The ‘big tent’: Searching for a leader

Source: The ‘big tent’: Searching for a leader | The Financial Gazette November 17, 2016

By Alois Masepe
DZIKAMAI Mavhaire, a member of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF), was recently quoted by the press at a rally in Gutu West saying: “(President Robert) Mugabe has said (Morgan) Tsvangirai can’t lead because he did not fight in the liberation struggle, now (Joice) Mujuru is here.
He said Tsvangirai is not educated, Mujuru has a doctorate. Let us have a woman (president) for a change…”
ZPF did not publicly rebuke Mavhaire for showing such startling political naivety, myopia and recklessness, giving rise to the impression that what he said had currency, resonance and traction within ZPF.
Douglas Mwonzora, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) secretary general, stung by this innuendo on his leader, Tsvangirai, responded at a Ruwa political rally by stating that the best leader for the grand coalition must be one who has beaten President Mugabe before in an election.
The above positions between the two political gladiators — Mavhaire and Mwonzora — demand that we look more closely and dig deeper into the political dynamics obtaining in the opposition theatre as attempts to come up with the so-called opposition “big tent” or “grand coalition” unfold.
According to Tsvangirai, the big tent is a political home for all pro-multiparty democracy forces: Opposition political parties, workers and student unions, human rights and church groups, and other democracy-oriented institutions.
I have said it before and I want to repeat my position that the Zimbabwean political arena has within it two political positions.
On one side of the divide we have the proponents of the one party state rule system and on the other side, we have adherents of political multipartyism.
The ZANU-PF and PF ZAPU Unity Accord in 1987 created a big tent for believers in Marxist-Leninist and the one party philosophy.
In addition, the ZANU-PF constitution states that the party believes in the Marxist-Leninist doctrine based on one party state rule.
In my view, there is nothing wrong in believing in Marxism/ Leninism and the one party state doctrine or in any other political ideology for that matter. That is what freedom of political thought, association and expression is all about.
The problem comes when the adherents of a given ideology behave differently from what they profess to believe in or indulge in ideological affiliation or allegiance play-acting. That conduct is defined as political “fejafeja” (dishonest), subterfuge or infidelity.         After the Unity Accord between ZANU-PF and PF ZAPU in 1987, the new ZANU-PF put into motion a process to establish a one party state in Zimbabwe.
Edgar ‘Two-Boy’ Tekere was horrified by the prospect of a one party state and publicly rebuked the architects of the idea: “One party state government can only be declared in Zimbabwe over my dead body… I am going to oppose and fight this from roof and mountain tops.
“We should get into government through periodic, free and fair elections underpinned by our superior political mobilisation and organisational abilities not through legislatively bludgeoning the opposition into extinction. Why are we showing dangerous signs of being afraid of the people?”
The facts are that the post-independence struggle for multi-party democracy in Zimbabwe finds its genesis with the above pronouncements and the formation by Tekere of the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) in 1989.
ZUM was to bring the ZANU-PF march towards a one party state in Zimbabwe to a screeching halt in the 1990 general election when the party won some Parliamentary as well as council seats in Harare. The late Masipula Sithole, the late Joshua Cohen, Danny Meyer, etc were some of the first non-ZANU-PF councillors in Harare in 1990.
ZUM folded up in 1993 arising from infighting and implosion caused by infiltration by state sponsored agent provocateurs.
But it can be said that ZUM played midwife to the formation of the Forum for Democratic Reform Trust in 1993 which, in turn, gave birth, in 1994, to the Forum Party.
The Forum Party, which was led by the late Enoch Dumbutshena, prepared the way for and was forerunner to the MDC, which was formed in 1999 and led by Tsvangirai.
In establishing the MDC, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) marshalled all the key pro-democracy organisations into one big tent. The groups morphed to create the MDC.
The above analysis helps us to clearly show the political baton-stick movement, composition and milestones of the pro-multiparty big tent.
The political family feuds that led to the subsequent walking away of Welshman Ncube, Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma from the original MDC does not alter the fact that the above are proponents of the multiparty democracy big tent.
