BY MOSES MATENGA
ANALYSTS yesterday urged the MDC Alliance not to boycott elections as doing so would leave the ruling Zanu PF party enjoying unbridled power.
Nelson Chamisa’s party looks set to fight with the MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora over use of the name MDC Alliance in the anticipated by-elections, a move seen by analysts as meant to confuse voters.
At the weekend, MDC Alliance said it would fight to retain its name, but if it was “stolen” it would not participate in elections whose outcome would be predetermined.
But United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean legal expert, Alex Magaisa said the MDC Alliance should soldier on despite spirited efforts to decimate it ahead of the 2023 elections.
The former adviser to the late ex-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the Chamisa-led party should participate in all forthcoming by-elections and not play into the hands of the ruling Zanu PF party.
“If there is a phrase that must not be entertained by the MDC Alliance right now, it is the phrase ‘boycott by-elections’. Not when the opponents are doing everything to take you out of political spaces. Boycott is exactly what they want you to do; it guarantees an easy ride,” Magaisa tweeted yesterday.
“You might boycott when you have leverage, as when Morgan (Tsvangirai) withdrew from the violent and farcical presidential run-off election in 2008. The costs of participating were higher than the costs of boycotting. Morgan had won the first round. (The late former President Robert) Mugabe running alone afterwards was a sham.”
“The opponent must know that there is a price to pay if you boycott. There is no price to pay for Zanu PF or MDC-T if the MDC Alliance boycotts by-elections. In fact, the opposite is true: they have everything to gain, with the strongest party abandoning its strongholds.”
Magaisa said the MDC Alliance needed to rejuvenate its grassroots.
“The leadership should be bold, bullish and uncompromising. What’s in a name? The most urgent issue is not the name, but rebuilding an institution that has been deliberately and purposefully shelled over the past year. Let them stop you, but don’t boycott — it would be catastrophic,” he said.
Analyst Rashweat Mukundu said boycotting elections was not a good idea.
“I don’t think it is a good idea. We know the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe is not free because of the nature of the management of the electoral management body that is essentially controlled by the ruling party. But fighting elections whether they are free or not is actually part of fighting for the democratisation of Zimbabwe,” Mukundu said.
“Boycotting will serve the interest of Zanu PF and will not serve the interest of advancing democracy in Zimbabwe. For me, engaging in elections is not a question of being happy with the processes, but is a question of maintaining the front for the fight for democracy.
“We have seen that opposition parties boycotting elections can only play in the hands of the ruling party. In the case of Zimbabwe, the MDC Alliance has to deal with identity issues and has to deal with mobilising a lot of people to vote and deal with its identity.”
MDC Alliance secretary-general Chalton Hwende on Sunday told NewsDay that Zanu PF and the MDC-T were working towards decimating their party after taking over their party offices, finances, Members of Parliament, councillors and now the name.
He said it would be better not to contest in any election if the party name is “stolen” by Zanu PF working in cahoots with the MDC-T.
“Mwonzora is just an accessory to the theft and we are not even worried about him. We want to deal with the real thief.”
Mwonzora’s MDC-T has maintained it is the rightful owners of the name MDC Alliance and will use the name in the forthcoming elections.
Zanu PF has rubbished claims that it is working with the MDC-T to decimate the MDC Alliance, adding that opposition parties should resolve their issues.
The country awaits by-elections to replace over 40 MDC Alliance MPs and 80 councillors who were recalled by the MDC-T, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it would be guided by the government through the Health ministry on the way forward on by-elections.
- Follow Moses on Twitter @mmatenga