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Thursday, 2 August 2007


We must be afraid, very afraid
National Agenda with Bornwell Chakaodza

LET us be realistic about it all. As the clock ticks towards the harmonised presidential, parliamentary and local government elections next year, what should be deeply worrying is not the collapse of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as a single and united opposition movement. No. There is a much more important issue that should deeply worry us.

The problem of factionalism in political parties and promoting one's own personal and subjective interests are endemic everywhere. What is of crucial importance for me is creating conditions necessary for a free and fair election in 2008. This is what I see as the greatest challenge facing the MDC and all progressive and democratic forces in Zimbabwe.
The mass of Zimbabweans are not interested in Arthur Mutambara or Morgan Tsvangirai scoring political points or trading insults. Perhaps, Mutambara has nothing else to do except to criticise Tsvangirai — thus playing into the hands of the ruling ZANU PF party. But Mutambara must be told in no uncertain terms that hurling insults at Tsvangirai will not deliver the sort of Zimbabwe that everybody wants. Perhaps Mutambara knows that he has no popular support, that is why he is behaving the way he is behaving.
The truth of the matter is that without insisting on and demanding a level political playing field as a necessary precondition for a free and fair election, no amount of political rallies will make a difference. Opposition parties must therefore grasp this simple but important point.
Opposition parties can launch their presidential and parliamentary campaigns in a month or so but with no appetite on the part of the ruling party to create a democratic environment and conditions necessary for a new beginning, what difference will it make? I cannot be anything but pessimistic when I see the ruling party throwing spanners in the works all the time and no strategies coming from opposition parties to counter them.
By pushing ahead with plans to amend the constitution and seemingly oblivious of what is going on around him, President Mugabe is making it clear that he is not about to bow to any pressure from any quarter (SADC included) anytime soon. So there is some serious thinking to be done by opposition parties here. We have lived with ZANU PF long enough to know that the ruling party will continue to play tricks on us ad infinitum in the full knowledge that nothing will be done to them. The past has borne out this fact.
Coupled with the fact that there is little or no appetite on the part of the majority of Zimbabweans to take to the streets to demand greater democracy, then we have a classic case of a political environment characterised by too many declarations and statements from opposition parties with little or no action to show for it. I am indeed terribly pessimistic about the whole thing at this point in time.
I am not saying here that opposition parties have become spent forces. No. All I am doing is to draw attention to the enormity of the task as we get closer to crunch time. The essence of my argument here is that we must not be under any illusion that salvation is around the corner. Change could be a long time coming unless and until a level playing field is created for all.
MDC formations or factions (call them what you will) and other opposition parties and civil society as a whole can play a very important role by focusing solely on the real issue. The real core of the issue lies in all democratic forces standing together to demand a level political playing field. This way, we will have an impact, I think.
I liked it when Tsvangirai said that if President Mugabe wins in a free and fair election, he will be the first to congratulate the President. That is as it should be. As long as the will of the people has been freely expressed in an open, free and fair election, it does not matter who wins in the last analysis. It is therefore crucial to have a free interplay of ideas in the run-up to any election and if such an electoral environment can be guaranteed, then it will be down to the Zimbabwean voters to elect a leader and a political party they think in their wisdom will make a huge difference to their lives. This really is the bottom line.
It is not for one leader to make jibes against the other like Mutambara did last weekend, describing Tsvangirai as a "weak and indecisive leader". Weak and indecisive in whose eyes? It is only in the eyes of the Zimbabwean public and not those of Mutambara that a political leader is credible or otherwise. It may be part of the political game by those who lack maturity to needlessly scold a political opponent but the point is that it did reflect very badly on Mutambara.
Indeed, Mutambara's behavior buttressed the perception that is already in the public that his faction is nothing more than a new ZANU PF party in the making — that is MDC-ZANU PF for short. Otherwise how does one explain such an unwarranted and vitriolic attack on a man Mutambara should ordinarily see as a comrade-in-arms?
The MDC — particularly but not exclusively the Mutambara faction — is facing a credibility deficit with many Zimbabweans at the moment. The goodwill that was engendered in the period following the February 2000 Constitutional Referendum through to the 2002 presidential election appears to have evaporated. The only way to regain that goodwill from Zimbabweans, difficult as it is, is not by hurling insults at each other but by coming up with coherent strategies to bring about a level playing field well before the March 2008 polls — even as two different and separate factions.
Forming a coalition to fight next year's polls is of course a desirable thing but it is not the end of the world if it does not come about. I see no need for such a coalition myself in the absence — at the very least — of minimum conditions for a free and fair electoral environment including a genuinely independent Electoral Commission an equal access to the state media. For me, this is the strongest card that both factions of the MDC will have, especially the Tsvangirai faction which evidently appears to have the majority of Zimbabweans on its side.
It is now a race against time. Timing is everything in politics. The problems that the opposition and the civil society face in this country including the unprecedented levels of brutality and a fearsome President are challenging and tough, no doubt. But the alternative is not to do nothing. It is a natural human impulse to continue fighting peacefully in order to end democratic deficits and oppression wherever they rear their ugly heads.
Zimbabweans are worn out and worn down by all sorts of hardships and by the need to survive. Perhaps, that is why there is no appetite among them to take to the streets to demand normalcy in their lives. In this kind of environment, MDC factions must stop shooting themselves in the foot by engaging in unpleasant and uncalled for squabbles for power and non-existent Cabinet positions. Kutandanisa tsuro muine salt muhomwe dzenyu hazviite vana Tsvangirai na Mutambara. Ko mukatadza kuibata tsuro yacho, salt yacho munozoiyisa kupi?
I think we need to preserve a sense of proportion as Zimbabweans and not be unduly worried or panic over the collapse of the coalition talks between the two factions of the MDC. Anyway, the faction with the popular support will be the one to take ZANU PF head on in a meaningful way. The real truth is that next year's polls are ultimately about creating conducive conditions for a transparent, open, free and fair elections before, during and after the polls.
Anything else will be a recipe for opposition impotence as usual and once again victory on a silver platter for President Mugabe and ZANU PF.


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I look for "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" at all times.