Friday, September 05, 2008

(TALKZIMBABWE) Morgan Tsvangirai: A liability for the MDC?

Morgan Tsvangirai: A liability for the MDC?
Philip Murombedzi
Fri, 05 Sep 2008 11:28:00 +0000

THE LEADER of the larger faction of Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai has become implacable and is a threat not only to the all-party talks in Zimbabwe, but to the future of his own party and its supporters. The centre of malevolence in the MDC-T party is the centralized sole power in the hands of one person or few of them – i.e. Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti. They make the ultimate decisions and everybody else has to follow suit.

Despite their public outcry that they are not concerned about positions, their behaviour points to the contrary.

The truth is that, although Morgan is remote-controlled by some conspicuous, visible hand, he wants to grab, total power in his own hands, and Biti wants a piece of the cake too. Biti has been a member of almost every known opposition political party in the country, even a member of the now defunct Zimbabwe Unity Movement, led by that political maverick aptly nicknamed “Two Boy”.

Unfortunately, no one in the MDC-T dares to question these two characters who have already consolidated power before they even acquire it, except their funders who are directly responsible for the unending flip-flops.

These two individuals (plus their funders) monopolize the decision-making process in the party and their followers have to concede with whatever decision they come up with, including the endless flip-flops and sulks.

One can almost sense the desperation in characters like spokesman Nelson Chamisa – whose limelight was recently stolen by a newcomer, Tsvangirai’s “spokesman” George Sibotshiwe in the aftermath of the March 29 harmonised election – to be in power. They have worked hard, and for too long and the “stop-start approach” by Morgan is draining all their political energies and vitality. Chamisa missed a chunk of his adolescent life to the MDC-T party. As Tsvangirai, who is a rich man now, was saying talks have stalled and there's no hope, Chamisa was telling SA FM that President Mugabe should re-consider the ultimatum given to the MDC-T party on the appointment of the cabinet.

US President George Bush has openly allocated millions of dollars to finance an ostensibly democratic opposition subservient to Western interests, yet that has brought very little, in material terms, to many MDC-T members – who are being bitten by the sanctions initiated and celebrated by their leadership – except to the two MDC-T "fat cats".

The first big show of strength by the opposition on March 29 proved to be a bitter disappointment, as the two leaders mishandled the successes they had gained at the elections. They took the ruling party by surprise, but failed to handle the win properly. They let slip power that was staring them in the face, by not contesting the June 27 run-off presidential election, citing violence they later agreed was also perpetuated by their own people. Remember the joint communiqué issued by the MDC-T party and the ruling Zanu PF? It laid blame on both the parties for the violence that characterized the aftermath of the elections. How then could the MDC-T call the perpetrators of the violence “political prisoners” or “prisoners of conscience”?

Instead of displaying the strength and determination of the opposition, the flip-flops in the election aftermath and the “over-excitement” made clear structural weakness and lack of preparedness for higher office. MDC-T leaders were wrenching the microphone from one another and sweating, not knowing what to do with the “win”. Chamisa was almost relegated to a “nobody” as Biti became the new spokesman.

You could almost sense the power struggles and squabbles and many of their activists got exasperated by their inability to handle a win. Poor followers of the MDC-T party got sucked into the flip-flops and were shifting positions as quickly as Morgan was, without clear direction.

Most observers regard the weakness of the opposition MDC-T as a product of the hunger for power and disunity of its protagonists. That, however, is only half of the story. More fundamental is the gulf which separates the opposition from the people and their day-to-day problems. When Morgan spent two months in South Africa and/or Botswana he completely ignored the concerns of his electorate – many of whom were victims of the violence he agreed was also caused by his party. He then came back home and withdrew from the presidential run-off election, despite MDC-T supporters vow that they would vote against President Mugabe, regardless of the level of violence.

The destruction of the Zimbabwean economy by the illegal sanctions (and supported by the MDC-T) has left more than half of the population without work, including Tsvangirai’s supporters.

The country's infrastructure has been badly damaged, leaving many without water or electricity. Nevertheless, not one of the MDC-T leaders has spoken openly about the imposition of the sanctions or pose a solution to the worsening social and economic crisis. They have nothing to offer apart from a few vague hopes of help from the very governments that have just reduced Zimbabwe to rubble. When he returned from his “sabbatical” in SA and Botswana, Tsvangirai pledged US$500, 000 for the victims of violence. It remained that: a pledge.

How can Britain, a country facing the worst economic crisis in thirty years, pledge US$10 billion to Zimbabwe? How can Zimbabwe privatize the public services to help those on welfare? Does the MDC-T party not know that privatization increases the cost of provision? The prescriptions of the MDC-T party are as ill-conceived as the formation of the party itself.

The two leaders of the MDC-T party will have to rethink their position in relation to the concerns of their supporters. Many exasperated MPs are hopeful of getting into power and the top leadership has become a huge liability and a stumbling block to the realization of their dreams.

That the opposition seeks to come to power on the back of the misery caused by the West is inconceivable. Trying to increase social tensions by calling for sanctions and then trying to then canalize them into political demands, can never be passed off as true leadership.

philipmurombedzi *

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