The humiliating and dastardly beating-up of MDC-T deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma by party youths or infiltrators, as the party says, and we hear many others including the party’s secretary-general Tendai Biti and youth leader Promise Mkwananzi may have sealed the fate of the MDC-T as an alternative governing party.
The MDC-T, as I wrote a few weeks, has run its full circle as a political party, and now appears bereft of ideas and turning on each other is the last act in that process. The MDC-T has equally run full circle in fully assuming its new identity as MDC-Morgan Tsvangirai, this either by design or fate of party leader Tsvangirai.
The events of the past weekend follow a series of blunders by the party leadership, from failure to take advantage of their presence in the Government of National Unity (GNU), failed electoral strategy and now a failed leadership in taking the party forward.
Since its electoral defeat on July 31, the MDC-T has failed to craft a coherent response and mobilisation strategy that would focus on its role as the main opposition party. Equally a strategy that would, above all, be shared by the citizens of Zimbabwe, as an alternative to the now dominant Zanu PF thinking.
The failure of leadership is more evident by the flip-flopping positions on the rebellious councillors as well as the well-documented discord within the party over its divisions in Manicaland where leaders do not even greet each other and appear more violent to each other than their common opponents.
We have seen leadership failure especially by Tsvangirai in dealing with all these issues, more importantly the call for his resignation as party leader. The call is a legitimate democratic process that needed sober thinking and to be handled democratically and not violently.
Indeed, Tsvangirai is entitled to his ambition no matter how faltering that ambition may be, but the MDC-T has always fashioned itself as a people’s project, yet it is increasingly being fashioned as Tsvangirai’s project.
By merely opposing Zanu PF, the MDC-T accomplished a lot in exposing the demons in Zanu PF leading to regional and international interventions in bringing sanity to Zimbabwe. Outside this, the MDC-T, however, is now in sixes and sevens on the way forward.
The party has failed to coherently deal with the electoral defeat critically whether there is need for leadership renewal or not. The party leadership has been talking at cross purpose, and parallel to each other. Many have read what the leaders think more on social media sites than clear-cut positions.
As a result, the party is relying on the media to keep itself alive through intermittent statements attacking Zanu PF blunders while eating itself from inside. On the substantive issues, the party has no policies and is even blundering even more as indicated by the party MPs’ proposed salaries and other demands to the Speaker of Parliament.
The MDC-T is now damaged goods especially as a result of the party’s failed era in the GNU, this being cemented by events of the past week. No sane Zimbabwean wants to be associated with violence. If citizens reject and abhor violence by and from Zanu PF, the same applies to the MDC-T and even more so.
The MDC-T may still have as many people who support it, but the numbers are certainly dwindling over leadership failure. In the past there used to be a vision of sorts, driven by the need for an open, accountable and transparent governance system that would address economic and social changes.
The MDC-T has, however, failed to grow and build on the political capital accruing from this vision-of-sorts, the sympathy and anger with Zanu PF.
Instead as we saw over the weekend, there is so much confusion in the MDC-T akin to the camp of an army that turns on itself instead of facing the opponent. It appears there was never a common strategy and ideology within the leadership on what it means to be MDC-T. If there was, then Tsvangirai would see it prudent to ponder over the calls to step down.
If he, as opposition leader, has failed to unseat Zanu PF over the past 14 years, then what makes him think that he can do so in the future? It is a given that the Zimbabwean political landscape is not level, but it is up to Tsvangirai as the political aspirant to get it right, but he has failed.
This has not happened as the Tsvangirai brand is severely compromised, even by his failure to manage his personal life. Can we then trust him with managing the affairs of this country? By the admission of as many in the party, there has been failure to manage even corruption within the party.
The MDC-T has, therefore, betrayed its supporters many of whom paid the ultimate price at the hands of Zanu PF thugs. The sense of betrayal is turning into anger against the party leadership which is not contrite, but instead unleashing violence on some of its own. The leadership is clueless in addressing or confronting Zanu PF on the myriad of challenges citizens face.
As things stand, I repeat what I wrote a few weeks ago that Zimbabwe has entered a second phase of Zanu PF dominance which will likely go on for some time. It is up to Zanu PF to either lose or maintain power as there appears to be nothing else outside, threatening its hold on power.
The MDC-T is now a walking grave by means of its own making. The images of a distraught Elton Mangoma wearing a torn shirt will linger long in the minds of the normal MDC-T supporter or sympathiser.
It appears the MDC-T leadership learnt much more from Zanu PF than the comforts of the being in government. They learnt the deployment of violence as a political weapon. If as the party says there is infiltration by Zanu PF and even if the youths who beat Mangoma were Zanu PF, the buck still stops at Tsvangirai’s door to protect his party and leadership.
Whatever way to look at this and from whichever angle, it’s all about leadership failure writ large. The MDC-T no longer stands as a political alternative.
Rashweat Mukundu is a Zimbabwean journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org