THE increasingly damaging chaos in Zimbabwe’s splintered opposition hit another low this week as splinter MDC Renewal Team secretary-general Elton Mangoma made the headlines for an alleged adultery scandal and involvement in intra-party violence culminating in fisticuffs.
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
This is irony writ large. In requesting that MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai vacates the party leadership after a drubbing at the 2013 general elections, Mangoma accused him of womanising and violence, among a host of grave leadership shortcomings.
“How will you put closure to the issue of women in your life and ensure that these will not continue to erode your and the party’s brand?” Mangoma wrote in the letter in which he also accused Tsvangirai of “violence visited on staff and myself”.
Mangoma has now lost the moral high ground and must respond to selfsame questions to save his “brand”.
But the ruckus in the party in which Mangoma came just short of confirming he had fallen out with secretary-general Biti and, don’t wait for it, another split could be imminent, suggests personal power interests and ego clashes rather than genuine ideological or policy differences and the desire to advance citizens’ interests inform opposition break-ups.
Thus the opposition has become its own worst enemy. Despite the existence of restrictive laws such as the Public order and Security Act, outstanding electoral reforms and selective application of the law, the general atmosphere is more tolerant to dissenting voices — although the Itai Dzamara disappearance is a reminder we still have some way to go yet.
After the 2013 general elections in which ruling party Zanu PF coasted to a parliamentary majority amid rigging claims, the opposition appears to have failed to take advantage of the period leading to the next elections in 2018 to get its act together by reorganising and forging a united, formidable front.
Talks to that end have not gone far enough and with the exclusion of the MDC-T, any opposition coalition would be enfeebled.
Just last week the Welshman Ncube-led MDC said it had been informed by the MDC Renewal that it had suspended reunification talks to concentrate on resolving internal leadership issues. Pity this comes at a time Zanu PF has its hands full, deeply distracted by internal strife — over President Robert Mugabe’s succession — epitomised by ongoing vicious internal purges, not to mention the economic crisis and abject failure to deliver on its pre-election promises, among other issues.
A unity of purpose continues to elude the opposition, with the various formations working at cross-purposes to serve parochial, self-serving agendas.
The current by-elections are a case in point: The parties’ stand on the polls without reforms is incoherent, if not inconsistent. Contradictions over whether to contest or not are threatening body blows on an opposition already on the ropes.
All music to the ears for Zanu PF, really. That letter by Mangoma to Tsvangirai though had some pertinent advice: “At a time when confidence is plummeting, there is need for the MDC to freshen up, create fresh impetus and rally its troops to remain united and focused.”