United MDC: So Many Questions

By John Chimunhu|
Now Daily Analysis|

Revolutions are by nature dynamic. No single party, individual or entity can realistically claim to own a revolution or to have sole rights over its execution and prosecution. It is only dictators and madmen like the ones in Zanu PF, who plan to enslave the people, who can claim to own the freedom train.
It is in this context that we note with interest the formation in Harare Wednesday of the United MDC. This is basically a constellation of opposition activists who have been around for a long time. Some of them have been discredited through their own actions. Others have been unjustly vilified. Yet many more are unknown quantities who still need to prove their mettle. Despite all the questions and reservations that critics may have, it must be stated unequivocally that any Zimbabwean who stands up to add their two ounces of strength to the cause of democracy in this troubled country should be applauded. Zimbabwe has had many false starts. Many parties have come and gone. In fact, at every election, we have no less than 25 parties on the ballots, which then disappear soon after the polls after manipulating and abusing the people. It is not surprising that many of us have become disillusioned that change remains elusive 15 years after the original, ‘united’ MDC was founded. It is for this reason that some have expressed skepticism over the United MDC’s formation. But, as David Coltart said, it is important for us not to dismiss this project off-hand. They may not have done anything to prove themselves yet, apart from making impressive statements and signing papers, but everything has a beginning. After all, many of the new party’s officials are known fighters who have proved their democratic credentials elsewhere.
However, judging by some of the statements made at the launch, there are many questions and issues which the new party must address immediately. The first is that of identity. What does the new party stand for, apart from a desire to participate in elections? What is their strategy to wrestle state power, apart from singing and dancing? How will the party be financed?
One of the signatories of the unity pact, Welshman Ncube, talked about going back to the MDC’s “founding values” of 1999. That is too vague. Those values need to be redefined for the benefit of those who were not there and those who lost the way. Besides, coming up with a wish list is easy. It is in the implementation that the people lose their way. Ncube himself stated that when the struggle became protracted and freedom did not come soon enough, some people began to ape Zanu PF’s undemocratic quick fix solutions.
Stating that the party will be based on the ’99 charter sounds ominously like an attempt to outdo Morgan Tsvangirai, which is wrong. At this juncture, any new party should focus on providing an alternative to Zanu PF, not to sink Tsvangirai, who is not in power. But, of course that is academic. The United MDC will try to out-smartTsvangirai in the hope of inheriting members and structures from MDC-T. A better strategy is to stop antagonising Tsvangirai and work towards uniting with him for some sort of coalition.
Ncube has previously stated he will never work with Tsvangirai. That may be in his own best interests, but is that good for the party?
Another crucial question which the new party is not addressing is that of leadership. Who is really in charge of this new entity. Notably, Ncube and Tendai Biti signed the unity agreement, yet declared that the interim president will be Sekai Holland. Many people have a problem with this.
To begin with, who said Holland should be given this crucial post and on what basis? Will Holland be prepared to step down after the party’s congress, where it seems obvious she will not retain the post?
Apart from being beaten by Mugabe and sponsoring the MDC, Holland is not known to be a great strategist. Some people who have worked with her think she is ignorant and divisive. When she was national healing minister, many expected her to do something practical for victims of Zanu PF violence. Instead, she became part of the cover-up. She famously accepted Zanu PF demands for money to pay n’angas (traditional healers) to perform so-called cleansing ceremonies for Mugabe’s killers who were haunted by their own actions. Many felt she was not doing enough for the traumatised victims. In parliament, Holland is not famous for informed debate.
The final question is, how will United MDC turn their plans into action? So far a lot of their cadres have adopted the myopic view that Tsvangirai is the only reason why MDC is not in power. Now that they have removed Tsvangirai from the picture, how are they going to build the critical mass required to topple the Mugabe dictatorship? Admittedly, Tsvangirai has the spirit, the charisma and the flexibility which none of the United MDC leaders has displayed so far. We wait to see what happens when the party hits the street.

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