Biti’s big bite of opposition cake


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Zimbabwe – Someone recently made a bizarre claim. Perhaps less bizarre than plain puffery — that opposition MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube “is a great game changer who has exhibited exceptional leadership qualities judging from the way he has led the opposition outfit”.

The writer, appearing on one website, said: “He has transformed the Movement for Democratic Change into a powerful force with the capacity to stand the ground against Zanu-PF in the next elections if they want to contest as a party.”

“His dream for a bigger and fierce political party has become a reality and will obviously give Zanu-PF a good run for their money in 2015 . . . The MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube is now too strong than (sic) what is being speculated by its enemies. The fools that have been predicting its collapse have now gone underground after realising that they have been chasing a wild goose.

“The man called Welshman Ncube cannot be equated to the Morgan Tsvangirai of today or Joice Mujuru the so-called president of the yet to be formed CIO-owned People First where political criminals are found, I mean the people who want money and bars of soap like prostitutes.”

Because it is the beginning of the year and many people actually relish political judo which is characteristic of the Zimbabwean political landscape, it is useful to interrogate these claims and also throw critical light on the likely fortunes of players in Zimbabwe’s opposition movement.

First, it would seem the writer is living in a time warp and has mistaken 2016 for 2008.

Prof Ncube broke away from the original MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai in 2005 and had a number of notable loyalists with him.

In the elections that followed in 2008, and by which time Prof Ncube had curiously roped in Arthur Mutambara as the party leader, his outfit clinched a modest 10 seats in the parliamentary poll.

In the same poll MDC-T had 100 seats while Zanu-PF suffered a shocking and historical reversal at 99.

What followed was called a hung parliament and it was no doubt that with his 10 seats, Prof Ncube amounted to something.

Subsequently, in the so-called inclusive Government, he was a factor with his party landing the other Deputy Prime Minister’s position represented by Mutambara and having three ministerial positions as Prof Ncube was himself appointed Industry Minister.

However, the elections of 2013 spelt the end of the inclusive Government and while the opposition took heavy casualties from the resurgent Zanu-PF, it meant a near decimation of Prof Ncube’s MDC which did not manage a single elected seat as opposed to Zanu-PF’s 159 and MDC-T’s 49.

In the presidential poll, President Mugabe polled 2 110 434 or 61,09 percent and Tsvangirai 1 172 349 representing 33,94 percent.

Prof Ncube polled 92 637 which translated into a sorry 2,68 percent.

As we speak, Prof Ncube has just one party representative in Parliament, thanks to a system of proportional representation.

Nothing has changed, as far as we can see, between 2013 and now and just how he has “transformed the Movement for Democratic Change into a powerful force” beats every rational person.

And it takes a leap of faith to see Prof Ncube as having now become a “bigger and fierce political party”.

To locate Prof Ncube’s proper place, a scientific study done last year by the Mass Public Opinion Institute is probably the most credible measure.

The think tank put President Mugabe in a routine first position and Morgan Tsvangirai the usual second.

“Former Vice President Joice Mujuru is in third position and receives highest score in terms of hard work, but receives below majority endorsement . . . PDP (People’s Democratic Party) leader Tendai Biti comes in fourth place in the rankings, receiving highest score in terms of hard working, but poorest rate on the aspect of honesty.”

In the survey, Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn leader Simba Makoni was fifth in terms of the survey while Dumiso Dabengwa, Prof Welshman Ncube, Prof Lovemore Madhuku and Elton Mangoma proved to be less popular with only an average of about 10 percent of survey respondents positively assessing the four leaders on the five leadership attributes which were under scrutiny.

It is becoming a foregone conclusion that Joice Mujuru will become the “third force” in the political fray.

This, of course, is premised on the hope and speculation that she will launch her party and in a big way tap from her former party Zanu-PF and the main opposition MDC-T.

The only problem with this scenario is that it gives too much credit to the former vice president when in actual fact she has done pretty little between her ignominious end in Zanu-PF and now.

It does not take rocket science to know that Amai Mujuru squandered a lot of momentum — what elementary scientists would call potential energy — that was bottled within her co-conspirators who should have been mobilised as soon as they had been exposed in Zanu-PF.

The failure to capitalise on this has not only led to the wasting of this potential but also despondence on the party of those who may have rallied behind her has set in and in fact some who were made to face music in the ruling party because of their association with her.

Some of the recriminations continue to this day but it is doubtful whether Mujuru will be able to rally all these people.

She is like a yawning gap.

She is like a game waiting to happen — and if she does, which is unlikely soon, political watchers will be quite interested.

This yawning gap is what may have inspired the new energy that Biti is exhibiting these days.

First, it is for Biti to assert his space as one of the political heavies in the local space.

In the past two months, he has been very visible, and has shrugged off a certain reluctance — being a reluctant leader — to become visible and claim more space in the body politic.

An official in the Biti camp confided in the writer that Biti had to be pushed into the ring — and he is now enjoying it, apparently.

He is likely to cover a lot of ground this year and may be the centre of the left. This is critical, in available permutations, in that Biti may join hands with Mujuru, something he has strongly hinted at.

But even outside Mujuru, Biti may work hard to assert popularity in the traditional opposition front.

To be honest, he is very unlikely to force defections from the Tsvangirai wing: in fact he is prone to lose supporters himself.

However, the opposition supporters that detest Tsvangirai are his for the taking and this will likely see him eroding what little has been left of Prof Ncube.

Judging by the events of the past few months, Biti is on the rise and his immediate playground is the niche playground of anti-Tsvangirai opposition.

And, lastly, since funding from the traditional Western donors is critical, it would seem Biti has some admirers from his MDC-T days who are said to be willing to oil him, which kind of cash will not be flush to say Prof Ncube.

Conclusively, while we are not going to see one Biti becoming the main opposition leader this year, he will make significant bite of the cherry.

In all, the ruling Zanu-PF will remain insulated and perhaps continue with its pastime games otherwise known as factionalism, until a formidable force rallies it to face the outside threat.

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