Thursday, October 13, 2005

Senate controversy threatens to undo MDC

Shortly after 4:15 p.m. yesterday Morgan Tsvangirai the MDC leader announced that his party's national executive had decided to boycott the senate elections.
"The Senate idea is an expensive project we can ill-afford at a time when millions face starvation; when millions live in a shrinking economy and a hyper inflationary climate; when millions are out of work; when millions yearn for support against the HIV/Aids pandemic.

As a serious political party, we felt that a compromise at this stage runs against our contract with the people.

A compromise with the dictatorship has the effect of confusing our original promise, our message to the people. We strongly believe that the nation needs new Zimbabwe and a new beginning, given the amount of damage before us.

Given our experience in the past six years, Council reaffirmed the party’s new thrust to turn the corner, to draw a line in the sand and to chart a new direction against the dictatorship. We are engaged in a full scale organizational programme to build people power and confidence to take on Zanu PF and the regime.

We shall mount a national crusade against the Senate election as part of a comprehensive mission and a campaign for a people-driven, publicly endorsed national Constitution.

Further, our party structures shall soon review and debate our presence in Parliament, in local government and in future elections to assess the impact and political necessity of such presence in line with the new thrust of building democratic resistance."
Well and good.

Except for the fact that merely hours afterwords Tsvangirai's spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi released this statement declaring,
"After five hours of deliberations the MDC National Council being the supreme organ of the party between congresses resolved to take secret ballot of all its members present including the six members of the management committee in the resultant vote of 33 councilors in favour of participation while 31 voted against with 2 ballot papers deemed to have been spoilt.

In the circumstances the National Council of the MDC resolved by a majority that the party would contest the senatorial election scheduled for 26 November 2005."
So which will it be? Better yet, what are the stakes in the senate election for the MDC?

I will address the latter first. If you read Eddie's post below regarding what the debate within the MDC is, you're already familiar with what I'm going to say. For those of you aren't familiar with the controversy, it really is quite simple. Sentiment about the senate is divided along provincial lines in the MDC. There are provinces within the party that think they will only gain more political leverage if they contest the elections. The Matebeleland and Manicaland provinces think they will win the senate seats.

To these MDC members, senate elections offer a rare opportunity to seize power from ZANU-PF legitimately albeit on ZANU-PF's terms. This school of thought has lapsed into grandiose thinking; assuming their party will win enough seats to control the senate.

Even if they don't win a majority of the senate seats, the elections are still lucrative to some in the party because they will give their party more voice. Take for example, the southern provinces of Matebeleland north and south that have labored long and hard due to state neglect. The maligning of the Ndebele (Zimbabwe's other major tribe) who are the primary residents in these provinces is a longheld open secret across the country.

If the MDC can salvage senate seats in just these two provinces, the Ndebele will have gained the luxury of authentic representation--a far cry from Mugabe's Ndebele puppets who've done the Ndebele an irreparable disservice over the years. The alternative, not contesting the elections, will do nothing for these already underepresented people. Hence the serious push for the MDC to contest.

Which takes us to the other question at hand, which one will it be is the MDC in or not. In light of the heavy stakes I've already outlined above, I think this might be the end of the MDC as we currently know it. If you read Tsvangirai's complete statement, you might have noticed what fate he said awaits rebellious party members who contest the elections; expulsion.

So if you're a Ndebele MDC member, you face the choice of either turning down the party that has emanciapated you from oblivion for adding just one or two more voices to the growing chorus for fuller recognition and representation of your people, or you could choose the party and essentially condemn yourself to the deferance ZANU-PF has visited on you. Tough choice.

Things don't look any better from the party's perspective. Giving up the Ndebele base will not be easy. Further, by denying the Ndebele the opportunity to seek further representation MDC risk coming across just as nonchalent about the plight of the Ndebele as ZANU-PF has proven to be. But then contesting in the elections, smacks of the political languidity and lack of creativity that I along with others have chastized the MDC for.

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