Now let us analyse the foundation, the constituent parts and partners of the one party state doctrine — the big tent.
Within the Marxist-Leninist one party state political philosophy of the big tent, ZANU-PF and PF ZAPU constitute the foundation.
The “G40”, “Lacoste” and the war veterans lobby groups are the current major internal players.
The Simba Makoni, Dumiso Dabengwa and Mujuru groups are the notable victims of the family feuds and internal haemorrhaging caused by the struggles within the struggle of the pro-one party state big tent.
The term ZPF was deliberately coined to sound like ZANU-PF, and this clearly shows the political roots, generic, parentage and orientation of the organisation led by Mujuru.
The above clearly defines the composition of the pro-one party state big tent.
The fact that some of the rising and shining children of this tent, such as Makoni, Dabengwa and Mujuru, turned their backs on or were elbowed out of ZANU-PF, does not change the fundamental fact that they are adherents of the party’s ideology.
I must hasten to state that the existence of factions, lobby groups, sub-centres of influence or power within a political organisation are normal and natural phenomena and should not be criminalised. After all politics is a game of power and internal struggles are part and parcel of the journey in the pursuit of power.
We have, from the foregoing, summarised the genesis, the progress and the composition of both the pro-multiparty democracy movement and the apostles of one party state rule.
The summary is that, apart from the ruling ZANU-PF big tent, there are two other distinct political big tents in the political arena. Makoni and Dabengwa wanted to take over the reins of ZANU-PF but failed in 2008.
In 2014, Mujuru was poised to be confirmed as the heir-apparent to President Mugabe until Oppah Muchinguri’s “tingoringo” out-flanked and out-manoeuvred her, which then led to her being purged from ZANU-PF.
If the above strategies had succeeded, Makoni, Dabengwa and Mujuru would today be comfortably ensconced within the ZANU-PF leadership.
As a way forward, it is incumbent and imperative for Mujuru, Makoni and Dabengwa to find each other and create a big tent constituting an alternative leadership to the current ZANU-PF leadership.
The above group is not a new opposition political outfit; they constitute a splinter or off-shoot leadership structure of the ZANU-PF big tent.
It smacks of political immorality for the above grouping to offer itself to the people of Zimbabwe as a substitute or alternative opposition party.
As things stand, only Temba Mliswa seems to be the only one who has voluntarily undergone the necessary political purgatorial purification or sanitisation process to be accepted into and be given a sitting place in the pro-multiparty democracy big tent led by Tsvangirai.
The above analysis does not mean that a political coalition is not achievable and workable between Tsvangirai and Mujuru.
A viable marriage of convenience can be fostered on the basis that, while the pro-multiparty democracy big tent position is to transform or overhaul the current political ideology, the change perspective of the ZPF, Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn and Dabengwa’s ZAPU is narrow as it focuses on life and leadership in ZANU-PF after the (President) Mugabe era.
In this political matrix, Tsvangirai remains the unchallenged leader and torchbearer of the pro-multiparty big tent while Mujuru has emerged as the leader of the exiled children of ZANU-PF.
The challenge for Mujuru is to effectively bring under her wings Makoni, the exiled group of war veterans and Dabengwa to ensure a united front assault on the G40 and Lacoste within ZANU-PF in the (President) Mugabe aftermath.
To ensure the emergence of a new political order in Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai will need the assistance of the ZANU-PF exiles.
To ensure that ZANU-PF remains in the hands of the sons and daughters of the liberation struggle, not G40, Mujuru requires the popular appeal and determination of Tsvangirai.
Masepe is a Harare-based political commentator. 


  • comment-avatar
    Morty Smith 6 years ago

    All the names mentioned are proven deadbeats

  • comment-avatar
    Mazano Rewayi 6 years ago

    We only need Morgan and Joyce to stand in one corner against the incumbent, anything else will be a disaster for the country. After they win they should and must go their separate ways. it must be clear to all that this is a marriage of convenience just to get us out of the quagmire we find ourselves in. If we are to be pragmatic, that marriage is best led by Morgan – yes his weaknesses are many but he has the mass appeal. BTW he is not as daft as Trump so what happened in the US can be replicated here. The hungry and superstitious majority in Zim now just want change and do not care where it comes from. Ideas and policies can wait till after five ears maybe.