Only a reinvented MDC can change Zimbabwe

via Only a reinvented MDC can change Zimbabwe  BDlive by Greg Mills JANUARY 23 2014

ZIMBABWE’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was handed a drubbing in the election of July 31 last year. Even if it might not have been defeated at the disputed poll itself, the MDC was totally outmanoeuvred by Zanu (PF) and its leader, President Robert Mugabe.

The MDC “lost” an election it should never have entered, as somehow its leadership had convinced itself it would win. It should have known that Mugabe would never have gone into a poll he was intending to lose. He would never have said, as he did before the election, that if he was defeated, he would step down after 33 years in power. And the MDC was not only naive in expecting to win, but in thinking it could secure a transfer of power.

If only a fraction of the allegations are to be believed, the MDC lost on the day because of a fraudulent voters roll. But in the judgment of some civil society activists, it capitulated well before the time because its leaders had become estranged from its grassroots supporters, and had been sucked into the system by the trappings of power during the MDC’s 52 months in a government of unity.

Now, with 49 MPs in a 210-strong parliament, the MDC faces an uphill battle. At the core of this is not how it might engage in formal political institutions, but rather how it reinvents and rebuilds itself.

Many now question whether the MDC — and by extension, the country — can make progress under Morgan Tsvangirai. Despite his personal courage, he is seen as compromised in terms of his personal peccadilloes and by his professional misjudgment in going into an election he later described as a “farce”.

Activists who complain the MDC has lost touch with its supporters face the choice of mobilising for leadership change or giving up on him by opting out of politics or starting another party.

If Tsvangirai has to go, what is the likely exit? Two options are possible: a “soft” landing with another job; and an inevitably messier but potentially affirming leadership contest.

If the latter, the question is who and how? Former finance minister Tendai Biti is one contender, as is former economic planning minister Elton Mangoma. If Tsvangirai has nothing to go to and everything to lose by staying on, it is likely to be a bitter contest. And, if so, it is not clear who has the cojones to take him on.

Even if there were a new MDC leader, a lot of rebuilding will have to take place in reconnecting grassroots constituencies with the centre, and by creating political alliances with others.

It is no good hoping that when Mugabe eventually goes, Zimbabwe’s problems will disappear. While his death might be the best thing for the MDC’s leaders, the same might not be said for the opposition and Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s demise might offer once more the prospect of a coalition government under Deputy President Joice Mujuru as a means of co-opting the elite. That formula offers the facade of political stability but, aside from padding the fortunes of a select few, little chance of growth, development and prosperity.

Such stability above all else has been the policy goal of regional actors. However, the sacrifice, in the process, of democratic values has long-term consequences. It has translated into policy contradiction and confusion. Earlier this month, within weeks of Deputy Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Mathias Tongofa saying the government was going up “a gear” on local ownership of assets, captains of Zimbabwean industry were expected in Europe to lobby for the removal of sanctions.

This also highlights the dilemma facing the international community in its actions towards the government. Sanctions, imposed by European powers, the US and Australia, among others, have proven a clumsy tool, signalling foreign disapproval more than wounding Zanu (PF). Worse than their lack of positive effect has been their unintended consequence of becoming an excuse for Zanu (PF)’s failings. While their removal might help focus attention on domestic actors, it might also embolden Zanu (PF) and strengthen its domestic credibility.

The answer, until now, for foreigners and Zimbabweans concerned about the course of political developments has been to focus on Zanu (PF), to try to get it to reform. But this is not enough. If the past 15 years have taught us one thing, it is that recovery will not happen through Zanu (PF) mending its ways. The MDC also has to change.

 Mills heads the Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation and is the author of the forthcoming book, Why States Recover (Panmacmillan).


  • comment-avatar
    obert 8 years ago

    The writer makes sensible observations but he misses crucial points in the process.The electorate itself was eager to go into the election and finish off zanupf. How was the mdc going to convince the people not to vote. The mdc was going to be labelled cowards who wanted to continue enjoying gvt salaries and avoiding an election.Wasnt there pressure from sadc as well? Look, reinventing mdc is not the solution , the solution lies in a free and fair election. Who will arrange that for zimbabwe? This is beyond the mdc. No democratic means will stop zanupf controlling the elections in zim.Only a UN organised election can free zimbabwe. To dislodge a system that has perpetuated itself for 34 years needs a new international approach. Do you think smith should have been allowed to arrange the 1980 elections which brought independence.?
    Another distant option is to pray that a sort of an fw de klerk will arise from zanupf and say enough of this evil and usher in a new democratic zimbabwe.

    • comment-avatar

      Well said. The writer is just an armchair critic. Haazive ZPF.

  • comment-avatar

    Only God can save Zimbabwe. Let us get our facts correct. We have all made one almighty mess especially the church and ZPF!

  • comment-avatar

    Well said. The writer is just an armchair critic. Haazive ZPF.

  • comment-avatar

    Those with no spine misdirect their efforts and criticize MDC. MDC won the elections and ZANU knows that.Stupid analysts must stop analysing newspapers and go to Mudzi , Uzumba, Mberengwa and analyse from there.There were no elections.It was a daylight robbery.Its so funny that people who are regarded in Africa as educated, ionically are not educated enough to demand the voters role, to demand NIKUV involvement in the voters roll.After that you say you are educated.
    Lets wake up guys.ZANU PF will never ever bring Zimbabwe to its past glory.They know that .It is now up to us to rally behind each other and form a formidable alliance involving Dumiso , Makoni , and others.MDC has qualities of a democratic party.They don’t kill and then its easy for armchair critics to criticize it.Shame on them.Behingd the stupid criticism MDC is undergoing, it is going to launch a do or die strategy into 2018.ZANU PF will be caught by surprise and the party will take them head on.Lets wait and see

  • comment-avatar
    mokone 8 years ago

    ZanuPF has been stealing election from 2000,2005 2008,but MDC was doing well if it was not part of govt.After MDC joined coalition govt it performed dismally

  • comment-avatar
    Dikgolo 8 years ago

    MDC is now a spent party like Zapu,but if they could elect new leadership with new pan african policies.The party to be credible ,they must not allow to be west countries.Then I believe the party can come back again

  • comment-avatar

    Academic drivel. We need a messiah not a regurgitated mdc. Vote for me