Opposition political parties in Zimbabwe, especially the various MDC formations, are a disappointing lot that have continued to let the people down and the struggle for a just, democratic Zimbabwe.
By Dumisani Nkomo
Instead of focussing on mobilising the people on issues affecting them, they have continued to major on minor things and in effect have taken opposition politics back to the mid-1990s.They have become a microcosm of Zanu PF only that they are a lot weaker since they do not enjoy incumbency and the support of the coercive structures of the state such as the army, police and intelligence forces.
There are several factors that have weakened and continue to weaken opposition parties, particularly the MDCs. The foremost reason why the opposition parties have and will falter is their failure to unite as noted by Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa. The fact is the opposition will never win elections unless they form a formidable united front capable of challenging and defeating Zanu PF.
The only way the opposition can unseat Zanu PF in the next elections is by forming a formidable issue-based united democratic front which has segments of progressive breakaway Zanu PF members and a whole lot of new leaders between the ages of 25 to 50.
This united front should be inclusive including the MDC–T, MDC Renewal Team, MDC Green, National Constitutional Assembly and Zapu as well as progressive individuals and institutions. I do not agree with the many antics of the MDC–T, including blatant blundering by their leader Morgan Tsvangirai and cases of violence, intimidation, among others, within their party, but the fact is a united front without Tsvangirai and his party will be very weak. Likewise, a united front without MDC Renewal and MDC Green will be very weak because the two parties have rich intellectual capital and political history, but questionable grassroots support.
Zapu would be crucial with it’s rich ideology and links with former and current members of the military establishment. No one should come into this united front thinking that they ware or will be the automatic leader because it may actually be the best idea to choose somebody who is not even leading any of those parties to lead this new coalition so as to do away with all the history and excess baggage.
The MDC–T has let down the people of Zimbabwe by engaging in an exercise of political suicide by literally donating 21 seats to Zanu PF after “expelling” 21 of its MPs. If the MDC-T decides not to contest in the by-elections, it will literally be donating those seats to Zanu PF, hence betraying the people by failing to defend democratic space that they gained through the 2013 elections. If they participate they will confirm their status as perpetual flip-flops and masters of political acrobatics as a party that has no permanent position on anything and everything except being in perpetual opposition to anything and everything.
The recalling of the 21 MPs will also adversely affect any chances of a united opposition for the elections much to the joy of Zanu PF.
The United MDC is being bogged down by small-mindedness, personal interests and in some cases personal ambitions which override capacity.This will lead to a weak and fragmented opposition. Obviously, infiltration can never be ruled out as it is expected in politics in any country.
To enter into the rough domain of African politics and not expect infiltration would be the height of political naivety, hence opposition parties need sound intelligence infrastructure and stratagem built into their systems in order to deal with this ever present threat
A number of opposition MPs have turned themselves as into “Missing Persons” both in their own constituencies and in parliament. Nauseatingly, they enjoy being called “honourables” without understanding what it means first to be honourable .
The late Sihambile Jeqe Stephen Nkomo was an MP for over 20 years and he never, even for once, behaved unhonourably like this undeserving horde of MPs who have failed to hold even constituency feedback meetings with the people who elected them so as to give feedback on parliamentary proceedings.
Some have even failed to visit their constituencies and a most of them are just there to warm the benches. This is unlike the days of Micah Bhebhe, Sidney Malunga, Byron Hove, Edward Ndlovu and Lazaruzas Nzarayabani who gave ministers a tough time in parliament even though there were only one or two news outlets at the time. There are few exceptions though, like Jesse Majome and a few others, but most of them have failed to represent the people in parliament .
With the advent of information and communication technology, one would have thought opposition members of parliament would take advantage of Twitter and Facebook to engage their constituents, but alas, they are waiting for the next elections before they can open accounts on Facebook or Twitter.
Those who are active on social media, however, expend their energy on character assassination, petty fights among themselves.
Our opposition parties have failed to resonate with issues affecting ordinary people and have failed dismally to take advantage of factionalism within Zanu PF and instead they continue to disintegrate and create more parties like amoebas.
Unlike in South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom, where politicians actively contribute their views on pertinent issues in newspaper columns so that people understand their policies and perspectives, most of our opposition politicians seem unable or unwilling to engage these mediums of communication. It was pleasing to see Moses Mzila-Ndlovu writing on the Maleme issue in a local paper. Others that have done well in this regard include David Coltart, Eddie Cross, Nhlanhla Ncube and Obert Gutu .
The times have changed and we need leaders that can engage the public on important national issues by taking their ideas onto public platforms.
Nkomo is Habakkuk Trust CEO and spokesperson of the Matabeleland Civil Society Forum. He writes in his personal capacity. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org