Zimbabwe’s opposition political parties are in serious trouble and are functioning on a wing and a prayer. They, however, will not admit to it. The largest opposition in Parliament and also popularly, the MDC-T, appears to be entering a new phase of contrived factionalism spurred on by differences over congress outcomes and alleged coalition talks.
Its most recent offshoot, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the aftermath of its congress is pursuing the path of name-calling its former allies. This while simultaneously laying ridiculous claim to having ‘friends with money’.
Another offshoot, the MDC as led by Welshman Ncube, is smarting from leadership departures and holding on by a thread to a public profile largely driven by a social media presence.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and Transform Zimbabwe (TZ) are regularly putting up candidates in by-elections which they most certainly know they will not win (even at council level). Their hope being that they maintain some sort of grassroots presence to at least be able to win some proportional representation seats in 2018 and by dint of the same become eligible for funding via the Political Parties Finance Act. Though no one knows what they really stand for. The other parties, even the still to be launched People First, have already defined themselves as neo-liberal outfits in similar fashion to Zanu PF.
A common factor to all of these opposition formations has been their trepidation at a Joice Mujuru party and how to react to it. For the majority the intention is to ride on whatever political momentum she can bring to the table with her People First outfit. Some, even while missing the irony of it, have gone as far as claiming that one of their reasons for splitting from the main MDC-T has been to form a strong electoral coalition of opposition parties for 2018. And for them this coalition could not have a better redeemer than People First.
Never mind that their own internal politics may be in serious disorder and that any such coalition may face the very same challenges that led them to leave their parent political formations. That is personality cults, lack of internal democratic accountability and transparency together with monopolizing leadership roles or borderline dictatorship.
The opposition is therefore not being honest with itself, its memberships and the people of Zimbabwe. The latter know too well the road they have travelled in supporting the main opposition MDC-T and they are always going to either grow weary of the culture of splits largely based on personality clashes or alternatively they will begin to have materialist expectations of politics that are similar to those of Zanu PF supporters.
Hence one of the most coveted electoral offices in the opposition ranks is surprisingly not that of becoming a Member of Parliament. Instead it is the office of a councilor and the direct link it has to the distribution of local government resources such as land and tenders.
The dilemmas of the opposition do not end there. They now have to contend, at least going forward, with an expansion of this materialist culture to our national politics as defined and spearheaded by Zanu PF. As things stand and in order for the opposition to mount a meaningful electoral challenge for power in 2018 it shall need a lot of money. And that is not an understatement. It is, however, doubtful they will get the required resources without having to sell their souls.
Unless they shift from their current politics of personal entitlement, internal autocracy, perpetual splits and monopolization of leadership. This will entail a much more organic understanding of their own values in tandem with their membership and active permission of others to represent these same said values at ward, district, provincial, and national levels. This too while paying particular attention to the youth and gender dimension in order to achieve what has been referred to as cross generational consciousness or ‘generational praxis’.
Such an approach would enable them to begin the process of establishing a true counter hegemony to Zanu PF, if not a revolutionary one that will have far-reaching, positive implications for our country’s democratic posterity.
But then again, we know our opposition leaders. While demonstrating messianic tendencies they appear to be waiting for their own messiahs. Be they in the form of a Mugabe departure from power (which they cannot influence), Joice Mujuru as an opposition leader (again which they cannot influence) or an economic catastrophe (which they can only hope for), they remain as stubborn in their ways as ever. A trait which makes one assume that they may, in the final analysis, be content with being exactly what they are – opposition leaders.