MDC needs to restore identity

HARARE - The MDC was born out of the repression and economic mismanagement by Zanu PF.

At its launch in 1999, the opposition party grouped interests of students, labour and civil society, among others.

It carved out a distinct political and ideological identity, casting itself as the representative of these affected social groups and the motor for change.

However, from its participation in the coalition government and the subsequent electoral defeat, the MDC has been losing its original identity.

In fact, it has, rather disturbingly, assumed some characteristics of its maligned rival. Disturbing because such a situation will eliminate it as an alternative to Zanu PF.

While some voters have only sought a replacement for President Robert Mugabe, it is also true that a large number of people associate with the MDC for a certain distinct identity that separates it from Zanu PF.

The fact that it now behaves like Zanu PF is politically tragic.

It is apt to point out some elements that have distinguished the MDC and note how these have been eroded over the years.

At its launch, the party posed as the representative of the social classes affected by Zanu PF’s economic mismanagement. 

While the participation of the MDC in the coalition brought economic relief, the quest for material wealth by its members at national and local government levels was harmful to its original identity.

The fact that MDC MPs also joined in the clamour for perks, and even bizarrely, exit packages before the last election blurred the line between the party and Zanu PF. Often, people would remark then, in exasperation: “They are all the same.”

This perception might have, in part, contributed to the subsequent electoral defeat as some could have chosen to settle for a devil they already knew.

One other distinction of the MDC has been victimhood.

This, of course, was not an ideological formulation but one earned during its political life.

Since its launch, the MDC has been the victim of Zanu PF violence. Police spokesperson Charity Charamba claimed the recent outbreak of violence in the MDC confirmed the party had always been violent, thus portraying it as a perpetrator than victim.

This is not just an unfortunate political statement by a police officer but it is also false.

Historical records are replete with information and images of MDC supporters with wounds, burnt buttocks and broken limbs let alone un-investigated murders of its members.

The MDC has thus, over the years, justifiably earned the identity of the victim rather than perpetrator. The image of Morgan Tsvangirai, swollen-faced, with a tattered shirt after he had been savaged on his way to a prayer meeting, confirmed Zanu PF barbarity.

However, an almost replica image, this time of Elton Mangoma recently — now as a victim of members of his own party — and other incidents of violence risk changing perceptions.

Secretary-general Tendai Biti did not contest the decision to suspend Mangoma during the meeting held at Harvest House.

He only held a press conference querying the decision in the safety of the offices of his law firm well after — perhaps an indication of the fear now generated among those holding contrarian views.

Tragic for a party that hawks itself as the paragon of democracy. The recent condemnation of the violence by Western governments illustrates concerns about the party’s soiled identity.

Hearing Tsvangirai telling diplomats not to interfere in MDC power struggles was like listening to Mugabe.

“We have our friends out there,” said Tsvangirai. “We are surprised by people who say we want that one to lead the party. Is that the work of diplomats?”

The erosion of the MDC’s distinct political identity has also been shown recently through praise-singers describing Tsvangirai as “God-given”.

This is not dissimilar to the toe-curling deification accorded to Mugabe by Zanu PF sycophants. These are some of the characteristics now blurring the line between the MDC and Zanu PF.

The MDC needs to restore its political identity between now and 2018. This may involve re-engaging founder groups and members. This may result in the change of leadership.

Unless it restores its original political identity, people may always settle for the devil they have known.

Comments (4)

let it be known that zanu and mdc are two different parties no matter how much zanu wants us to believe that. zanu through its propaganda have not given us a chance to see who mdc is. they are interpreting the story about mdc for us instead of allowing us to read it for ourselves. in the past government where ever mdc was in control things were looking good or improving in so much that zanu through its jelous, greed etc would distract mdc's work or block it. these two are not the same and it is unfortunate that we gave zanu another chance to spoil the things more. however, that may be i good for mdc so that they learn more, change where they have to change so that one day when they take over they are well polished for the job in so much that zanu will be buried forever and people will not remember or desire their coming back.

sammy - 11 March 2014

MDC's identity can be restored if TSVANGIRAI steps down

Nyamhangambiri - 11 March 2014

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Those of us who consider Cde Muagbe as God given , say becoz of waht he has done for the country and party!! He led the armed struggle and the revolutionary takeover of our land! We believe our economic problems aredue to sanctions ipmosed becoz of thealnd issue! So Tsvangirai has nothing to be said about in Zim positively becoz he supports samctions!

Cde Mzvinavhu(Prof) - 12 March 2014

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