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MDC-T Conflict Sparks Debate on Opposition Alternatives

  • Ndimyake Mwakalyelye

Movement For Democratic Change supporters captured at one of the party rallies. (File Photo)

Movement For Democratic Change supporters captured at one of the party rallies. (File Photo)

The change and high expectation brought in by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), when it entered the political scene in 1999, has been replaced by dismay, as Zimbabweans witness yet another split within the once unified party.

The already splintered MDC led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, has split yet again, following calls by Secretary General Tendai Biti and other members, for Mr. Tsvangirai to step down.

The party first split in October 2005, following the same calls by then Secretary General, Welshman Ncube. The once strong party that gave Zanu-PF and President Robert Mugabe one of the toughest challenges, starting with the parliamentary elections in 2000, followed by the presidential elections in 2002 and 2008.

But analysts say the party’s divisions, aside from allegations of voter fraud, likely cost the party the 2013 elections.

Independent political analyst Ernest Mudzengi says the call by the party’s then Deputy Treasurer-General, Elton Mangoma, for Tsvangirai to step down, set off the chain of events.

“The Elton Mangoma issue, he wrote a letter to the president literally asking him to step down, was the major turning point in that in-fighting.”

Blessing Vava, another Harare-based political analyst, says the MDC was a question of time.

“We saw it coming a few years ago when we realized that the direction the party was now taking was not the correct path.”

Despite reports of cracks within Zanu-PF, Vava says the weakened MDC-T has now exacerbated Zanu-PF’s stronghold in power. In light of this, many are examining alternatives to the labor-based party, to still keep Zanu-PF in check.

Vava says no opposition party or leader, including Lovemore Madhuku’s National Constitutional Assembly, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn led by former presidential candidate Simba Makoni, or the MDC led Professor Welshman Ncube, can unseat Zanu-PF.

“I don’t think all the parties have what it takes to unseat Robert Mugabe,” Vava says, adding that the parties lack the necessary qualities.

”Politics and the political movement is all about the bets, all about tolerance, it’s all about, at the end of the day, being united, and coming up with a common goal.”

Another challenge facing opposition parties, other than the MDC says Mudzengi, is that Zimbabweans have settled for either Mr. Mugabe or Mr. Tsvangirai.

“Masses on the ground are currently for the MDC or Zanu-PF. So to find another party coming that will seriously challenge the hegemony of these dominant political parties will take time.”

Vava takes a swipe at the country’s civil society, which he says, in the absence of a strong political party or leader, has been too partisan and removed from the plight of the people. Simply, he says, civil society has failed in its civic duty.

“We’ve have seen a civil society that has been a replica of the political parties, be it MDC, be it Zanu-PF. But mostly, a civil society that was mostly driven by what the donor wants – donor resources are what were calling the shots, in the programming instead of programs coming from the people.”

Despite what appears to be a hopeless situation for the MDC-T, Mudzengi says Tsvangirai still enjoys the support of the people, and, internal conflict notwithstanding, could unseat President Mugabe.

“Tsvangirai remains a darling of the masses. He remains widely popular among ordinary Zimbabweans. But it’s one thing to be popular among the masses, and it’s another to be able to wrestle power because issues to do with boardroom politics are also important.”

But Vava argues rather than waiting for the MDC to regroup and re-strengthen, or another party to emerge, Zimbabwe’s best hope for change, has to come from the Zimbabwean people, particularly, its youth.

“The fight within the MDC has absolutely nothing to do with the people of Zimbabwe. They have no solution to address the socio-economic problems that are bedeviling this country. It’s all about occupying the positions of power, that’s what they are fighting for. The people of Zimbabwe it’s now high time they organize themselves to claim their birth place.”