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MDC Congress: Proposals to achieve unity, progress

17 Mar 2019 at 18:12hrs | Views
THERE is nothing amiss about the split of political parties, churches, football or other sporting teams, partnerships, corporates, or any voluntary organisation for that matter.

While for the most, splits are the result of irreconcilable differences; they equally can be the result of an amicable search for growth, organic reproduction, symbiotic demand, or a variety of other reasons.

The split of political parties is not an African phenomenon; we hardly ever invent anything, good or bad. It is fashionable the world over.

The ruling Zanu-PF is the product of a political split, and has itself metamorphosed several times, during and after the struggle for independence, and continues to do so, to this day. Notably, the Anglican and AFM churches in Zimbabwe have led the pack in religious revolts.

Sometimes such splits result in the serious and notable loss of influence and space by all sides that emerge. However, more often than not, in particular in Zimbabwe politics, usually the splinter group suffers a stillbirth.

Mugabe (Robert) famously said that it was cold outside of Zanu-PF, inferring that the main party was an institution, and no one purportedly working against it, would prevail.

This is precisely why it is important that the upcoming congress of the MDC Alliance party does not result in a split, regardless of the potential share or split of influence and space for any formation, faction or group that may emerge.

To the contrary, the aim of congress must be innovation at reconciliation, reconstruction, growth, and unity for progress.

The MDC Alliance is the institution of opposition politics in modern day Zimbabwe (post ZUM), and is epitomised by the legacy of the late Morgan Tsvangirai. African politics are generally personalised than constituitonalised.  

It is less of what the constitution decrees and more of what the day's leader wants and calls for, provided he has built and gathered sufficiently loud party voices and influential loyalists around his office and person.

So it was with Samora Moises Machel, (Kenneth) Kaunda and subsequently Chiluba (Fredrick), Mugabe (not certain about Mnangagwa),  Tsvangirai, and today's Nelson Chamisa.

The press and social media are awash with speculation of a looming battle between caretaker presidential incumbent and elected secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, two names synonymous with the birth and growth of the MDC.

Pundits are quick to refer to the battle for the secretary-general's post in the MDC congress of 2014 where Mwonzora trounced a clear favourite Chamisa. But, lotto jackpot seldom returns to the same person twice in a row and many have become addicts of gambling because of a single jackpot.  

Mwonzora has a strong history in the party, from student activism to the ZCTU labour union, and through all the years of struggle for democracy.

As secretary general, many would want to believe that he has the party structures under his wing, and therefore has an ace up his sleeve. A critical structure, the youth, appears to have already adopted a clear position on who takes the top post. Time will tell.

What is very clear, however, is that Chamisa has had a very strong head start. His electoral acceptance levels, charisma, pull power, generational attraction (not that Mwonzora is old), have been tested, and have proved to be several bars above average. He will take that momentum and impetus to the starting line-up.

It is against this background of a potentially bruising battle and nail-biting finale that I am making specific proposals to the MDC Alliance on how to conduct its congress in a manner that not only preserves unity, but also, innovatively reconstructs political gamesmanship. It all rests with Chamisa.

The first matter is of the vice-presidents, which must be resolved before congress. The need for   three vice-presidents must be ruled out as unnecessary. This structure was created for convenience and as reparation for what many see as swindling's at Congress 2013.

It was also clearly the first and strongest shot in the arm for Chamisa to eventually rise to the presidency. It is no longer necessary; neither does it appease anyone anymore. It was a very wrong precedent.

However, a second vice president, to achieve tribal balance, or gender balance, must be encouraged and confirmed as a buffer to potential leader hegemony. There are many capable candidates for that position, and several who bring positive credentials that may result in a more unified party than at present.

For me, the issue of tribe and gender must be played out in the context of the full presidium and not for specific positions. The target must be to have both gender and tribe achieved through fair contest and not decree. Behind the scenes horse-trading and consensus building is possible.

The second matter is the competition for the number one slot. I suggest an untried method. The incumbent Chamisa must automatically be accepted as nominated by virtue of incumbency and him declaring the intention to run.

Any other person vying for the position must declare their candidacy, and then canvass for the minimum required number of nominating provinces.

Where more than one candidate emerges, there must be a primary election by structures to elect only one candidate that will contest the incumbent at congress.

Third, I strongly suggest that a phased approach to the election process be adopted. First, two candidates lock horns for the presidency, and if the loser has garnered a minimum of 40 percent of the vote he be confirmed immediately as the first party vice president.

Where the candidate fails to garner a minimum 40 percent they must accept relegation to the rank and file membership and not be allowed to contest any other position. That is the high-stake risk candidates for the top post must be prepared to face.   

The vice presidency must not be contested as two separate positions but a single position in which the top two candidates will rank as first and second vice-presidents respectively. In the event that the first vice-presidency has been filled by way of the presidential ballot described above, then only one slot will remain.

This ensures that candidates position themselves for the post that they are most suited and most able to win, than to play fiddle with posts. Candidates losing at vice presidency cannot relocate themselves to a lower ranking battle. They become rank and file.

The MDC Alliance must not witch-hunt and alleges Zanu-PF machinations into its congress. Not that there will be no attempt to meddle, but that it will be so insignificant in comparison to what the MDC can do to help its own future.

It rests with Chamisa. In the same breath that he called for gender balance at vice presidency, he should have extended an open invitation to Thokozani Khupe, Lucia Matibenga, Jessie Majome and other exiled female leaders to return and contest that position.

It rests with him. Equally, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube should be leading calls to the likes of Elton Mangoma, Obert Gutu, Lovemore Moyo, and many others to come home before congress and to play their hand. They are not sellouts, they are renegades like Shamuyarira and Frolizi were in Zanu. We must rally all cadres to the front for the next battle.

If Mwonzora contests Chamisa, if he so wishes to, and garners at least 40 percent (very likely), and assumes first vice presidency, or vice versa, power in the party will be balanced and unity preserved.

In the unlikely event of a repeat lotto jackpot, and Mwonzora outclasses Chamisa to land the presidency with an outright majority, Chamisa should be encouraged to retire to the ministry of faith (Arthur Mutambara has chosen to write).

But human nature as it is, he will more likely than not take his flock out and seek yea for new pastures. A Mwonzora split from the party will be less catastrophic on the ground.   

Democracy and political fair play are not guaranteed in the congress. That will require men of courage. It will start with "Chamisa Chete Chete". Will he have what it takes to pioneer and champion an inclusive battle that places his own title on the stakes? We shall see.

Makaita Noel Mutasa is an independent political observer and commentator. He can be reached on

Source - dailynews
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