MDC-T’s childish errors

The MDC-T does not seem to have weaned itself from the fickleness and immaturity that marked its teething years. The manner in which it handled its poll petitions after July 31 lends abundant evidence to this. In its formative stages, I was always bound to forgive the party for the naiveté with which it handled its politics, but the retarded political growth it continues to display is disheartening, to say the least.

I was particularly disturbed by the sudden change of heart when MDC-T withdrew its court challenges last Friday. As the party battled to build a strong case after filing the applications, it gave an instruction to losing parliamentary candidates to prepare and bring signed affidavits accounting for the irregularities and fraudulent activities in their constituencies during the election.

A substantial number of candidates rushed from outside Harare to submit their affidavits at Harvest House. Hardly had they turned their backs on the capital than the leadership dropped its bombshell announcing the withdrawal.

This invites a good number of questions. Why did the party leadership bother the losing candidates, who had to use money from their own pockets to rush to Harare to submit the affidavits, only to cast them into the bin a couple of hours later? Does that not betray poor planning? Why did the party leadership and its legal advisors wait for the eve of the poll hearing on Friday to summon the hapless candidates?

Without casting aspersions on the several learned lawyers who have been involved in the poll petitions on behalf of MDC-T, I am convinced that the party severely lacked in terms of legal strategy. First, the team that was advising the party and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, should have known right from the start that they couldn’t depend on the goodwill of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the courts to grant them access to vital evidence to use in the legal challenges. Both institutions are part of the political incumbency that President Robert Mugabe and his party have been using all along to remain in power. They are smart enough to know which tune to dance to, where and when.

The onus, therefore, was on the party to mobilise as much evidence as it could without expecting their opponent to give them a penalty kick. The party now has the voters’ roll, and should, as far as possible, have used it to build a case. Margaret Dongo managed almost single handedly to do it more than a decade ago, and succeeded in unearthing the polling fraud in Sunningdale. If she could do that, MDC-T has a Herculean task to convince me and others out there that it shouldn’t.

I am not saying it was going to be easy for MDC-T, considering the short time frame within which it was supposed to produce the evidence. It had slightly more than a week in which to give proof of the 13 or so premises that it stated in its challenges to argue that the polls were fraudulent.

However, that didn’t mean that it had to twiddle its fingers and wait for Justice Chinembiri Bhunu to order ZEC to release the required information. If it thought so, then the party ought to go back to school to learn one or two things about our judiciary. It should also know by now that ZEC would not be too ready to spill the skeletons in its cupboard.

The legal team advising Tsvangirai should have done enough research to know that it wouldn’t be easy to wish away a court challenge through some kind of boycott, as typified by the court withdrawals. As it emerged later, withdrawing from the court fight is something that the Constitution does not provide for. So, when MDC-T withdrew, it offered itself as mincemeat to Zanu (PF) and its subservient organs. It gave them the chance to proclaim to the world that MDC-T was so reckless as to come to the courts without sufficient evidence to back its claims of rigging.

The general feeling among the grassroots is that MDC-T has shot itself in the foot. Many people I have spoken to see the withdrawal as some kind of surrender, rather than the clever strategy that the party thought it was weaving.

Of course, I am clear on the reasoning within the MDC-T leadership and its advisors. They wanted to showcase themselves as protesting against a partisan judiciary by withdrawing, hoping thereby to get sympathy from the rank and file. But my point is that everybody knows that our judiciary is partisan, so there wouldn’t be anything new in the fact that Bhunu withheld judgement in a case in which MDC-T wanted ZEC to give it certain information. The people are so anxious to see MDC-T winning the fight, not whimpering in pain. It becomes boring when an adult moans for so long. – For feedback, please write to [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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