via The Heart of the Matter: Both Tsvangirai and the MDC must decide of what to do with each other | SW Radio Africa November 11, 2013 by Tanonoka Joseph Whande
Leaders in African politics still find it difficult, if not impossible, to voluntarily step down and hand over the party leadership to someone else.
Most African leaders look upon political parties as their personal properties and view resigning from such position as admitting that they have failed and that someone can do a better job than themselves.
And that is anathema to African leaders; they are never wrong.
They prefer to take the party with them to their graves and refuse to accept that, were they to step aside, a new leader may be able to perpetuate their legacy better than themselves.
But no, they would rather have the party die than have it revived and re-energised by someone else on their behalf.
The first thing an African leader thinks of is to seize total control of the party and make themselves the centre and reason for the party’s existence. This comes in handy when they write their wills, bequeathing a country to their children.
They become the conscience of the party and make rules as they go.
They are both the driver and conductor. If they fall sick, party business grinds to a halt until the man is back on his feet because no one would dare make any decisions as the leader lies there stricken.
They push for life presidency of both the party and the country and no decision is ever taken without them approving it first.
They view their deputies with suspicion and allow no debate on who would take over the leadership in the event of their demise. African vice presidents at both party and national level are the loneliest of people because they are more of messengers, performers like puppets on a string, than meaningful leaders in their own right.
Aspiring younger minds in political parties are oppressed and kept down as the leader surrounds himself with relatives and friends who do not question, advise or guide their benefactor since they would be too busy with their muzzles in the feeding troughs.
It is clear that the messy power struggles currently afflicting ZANU-PF and the MDC are a product of this disorganised and self-centered habit of turning political parties into personal properties. Even Welshman Ncube’s toy party is afflicted with the same disease…and is dying a slow but deserved death.
It is interesting to see the similarities among political parties in as far as what to do with a failed party leader is concerned.
Had ZANU-PF respected its own constitution from the beginning, they would never have found themselves in the mess they are in now. But because they let one man and his family personalise a national movement, both the party and the nation might soon find themselves burdened with a leader unwanted by the party’s own followers.
Lost in all this is the will of the people who are tossed around and forced to support unpopular leaders and positions under threats and blackmail, using food and conveniences as bait.
There is so much talk about Emerson Mnangagwa and Joyce Mujuru being so-called front runners in the race to succeed Mugabe but would these two be front runners were ZANU-PF followers afforded the freedom to choose without fear?
What exceptional thing did Mnangagwa and Mujuru ever do in the party? What did they ever achieve in cabinet where they have been permanent fixtures since independence? What qualifies them to succeed Mugabe?
Because of the reluctance to address and plan accordingly for succession, the nation is being offered useless underperformers who are touted as future leaders not because of what they have done in the past but because of leverage born out of other circumstances other than ability.
The constitution would have addressed this issue had it not been turned into a ‘dear Bob’ letter’. The role of the people was usurped.
Meanwhile, debate is still raging over Morgan Tsvangirai’s future; on whether or not he should step down from the presidency of the party.
Some want him to go while we are told some want him to stay. Just as we have always been told that Mugabe is the only one with grassroots support to win elections for ZANU-PF we are hearing the same about Tsvangirai.
A Midlands based MDC-T Member of Parliament said last week that many in the MDC’s top leadership at provincial level had allegedly told them that “if the party is to remain relevant, the founding president should remain at the helm of the party”.
“Tsvangirai should be left to decide what is good for the party…The man has grassroots support that is unparalleled by anybody in the combined opposition,” the MP said.
This is utter nonsense; this is what the people should be asked and let give their individual positions. Tsvangirai cannot decide what’s good for the party because the party has become his milking cow and livelihood.
Tsvangirai’s best thinking resulted in defeats three times and there can never be a national consensus demanding going into battle with the same leader for the fourth time. People are not stupid.
We have seen and heard it from ZANU-PF where a hint at change of leadership was turned into a treasonous issue and now those who are benefitting from Tsvangirai’s continued stay at the top are implying the same against those who want change to save the party and to hold on to their followers.
Just last month, Tendai Biti was forced to refute allegations that he wants to topple Tsvangirai in order to revive the party.
Even if he wants to succeed Tsvangirai what is wrong with that? Tsvangirai had three chances and failed so the party should be handed to younger more energetic leadership.
Why is seeking necessary change made to look dirty? Even Elias Mudzuri article about leadership renewal got him an MDC summons to explain himself.
So much time is being spent on investigating its own people, diverting attention from major obligations, among which is addressing the leadership issue.
All the warnings, threats, suspensions and investigations seem to stem from the same root of a party leadership that is not in step with its followers.
Roy Bennett. Ian Kay. Elias Mudzuri. Tendai Biti. The Councillors. The mayors.
Aaah, come on man! The party has to move on.
These are just not regular rank and file party followers; they are elected senior party officials so what the hell is going on?
Tsvangirai has been given a chance three times over but failed to overcome whatever electoral or political obstacles that were placed in front of him.
MDC supporters have given Tsvangirai space but he has simply failed to bring the expected results for which people suffered and died.
Tsvangirai should never allow the MDC a chance to debate whether or not he should stay on as leader. He should step aside on his own accord. He cannot risk dividing the viable party because it is not his personal entity.
The heart of the matter is that Tsvangirai’s continued stay as party leader is going to harm the party. He should take his bow and leave; not cause a split in the party that did so much for him because, honestly, there is no longer any justification for him to stay on as leader.
Tsvangirai must resign from the party presidency on his own accord and spare his political party the unenviable task of having to fight over his continued leadership because that is going to harm the party.
He tried once and he failed.
He tried the second time and he still failed.
We let him try the third time and he failed badly.
There is no fourth time; enough is enough.
Party leadership is neither a career nor a personal business but a service to the public.
I wouldn’t like to see the MDC being torn apart because of its own leader who happens to have more reasons to leave than to stay.
Rewarding failure is not encouragement. A popular team must score goals to maintain its popularity. Regardless of how popular a leader is, he must get his party into power.
You see, just like careers, soccer and business, leading a party does not reward failure.
I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way it is today, Monday, November 11th, 2013.