Who should lead the MDC after Congress? A View from the grassroots voter

Who should lead the MDC after Congress? A View from the grassroots voter
Published: 14 April 2019 (195 Views)
Although the MDC has been a beacon of hope for most Zimbabweans  since its inception in 1999, the same cannot be confidently asserted this time around. Successive splits that have been rocking the party for years have left it bruised, wounded and politically weakened. The latest split has left a severe constitutional and institutional crisis.

Some constitutional law experts indicate that the unelected leadership currently running rings at MT House on behalf of the people's movement are not legal. Chamisa is said to have took over power through an obscure National Council resolution at the death of founding president, Tsvangirai. The controversy is yet to be resolved. This has added to the menacing illegitimacy crisis in terms of both party and national political leadership in Zimbabwe.

ZANU-PF president Emmerson Mnangagwa became the president of the country via the "not-coup" coup in November 2017. He went on to controversially and disputably win the presidency of the country. A sad parallel could be drawn between him and the current MDC President Nelson Chamisa. The elbowing  of Dr Khuphe and others out of the party has left the MDC with a serious crisis of leadership illegitimacy which needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency. Thanks to the 5th Congress which is just at the corner. At Congress, able, legitimate and astute leadership should be elected. Whoever is elected should have the ability and will to return the party to its original glory and stature.

Contextual Background
Currently the odds are that the 5th Congress of the MDC will be the first in the history of the party and country in general, in which the incumbent is contested. Unlike in the past where the then president Tsvangirai was never contested, it is a different ball game this time around. ZANU-PF is poised to learn a lot from this Congress and are already green with envy.  

The battle lines are already drawn between Chamisa and   Mwonzora who is currently the Secretary General of the party. Mwonzora's political exploits date back to the late 80s and his monumental experience will work in his favour. However, Chamisa is likely to ride on the luck of being the incumbent and on the ability to manipulate processes in his favour whether directly or indirectly. Mwonzora was elected to the SG post in the 4th Congress beating Chamisa while the latter  was questionably handpicked by President Tsvangirai together with Eng.

Ellias Mudzuri, creating a divide and rule  triangle of VPs which included Dr Thokozani Khuphe, the then elected VP. Sadly but predictably, the party organogram failed to depict the authority of each VP resulting in a fierce power struggle as early as the appointments were made. At Tsvangirai's death, Chamisa schemingly usurped the reigns and assumed the presidency, albeit, without any election. Obviously, the two, Chamisa and Mwonzora, have contrasting fortunes. The party should inescapably elect the best in terms of sustainable leadership qualities as opposed to seasonal, windborne endeavors. In that regard, the best candidate should be the one who will pass the litmus test on a number of the following capabilities:

1) Ability to unite the party
The MDC is in dire need of a leader who will unselfishly unite the party at all levels from grassroots to national. There should be deliberate commitment to mending perennial rifts between factions that have existed over the years although not publicly acknowledged. The new leader should be able to bridge the gap between the newly-came back "alliance boys" and the ever loyal members of the movement. The leader should have the ability and will to rein in the Johny-come-latelies to manage their venomous utterances. Focus should also be on possible reunification with the still invaluable Khuphe group. Such a leader would be selfless and people-centred. Some think  Mwonzora is effortlessly capable of that as he is seen as a natural unifier. Contrary, Chamisa has not yet utilized his current position as president to that effect.

2) Ability to re-engage the labour movement
The new leader should deliberately make effort to re-engage with labour. Unfortunately the current scenario has seen the ZCTU playing second fiddle in MDC affairs despite being a very important stakeholder in the founding and mobilization for the party since its formation in 1999. Sadly, most unionists have either been ignored or frustrated off the party. MDC is the party for the oppressed and exploited. Workers should continue to play a leading role in the MDC. Chamisa has not showed any will to ensure that labour plays the crucial role it originally had in the party. Mwonzora is obviously mindful of that and has great potential to rectify it. After all many regard him  as  a listening, team-oriented leader.

3) Ability to re-incorporate social and grassroots support movements
The new leader should also be able to recognize and acknowledge the essential role of various social and grassroots support movements in the party and country in general. These grassroots organizations wield a lot of influence in the politics of the country. There should be no jealousy or competition between the party and these invaluable stakeholders in democratic pursuit. Fortunately, the esteemed Mwonzora has a knack for inclusivity and is not a lone-player kind of a leader. If Chamisa is not doing that now, one wonders when he would be able to do it and why.

4) Ability to strengthen and recognize the women's movement
Under the new leadership, there should be deliberate and concerted effort in revitalizing the women's movement and the women element in the party. Women are being sidelined and silenced in the party. The much talked about 50:50 men and women representation in the party has sadly remained a pipe dream. Influential women like Dr Khuphe, Jessie Majome, Makone, Priscilla Mushonga and others have been intentionally frustrated into leaving the party or being idle. The new president should be the one who will truly champion the 50:50 call for women representation. That is good for development. It is argued that  Mwonzora can achieve that in reasonable time. Remember he is a man of action and not of many words. While Chamisa is a talented talker, there is little to show administratively.

5) Ability to re-institutionalize the party
MDC has always been strong and unshakeable as an institution dating back to its inception. Any candidate representing the brand would easily win any election. Regrettably, that is no longer the case. The new president should have the ability and will to re-institutionalize the party as opposed to individualize it. Absolute presidential powers should be tail-docked so that the institution remains stronger than individuals. Chamisa has not indicated any willingness to pluck his gargantuan presidential powers. Possibly, Mwonzora as a good administrator who understands and appreciates strengthened  institutions, might do better.

6) Ability to moderate the influence of student activists
The usurpation of power by a section of former student activists is a cause for concern. The new president should be the one who is able to moderate the runaway behaviour of the students in the usurpation of power and subsequent domination of the party. There should be due respect for all organs of the party including the veterans and new members. Mwonzora, as a reputable scholar and former law lecturer, could possibly, diligently rectify that in a respectable manner. Sadly, Chamisa has not yet indicated any willingness in that regard.

7) Ability or willingness to curb internal violence
The new leader should have the clout to decisively deal with the Vanguard and unequivocally call them to order. The world is watching both party and country politics of Zimbabwe. The party should never let its image be soiled by any violent individuals for whatever reason. Violence is a ZANU-PF phenomenon and has no place in the MDC and in modern politics. Mwonzora has been unequivocally deeply concerned about that and seems to possess the potential to curb it. The incumbent has not shown any willingness or ability in that regard despite widespread outcry over the scourge.

8) Willingness to re-engage pressure groups and civil society
The MDC needs a leader who does not compete with pressure groups and civil society. The party is where it is because of the unmatched sacrifices by these important stakeholders. The inclusive and tolerant to divergent views, Mwonzora, can re-engage and work successfully with this group. It is a mystery why the MDC is now divorced from civil society. It is notable far and aloof from the recent Matabeleland Collective too.  

The MDC boasts a rich reservoir of talent in terms of competent and excellent leadership qualities.  Unimpedded democratic processes are called for so that this rich array of talent is freely explored as leadership positions are being filled at Congress. The Mwonzora versus Chamisa affair is arguably a mouth-watering and historic encounter in the politics of the country demanding praise and encouragement from all those who value and stand for democracy. The nation can't wait for this  historic encounter!


Written in my personal capacity as a grassroots voter.
nhlanhlamoses@gmail.com

- Nhlanhla Moses

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