The Sunday News
Khumbulani Vodloza Sibanda
Zimbabwe’s politics is a very interesting terrain. It is contested by revolutionaries, pseudo revolutionaries, neo-liberals, sell-outs to the outright treasonous.
Students of politics know that a solid foundation in politics is based on articulating and addressing the real interests of citizens, irrespective of their colour, creed, tribal, religious nor any other consideration. Just that they are humans warrants attention to their concerns.
Inversely, it is political suicide for a whole political party to base its politics and a quest for national leadership on a foundation of tribalism and regionalism. Developments in MDC Bulawayo province where members are rejecting an elected executive on the basis that it is composed of people from other tribes, notably those of Shona-speaking background, makes very sad reading, and actually is alarming.
Undercurrents are that MDC members, mainly those of Ndebele origin are not happy that members of Shona-speaking background have taken over the party’s leadership in the province. Among the elected members are Felix Mhaka, Tinashe Kambarami, Ernest Rafemoyo, Walter Taranhike, Helen Zviviri and Swithern Chirowodza, who all landed various senior posts during elections held ahead of the MDC Congress in May 2019. Some members are rejecting these members on the grounds that the party should be led by Ndebele people who originate in the region.
Following the elections, a Njube-based member, Josiah Phiri, rejected the outcome, saying “it’s Chamisa’s people that we are rejecting. He must come here and sort out his mess before something worse happens.”
The haggling has continued unabated to the extent that MDC Matabeleland North provincial executive took the unprecedented step of petitioning the MDC national leadership to dissolve the Bulawayo province on the ostensible grounds its factional and tribal wars were affecting the party’s political fortunes in the region. While this was the official reason given for the petition, one cannot be faulted for concluding that the Matabeleland North province is subtly supporting the tribal rejection of the Bulawayo provincial executive.
Bulawayo provincial spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza has come out guns blazing, trashing the Matabeleland North petition as ill-informed and interference in Bulawayo’s internal affairs. He observed that the MDC constitution does not empower any province to interfere nor superintend in the affairs of another province.
Allegations abound among some Bulawayo members that MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa, is side-lining Ndebele speaking members from the party structures, hence the dominance of the Shona speaking people in the provincial structure. The tribal-based factional fighting has extended to MDC-run Bulawayo City Council where Ndebele speaking councillors also rejected the election of Tinashe Kambarami as Deputy Mayor. The tribalism has even affected consultations for BCC’s 2020 budget after a series of meetings were cancelled over the factional fighting. Nonetheless, such tribalism should never be entertained in modern day political discourses.
All the tribally-motivated factional fighting has exposed MDC party as lacking the principled leadership and motivation to address grassroots based concerns. It shows that MDC is pursuing narrow tribal considerations in local authorities under its control. This is clearly at the expense of service delivery and development.
Another effect of the tribal wars has been the electoral losses MDC continues to suffer at the hands of Zanu-PF. In Bulawayo, MDC lost Ward 28 (Cowdray Park) to Zanu-PF after fielding two candidates, Nomagugu Mloyi and Collet Ndlovu in a clear case of factional politics. It is dawning upon the people of Matabeleland that MDC is all noise but nothing of substance on the ground. The decision by the traditionally hostile Matabeleland-based civic society groups under Matabeleland Collective (MC) to engage Government on various issues affecting the region has left the MDC badly exposed in its protest politics. The MDC has always based its politics in Matabeleland region on harvesting votes from disgruntled voters, hence the dialogue between Government and Matabeleland Collective has pulled the rug from under the MDC’s political feet.
Following the meeting between President Mnangagwa and MC early this year, the various groups have embraced President Mnangagwa’s vision for tolerance, despite the seemingly wide differences between the parties.
It must be noted that MC comprises some of the very groups that have been vocal in condemning Government over its alleged failure to resolve the region’s concerns. These include, among others, Habakkuk Trust, Radio Dialogue, Christian Legal Society and the National Development Trust, Mthwakazi Republican Party and Women of Zimbabwe Arise. Some of these organisations have been MDC foot soldiers in anti-Government activism in the region. It therefore follows that the MC engagement with Government seriously undermined MDC political strategy in the region, hence it does not support any such Government initiatives.
All this point to fact that MDC is not basing its politics on addressing the concerns of the country’s citizens, but on further undermining any initiatives to resolve the country’s challenges in the hope that that would garner votes. This is anti-people politics. The tribal card being played against other tribes in the region by MDC activists is surely a serious threat to peace prevailing in the country. Membership and leadership in a political party should not be based on tribal considerations. Zimbabwe is a unitary State founded on principles of equality, justice and respect for the law. Zimbabweans have seen through the MDC politics of divide-and-rule and are emphatically rejecting it. The recent successive MDC losses in various by-elections across the country are testimony to the rejection of tribal and protest politics. Zimbabweans are now focused on developing home-grown solutions to the prevailing socio-economic challenges.