Outrage over MDC Tsvangirai symbol

HARARE - A move by some Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials to use Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s face as an “election symbol” has been roundly condemned as immature and potentially divisive, a Weekend Post survey has established.

Alois Chaumba, a Southern Africa Anti-Corruption Trust regional coordinator, said he was thoroughly unimpressed by the  idea.

“It is a gamble that might backfire. This (personification of the struggle) is a tragedy we are trying to run away from,” he said.

“We want to run away from cult heroes. I would not feel comfortable, but the people will decide through the ballot. Let the leaders be the forces behind movements, but not be the institutions or personalise the struggle,” Chaumba said.

If due care was not taken in implementing the controversial move, he said, this could actually confuse some voters, especially the rural folk.

“Unless they have done a study and assessed how much people will accept then they might be dicing with their political lives. It is a little bit tricky because their supporters are used the plain open palm. It also depends on the amount of time they have to publicise the new feature,” said Chaumba.

Pedzisayi Ruhanya, another political analyst, was even more scathing in his assessment of the issue and said the MDC must be driven by mature policies, and issues to help Zimbabwe.

“The MDC must be mature enough and move away from the pitfalls that Zanu PF finds itself in. The idea behind the ‘T’ added to the party name was itself a distinguishing factor or feature in 2008. Given the depth of brains in the MDC, I would have thought that, by now, they would have come up with a completely different symbol whether for elections or not,” he told this paper on Thursday.

“It is either a case of laziness or outright bootlicking by a coterie of misguided elements within the party, which will help neither Tsvangirai nor the MDC,” Ruhanya said.

If anything, he added, the MDC risked “creating a monster out of Tsvangirai”.

“The president (Tsvangirai) is a leader and leaders come, and go. Any leader should be subservient to the party. By using his face, they will be entrenching autocracy, kleptocracy and demagoguery.

“Personalising the movement is (really) not necessary,” the London-based PhD student said, adding there are a lot many other things that can be used to distinguish the mainstream MDC from other parties or factions.

The party symbol storm comes after the Daily News reported this week that there was a sycophantic clique in Tsvangirai’s party — commonly referred to as the kitchen cabinet - that was pushing for the adoption of the PM’s face as a party symbol, although national spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora claimed it was for election purposes only.

“We realised we could run into legal problems if we use the child hence the decision not to use it. Ours was a unanimous decision not to use the youth assembly symbol. The open palm is in the party’s constitution as our official symbol alongside the logo which cannot just be changed these are part of the party’s history and future,” he told a Bulawayo group of journalists around the party’s 13th anniversary celebrations last weekend.

“We want to distinguish ourselves from others that want to copy our symbol for electoral expediency.
“Although we will continue to use the open palm, the only difference is that we will use a symbol of a small child to represent the future, love, likeability and innocence,” Mwonzora said.

But in the aftermath of the mid-week revelations, the MDC has been in a fire-fighting mood with the spokesperson seeking to douse the claims of personalising the labour-based movement — a scourge associated with Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

The coterie of kow-towing officials is reported to have torpedoed a move to use the open palm symbol with a child in the middle at the party’s 13th anniversary celebration in Bulawayo last weekend.

Insiders told the Weekend Post that the party’s National Executive Council (Nec) was pushed into rejecting the “child” symbol.

This week, Mwonzora said: “The party’s election symbol has not been finalised.

The rejection in Bulawayo was inspired by the fact that the idea of using the “child” symbol could be problematic and also because it currently serves as the symbol for the youth assembly. Therefore the information department which I head has been tasked with coming up with a new party symbol.”

Tsvangirai’s so-called “Kitchen cabinet” stands accused of a plethora of misdemeanours among them torpedoing the party’s constitution to enable the former trade unionist to remain at the helm “until the party gets into power.”

It seems the veteran trade unionists has also bought into the scheme and could be setting himself up for the long haul.

While addressing mourners at the burial of former Public Service minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro last year Tsvangirai rebuked those eyeing his throne to keep off.

“Your time will come. We have a struggle to complete so why should I leave now before time,” said Tsvangirai then. - Weekend Post

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