Zimbabwe opposition parties are an embarrassment


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ZIMBABWE – I have lost count of how many political parties we have in Zimbabwe. But, even with that multitude of political parties, we are moving in the wrong direction with great speed.

Any day now, the country will act as mid-wife when yet another new political party is born.

The speed at which Zimbabwe is churning out political parties has become laughable and this is all because of the current leadership void so evident in government, in the ruling party and in all opposition parties.

No political party appears to have captured the imagination of the long suffering Zimbabweans.

Tsvangirai came close and, even with the electoral rigging we have heard so much about, almost toppled Mugabe. Since then, he has failed too many times to dent Mugabe’s grip on power and now appears to be fighting a battle we have seen so many times before – that of staying relevant in a clogged up political arena filled with younger and younger followers.

It seems now that anyone can form and run a political party better than the tragic cast of incompetent Zimbabwean politicians who all seem to be naturally emblazoned with fatalistic mediocrity.

Most of these parties are not original, including Mugabe’s Zanu-Pf itself. They are off-shots of other political parties where there was more a clash of egos than divergent doctrines.

To date, no party has given birth to more political parties than Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. It is sad that his party, the biggest opposition party, is identified by appending his name to that of the party: the MDC-T.

This is to distinguish it from the worse-than-dead breakaway group, referred to as the MDC-N, led by his former Secretary General, Welshman Ncube.

For whatever reason, Ncube installed Arthur Mutambara as president of his party and when they fell out with each other, Mutambara led another breakaway faction known as MDC-M.

Do not laugh; this is not funny.

There was also MDC-99 whose leader, Job Sikhala, retraced his footsteps back to Tsvangirai after noticing that many top posts in Tsvangirai’s MDC had fallen vacant as many of Tsvangirai’s lieutenants had deserted him.

Elton Mangoma, the former Zimbabwe Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, was a senior in Tsvangirai’s party but left with Tendai Biti who was Tsvangirai’s Secretary General and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance.

Mangoma and Biti shared the same belief that Tsvangirai was too incompetent and had become an embarrassing liability who needed to be replaced as party leader for the party to be “renewed”.

But Mangoma and Biti clashed before launching their political party which, until then, was frequently referred to as “the Renewal Team”.

Days after the fall-out between the two, Mangoma formed the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe to which Biti retaliated by also forming his own party called the People’s Democratic Party.

Clearly, all the splits from Tsvangirai were caused by personal not political or ideological differences as both Biti and Tsvangirai admit.

Last week, Biti conceded that ‘Zimbabwe’s opposition will continue to fail in its quest to dislodge President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF from power unless “personal egos” are done away with’.

While Tsvangirai is slowly being overtaken by events, just like Mugabe has been, I do not know how much more or what else he can do to revitalize the party and fire up his party’s followers like he used to do.

In Zimbabwe, it has always been difficult for a party’s “founding president” to step aside for new blood to take over the leadership of the party. To my knowledge, no party leader has ever voluntarily stepped down but clung to the leadership position – resulting in some of his colleagues leaving the party to form their own.

Zimbabwe’s political parties are appalling; the ruling Zanu-Pf is worse. Consider that the combined wisdom of all the parties’ leaders and their lieutenants has failed to contribute an improvement for Zimbabwe, a country considered the most literate on the continent.

Now we have an overabundance of political parties that seem to be more of a burden to the people and that are dividing people into smaller and smaller groupings that are of no meaning to the national discourse.

Currently, the most awaited political party is a Zanu-Pf off-shot that was born when Mugabe humiliated and expelled from the party, Mrs. Joyce Mujuru, his deputy of ten years.

Mrs. Mujuru, who had both the numbers and the popularity within Zanu-Pf to succeed Mugabe, was accused of intending to assassinate Mugabe and was thrown out of the party with most of her supporters. The “cleansing” within Zanu-Pf continues to this day and the party has been ripped apart right through the middle.

Mujuru took more than half the party and cabinet with her and is poised to form her own political party which, as of now, is being referred to as People First (PF).

This move has all other opposition parties worried because Mujuru arrives on the stage with a ready-made following across the country, a following large enough to go toe to toe with MDC-T and Tsvangirai is clearly jittery.

Mujuru’s group not only appears able to attract followers from just about every political party in the country but has actually made inroads into districts dominated by other parties by simply piggybacking on other parties’ existing structures.

The heart of the matter is that we cannot keep on celebrating the daily arrivals of new political parties while the nation hurtles backwards at a speed only matched by the depth of the doom we are rushing into.

While an authentic opposition party is seriously needed in Zimbabwe, we must be aware of the people who are leading us. PF, like all the other parties, is regurgitating old political whores, under-achievers and dead wood then presenting them to us in new suits and under a new name.

Already, Tsvangirai, Biti and Mangoma’s parties have lost many of their followers, including their party seniors.

On Monday, the Daily News reported that “almost the entire leadership of Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) party (defected) to the (PF) movement on Friday”.

I look at the likes of Dzikamai Mavhaire being brought back into government under a new political party and wonder how much longer the people of Zimbabwe will continue to tolerate such naked cheating of the electorate.

PF wants us not because they respect or care about us but because they were prematurely kicked off the gravy train from which they used to abuse us hardly a year and a half ago.

Now they are criticising their old party, saying the same things about their colleagues in Zanu-Pf that we used to say about them when they were in the Zanu-Pf government.

Imagine the impact they could have created had they left Zanu-Pf on their own will while saying the things they are saying now.

They are looking for a home because they know that for them to continue existing, they need our acceptance.

Meanwhile, all opposition parties are taking a nap at a time they should be very vocal and connecting with the rank and file.

Mugabe will never get well. Fighting illness is a tall order; fighting age is impossible. But he presides over a severely fragmented ruling party that, like himself, has lost all legitimacy.

I fear what the state of affairs has become in Zimbabwe because the power vacuum we see will cost lives in a chaotic battle to succeed Mugabe. The long suffering people of Zimbabwe cannot be expected to endure that, please.

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