Did MDC-T Congress Enhance 2018 Electoral Chances?

By Prince Tongogara 


Reading George Orwell’s classic satirical book “Animal Farm” should be a must among all political inclined persons particularly when trying to understand the concept of change. The book has remained important especially in Zimbabwe’s politics and more so in the light of the MDC-T’s fourth congress held last week in Harare.

The party radically changed the composition of its top leadership – the standing committee – worryingly its resolutions show the traits of a party nostalgic about the past be it in management of internal affairs or proffering of solutions to the current political and economic problems in Zimbabwe.

The MDC-T both in refashioning its structures and political ideologies ahead of the 2018 watershed general elections fell short in their mimicry of Zanu PF. This particularly seen in two main respects – centralization of power in the presidency and change of course to become more radically revolutionary and ended up sounding like Zanu PF on land and provision of education.

Like Zanu PF, MDC-T used the façade of enlarging practically its standing committee but at the same time weakening the institution and simultaneously strengthening the hand of the presidency.

The MDC-T congress resolved among other things ‘to amend the constitution to allow the President to be the custodian of all party name, custodian of all party assets, to supervise all in the leadership, to be party’s chief fundraiser

and to suspend national standing committee members through the national council for breach of the party constitution.’

More fundamentally it further resolved that ‘from next congress, all deputy officers of congress except Vice President and vice chair shall be appointed by the President from a pool of national executive members and that all deputies

of officers of congress except Vice President and vice chair elected at this fourth congress (2014) will not sit in the standing committee.’

So in one stroke the party enlarged its most powerful organ in between congresses to be ceremoniously enlarged but at the same time substantially weakened so that the president could be powerful.

On the economic front the MDC-T made in my view four fundamental resolutions: 

1. The party stands for the creation of a social market economy, with strong bias towards the poor and marginalised.

2. Keep multiple currency board and reduce overall taxation to about 25%

3. It supports land redistribution to the people and not Zanu PF chefs and

4. Free access to education at primary level

On the face of it, MDC-T veered back to the left from the centre on the political continuum and unfortunately in the process sounding more like a sanitised Zanu PF in the process. 

It remains a moot case whether these resolutions and policy tweaking make the MDC-T stronger and puts it in a position to victoriously challenge for power against the Zanu PF in 2018. The structural changes and ideologically

repositioning however look too weak to alter the balance of power. Like in Animal Farm it seems the two main players want to substitute each other without fundamentally changing anything. More frequently in such contests

the incumbent retains power thus MDC-T has to do more between now and 2018.