Will MDC succumb again?

HARARE - The impasse over the Constitution is yet another test of the political mettle of the MDC.

Regrettably, history attests to a weak-willed former opposition party that now relies on regional players in the face of Zanu PF’s bullying tactics.

In 2008, Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC won the elections. There was and still is strong suspicion Tsvangirai won the presidential election against President Robert Mugabe by a margin much wider than now quoted in official figures.

Still, the MDC was arm-twisted into something now prevalently romanticised as a government of national unity.

Tsvangirai assumed the less influential post of Prime Minister while Mugabe remained President.

The idea of any unity at government or political level is, of course, chimerical. For purposes of an immediate example, you need to look no further than the current stalemate over the draft constitution.

During the power-sharing negotiations, the MDC was left with — serve for the finance ministry and limited control at home affairs — less influential portfolios while Zanu PF grabbed the key security ministries.  

During the tenure of the “coalition” — its most appropriate description — the MDC was also bullied into submission on previously agreed matters, such as appointment of governors and one of its deputy ministers, among a myriad of outstanding issues.

Recently, it acquiesced to demands by Zanu PF on the Human Rights Commission.

Now the draft constitution.

Zanu PF proposed a raft of changes to the draft and declared at the weekend the amended draft final.

On the other hand, the MDC has also announced it would not budge on the original draft.

But as history has demonstrated, Zanu PF’s wishes have always won the day. The question is whether the MDC will succumb again.

It is tragic that what was supposed to be a people-driven process is now determined by whims of politicians, even if the final draft may be put to a referendum.

The changes that Zanu PF has proposed as final suggest that the party sees itself ruling forever.

The party envisages it will need the excessive executive powers that have served them very well over the years.

The proposal that “State institutions and agencies at all levels…promote and defend the values and ideals of the liberation struggle as their constitutional duty and obligation” simply seeks to entrench the politicisation of state institutions and agencies as has already been demonstrated by the army, the police and the CIO chiefs.

Under those circumstances, irresponsible utterances by the likes of Chedondo, Chihuri et al will then find legal recourse.

This cannot be allowed. A clear distinction ought to be made between a constitution and a Zanu PF manifesto.

Zanu PF bandies about the mantra of “values and ideals of the liberation struggle” as if they are axiomatic. The point is that the so-called values of the liberation struggle have since become unclear and are no longer a given, thanks to Zanu PF practices that overtly negate basic freedoms, least of all the freedom of choice.

It should not be up to Zanu PF and its arms of coercion to reject a person voted into power by the people, no matter his or her background.

How does a party which claims to be a people’s party act against the will of those people?

Presumptions that certain people will “sell off” the country, and therefore should not be allowed to rule, mean that the concept of free and fair elections — which presumably was an ideal of liberation is reduced to uselessness.

So given the numerous antitheses to basic freedoms, it might be worth for Zanu PF to explain what it means by values and ideals of the liberation war. What the changes proposed by Zanu PF amount to is an attempt to immortalise its political manifesto in the name of constitutionalism.

It has managed to ride roughshod over the MDC, repeatedly. It may do so again.

Even if the final document will be subject to a referendum, the MDC, whose support has allegedly declined, ought to show some muscle now.  

Compromises should be made. But compromise should not mean the MDC accedes to the wholesale Zanu PF demands, some of them frankly unpalatable.

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