Political defections in Zimbabwe are much ado about nothing – even if Chiwenga crossed to MDC today, that would change nothing!

Apparently, the defection euphoria has once again gripped Zimbabwe, as the nation is immersed in excitement-filled discussions and debates - whilst,

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Apparently, the defection euphoria has once again gripped Zimbabwe, as the nation is immersed in excitement-filled discussions and debates – whilst, media and social media headlines are obsessed with stories of several so-called “high ranking” politicians crossing floors from one party to another, most particularly from the opposition MDC to ruling ZANU PF.

However, I am not one for senseless and meaningless excitability, since everything that happens in life needs to be soberly and meticulously studied and analyzed before making any conclusions – thus, as far as I am concerned Zimbabweans have much more pressing and urgent bread and butter issues on their plate, than allowing themselves to be distracted and sidestepped by these purely irrelevant sideshows, that neither add or remove anything of significance to our day to day livelihoods.

These defections are a whole lot of hullabaloo, and much ado about nothing. Period.

I had no intention of even wasting a single second of my precious time on such non-events – considering that we have a country with over half the population in critical need of nutritional food, and are food insecure (in spite of the recent good rains), over ninety percent is not formally employed (whilst, those in the informal sector have been severely hampered by COVID-19 lockdowns, with scant assistance from the government), schools are opening without any significant improvement in the availability of the most essential basic learning material (not to mention, new technological advancements necessary under the “new normal” of the said lockdowns and a shift towards home-based virtual learning), civil servants, and the few Zimbabweans still blessed to be formally employed, being incapacitated not only to fulfill their employment obligations, but can not even afford to adequately cater for their families, and the country’s health delivery system is in a cataclysmic freefall (that is barely hanging on, thanks to donations by the international community), in the midst of a global pandemic.

Such an already melancholic scenario is then compounded by the lack of safe, clean, and potable constant and consistent water supply in most opposition-run urban areas (with a health time-bomb morbidly looming over the country, with memories of the devastating cholera epidemic, that previously mercilessly killed hundreds in the country, still fresh), pathetic waste management (with refuse rarely collected), and roads that appear to have little dams in the middle, a most disturbing but common sight.

And, then – in the midst of all these tribulations – are we, seriously, going to be found caught up in the shenanigans of the “village circus”, thereby, forgetting what really matters most to us?

How is the moving of some so-called “high-ranking” officials (most, if not all, of whom not holding any meaningful positions within the main opposition party, at the time of their migration – and, even having lost in latest internal elections) supposed to improve the dire and depressing situation described above, that has been facing the country for the past two decades – but, gravely aggravated since the advent of the misnamed “new dispensation”, after the November 2017 military coup d’etat?

We, as Zimbabweans, should not act as if we do not have enough excitement and drama in our own lives, such that we allow these “circus acts” to obsess us, and distract from what is really important.

Quite frankly, how has any defection, or even splitting of political parties, and mass purging of rival faction members, ever affected the two major political parties in the country – since this has been the hallmark of Zimbabwean politics for as far as most of us can remember?

A quick look at the events of just the past twenty years can shed more light.

Did the then MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube, and deputy president Gibson Sibanda not split with their leader Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, on 12 October 2005, after a heated dispute on whether to participate in the newly reintroduced senate, only a few years after the formation of indisputably the biggest threat to ZANU PF’s grip on power since the country’s independence in 1980?

How much did that affect Tsvangirai, and his now renamed MDC-T? Did they not maintain their parliamentary majority in subsequent general elections – with their leader actually beating ZANU PF’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe in the 2008 presidential poll?

Soon after the 2013 elections, did we not wake up to the headlines that the then MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti, and deputy treasurer general Elton Mangoma had broke ranks with Tsvangirai on 29 April 2014 (not to mention another top official, Job Sikhala, similarly having already gone his own way to form MDC 99, after leaving Ncube’s MDC-N) – thereby, establishing their own respective parties (People’s Democratic Party, and Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe), after falling out with each other, on 3 June 2015 – yet, how much did that wane Tsvangirai’s fortunates?

In actually fact, Ncube, Biti, Sikhala’s fortunes were so pathetic and dismal, that they had no hesitation at all regrouping with Tsvangirai, to form the MDC Alliance in 2018 – a project that proved a huge headache for ZANU PF (with Tsvangirai’s successor Nelson Chamisa narrowly losing to Mugabe’s heir Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, in one of the most disputed post-independence elections), which marked the genesis of the political shenanigans we are witnessing today.

All this, in spite of another spilt between Chamisa and the then MDC-T vice president, Thokozani Khupe – who had viciously clashed over Tsvangirai’s succession, after his passing away on 14 February 2018.

The other side of the political isle has not been spared similar problems either. As much the ruling ZANU PF has been characterized by factions ever since its formation on 8 August 1963 – a party itself established through a largely tribalism-inspired split from the nationalist and revolutionary ZAPU – with the climax being witnessed on 3 April 2015, when they expelled their then vice president Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru, and her so-called “Gamatox” faction… who, subsequently formed her own party, the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) on 1 March 2016, moving on to establish the National People’s Party (NPP) after more falling out with her ZPP comrades, and later forming the Rainbow Coalition to contest the 2018 presidential elections, which she was overwhelming defeated, leading to her retirement from politics.

The current president, Mnangagwa, was also a victim of these fights, as he was expelled from ZANU PF on 5 November 2017 – after a bruising factional war between his “Lacoste” faction against the then first lady, Grace Mugabe’s G40 cabal, in spite of the fact that the two had worked hand in hand in the removal of Mujuru, thereby, catapulting him (Mnangagwa) to the vice presidency.

Of course, the sacking was the instigator to the coup d’etat of 14 to 21 November 2017, that saw the ousting of then president, Mugabe, and his wife, together with the G40 faction.

In the middle of these unambiguously real high-level splits and sackings, there were also numerous “crossings of the floor” – most notably, Tracey Mutinhiri from ZANU PF to MDC, and so many others.

Their ousted former colleagues, G40 and Gamatox, have since melted into political oblivion and wilderness – such that, some humiliatingly applying to rejoin ZANU PF.

In all these examples, there is one prominent common denominator – that is, the fate of the major political parties were never affected by these defections, splits, and purging – as both the main MDC (now led by Chamisa), and ZANU PF (under Mnangagwa) have largely remained intact and unscathed.

In fact, after such risky fights so close to the 2018 harmonized elections – one would have expected the two major political parties to perform dismally – yet, ZANU PF garnered over two thirds parliamentary seats, whilst Chamisa nearly beat Mnangagwa (in an election still disputed even today, with some alleging that the MDC Alliance leader actually walloped his rival by a large margin).

Be that as it may, whatever the real result was, my point still stand – as much as all these defections, splits, and purging witnessed over the past two decades, were exceedingly exciting and headline grabbing, however it is clear that not much changed within the major parties.

They were not the earth shattering events that everyone would have hoped.

Which brings us back for what we are currently witnessing, with this renewed wave of defections from MDC formations to ZANU PF.

Indeed, these could be good conversation on a crammed ZUPCO kombi, or an interesting debate on WhatsApp groups and social media, or a much needed stress reliever – nonetheless, to elevate this to a matter of national importance, especially when faced with so many real challenges, is a bit ill-advised and unwise – as these shenanigans are just much ado about nothing.

In fact, ZANU PF and Zimbabwe vice president, Constantine Chiwenga can defect to the MDC Alliance today, and that would change absolutely nothing.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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