ZIMBABWE – There is a sad belief in some countries that the more the number of political parties the more the existence of democracy.
They think that the presence of many political parties is an unquestioned indicator of abundant democracy.
Further to that, many countries think they can easily fool people by giving their countries names that state the very opposite of what their countries are actually all about.
How much democracy exists in the Democratic Republic of North Korea?
Closer to home, what democracy is there to talk about in the Democratic Republic of Congo?
Last year in South Africa, a nation of 54 million people, 29 political parties participated in elections. Botswana, with a population of 2.1 million has more than 10 political parties.
It does not make sense to some people that the United States, with a staggering population of 321.4 million has only two political parties.
Personally, I would be content with a maximum of three political parties: a right wing, a left wing and a centrist party.
But, no, we must also have the center right, center left, right of center and left of center party and all that mumbo jumbo.
I tried to count how many political parties exist in Zimbabwe; I stopped at 20 yet there are many, many more that are in hibernation and only appear when election dates are announced. (vana mabvongodza muto).
However, a few days ago, former Finance Minister Tendai Biti launched his party, the People’s Democratic Party.
Another political party, rumoured to be led by deposed Joyce Mujuru, Robert Mugabe’s deputy for a decade, will be launched any time now.
The problem with African politicians is that they do not believe in their parties but in themselves. Every one of them wants to become president not only of the party but of the country.
If, say, 10 political parties participate in an election against Mugabe’s Zanu-Pf, it is clear that the votes from the opposition parties would be badly split to give victory to a party they have been trying to dislodge for decades.
Discussions to bring together opposition parties are always on-going and the results are always the same – nothing.
Last week, Mujuru published what she called a Party Manifesto, the clearest indication yet that she intends to lead her half of the deposed Zanu-Pf group and contest against Mugabe who, at 91, says will run for another term in 2018.
To the annoyance of several people, like Themba Mliswa, Mujuru has taken her time to give a hint of her intentions until this ‘Party manifesto’, making many wonder what party she is referring to.
Mujuru, confident of being the leader of as yet-to-be-announced party, is already in negotiations with Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change to forge a united assault on Mugabe.
The outcome of these talks will be interesting because Tsvangirai, even having displayed hopeless leadership qualities and having failed to dislodge Mugabe many times before, believes Zimbabwe owes him the top job.
He will not settle for second spot.
Mujuru, on the other hand, has aroused sympathy among the people because of a variety of issues, notably the manner in which her husband “was killed” in a suspicious, still-to-be explained fire and the way she was publicly humiliated by Mugabe and his politically barren wife, resulting in her sacking from the party in December last year.
It is this sympathy that is being interpreted as popularity high enough to pose a credible challenge to Mugabe.
So, it remains to be seen who of the two, Mujuru and Tsvangirai, would accept the second spot if negotiations come to anything.
Meanwhile, as Mujuru and Tsvangirai camps were holding discussions to forge a united front against Zanu-Pf, Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai’s former Secretary General and now the leader of “the new kid on the block”, the People’s Democratic Party, called Tsvangirai a thief.
“We don’t share the same values with MDC-T,” said Biti, adding that Tsvangirai’s party was founded on violence and that being the reason “we decided to part ways last year”.
The animosity between Tsvangirai and Biti should never be underestimated; it will doubtlessly cause a lot of damage in any talks meant to have the opposition parties fight Mugabe as one.
Also not to be underestimated is the hostility between Biti and Elton Mangoma, Biti’s former ally and Tsvangirai’s former Energy Minister who was key in breaking away from Tsvangirai’s party with Biti.
Before their party had even been christened, leadership ambitions crept up between the two men and Mangoma, after being physically roughed up a few months ago for allegedly sleeping with a party junior’s girlfriend, accused Biti of cooking all this up to destroy him politically.
In retaliation, Mangoma formed his own party in May and named it the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai does not see eye-to-eye with Mangoma because it was Mangoma who called on Tsvangirai to step down from the MDC leadership. Tsvangirai’s refusal to step down was the reason Biti and Mangoma broke away to form their own party, which they tentatively named MDC Renewal Team at the time.
Mangoma and Biti then fell out with each other because both men wanted the leadership of the splinter group. So when a party operative beat up Mangoma right at their party’s headquarters, accusing Mangoma of sleeping with his wife, Mangoma charged that it was a ploy by Biti to discredit him as part of a fight for the leadership of the party.
Now both Mangoma and Biti have each their own political parties.
Will Mangoma accept a truce with Tsvangirai to spite Biti?
Will Tsvangirai accept Mangoma in these talks?
Will Biti sit down with either men?
Will Tsvangirai accept Biti after he called him a thief just a few days ago, accusing him of “groveling for terminal benefits” from Mugabe “while living in Zanu-Pf houses”?
“Some leaders (Tsvangirai) believe in the politics of prosperity and looting of state resources, but we must change this,” charged Biti. “Where in the world does it say a Prime Minister must get terminal benefits for serving in that position?”
Remember all these people want to be our President and none of them is going to negotiate for second spot.
They do not intend to join anyone but they expect someone to join them.
These are our leaders; our civil servants who aspire to save and serve our nation.
They have no allegiances or ideologies.
They come as they are and hope to go back home with more than they brought.
Zimbabweans will never stop paying.