United Congress delegates define the real enemy

‘Mbeki must be worried’

‘Delegates did not make a big deal of the split in the MDC, or

the tribal politics’


WASHINGTON – The recent congress of the Movement for Democratic Change was, to all intents and purposes, an epoch-making event. It gave the people of Zimbabwe a chance to stand up and pass their collective judgment on a number of issues as well as on the leadership split in the MDC.

The 15,000 delegates who descended on Harare from all provinces in Zimbabwe showed without any doubt that MDC has a solid grassroots support base throughout the country. There were no tribes, no whites, no blacks – just Zimbabweans who came to chart the future for democracy and freedom from the oppressive rule of Mugabe.

The decisions taken at this congress were a believable referendum. Delegates came on their own accord and there are no reports of coercion or rigging of the votes. They came in their thousands. In contrast, the splinter group managed to draw about 3,000 delegates. Zanu (PF)’s congress in Esigodini in December attracted about 5,000.

NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku, said the faction or group that attracted the most delegates had the right to claim the name MDC. This is the majoritarian principle of democracy, namely, when opinion is divided in a democracy then the majority opinion wins the day. If the number of delegates at all three congresses represented votes in an election, the Tsvangirai-led MDC would have been a winner, attracting more delegates than both Zanu (PF) and the Mutambara-Ncube splinter group combined.

It is an indicator of how Zimbabweans are likely to vote in future elections. And this must worry the proponents of the plan for a government of national unity, such as Thabo Mbeki. It had been hoped that if the Mutambara-Welshman Ncube group could be persuaded to come into a coalition with moderate elements of Zanu (PF) to form a government of national unity, there was a good chance the Zanu candidate would win elections.

Had Tsvangirai either stepped down or been removed before October 12 last year, the question of participating in the senate elections, or boycotting them altogether, would not have been a major policy issue for the MDC. MDC had boycotted participation in elections before without causing the kind of commotion and strained political relations that characterized the post-October 12 national council deliberations.

The plan for a government of national unity will now be very difficult to sell internationally unless Tsvangirai is involved. The United States, which may have been sympathetic to the idea, will find it difficult to actively support it until there is an agreement that is endorsed by what has obviously become the main wing of MDC.

There is, therefore, likely to be a new agenda in which the idea of a government of national unity will still be proposed but will be expanded to include the Tsvangirai-led MDC, now that Tsvangirai has demonstrated decisively that he commands an overwhelming support from the majority of Zimbabweans.

Whatever the outcome of legal efforts to resolve the MDC name issue, the congress delegates set an unmistakable national agenda that specifically focuses on identifying Mugabe and Zanu (PF) as the enemy and working out a strategy to confront him. The delegates to the congress did not make a big deal of the split in the MDC, or the tribal politics that have become the context in which the split is being debated.

The message to Zimbabweans could not have been clearer: namely that opposition politics in Zimbabwe should not be tribal and that endless bickering among the opposition groups must stop.

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