Opposition parties must pursue 'winning politics'

LONDON - Zimbabwe’s opposition parties will remain useless as long as they pursue personality and personality politics.

The emergence of the MDC about 15 years ago was the most significant development in Zimbabwean politics in the past 34 years because it ended what had virtually become a one-party state.

Smaller parties that emerged before then, did not pose any threat to Zanu PF. Edgar Tekere’s ZUM made a small but insignificant dent to Zanu PF rule.

In 1999, the MDC emerged to present the sternest challenge to Zanu PF. No matter where Zanu PF claims about its external origins, independent-minded and intelligent men and women gathered to form a veritable political alternative.

Fifteen years later, however, the once-formidable opposition has become a shadow of its former self.

After a stint in shared governance and then failure to wrestle power from President Robert Mugabe, the opposition does not appear like it can mount any serious challenge against him if he decides to stand in 2018.

What we see now is personality or ego and personal politics.

A distinction has to be made here between personality and personal politics. Personality politics revolves around the creation of a cult leadership, akin to the Zanu PF type under Mugabe.

All power is centralised on him. Regrettably, a similar brand of personality politics has manifested in the opposition. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was vested with powers that seem to make other offices under him virtually impotent and irrelevant.

Among other powers, he is now the chief fund-raiser and custodian of the party name.

Whatever the legal significance, to the ordinary man, the latter would appear to make MDC, Tsvangirai, and Tsvangirai, the MDC.

The hallmark of opposition politics is its self-portrayal as the “opposite” of an existing regime, although some policy commonalities may exist.

Lamentably, the developments in the MDC, antithetical to collective leadership, only foster discomfiting cultism that had hitherto been associated with the Mugabe regime.

Former MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti and others broke away to form another outfit agitating renewal after disgruntlement with Tsvangirai post-July 2013 elections.

To be sure, the concerns of these renewalists could not be dismissed as entirely frivolous.

When a leader has been at the helm of an organisation, it is not an illegitimate proposition to consider possible change.

Renewalists view Tsvangirai’s acquisition of more powers as vindicating them.

Furthermore, proponents of renewal, rightly, exercised their constitutional right to political association.  It remains to be seen, nevertheless, whether they will crystallise into a party distinct from the mainstream MDC. However, Biti may also be vulnerable to the criticism of cult politics he levels against his former boss. Biti has been at the fore of the outfit while its supposed interim leader, Sekai Holland, is virtually invisible.

Equally odious within the opposition camp is personal politics. Here, I refer to the preoccupation with personal attacks and public denigration.

The opposition and its fragments become political nuisances when they spend time hurling insults at each other.

Recently, Tsvangirai described his former colleagues as “lily-livered.” Biti was more vile, describing Tsvangirai as an “illiterate dictator,” and the MDC leadership “reptiles” in inviting Nelson Chamisa to join his new outfit.

How these public insults help a nation groaning under incredible adversity — only these antagonists know.

The tragedy of it all is that this is happening at a time Zanu PF is at its weakest, badly fractured.

Divided as it is, it is difficult still to see the opposition beating it in a by-election as some of such mid-term elections have already shown.

The Zimbabwean opposition is failing to pursue “winning politics.” Such politics should distinguish itself from the current regime, and not copy it.

It is not openly adversarial and unproductive; instead, it is collaborative. It is, most significantly, about winning hearts and minds of the electorate with alternative policy proposals.

Otherwise these outfits become political irritants.

Comments (6)

Can you please make a list of the winning ways which the opposition can use against zanu that would make sense rather than hallucinating while supping english coffee in England. What do you want the opposiion mdct to do right now there are no elections hence it is busy with grass roots structures . I tell you right now where ever Morgan goes its always packed stop talking nonsense .People know who is their darling and it is none other bro Morgan .

Diibulaanyika - 11 November 2014

While i value your freedom of expression as enshrined in the Zimbabwean constitution, i also believe you have just exposed how biased you are. You are a renewal admirer Mr Conrad Nyamutata. Do you as well believe leaders should be removed outside Congress through a mere individual Memo? Do you also believe in a set up that creates two centres of power in the party? Finally do you as well propagate that only one leader is removed in the name of renewing leadership and without the participation of the grassroots. i believe true democracy starts with respecting the grassroots who happens to be the King makers and givers of leadership mandate.

Dr Munhuwo - 13 November 2014

Great comments.Why not offer solutions and that which needs to be done than shout at Tsvangirai

Practical - 13 November 2014

i agree with u guys......, Biti was the Secretary General (with no brains), thinking of renewing leadership by putting himself without the grassroots........he was supposed to renew himself 1st and not Tsvangirai. Biti totally failed as SG, to prove this watch what he is doing......he was supposed to have resigned and anoint others and continue in the fold, what he dd shows that he is a power hungry person with no future

gore - 13 November 2014

You are right guys. BITI was a sell out who pretended to be negotiating for MDC T when he was conniving with his Renewal team. Why did he fail to wait for Congress ? Tsvangirai was placed in that position by the people including Biti. They now want the party President Tsvangirai to step down just becoz Mangoma has written a letter ? Thank GOD, may they now run their own party and leave Tsvangirai and the MDC T alone. A lawyer who cannot respect the Party Constitution is a dangerous lose cannon. The weaknesses of the previous party Constitution created two centres of power which made BITI and Mangoma feel they were above Tsvangirai and the people. What they staged was a coup which was treasonous. Emulate ZANU PF for firing not people who removed but only plotted to contest in the elections. If BITI and Company think that is what democracy is all bout, let them enjoy that democracy outside MDCT. Tichasangana kuma elections. Surprisingly, they are uniting with an outfit which went its own way and found the going tough and is now left with the leadership with no followers. If they cant learn from History , let them perish. Tsvangirai Famba ne bhora.

T. Mavetera - 15 December 2014

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