IN our previous edition, we reported that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) led by outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had played its last card by taking its dispute with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission over the outcome of the July 31 election to the Electoral Court and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) hoping to force a re-run of the disputed poll within 60 days.
The point made was that the MDC-T had been left with no other viable option other than through SADC and the Electoral Court.
But following the developments of the past few days, the MDC-T has now come full circle.
The first development was that the MDC-T withdrew its court petition on Friday last week on grounds that the party was not going to be granted a fair hearing. The withdrawal of the court action narrowed the party’s options and cleared the way for President Robert Mugabe’s inauguration.
And over the weekend, the MDC-T’s last leg, the SADC option, crumbled, leaving the party clutching at straws for survival.
At its weekend summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, SADC endorsed ZANU-PF’s victory — something every Zimbabwean could see coming.
President Mugabe also emerged from the indaba wearing a new hat after he was elected deputy chairperson of SADC. He will be taking over from Joyce Banda of Malawi next year as the regional grouping’s chairperson, virtually shutting the doors on the MDC-T within the region, now and in future.
The import of the MDC-T’s withdrawal of the Electoral Court case, SADC’s endorsement of ZANU-PF disputed victory and the elevation of the ZANU-PF leader in the region is that the last card played by Tsvangirai has had no effect and all those who felt the July 31 election was stolen would have to eat humble pie. Very soon, the MDC-T could be deserted by its continental and international allies if it remains stuck in the past and fails to realise that it is time to move on.
The MDC-T should draw lessons from its blunders they have made since formation. Most importantly, the party should accept that they have now come to the end of the road and not to fool themselves by claiming they still have other avenues to reverse ZANU-PF’s victory.
In other words, the MDC-T should quickly come to terms with the reality on the ground and not live in cloud cuckoo-land.
Today, President Mugabe will be inaugurated to serve his fifth term. Thereafter those who were elected to serve in the House of Assembly and Senate, including the MDC-T’s very own, would be sworn in, with a new Cabinet likely to be unveiled in due course. In earnest, ZANU-PF is now serving its five-year term in government while the MDC-T is now officially in opposition.
The party must start preparing for the next election. They must immediately regroup and regenerate themselves if they are serious about forming a new government five years from now.
If they are not careful , they risk going into the next elections under the very same conditions as in 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2013 which favoured their rivals — ZANU-PF.
It would appear that there is much more work the MDC-T needs to do internally before it could confront the external challenges that contributed to its electoral losses since 2000. This is because its leadership has since the party’s formation in1999 been harping about levelling the political playing field through the adoption of reforms encompassing media, security and electoral without success hence the feeling of dejection among party faithful over the MDC-T inability to achieve its change agenda in the past 14 years.
Achieving these reforms is now going to be extremely difficult considering that the party no longer enjoys a majority in Parliament and is no longer in government.
The party can only ignore its internal weaknesses at its own peril. Among the shortcomings being its ideological deficiencies and the lack of depth in the top echelons of the party hence the declaration by its western backers that its leader needs “massive handholding”.
That the party needs regeneration cannot be over-emphasised. How this renewal could be achieved is up to the party to decide.
Zimbabwe has entered a new season, for better or for worse. The MDC-T should also enter this new season not as old wine in old bottles because it is insane to keep doing the same thing the same way and expect different results.
In Ecclesiastes III, the Bible says to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Similarly, after making its point about going into the election with “a heavy heart” and dismissing the outcome as “null and void”, the MDC-T cannot cry in perpetuity over spilt milk. It is about time the party should move on.
As President Mugabe begins his new term, his ZANU-PF party faces a mammoth task in turning around the country’s economy while at the same time attending to the succession politics rattling his party. In order to fix the economy, which has been badly hurt over the past 14 years, he will need everyone to win the battle, the MDC-T and his critics in the West included. He would also need to tone down on his indigenisation policy to drum up foreign direct investment and retain those investors who are already invested in Zimbabwe.
The economy will therefore continue to be the battle ground for ZANU-PF’s opposition unless the party departs from its ruinous policies of the past. In trying to do the right things, there are opportunities the MDC-T can exploit with a view to levelling the political playing field. But before the MDC-T could leverage on these opportunities, it needs to expeditiously deal with its internal challenges.