We don’t need another party

The past 50+ years of Zimbabwe’s history has been a story of faction fighting and party splits. All that did was delay progress and delight our enemies.

All the pre-independence squabbling among the various parties, some of which appeared like the dew on a misty morning and vanished just as fast, did nothing to advance the cause of liberation; in fact they delayed it. By 1963 the nationalist leaders knew that the days of white rule were numbered, and each faction fought, not for the liberation of Zimbabwe, which was predictably inevitable, but for their seats in the first cabinet, preferably after a “one man, one vote – one time” election.

If ZANU had not split from ZAPU, by 1965 the united ZAPU would have stood a good chance of having such universal support that UDI would have been a three-day wonder. Harold Wilson was afraid of sending troops to crush Ian Smith’s rebellion because he feared a prolonged fight with “kith and kin” and trouble at home from the friends and relatives of the rebels. A single black party strong enough to meet that rebellion with a general strike would have shown up the weakness of the rebels. If Wilson didn’t take advantage of that the UN would have done

Even if a united ZAPU leadership had been so effectively rounded up and locked up that independence via British or UN-supervised elections became impossible in 1966, plenty of other chances were lost. ZAPU and ZANU did build structures in exile by 1971, when the attempt to unite both under the banner of FROLIZI merely ended with a shortlived third party alongside the other two. Zimbabweans seemed committed to factionalism.

Muzorewa’s UANC did unite the people inside Zimbabwe to vote against the British Conservative party’s attempt to do a deal with Smith. Unfortunately, its leaders succumbed to the temptations of imminent power, and, instead of being a movement against the Home-Smith proposals, to be dissolved when its job was done, it became another party alongside the two external ones. Independence would indeed have been imminent in 1972 if the external parties had been prepared to sink their differences, unite their armies and include UANC in a broad front for independence.

That is what the leaders of the Frontline States still wanted to see so that they could support it in 1975 when the collapse of Portuguese rule in Mozambique had changed the military balance in favour of Zimbabwe’s freedom fighters. But the leaders of ZANU were busy tearing their party apart and still snarling insults at ZAPU. Now there were four parties squabbling over the spoils of a victory they were delaying yet again.

It is no wonder that UANC leaders should try their frustrated deal with Smith in 1979, which again delayed the inevitable.

And so the people were slow to accept the idea of further splits after independence. Then, when the referendum showed the people’s dissatisfaction and strength, came MDC, with fresh leadership and united mass support. They faced an oppressive machinery that was strong and they made a number of mistakes, but the greatest mistakes were made in forming breakaway MDC-N (or was it M?) and MDC99. That denied us democracy in 2008.

But down here in Mbare Tsvangirai still more popular than his party, whatever the chattering classes of all political colours (the Fat People’s Party), with all their press, intellectual and “political analyst” voices may say.

A split may weaken Morgan, but it would only prolong our agony. “United we stand” till victory. Go to congress, but don’t split whatever the result. When you’ve won you can split into as many parties and factions as you like. That is what democracy is about. But keep your eyes on the ball, or a greater devil than we’ve yet seen might run away with it.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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