Flip-flopping: Tsvangirai’s political tact or weakness?

Source: Flip-flopping: Tsvangirai’s political tact or weakness? – NewsDay Zimbabwe May 11, 2016

AFTER rolling out a nationwide “No Reform, No Elections” Campaign last year, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai brewed a shocker last week when he announced that his party would participate in the 2018 general elections.


There have been no electoral reforms yet, and President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF has been reluctant to reform the electoral laws, but Tsvangirai said his party would push for the reforms between now and the next elections.

His poll announcement, made in Bulawayo last week, come at a time the MDC-T leader has also issued conflicting statements about his party’s participation in a coalition of opposition political parties to battle with Mugabe.

In some reports, Tsvangirai said he was willing to join a coalition, and his party issued a joint Independence Day statement, but he immediately made an about turn, saying he would go it alone because his tenure in the unity government with Mugabe’s Zanu PF party taught him painful lessons against political alliances.

Such has been Tsvangirai’s political life and fresh questions have been triggered on whether his flip-flopping was a political tact or a weakness that could forever compromise his march to State House.

Political analyst Alexander Rusero said such flip-flopping showed that the MDC-T leader still had a lot to do in terms of his decision-making process.

“His behaviour, actions or utterances depend on what the last person he would have talked to had said. This manifests a serious void in his decision-making process,” Rusero said.

“Inconsistencies show that his party has a serious ideological crisis. There are silent battles of choice and strategy in his party and Tsvangirai suffers from trying to appease the factions. The likes of Nelson Chamisa do not want a coalition, others want and Tsvangirai is caught in-between and this is where his problems in making decisions manifests.”

Rusero said Tsvangirai was a political player to reckon with as was proved during the 2008 elections.

“But inconsistency is becoming the order of the day not only in him, but his entire party, in as much as decision-making and standing by decisions they make is concerned,” he said.

“Flip-flopping is no longer a viable political strategy in the 21st century. Indicating left and turning right is disastrous politically.”

Rusero said Tsvangirai, as a leader of a political party, should stand firm and principled or else history will judge him harshly.

South African-exiled former MDC-T treasurer-general Roy Bennett once revealed in the American Wikileaks cables that Tsvangirai took the advice of the last person he would have communicated with over a matter. The claims, according to Rusero, were fast being validated by the former Premier’s inconsistences.

But MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said there were no contradictions from his party, but in the minds of those “people who are not intelligent enough to think”.

“For starters, the MDC has never, ever adopted a policy of boycotting elections. We have simply adopted the policy known as ‘Without reforms, no elections’, simply because we are calling for the adoption of broad-based electoral reforms as aptly captured in the national electoral reform agenda (Nera) document, which has been signed by more than 10 opposition political parties,” he said.

“There’s a world of difference between boycotting elections and calling for the adoption of electoral reforms before participating in any elections. Elections are a process and not an event. As regards coalitions, we have made it abundantly clear that all issues to do with coalitions fall under the office of president Morgan Tsvangirai. At the right moment in time, president Tsvangirai will publicly announce what exactly is happening behind the scenes and behind closed doors.”

Tsvangirai last year said his party would not participate in any election before electoral reforms, a move that forced him to snub by-elections in constituencies he had recalled 18 MPs who sided with his former secretary-general Tendai Biti after the split of the party.

Biti and MDC-T former deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma had been fired for demanding leadership renewal in the MDC-T to give a fresh “impetus ostensibly because confidence was plummeting,” after the party’s embarrassing defeat to Mugabe’s Zanu PF in the July 2013 polls.

Tsvangirai, who has been the leader of MDC-T since its formation in 1999, was attacked by many for recalling the MPs and snubbing the by-elections.

But Tsvangirai was quoted saying: “We are preparing to participate in the 2018 elections and we are very categorical about it. What we are saying is that when we go to that election, it must give the people the confidence that the election will not be usurped like the 2013 one.

“We are participating in the 2018 elections and we are very confident that obstacles that were placed in our way before will be removed by the time we go to the polls.”

He insisted that he was still open to joining a coalition with other opposition political parties to unseat Mugabe.

His utterances came days after the former labour leader managed to pull a good crowd to demonstrate against Mugabe’s alleged misrule.

Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said flip-flopping was an inherent weakness in Tsvangirai’s political style which did not inspire confidence in his supporters.

“Flip-flopping is part of his political trade mark. It is a weakness, not anything else. It is not motivated by strategy,” Masunungure said.

“It’s a weakness his rival, Mugabe does not seem to have even at his advanced age. This is a confidence-eroding, rather than confidence-building trait in him. People do not know if he will stand by what he says today.”


  • comment-avatar
    Joe Cool 7 years ago

    I would say that anyone who says ‘an election is not an event’ is ‘a person who is not intelligent enough to think’.

  • comment-avatar

    weakness — definitely

  • comment-avatar

    It is more than a weakness it is a character flaw that is not going go away where he is concerned. The problem though is that he has surrounded himself with intelligent enough people that will cover his flaws. Its a great shame really that we have other options in opposition worth supporting.