Tribe and colour more important than anything else?

sibanda_gibA close friend and professional colleague asked me to assist him come up with a media campaign strategy for the MDC (the one without Morgan Tsvangirais surname ) during the run-up to the March 2008 harmonised elections. (Pictured: The late Gibson Sibanda)

They have two options; either they brand themselves as a regional (Matabeleland) party and win all the seats in the region, or go back and rejoin Morgan Tsvangirais MDC and retain their seats and then disengage again and continue to operate as a separate faction of the MDC.

That was my advice to the MDC, through my colleague of course. He asked me to put my strategy in writing, which I did later that evening at home and handed over to him the following morning. After a brief discussion, we agreed to refine the strategy and that he would hand it over to the MDC officials who had assigned him.

I have no reason not to trust my friend presented the strategy to the MDC officials. As I feared, our strategy was not implemented. I presumed it was because then the MDC leadership, particularly from Matabeleland, did not imagine that the people would abandon them. Also, they mistakenly assumed that the rest of the people were rational and fair, and would choose them because they were principled and were the original MDC and Tsvangirai and his gang were unprincipled defectors.

While this is true and could win you elections in civilized democracies, it has never worked, and will never work in Zimbabwe where tribe and colour is more important than anything else.

Not convinced

Welshman Ncube and others in the MDC thought they could overcome the tribal barrier by having Arthur Mutambara as the leader of their party. Sadly, the majority (the Shona) saw this as tokenism and stuck to Tsvangirais MDC and Robert Mugabes Zanu. Sadly again for Ncube and others, their Ndebele kith and kin were not convinced enough that MDC (Mutambara) really stood for them.

If they stood for Matabeleland, why would they hire someone from Mashonaland to be president of the party? The MDC lost both the national and the regional vote because it was not clear who (and not what) it stood for.

Looking back, our strategy could have worked. Rejoining Tsvangirai would have ensured that Ncube, Paul Themba Nyathi, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, Fletcher Dulini-Ncube and other key figures of the MDC (M) would have won their constituencies uncontested, and that Zanu (PF) would have come out empty-handed in Matabeleland, and the unified MDC would have a very clear majority in Parliament, and Tsvangirai would have beaten Mugabe hands-down in the presidential race.

When it became clear that Ncube and others did not see the looming danger of staking their political future against MDC-T, whose leader was then the only hope against Mugabe, God intervened when Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni and their Mavambo Kusile Dawn project came along.

Lost the plot

The MDC lost the plot when Mutambara declared long before the March 2008 polls that he would not contest against brother Morgan Tsvangirai. In a way, Prof Mutambara capitulated to Tsvangirai, thereby rendering his own party irrelevant in the removal of Mugabe. Whether they like it or not, the 10 MDC (Mutambara) MPs and handful of senators who survived should thank Dabengwa and Makoni. The MDC did well in areas where Mavambo won, such as in Nkayi, Lupane, Bulima, and Tsholotsho. Anyone who cannot see this does not need to waste his/her energy trying to be a politician. Precisely, that is the reason why Dabengwa and others were convinced it was time to bring back the real thing, which is Zapu.

Like in 2008, the MDC leadership is yet again being called upon to make a decision, and hopefully this time around they will not take a plunge into unknown waters. In my view, Ncube, Nyathi, Dulini-Ncube, and perhaps Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga have everything to lose this time around if they do not make the right choice. As for Mutambara, he has nothing to lose because he ended up as deputy prime minister even when he did not contest for the presidency.

Mutambara umandawo

By not contesting Tsvangirai, Mutambara indirectly ensured that he did not create bad blood between himself and his brother, while Ncube, Nyathi and Dulini-Ncube and others created bad blood between themselves and their brothers (and sisters) such as Thokozani Khuphe and Lovemore Moyo by fighting it out in the constituencies. Being the clever professor that he is, Mutambara continues with his ambiguity, which he has now extended to Mugabe, meaning he could be accommodated by either of the two whenever he wanted. He is what we used to call umandawo (a player who plays for both [or all] teams) when we played soccer as children.

The successful revival of Zapu has presented a new and trickier situation not only for Zanu (PF) and the MDC-T, but for the MDC (Mutambara) mainly because this partys only 10 (now seven) House of Assembly seats are in Matabeleland, an area that has a very sentimental and emotional connection with Zapu.

The leadership of the MDC (M) has to look at their situation more objectively and do what is best for themselves and their members and supporters, if they still have any. I wonder if they were meant to be politicians. Zimbabwes politics demands that one be like Mugabe or Tsvangirai, and do things the Highlanders Football Club way, ngenkani (by any means necessary), or simply the Dynamos Football Club way, de referee (read ZEC or Tobaiwa Mudede), or both.

Not tribalists

The MDC leadership decided in 2008 that they would rather lose the elections than be called tribalists; they clung to the name MDC in order to prove that they were principled and that they were the original MDC. On the other hand, Tsvangirai would rather call his faction by his own surname. What if the MDC had taken our strategy and branded themselves as a regional (tribal) party? Certainly they would have done better than they did in Matabeleland, and Ncube or the late Gibson Sibanda would have been the third principal in the Global Political Agreement. It was the people of Nkayi, Tsholotsho, Lupane, Bulilima, Gwanda, and to some extent, Bulawayo who gave the MDC their only seats. Have you ever imagined Zanu (PF) and the MDC-T having a president from Matabeleland? Just how? What for?

One thing I have found fascinating about Ncubes bid for the MDC presidency is the manner in which it has been generously covered by the state media, particularly The Chronicle. Contrast that to the manner the same newspaper tried to suffocate the Zapu Congress, held a stone throw from its offices. Chronicle only covered Zapu and Dabengwa when rebels expressed dreams of ousting Dabengwa, or when Zapu members axed each other.

Why would the state media promote Ncubes ascendancy to the presidency of the MDC? In my view and experience as a journalist, it is clear the Zanu (PF) propaganda department imagines that Ncube would rival Dabengwa in Matabeleland so as to divide the vote and give a chance to Zanu (PF) and the MDC-T to re-establish political hegemony. Will this succeed? As the Ndebele would say, khona sizake sibone! (We shall see).

Bhebhe, Mguni, Mpofu and misguided councilors in Bulawayo and Nkayi who have rejoined Tsvangirai must prepare themselves for the humiliation of their lives come next elections. – Methuseli Moyo is the Director of Communication and Marketing in Zapu. He writes in his personal capacity as a journalist and political commentator. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions

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