The latest split involving the MDC Renewal Team, itself a splinter of the mainstream Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by Morgan Tsvangirai, has plunged confidence levels in the country’s opposition parties to an all time low.
The latest split highlights the hopelessness of Zimbabwe’s opposition politics that has been evident since the country’s independence in 1980. The country’s 35-year history is littered with numerous graves of opposition parties that have dismally failed to dislodge the ruling Zanu(PF) party from power.
The closest to pose any serious threat to Zanu(PF) was MDC in 2000, before it started disintegrating into pieces that include the latest outfit calling itself Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe, an offshoot of the MDC Renewal Team.
Failure by Zimbabwe’s opposition politics is not only evident in the numerous MDC formations, but also in the countless many other failed political outfits whose names hardly found a place in the memories of the country’s citizens such as those formed by the Zimbabwe Unity Movement, the late nationalist, Edgar Tekere, and that formed by the country’s first Chief Justice, Enoch Dumbutshena, the Forum Party.
And with the next round of elections set to take place in 2018, the ruling Zanu(PF) party appears easily poised for yet another grand victory. This is despite the fact that Zanu(PF) itself is currently caught up in deep-seated internal fights and factionalism, which have led to several bigwigs being axed. Towards 2018 the party is likely to prey on the godsend prevailing chaos in the opposition’s ranks.
From the look of things the country’s largest opposition party, with over a million supporters, as evidenced by the 2013 general elections results, MDC-T is unlikely to be at the frontlines of putting up a fight against President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu(PF) in 2018.
Despite it, the MDC-T still enjoying some popular appeal nationwide, it has a poisoned chalice in the form of its leader, Tsvangirai, who has lost out to President Mugabe in three previous elections. Unless something out of the ordinary happens in the dynamics of opposition politics, Tsvangirai’s own standing in MDC-T remains questionable after he refused to step down last year and retained power at a contentious party congress last October where his post was not challenged.
Term limits against Tsvangirai have also been scrapped, an indication that he may have no intention of relinquishing his position and passing on the baton to a successor. And, even more disturbing, fatigue appears to have set in among western donors and supporters over Tsvangirai’s inability to realise the mission to remove President Mugabe from power for the past 15 years.
MDC-T’s repeated election losses however appear to have made it all the wiser. The opposition party is now refusing to participate in elections without reforms, perhaps after it dawned upon it that institutions such as the Southern African Development Community and African Union are unlikely to lend an ear to its claims of election fraud. Although criticised for boycotting the polls, MDC-T’s absence from elections may take the sting out of a ZANU-PF win, despite the rhetoric from the revolutionary party that it does not need the MDC-T to hold elections: It still needs an opponent to beat to strengthen its legitimacy to remain in power.
The challenge for Tsvangirai, if he is to make a final push to wrest ZANU-PF out of power, is to reach out to all the opposition forces. The opposition leader must admit that his political star is not shining as bright as it used to 15 years ago; and the process of time has exposed his leadership weaknesses. The only solace Tsvangirai has is in uniting with all democratic forces in the country.
Meanwhile the Welshman Ncube-led MDC has hogged the spotlight this year for all the wrong reasons. High profile resignations have haunted the party since the beginning of the year, an occurrence which always unnerves the electorate, which interprets these events as signs of internal instability. Ncube’s MDC is yet to make an impact in the political scheme of things, especially given the fact that it has no elected representation in Parliament. This has effectively rendered the party a mere noise maker outside the National Assembly.
The expectation, during the 2013 general electrions, that MDC would mount a formidable challenge against the MDC-T in the three Matabeleland provinces also turned out to be a damp squib, after the MDC-T regained its control of three Bulawayo as well as Matabeleland North and South provinces. While ideologically fertile, Ncube’s MDC falls short on popular support — simply because elections in Zimbabwe are historically centred on numbers.
Simba Makoni, perhaps realising how his own political outfit has taken a dip since the 2008 election, appears to be the only opposition leader willing to play on all sides of the deeply divided opposition landscape. Makoni, who won eight percent of the presidential vote in 2008, is prepared to reach out to as many “like-minded” opposition leaders as possible.
Makoni’s acumen and the fact that he is a former member of Zanu(PF)’s top brass makes him an indispensable asset in the opposition’s ranks, in its attempts to pull the carpet from underneath Zanu(PF)’s feet. He understands the modus operandi of Zanu(PF), but like Ncube’s MDC, MKD has no Parliamentary presence and needs to align itself with those that do, so as to give weight to the opposition’s voice.
Another asset to the opposition has been Dumiso Dabengwa and his revived ZAPU project; as usual the different opposition formations have been preoccupied with seeking self-glory.
The latest split in MDC Renewal highlights this point.
While fortunate to have the sharp minds of Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma in its ranks, the MDC Renewal Team appears to increasingly have become a party driven by selfish agendas. The split, last week, of the MDC Renewal Team brought to the fore the problem of the country’s opposition leaders who are always keen to be viewed as personally holding the solution to the country’s problems.
Alex Magaisa, a lawyer based at Kent university, United Kingdom,who is also a former advisor to Tsvangirai, said the country’s opposition had reached a point now where its image, in the public consciousness, was that of an opposition that is forever fighting small internal battles or creating smaller and smaller entities, each claiming to be the solution.
“Mangoma’s new outfit adds to the swarm of opposition political parties seemingly flying in all directions, colliding with others along the way,” said Magaisa