MDC-T, case of party policy deficit
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The recent spate of incongruities - mainly carried in the state media - is pivoted on the contentious issue of civil servants' salaries.
Whereas Biti made a government policy announcement that there will likely be a wage/salary freeze for state employees, PM Tsvangirai on the other hand alludes to the fact that Biti has no sole right to making and/or announcing any such policy.
Their supposed battle front is at government policy level which leaves many to wonder if there is any party policy on such crucial matters.
For them to show such glaring differences at governmental level may really be a reflection of weaknesses in the party policy-making and decision-making framework. The issue at hand may not really be about Biti potentially challenging PM Tsvangirai for the presidency of the MDC-T, but merely a lack of policy guidelines and policy-making discipline in the party.
Many have interpreted the latest differences between the two as a full expression and exhibition of internal democracy within the party.
True, as much as it may be a reflection of the party's tolerance to diverse thinking it also shows weak policy fundamentals and coherence, and ideological inconsistency.
I do not think that the position of Morgan Tsvangirai as president of the MDC-T is under threat. PM Tsvangirai's brand strength is still too rooted to be displaced - not as yet. The party members and other leaders are aware of that - including Biti. There has been a lot of speculation about Biti standing up to challenge and muscle out PM Tsvangirai from the leadership of the party. That is only a fantasy that I believe has resided in the minds of a lot of Western diplomats and their respective governments. The contextual reality is otherwise - PM Tsvangirai is still very much in the driving seat.
This must be a good lesson for Westerners. They must begin to realise their mis-reading of African politics and therefore must end their flirtation in internal political processes in Africa - otherwise they bring about more destabilisation than already caused. So the issue between PM Tsvangirai and Biti is not about the power struggles - this we must highlight.
The issue has all to do with the mechanics in the MDC-T party and the stage of growth at which the party is at. The issue has more to do with the foundations of the party and its technical fibre - or lack of it. Fundamentally - as mentioned by so many others - the party is a congelation of ideas coming from all across of the political thought spectrum. PM Tsvangirai and Biti represent diverse political thought poles - which can, however, find congruence if there is central policy guidelines in the party.
PM Tsvangirai identifies himself with the grassroots labour movement and the issues it represents - or rather it must represent. He was borne out of it and will never be baptised out of it. Biti on the other hand represents that microcosmic part of the party that has some relative relation to middle class persona. He is more of a technical operative whose main tinge is making decisions based on the reality of what his figures and numbers tell him or fail to.
The MDC-T must realise (and I am sure they know) that there are many such constituents within their party. There is such diversity of both expectation and policy direction. What the MDC-T has done for too long is to avoid internal policy discussion or policy pronouncement on issues that they find to be "sensitive". This avoidance strategy has however allowed a lot of loopholes in their policy framework.
Many of the crucial issues have therefore been left to the preference or interpretation of certain individuals within and even outside of the party. The issue of civil servants salaries is merely just one of such issues.
The MDC-T has not come out clearly on its position on such issues as gay rights; the land reform pro-cess; the economic empowerment and indigenisation policy - to mention a few. Many of its leaders have said so many contradicting statements on these issues - leaving party followers at the mercy of pers-onal opinion. What the MDC-T must do now is to cle-arly articulate policy positions on matters that are in the public domain.
Besides just such articulation, the party must also begin to use its government, local co-uncils, parliamentary and community leadership cha- nnels to practically promote such policy positions. We have not seen much of robust policy advocacy and proposition from the MDC-T of late and yet that is the hallmark of what makes effective political parties.
As we countdown to the next election; I am sure Zimbabweans will begin to sober up politically. The consideration in the coming elections will not merely be about attracting sympathetic or protest votes; it will be more about people swaying towards political options with wholesome policy propositions.
Even if the party straddles along with weak or compromised policy positions, that will leave room for incoherence. Suppose the party was to win an election without clarity on fundamental policy issues - that will likely be more dangerous for the post-election government.
The public disagreements between PM Tsvangirai and Biti over government policy issues have mild effects due to the "blame-game" effect of the nature of the coalition government that they are in. If these differences were to emerge in a purely MDC-T run government - there would be more damaging effects on the party.
Therefore the party needs to focus on its policy infrastructure as a matter of urgency. Its leaders must begin to show coherence on fundamental policy issues if the party is to be taken as a serious contender - not just in winning an election - but running a progressive and efficient government. Elections may be run by emotions but governments are run by policy.
Biti and PM Tsvangirai's differences are just a glimpse of the policy weaknesses in the party - not anything to do with power struggles.
However, if such policy weaknesses persist, they have capacity to breed incessant frustration which may ultimately explode into incapacitating power struggles.
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