC provides the most recent case from which lessons can be drawn.
Since each side appears to give the false impression that Mudenda’s decision was victory on its side, one wonders what their next step is as they navigate the thorny terrain ahead.
The Tsvangirai camp, through the MDC-T leader’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka, so far gave the clearest hint that they would proceed with recalling Biti and the other MPs in his faction from parliament since Mudenda’s response is interpreted as a green light on their side, with the Biti camp preferring to take a back seat, waiting to respond to the enemy’s offensive.
By proceeding to recall the renegade MPs, the Tsvangirai camp appears naïve and misinformed as the decision is based on the flawed premise that Mudenda is an honest broker in the whole affair and that there is respect for the constitution by the Speaker, yet the reverse is true.
Mudenda will not entertain this move in spite of the ample evidence to justify it since the MDC debacle is music to him and his Zanu PF party, although he would obviously give the opposite impression in public.
The Tsvangirai camp cannot afford to be humiliated when Mudenda pours mud in its face if it attempts to recall the renegade MPs for how can Mudenda contradict Mugabe’s wishes?
The best the Tsvangirai camp can do is to secure their assets and wait for time as Biti’s camp can’t wait to form its own party with a different name and brand.
The tussle for the party’s name is only a strategic manoeuvre by Biti to serve a particular objective whose lifespan is short-lived.
Biti has hinted on that in the past by saying he has an unfinished business to accomplish before forming his own party. Given this scenario, what is the wisdom of fishing in a crocodile-infested river unless one plans to commit suicide?
At this juncture, time is the best healer as evidenced by the Ncube-Mutambara pitched fight that died a natural death. Let Biti form his own party and that is the right moment for the Tsvangirai camp to pounce for the kill by approaching Mudenda because as things stand, Biti cannot wait any longer to have his own brand.
Unless Biti takes the offensive and calls the first shot, there isn’t any point in seeking redress in the courts as advised by Mudenda in spite of the strength of the case at hand as there are crocodiles tangled in the dragnet waiting to pounce and they are hungry indeed. He who blinks first risks losing the MDC-T factional fight.
Muchayi is a pro-democracy and political analyst who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org