via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Tendai Biti’s zero sum game 15 July 2014 by Clemence Manyukwe
MDC Renewal Team leader Tendai Biti has been criss-crossing the country projecting his faction as the country’s main opposition party ahead of that led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
Last week, Biti together with other leading figures in the Renewal Team such as Elton Mangoma, were in Bulawayo as the MDC faction continues with manoeuvres to pull the rug from under Tsvangirai’s feet.
Over the weekend, Biti rubbished questions over his health that were mainly raised by his former lieutenants’ by saying he was not ill, as he signalled that his political foes must not count him out as he is prepared to slug it out for the long haul.
There is no doubt that Biti has managed to sway in his favour some who were previously sympathetic to Tsvangirai in his seemingly scorched earth policy against the MDC-T leader.
These include western embassies, former commercial white farmers, a number of Non Governmental Organisations as well as some members and ordinary supporters of the opposition party.
Biti has also managed to forestall any expulsion of lawmakers from Parliament who have aligned themselves with the Renewal Team.
Despite that early record to contain Tsvangirai in the opposition party’s infighting, there are some who are asking: How far can Biti go with his Renewal Team in the rough and tumble of Zimbabwean politics?
Is the Renewal Team an opposition party to reckon with or the political project will suffer the same fate as previous opposition forces such as ZUM , ZUD or even the MDC-T itself that has split a number of times as power eluded it?
“The biggest challenge to this project is that it lacks a driving social base, and its constituencies are a few same faces. It has in the short term failed to demonstrate its potential. Its genetical location as an alternative to Tsvangirai’s leadership is its biggest conundrum. Criticising Tsvangirai, himself over-scrutinised cannot be a substitute for a coherent, alternative political future or discourse if the project represents any,” said political analyst Gideon Chitanga.
Since parting ways with Tsvangirai, Biti and his lieutenants’ have not unveiled any clear plan for Zimbabwe, beyond their renewal mantra.
The former finance minister has not made the most of his perceived strengths’ and advantages over Tsvangirai.
Unlike, the MDC-T leader, Biti seems to be acceptable to other opposition political players like Welshman Ncube, Dumiso Dabengwa as well as Lovemore Madhuku and this could open opportunities for future alliances for his outfit.
His stint as Minister of Finance in the inclusive government also endeared him with the western world that appears to be retreating from Tsvangirai.
And also, unlike Tsvangirai, Biti is seen as a “thinker” even by his political foes’ own admission.
However, so far this appears not to have helped him in his fight to wrest influence from Tsvangirai.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Biti has a mountain to climb to convince many.
“The Challenge with the Renewal Team is that they have to craft a new message beyond protest politics which has so far failed to win the MDCs power. The Renewal Team need to be known for something other than attacking Morgan Tsvangirai,” he said.
“Renewal sounds catchy but needs fleshing out in terms of what needs renewal. There are as many other things that need continuity and consolidation rather than renewal. Renewal may then narrowly focus the Biti team on replacing Morgan Tsvangirai and not changing anything in real terms.”
There are others who think that Biti and his lieutenants are for now victims of the binary nature of local politics.
One analyst, Ricky Mukonza is one of them.
“This has nothing to do with what they can or cannot do; rather it is due to the binary nature of Zimbabwean politics that has developed in the past 14 years. In the eyes of the political supporter, you are ether on Morgan Tsvangirai or President Mugabe’s side. They are, however, unlikely to make any meaningful impact beyond 2018, “said Mukonza.
Zimbabwean political time flies and 2018 is just around the corner. Only the flow of seasons will tell if Biti will awaken and exorcise the ghost that has haunted all the country’s opposition parties and relegated them to the dustbins of history.
So far, nothing points to a major shift on the horizon due to the Renewal Team’s entry on the political radar.