MDC leader will boycott the government led by Mugabe to avoid ‘contamination’ by Zanu-PF.
Morgan Tsvangirai, beleaguered leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is under pressure to chart a new course for the country’s largest opposition party.
Tsvangirai was comprehensively routed for a third time by President Robert Mugabe. His bid to challenge the election results failed to win sympathy from either the Southern African Development Community (SADC) or the African Union (AU), and also faltered at the Constitutional Court.
Tsvangirai has now indicated he will boycott participation in a government that is led by Mugabe.
Party insiders told the Mail & Guardian this week that Tsvangirai’s disassociation from the government will give him time to recast himself as an opposition leader and avoid “contamination” by Zanu-PF.
An MDC official who asked not to be named said Tsvangirai was boycotting the government “for the party and not for himself”.
“Tsvangirai wants the poor performance [in government] to be attributed to Zanu-PF alone and does not want to be associated with a poor record in governance. It all has to do with the contamination factor,” said the official.
Shocked by the MDC
Lindiwe Zulu, the South Africa-appointed facilitator in Zimbabwe’s political crisis, this week decried the MDC’s lack of political acumen.
“We were really shocked by the MDC negotiators who failed to pin down Zanu-PF to implement reforms … We could not advise the MDC on what to do, the ball was in their court because we were supposed to be impartial in our conduct of duty,” said Zulu. “There was a well-stipulated SADC-initiated road map to be followed to the letter until elections were held, but the MDC negotiators decided not to push for its implementation.”
There is also regret within MDC ranks. “If only some of us had been more strategic and careful in our planning. We should have flatly refused to participate in a farce that was disguised as an election,” said Obert Gutu, the outgoing MDC-linked deputy minister of justice, legal and parliamentary affairs.
“The election was clearly a stolen victory. It is neither legitimate nor democratic. The fact that the SADC has endorsed the result is neither here nor there,” said Gutu.
The MDC held a two-day planning retreat in Harare this week to “discuss the way forward following our failure to access justice after being denied access to election materials held by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission”, said MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora.
“We are also looking at the positions adopted by the SADC and the AU with respect to Zimbabwe’s recent elections … In view of these positions, we want to draw up a programme of political action to take.”
MDC sources said that, because the legal and political avenues of recourse had failed, the party would also rely on Zanu-PF’s implosion and mismanagement of the economy as a catalyst for its rebound.
Mugabe said last week in his inauguration speech that he would step up the indigenisation programme, which he called “our chosen path” towards development, and would target more than 1 000 foreign-owned firms.
Eric Bloch, a senior partner at consultancy H&E Bloch, said the indigenisation programme would result in capital flight. “Whatever progress was made in the four years of the unity government will likely be reversed,” he said.
Zimbabwe is hamstrung by a $10-billion debt to the International Monetary Fund and growth prospects have been revised downwards from 5% to 3.4% in 2013.
A boycott, for now, appears to be the only ammunition at the MDC’s disposal — Tsvangirai stayed away from Mugabe’s inauguration on the grounds that it was a “robber’s party”, and he did the same this week during the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly in Victoria Falls.
The new MDC members of Parliament have been urged by the party’s top brass only to attend the swearing in ceremony on September 3, but to miss the opening of Parliament.
It is also unlikely that the MDC MPs will cast a vote for the new speaker of Parliament, who will most likely be from Zanu-PF because of its majority.
Jacob Mudenda, a lawyer and chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, is being tipped for the speaker post.
MDC confusing supporters
Political commentator Lameck Mahachi said the MDC’s stance was confusing for their supporters. “It seems that they don’t know what to do. It is a shame that there is no other viable opposition party in Zimbabwe.”
Despite being at a crossroads, Tsvangirai still appears to have control of the party, and his leadership has been endorsed by the MDC’s top brass.
Mwonzora said: “The current leadership will serve its full term until it expires in 2016. Only in 2016 will the positions be up for grabs, and those who think they can lead the party better will have a chance to put their names forward and contest. For now, we stand solidly behind Tsvangirai and his leadership.”
Political analyst Conrad Nyamutata said the MDC had a chance of winning the elections in 2018, when the party could capitalise on Mugabe’s old age and perhaps an increase in succession fights in Zanu-PF.
“If it is to win the next election, the MDC will need to make bold decisions. That entails installing a new leader less susceptible to attacks and less doubted, as well as reconnecting with key groups and crafting clear and consistent polices,” Nyamutata said.
“Tsvangirai has become too vulnerable to attacks from his opponents, [and is] perhaps a liability. He should consider stepping down.”
Rebuilding the MDC
Tsvangirai has, however, already begun rebuilding party structures and has held closed-door meetings with provincial executives in Harare, Chitungwiza and Manicaland. He is also set to embark on a tour of all the party’s provinces.
Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said the MDC needed leadership renewal at all levels if it wanted to have a future in Zimbabwe’s politics.
“Quite clearly, the ‘Mugabe-must-go’ and ‘Tsvangirai-must-reign’ era is gone and new leadership and strategies are needed. The party is still reeling from the effects of candidate imposition, corruption, complacency and strategy inertia,” he said.
“It is shocking that, in four years of power-sharing with Zanu-PF, they failed to gather sufficient intelligence and information on the operations and election shenanigans of Zanu-PF.”
Tsvangirai was said to be “too busy” to respond to M&G’s questions.