Devolution: MDC-T’s Unlikely Saviour


By Paidamoyo Muzulu 

Harare, August 14, 2013 – President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s July 31 general election crushing victory is big enough to mask the party’s Achilles heel – loss of control of Zimbabwe’s metropolitan provinces of Harare and Bulawayo. These are two centres that could hold or crumble the MDC-T political influence life at the 2018 polls which most likely Mugabe will not contest.

The gravity of the crushing victory could not be portrayed any worse than the washed up appearance of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai at a press conference held at his Highlands home a week ago. It was a picture that could not have inspired any confidence in his wounded party faithfuls.

Mugabe’s victory margin of 61% in the first round heralded the beginning of the end to the more than a decade of political rivalry with Tsvangirai to control the highest office in the land. The comprehensive MDC-T parliamentary defeat shocked both friend and foe and most now fear the return to the dark days of discussions around one party state.

The subsequent debates on Tsvangirai’s suitability to continue leading the opposition after three failed attempts to win the presidency nationally and internationally while welcome, overshadows the silver lining on the dark cloud of defeat – the introduction of a constitutional devolution of power and control of Zimbabwe’s only two metropoles.

Devolution while providing a new lease of life or window of opportunity for the MDC-T to rebuild itself is not any easy option but avails that little chance. The MDC-T leadership has to welcome devolution, embrace it and defend the concept probably more than Welshman Ncube did when the clause found its way into the new constitution. This is informed by the Tsvangirai’s skepticism of devolution that it could be a stepping stone to secessionism during the constitution review programme.

Control of Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan [provinces give the MDC-T a golden opportunity to rebuild, rebrand and prove itself as a worth alternative government to Zanu PF. MDC-T political life depends on how it manages this opportunity to prove its difference to Zanu PF in issues pertaining to service delivery and spurring economic growth just as Helen Zille’s Democratic Alliance (DA) has used Cape Town as its flag bearer in competent governance and correctly argues it can export such management to other metropoles like Gauteng in 2014. This, DA, argues will prove that it can govern better than ANC by controlling the two metropolitan cities and provinces that control the South African economy.

Replicating the DA in Zimbabwe is not easy. The MDC-T will have to provide competent leadership that strategises beyond mere sloganeering. It has to stop whining about central government interference since the incoming Local Government minister will not be able to dissolve (fire) metropolitan councils under the new constitution. This is a blessing to the MDC-T that in the past complained of Ignatius Chombo haunting its mayors and councils out of office.

The councils (Harare that also incorporates Chitungwiza) and Bulawayo will have to show a great degree of planning, come up with sound policies, drive economic growth and more importantly service delivery. The metropolitan councils need good water and sanitation, refuse collection, roads, functional schools, recreational facilities, housing and be able to inspire industry and commerce to come and invest.

After all is said and done – this is a tall order but surmountable and the only realistic yardstick the MDC-T can be measured against in proving itself as an alternative. It’s now swim or sink for MDC-T and the next four years will help the people (electorate) to reach an informed verdict at the next poll in 2018.