Green shoots of Democracy

The truth is hard to bear. The MDC, in which we held such high hopes and sacrificed so much, is disintegrating. It has now lost credibility in the eyes of the people. Their leaders’ strategic error was to join ZANU(PF) in government.

Their point of no return was Morgan Tsvangirai’s refusal to step down as leader after losing a third successive election. The fatal blow came with his decision to expel the estranged MDC-Renewal members from Parliament, and then to boycott the by-elections. The MDC is now a shadow of its former self, deep in debt, and devoid of either principle or strategy.

The MDC’s refusal to participate in elections has been politically divisive and a strategic blunder. It has opened the way for an overwhelming ZANU(PF) majority without a ‘Plan B’ to achieve a level electoral playing field. Its leaders want internationally supervised elections. But the West has already washed its hands of the hapless MDC and its squabbling leadership. Instead, the international community has reengaged – and recognised – the Mugabe government. Let us not forget that it was the MDC which called incessantly for the lifting of sanctions and reengagement. It was they who legitimised the deeply flawed and fateful 2013 elections.

In despair, people have lost hope. As despair turns to resignation, a sense of powerlessness pervades our lives. Any effort to bring about change is now met with cynicism – even scorn. Corruption is accepted as a fact of life – much like power cuts, pot holes, rubbish-strewn streets, and water shortages.

For truth and justice we now have a Peace and Reconciliation Commission. Smug perpetrators will get away with heinous crimes while their victims suffer, without recourse to justice or reparations. Flouting the rule of law – as yet another farm is grabbed with impunity – is met with a shrug of the shoulders: all hope of compensation gone.

But we have choices. On the one hand, we can witness the decay all around us, shake our heads, grumble endlessly or suffer in stoic silence – but do nothing. Alternatively, we can to choose to do the right thing – just as many have done in the past. It is to look at a glass half full, shrug off any cynicism that is the enemy of action, and rekindle that small flame of liberty that gives us our moral courage to act. This is not easy.

Doing what is right in the face of great adversity is hard. It involves risks, and does not necessarily guarantee success. But if our best efforts can be combined with a will to succeed, then practical action – guided by well thought-out strategies – could deliver the national transformation for which we all yearn.

When we gaze into the gloom of our current political morass, and look carefully, we will see those silver linings and faint stars on which to hitch our hopes. The first is a ruthless but aging dictator who is unlikely to be the ruling party’s candidate in 2018. The second is the purging of his party’s powerful Mujuru faction, which includes most security chiefs. Third, the economic toll on people’s lives and livelihoods has become unbearable. They, too, are desperate to find a path to social and economic salvation. To be sure, grave dangers lie ahead. But so do opportunities to be exploited, as the ruling party – like the MDC – is roiled by warring factions.

It is within this quagmire of political decay that the green shoots of democracy are once more emerging. New political parties are being formed. Zimbabweans United for Democracy (Zunde) and Zimbabwe Social Democrats based in the Diaspora may be known to you. Others are less known: The African Democratic Party, the Freedom Front Party, Free Zimbabwe Congress, and Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe. (One must admit that it does sound a little like the Monty Python sketch from the ‘Life of Brian’!) Many despair about this proliferation of small parties. But they should be celebrated as a well-spring for democratic and dynamic political action.

My party, Transform Zimbabwe, has the largest political support base of the new parties, and has performed best in the by-elections. We took on the challenge by contesting in the rural constituencies vacated by the past two Vice Presidents. We lost. But we came second and did no worse than the MDC is these same constituencies in 2013. Most interestingly, however, we reached out to candidates of other small parties and independent candidates, who threw in the towel and put their weight behind us. We are now contesting 13 of the 14 vacant seats created after the MDC debacle. Our policy is to again reach out to these parties, and consolidate our opposition to ZANU(PF).

I am a candidate for Harare East, the seat previously held by Tendai Biti. My opponents are two independent candidates (one of whom is from the Mujuru faction) and a Zanu-PF candidate, Mavis Gumbo. There is already dissention amongst the ranks of Zanu-PF. The candidate who won the primary election (backed by Kasukuwere) was forced to withdraw his nomination in favour of Ms. Gumbo (backed by Chombo). The matter has now gone to court. I believe that these splits in Zanu(PF) could play out in my favour.

In 2008, Tendai won by a healthy margin, securing three-quarters of the vote. By 2013, he only just scraped through. With a well-conceived and strategic approach to my campaign, and with adequate resources, I believe that it is possible for me to win this seat. I already have a seasoned campaign team that has lots of experience in mobilising voters on the ground. But we are also trying to build momentum and rally support for our campaign. Your support and that of like-minded Zimbabweans would therefore be much appreciated.

My hope and intention is to represent the constituents of Harare East, whether they are voters or not. Equally important, I want my voice to be heard in Parliament on behalf of all Zimbabweans. It is a voice for democracy and a new culture of politics based on goodwill and integrity. It is a voice for justice and compensation – based on international law – for victims of ZANU(PF) criminality. It is a voice for a transformative economic recovery programme driven by the private sector and based on strong property rights and the rule of law. These are the very values that we all share – and for which Transform Zimbabwe stands. We will strive relentlessly to translate these ideals into reality.

Please share this message with your friends who may be interested in revitalising our struggle for freedom, justice and dignity. I will soon follow up with another message describing more about Transform Zimbabwe, about how it was formed and grew, and what it represents.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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