Why has MDC failed to effect change?

Given the general inability of those calling themselves democratic forces to form an effective opposition, the burning question asked by MATHIAS KUNDAYI is: Why can’t the MDC get its act together to unseat a weakened, corrupt, tired Zanu (PF)?

It is my belief that the solution to what is going on rests with people answering the question -what was the MDC/opposition in Zimbabwe created to do? – rather than who should lead. Once the first question is soberly answered, all else will follow.

A crisis exists. For some analysts it is about a personal lack of leadership and for others it is a lack of direction. Some want this person to be in charge and others want that person. But what the nation really needs is an effective government and an equally effective, functional opposition.

Fit for purpose

It seems to me there is a structural flaw that prevents the MDC from achieving power. This flaw stems from an inflexible party design that dates back to 1999, and an inability to adapt to the conditions found in 2014.

This 1999 system never learns from mistakes and never forgets its own hubris. It contents itself with the role of victim, and seems destined to do the same thing over and over – while expecting a different result.

When the different local and international interests came together and formed the MDC in 1999, the structure was put together as a three-tier set-up. Civil society was set apart as a nonaligned support.

These levels were:

1 ) Elite Western funders

2) Elite MDC leadership/advisory cadre

3) grassroots masses

Support was given by a fourth group comprising NGOs/ Civil Society. In the situation of economic crisis the 1999 set up worked because the regime change strategy required the existence of angry mob / final push politics.

The intention was to have #2 The Leadership Cadre gather #3 the masses around the lightning rod issues of justice and social economic collapse and conflate what discontent they found into civil unrest.

No chance to test

From 1999 -2008 (the 2005 split being another issue) the 1999 system worked well. The party had no history or track record of actual governance for the public or analysts to investigate, so no real chance existed to test or expose any structural weakness.

The MDC could still claim a certain moral high ground and still point a finger at Zanu PF and promise the people that salvation for Zimbabwe could only be found when the suffering population rejected the Revolutionary Party and supported the MDC’s push for power.

Electoral failure and negative issues like the 2005 split were not deemed important, because they were placed firmly as the responsibility of Zanu/CIO infiltration. But questions about the MDC’s ability to finish the task began to appear and did not go away.

Cracks began to show

In 2008 the design flaws began to show. First came the crisis of confidence after Zanu (PF) staged its infamous and bloody coup.

Why had the opposition allowed a whole month to go by without any bold action? Then, during the GPA negotiations and subsequent GNU, why had a largely powerless compromise agreement, that benefitted a few at the expense of the many, been agreed to?

Then came the July 31 electoral debacle. Why had so many hopes been dashed – especially given the prior full knowledge of rigging and full participation in five years of a Government of National Unity?

Unfortunately for the MDC/opposition the 1999 structure chosen as the best model to unseat Zanu PF military hegemony could not address the key issues. Its inability to make important adjustments, adaptations and improvements was the problem.

The key flaws can be summarised as follows:

• The domination of donor finance – The lack of financial independence meant that meritocracy and the recruitment of talent fell away into a culture of people gaining jobs via being the best donor proxy or through political connections and opportunistic corruption. The result was the opposition being driven by agendas rather than a system of efficient planning or genuine public service.

• The simplistic pseudo religious nature of the relationship between democratic politicians and supporters. Real politics in advanced modern states is based upon an expectation of clear articulation of issues, facts, figures and details.

Unfortunately a conditioning process offered opposition officials the chance to get away with communicating shallow rhetoric and populist communications with a dumbed down audience. The result was a reliance on sloganeering, insults, blame culture, rumour/gossip, fear mongering and make believe.

• The simplistic political education/indoctrination created for supporters that conditioned many to be emotion-driven, uncritical thinkers and slogan-chanting followers rather than active citizens or involved participants fully conversant with party doctrines, application of solutions and ideology. Against an intelligent, militarised system like Zanu (PF) there was no real contest.

An effective political model for 2014 and beyond will not be gained without careful introspection and structural the original 1999 opposition model. Until that occurs, success will never happen.

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