Social Media Slip A Damage To Tsvangirai’s Messianic Brand

By Prince Tongogara

Morgan Tsvangirai’s star after rising for the first decade of this century culminating in being Zimbabwe’s premier in the coalition government (2009-2013) is now dimming with all his political warts and all being revealed in manner that his political resurrection is now near impossible. However a recent survey by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute “Save” as Tsvangirai is affectionately known by his clan name remains the most popular opposition leader. The splinter Renewal Team of Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma reportedly started weak and remains weaker.

Tsvangirai had become a darling of the media and the ‘Messiah’ Zimbabweans looked up to after deepening political and economic crisis experienced by people particularly after 200.

However media revelations that Tsvangirai who all along acted the ‘super democrat’ last week issued a diktat to his party members to forthwith cease administering social media groups and those interested should apply to use the same soiled his reputation.

The party machinery went into an overdrive in taking remedial action on the damaging revelation.

Party spokesman Obert Gutu issued a statement to clarify the situation.

“We would like to put the record straight that President Morgan Tsvangirai has not banned party members from using social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc. President Morgan Tsvangirai is a champion of democracy and free speech and indeed his track record as the country’s most popular politician speaks for itself,” Gutu said.

He added, “Party members are free to use social media in accordance with the guidelines and standards that are being set up by the party leadership.”

The last statement betrays the party. It was holding its members to account in relation to a non-existent social media policy.

However, a deeper analysis of the anarchy in the party can be traced back to immediately after the disputed but crushing defeat at the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections.

The defeat meant MDC-T was back into the trenches as the official opposition albeit with insignificant MPs to alter government policy.

Stung by the defeat, senior party members openly challenged party leader Tsvangirai to step down after losing three consecutive elections.

Former national treasurer Roy Bennett was the first to speak out arguing strongly that the leader should take responsibility for the dismal party performance.

The call was immediately drummed up by ex-national executive member Ian Kay who said Tsvangirai was ‘a rust bolt’ in the party that needed to be changed.

The calls for Tsvangirai to leave office reached the crescendo when deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma wrote the infamous letter in February 2014 asking the leader to step down.

“It is also common cause that regardless of the electoral fraud, on our part, as leadership, should be responsible and shoulder some blame for allowing that electoral fraud to take place,” Mangoma wrote.

He hastened to add, “There is also no denial that he has played a pivotal role in Zimbabwe’s quest for democracy and socio-economic transformation. However, it is my humble submission that, at this juncture, it is time you consider leaving the office of the president of the movement.”

Mangoma further exhorted the leader that after 15 years at the helm he could not offer anything new.

“2014 marks 15 years of Morgan Tsvangirai as president of the party. You have done the best that you could and continuing will result in diminishing returns and eating into your legacy. The party is in dire need for new ideas, new thinking, a new trajectory and new stimulus,” concluded.

Tsvangirai went on the defensive and the party started to crack culminating in the embarrassing episode in February when Mangoma was attacked by party youths in the presence of Tsvangirai soon after a national council meeting.

That no action was taken against the youths fingered points to Tsvangirai’s hand in the scheming, a charge Mangoma has placed on record.

Tsvangirai refused to go for an early congress but later changed his mind agreeing to the same. However, it was late to save a split which happened in May 2014 amidst allegations of dictatorial tendencies on the leader.

Tsvangirai went into an overdrive to consolidate his position and started pushing for the centralization of all power into his office which was duly endorsed at the October 2014 congress.

Even with the new imperial powers lording over the party Tsvangirai still remained insecure in the face of rebellion by party members on social media calling for another extra-ordinary congress to be held next year.

In an effort to stem the growing tide, Tsvangirai banned the use of social media by party members thereby drawing the wrath of media and freedom of expression activists that he was crossing the democratic line – turning himself into a despot.

As the country and world wait to see what Tsvangirai does next, the jury seems to have come to the conclusion his time is up and the opposition need new democratic politics that embrace than separate members. Politics that is different from Zanu PF’s sentimentalism and tired nationalism. His star may not have completely faded but his brand has taken a battering and his sun may have started to sink.