via Opposition helps entrench Mugabe’s rule – NewsDay Zimbabwe June 8, 2015
WITH President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party looking set to rule until “donkeys grow horns”, Zimbabwe’s opposition continues to grow at an astonishing rate, but with little, if any, impact on the country’s rugged political terrain.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Political analysts and observers largely agree that the current crop of political leaders are an intolerant lot, leading to a “senseless” proliferation of political parties that adds no value to the country’s democracy.
In interviews with NewsDay last week, political players and analysts agreed that while citizens should be accorded the greater choices when it comes to elections, the calibre of political parties in the country left a lot to be desired.
One of Zimbabwe’s pre-eminent academics, the late Masipula Sithole, once remarked: “If you take two Zimbabweans to the moon, leave them there and visit them the next morning, they would have formed three political parties.”
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the proliferation of political parties was no barometer to measure the strength of the country’s democracy.
“Democracy is not measured by the multiplicity of political parties in a country or society,” he said.
“The United States is a democratic State with two political parties, so is the United Kingdom. Zimbabwe now has more than 30, but far from being democratic.
“That dynamic (of growing political parties) is not a sign of the democratic nature of a society, in our situation the fact is that we are actually moving much further from the democratic destination than ever before.”
He added: “The opposition vote is being split and that will help entrench the Zanu PF regime as well as its rule. We need new characters in the opposition movement, new and fresh leaders, but the frustration is where they will come from. However, we will just have to find them somewhere among our people rather than continue to recycle these spent forces.”
He argued the acrimonious relationship among politicians in the country at the moment has its roots in nationalist politics.
“It is not a new phenomenon though and, in Sithole’s narrative, has its roots in the nationalist movement and the lust for power in our politicians, and the dramatic representation he presents in the form of two people at the moon forming three political parties is an apt illustration of the reality of our politics and the hopelessness of our situation,” Masunungure said. But MDC Renewal Team secretary-general Tendai Biti seems to have a different view.
“In a normal democratic society as many divergent views must be encouraged, but then Zimbabwe is not a normal society,” he said.
“The growing platform of opposition is a sign of the country’s continued disillusionment with Zanu PF.”
He added that it could also be an indicator of people’s frustration with the current opposition in particular.
“People also feel that the opposition on the other end is not reflective of their aspirations,” he said.
“However, the biggest let-down has been (MDC-T leader) Morgan Tsvangirai. He has become an albatross to the growth and power of opposition. The MDC is there with its social base, but the institution is different from the person. Lord (John) Dalberg-Acton was wrong when he said power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In the case of Zimbabwe, it is the illusion of power that corrupts absolutely,” Biti said.
“The splits in the opposition are an indication of immaturity and as I have said before, foolishness. We also have people with egos, power-hungry individuals who get carried away when their wives and children hear they are being called president, but leading outfits with no social base.”
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora defended his boss Tsvangirai and claimed the party was “the only one meaningful political opposition”.
“The others are a result of power struggles and undemocratic tendencies. It makes the opposition weak,” he said.
“The 2005 MDC split was a result of a senior member of the party undermining an elected leader while last year it was a clear attempt by others to take opposition political power outside the confines of a congress.
“Tsvangirai has his power in the masses and that has helped him command a sizeable constituency in Parliament although that has not translated into State power because of Zanu PF’s abuse of the military.”
But Masunungure concurred with Biti saying there was no or little power in the country’s opposition.
“The kind of power our opposition has is illustrator. When Tsvangirai roars, if that is what he does, no one winks or moves a muscle. They are actually a nuisance with no value and make no much sense in the greater scheme of nation building. Tsvangirai had a chance, but I do not see him regaining that mojo, the future of opposition politics lies elsewhere, in new leaders,” said Masunungure.
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) leader Lovemore Madhuku argued the growing number of political parties was good for the country’s democracy.
“It is healthy for democracy and this is what is meant by freedom of association. The number of political parties is much less than the number of churches in the country and nobody has complained. At the end of the day we must promote a democratic society,” said Madhuku, adding that the growth of opposition parties was also in response to the failure to run free and fair elections.
“Disputed polls keep these small parties arguing they did not lose elections. If we are to run democratic, free and fair polls , the performance of each political party will determine whether they survive or not. Votes are only divided. We should provide as much choices as possible as in the case with carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks.”
Political analyst Alexander Rusero was more scathing in his analysis of the country’s political architecture.
“It is the levels of intolerance within the rank and file of our political set-up that is causing these splits and proliferation of fly-by-night parties,” Rusero said.
“As soon as one presents a different argument, they are labelled a sellout. Zanu PF set the precedence for us from Edgar Tekere in the late 1980s to Margaret Dongo in the 1990s up toformer Vice-President Joice Mujuru in the present. He added: “It is not democracy when we have a thousand political rats than three lions.
It is an indicator of the incipient nature of our political architecture. The MDC is the mother of opposition politics at the moment, but continues to splinter because of its intolerant nature and that of its leader Tsvangirai. Any differences must lead to a split just as he was asked to form his own party by Mugabe in the late ’90s while still leading the labour movement. It is the sad nature of our politics, highly charged with intolerance and scepticism.”
Zapu’s Dumiso Dabengwa charged that his party has never broken away, but pulled out of an “unworkable situation”.
“Zapu is the original party and we have never broken away. We pulled out of the Unity Accord that was not serving the purpose for which it was signed. It was Zanu that broke away from Zapu in 1963 and you must ask them,” said Dabengwa.
He added that a united opposition would “be more influential on the direction those in power are driving the country towards”.
An opposition coalition, however, remains a pipe dream and Mugabe continues to smile despite the internecine power struggles within his former guerrilla movement. Zanu PF’s power base remains unshaken while Mugabe, now 91, declares he will be ready for re-election at 94 in 2018 when the election roller-coaster rolls into town once again.