Zimbabwe is held captive under a Mugabe/Tsvangirai vortex of a decade-long stalemate and disputation.
The two have lost their Nelson Mandela moments due to their failure to deal with succession issues in their respective parties.
President Robert Mugabe may have been the first to lose his moment, but MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai seems unwilling to lose the momentum.
Recent developments in the MDC-T reveal a painful reality that Zimbabwe’s former premier may no longer be a viable alternative to Zanu PF.
While recent media reports have tended to be narrow and therefore focus on Tsvangirai’s immediate past inadequacies, a broader view of his leadership style reveals a more devastating scenario. There are five broad strands of rationality that vindicate this sad conclusion.
First, his leadership has been subjected to so severe questioning by his own lieutenants such that ordinary Zimbabweans no longer perceive him as a reliable janitor of their future.
Second, his failure to abide by the party constitution and the values of his party puts to doubt his commitment to uphold the laws of the nation, never mind its national values.
Third, he has not been able to demonstrate any difference from Zanu PF, presenting difficulties in placing the former premier as an alternative to his own day-to-day consciousness.
Fourth, Tsvangirai annihilated the people’s hope for a new Zimbabwe for varied reasons.
And last, Tsvangirai blunders so constantly and consistently that this has now become his leadership trademark or hallmark.
To begin with, the former MDC-T deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma’s prediction that Tsvangirai would only remain at the helm of the party under “questioned leadership” has been vindicated.
Reports that Tsvangirai is now avoiding top party organs responsible for policy and decision-making, preferring rallies and unconstitutional meetings, point to a man who has lost direction and control of the party.
To the extent that MDC leader Welshman Ncube and his team lost confidence in Tsvangirai as they got closer to him, Mangoma and his peers have done the same.
The only logical conclusion to make is that the closer one gets to Tsvangirai, the more likely they will lose confidence in his leadership.
And so, if his close lieutenants lose confidence with increased proximity, why must Zimbabweans who have no chance of getting close to him have hope and trust in him?
This simply means that if Zimbabweans were to continue trusting and supporting him it would be out of sheer ignorance of his leadership qualities that make it obvious that the MDC-T would never win any election in Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai’s penchant for disrespecting the party constitution and values is now public knowledge. This was perfectly captured in Mangoma’s second letter to Tsvangirai copied to all members of the party’s national council.
Tsvangirai has resorted to unconstitutional measures to deal with perceived enemies from within and this is disheartening as it erodes his hard-earned democratic credentials.
In fact, the subsequent purging of members with divergent views by Tsvangirai makes a mockery of the party’s name as a democratic movement.
Is it not ironic that the so-called rebels are the ones calling for Tsvangirai to return to party values and party constitutionalism?
Tsvangirai will therefore have a torrid time trying to convince Zimbabweans that replacing Mugabe and Zanu PF is a noble task when his own behaviour more than resembles that of Mugabe.
And so MDC-T national executive member Elias Mudzuri may have been right to ask, if “we can’t respect our own constitution, why should Zimbabweans expect us to respect the national constitution?” As one Facebook comment noted: “Why should we have problems with Mugabe’s dictatorship, if we are building another in Tsvangirai?”
Tsvangirai’s recourse to violence to quell internal challenge exposes him as a violent person, just like Zanu PF, if not worse. To a large extent, Zanu PF comes out as a better outfit as it has largely avoided the use of violence to settle internal party scores. This is not to say that its use of violence on MDC supporters is acceptable. It is barbaric and archaic.
While to his credit Tsvangirai has presented himself as a brave and selfless leader, he ruined the people’s hope for various reasons. Of great significance, resolutions and challenges identified by the National Working People’s Convention at the Women’s Bureau have not been resolved 15 years after the formation of the MDC.
Some of the challenges identified include the disempowerment of the people and breach of the rule of law through state-sponsored violence and abuse of human rights; inability of the economy to address the basic needs of the majority of Zimbabweans; severe decline in incomes, employment, health, food security and well-being of people; unfair burden borne by women and persistence of gender discrimination in practice; and the decline and in some cases collapse of public services.
In addition, there has been lack of progress in resolving land hunger and rural investment needs; the weak growth in industry and marginalisation of the vast majority of the nation’s entrepreneurs; persistence of regionalism, racism and other divisions undermining national integration as well as widespread corruption; and lack of public accountability.
Whereas people participation in constitution-making is questionable, this is arguably the one and only achievement to date for the movement. And yet the MDC-T roadmap articulated in 2006 did not set constitution-making as the only target.
One of the key targets of the roadmap was that the MDC-T would win general elections and form the next government. Of course, just like many of the issues identified by the National Working People’s Convention, this again failed to materialise.
So the July 31, 2013 election was a defining moment that placed it beyond doubt that Tsvangirai had his best moment only in 2008, even though he ended up running away to Botswana instead of pushing for state power takeover.
The number of strategic blunders — or are they bad strategic decisions — made by Tsvangirai are colossal. Some of his major blunders are the MDC-T’s reliance on critiquing bad governance (Google politics), an exhausted and hardly understandable concept by ordinary citizens; failure to publicise the efficacy of sanctions to the domestic market resulting in Zanu PF taking advantage of same; failure to articulate a clear ideology; and public posturing of receipt of support from the white farming capitalists when Zimbabweans are visibly hungry for land. All this was aggravated and epitomised by his questionable ideological associations as evidenced by his visit to the Democratic Alliance in South Africa to source financial support.
Added to these, Tsvangirai has failed to develop strong alliances with key stakeholders that he worked with during the formative stages of the MDC as well as with national liberation parties, yet he exhibited strong alliances with London and Washington.
He also failed to focus on the conditions of living for Zimbabweans beginning with his failure to mobilise support for victims of the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina, which displaced more than half a million Zimbabweans.
Tsvangirai blundered in the manner that he handled elections, as he did not have plan B from 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2013.
With regards to the 2013 elections, the MDC-T failed to counter populist Zanu PF messages. Some within the MDC-T think that Tsvangirai is not his own man.
He is exceedingly predisposed to Nelson Chamisa, the law student, church deacon and inexperienced youthful party organising secretary.
One of the critical issues that Tsvangirai will find difficult to explain to Zimbabweans is how he has managed to secure continued accommodation at the expensive Highlands house.
This house possibly symbolises the selling out of the democratic struggle by Tsvangirai and places him in a situation where voters no longer have confidence that he is in a position to challenge Zanu PF.
Even more, unanswered questions regarding the misappropriation of US$1,5 million during the purchase of the Highlands property, raises serious questions.
The former premier has a mammoth task ahead to convince the masses that he is in this struggle for their cause and that he remains uncompromised by rich pickings from the Government of National Unity. Many believe that he is no longer an alternative to Zanu PF for many reasons.
Kundishora is a political analyst based in Harare. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org