Spectrum Joram Nyathi
From a media point of view, it was thunder and lightning which came and died without a drop of rain. From a political party strategy, it must be viewed as a masterstroke for the governing Zanu-PF party. The opposition was obviously disappointed that they did not have the chance to observe their eternal enemy implode and attenuate from too frequent expulsions of senior members, in a macabre reenactment of their sad drama. The unending pleas for coalitions among opposition parties betray an acute awareness of the invincibility of Zanu-PF even at a point when many consider it at its weakest.
There is no doubt many well-meaning Zimbabweans shared President Mugabe’s impatience and annoyance with what was going in the party, the squabbles between Cabinet and Politburo colleagues, the mudslinging and washing of unsightly linen in the public glare. We have had enough of that before in all the shades of the opposition MDC. It’s been enervated from internally bleeding few doubt it will rise again.
But people can choose to forget about the MDC’s last kicks. It is not in power. It has no national responsibility outside of its voters. It doesn’t have to account to anyone nationally but to itself. It can indulge in the politics of enumerating the many ailments Zimbabweans are experiencing without the obligation to do anything, let alone to even think of solutions.
That is the luxury Zanu-PF does not enjoy. Where the MDCs can lie with a clear conscience about what they would have done had the elections not been “stolen” (as they like to console themselves) by Zanu- PF, there is no passing of the blame if you are the victor, if you are the governing party.
Zimbabweans are aware of the adverse weather conditions and their likely impact on the food situation. They are similarly aware of the effects of Western-imposed sanctions on the economy as a whole. They are also aware of the impact of falling commodity prices on the world markets due to reduced demand from China. Nobody wants to begrudge Zanu PF for such adversities by virtue of being the governing party.
But the moral armour collapses when there is a growing perception that amid such a national crisis the governing party seems unconcerned, unfocused and too consumed with internal power games. The acrimony which preceded the December 2014 National People’s Conference leading to the ouster of former Vice President Joice Mujuru has not ended. If anything, it appears her removal took away the mask of internal cohesion which the party had been wearing.
Since then senior party members have not made no secret of their personal animosities. They have gone public. They have enlisted supporters who are ready to do their bidding. National duty has been placed on the backburner; party programmes and policies which secured the victory have been set aside; voters who put so much faith in the party can now fend for themselves in the informal sector of the economy.
Those who have always prayed for Zanu-PF’s death have held their breath because they couldn’t bear to see their beloved MDC going down alone and leaving behind a prosperous Zanu-PF newly-emboldened by the resounding victory of July 2013, a victory so crushing for the opposition it took an official position not to challenge Zanu-PF again in open contest. So they have cheered along with their media sympathisers as senior Zanu-PF leaders made a shameless spectacle. Finally the collapse was on the horizon, they mused darkly.
It is in view of these developments since the removal of Mujuru that it was felt the party should stamp its authority. That is what all people of goodwill expected the Zanu-PF Politburo to do on Wednesday, something tougher than a massage on the knuckles.
But it was never going to be easy going too tough. Still, sages say a word to the wise is enough.
Which is where we want to be charitable about the decision of the Politburo to merely warn those creating and fanning divisions in the party to stop rather than kick them out. It is simply to remind them of their responsibility to the nation, to the voters, and above all, to the overall wellbeing of the party. All of them owe their current status and positions to the party.
There are also lessons to be learnt from the MDC. It might be better to err on the side of caution than to cut one’s nose. It is not always easy to strengthen a party by expelling members. It turns out they know the internal weaknesses and alignments. They are harder to lure back if they believe they have some public sympathy and might just reap a few votes if they seem to champion a different cause. The longer they stay out, the harder it is to attract them back without them trying to drive hard bargains. It’s called trying to save face.
That is why it is almost impossible for the MDC to rebuild the brand of 2000 no matter how big they want to make the new tent. It is a dream with no chance of coming to fruition.