Tsvangirai must change his ways

One would have expected the political opposition in Zimbabwe to mine capital out of the current succession chaos in Zanu (PF), yet it is not doing that. The grisly turf wars to succeed President Robert Mugabe have exposed the ruling party and this would have been the time to seize the baton from it and make a good sprint.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

Zanu (PF)’s attention is almost exclusively focused on the power struggles which have shown that Mugabe is a weak leader who is almost incapable of handling the crisis that he generated by staying in power for too long and refusing to name a successor. The party is acutely divided and the faction leaders are making fatal mistakes at every turn.

The severe acrimony that prevails in the party today would easily benefit the opposition, which should have moved quickly moved to build alliances with some of the disgruntled players. The problem is, the opposition is busy creating problems for itself.

Tendai Biti’s Renewal Group seems to be in limbo. Talk of a grand coalition is still muffled and Morgan Tsvangirai seems more seized with his own power base than anything else. The nation’s attention is fixed on Grace Mugabe’s incredible factional shenanigans in the wake of her nomination to lead the Zanu (PF) Women’s League come congress. Not much has been said about the way Tsvangirai is handling matters in his own party. I was taken aback recently when I learnt that he had decided to become the referee, match commissioner and player in the provincial restructuring exercise. Tsvangirai has been directing and controlling the vetting and voting processes as his party chooses a new leadership ahead of its own congress next week.

On the surface, this looks clever and justifiable. There has been so much talk of vote buying and manipulation in the party, especially since before last year’s elections when MDC-T was choosing candidates to contest in the polls. Nelson Chamisa, the current organising secretary, found himself sucked into the storm for allegedly positioning his own people.

Furthermore, since the split led by former secretary general Tendai Biti early this year, there has been so much turbulence in the party.

Every hound has been going for the blood and the result has been disorder of the highest order. Tsvangirai is no longer sure of who is with him and feels that he must dig his heels in and take charge of internal processes to avoid a crisis.

But this betrays a tendency towards dictatorship. As we all know, dictators prevail on power centralisation. They always work to make themselves indispensable by giving the false impression that things cannot be done without them.

They want to be at the centre of everything so as to avert the possibility of being undermined. By directly participating in vetting candidates and counting the votes, Tsvangirai, inadvertently or consciously, showed that he did not trust his team. It is similar to a CEO getting down to the shop floor to count the money in the till because he is afraid it might be stolen.

If the CEO is suffering from such pervasive fear and mistrust, he might as well close shop or ensure that there is a new team recruited in a transparent, accountable and professional manner. That means Tsvangirai is not being a good CEO of MDC-T Inc. because he is doing exactly what he should not be doing.

As we all know, the Zanu (PF) politburo and even cabinet don’t meet when Mugabe is away. This is because the Old Man thinks that no-one is good enough to take charge of things when he is not there.

Similarly, Mugabe has justified his drawn-out hold on power on the claim that Zanu (PF) would collapse if he let go. It would, therefore, not be surprising if Tsvangirai would one day tell us that he cannot leave MDC because the party would disintegrate. That means the MDC-T leader has no basis to criticise Mugabe for staying in power for too long, because he has the same tendencies.

There are negative ramifications to his decision to directly involve himself in the provincial restructuring process. His lieutenants will think that he is trying to tell them that they are useless, untrustworthy and unreliable. That tends to drive them away and before he knows it, there might be more splits in the party. Tsvangirai can ill afford that – he needs as much cooperation and buy-in from his team as the current crisis allows.

I would have thought that he learnt a good lesson from the 2005 split, when he opposed a popular decision to participate in the re-introduced senate. His disregard for the views of the majority of his senior leadership forced Welshman Ncube and others to form a rival splinter. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

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Post published in: Analysis

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