Love or hate MDC, they are still here

I have no idea whether or not the MDC or its coalition will prove to be the government that frees Zimbabweans of all repression and takes them out of poverty into affluence as quickly as possible.

By David Barber

My fear is that, unless they are a genuinely new opposition force in Africa, they will simply follow the path of every other new government in Africa which – with only a tiny number of exceptions – has so far been as corrupt and repressive as the government it replaced, sometimes better, sometimes worse. But no one will know until they are actually in power what their real ambitions are, except of course the leaders of MDC and the coalition.

However, that is irrelevant because, love or hate MDC, they are still there, strong, courageous and unbowed, despite intense pressure over many years from Mugabe and ZANU PF.

Mugabe wanted a one-party state. To achieve that, he first forced ZAPU (the only other political party of any consequence at the time) into a coalition with him. And then, when it had the temerity to try to leave ZANU PF and start up in opposition, he despatched it with a mixture of torture, abuse, rape, murder and genocide.

The fact that he has subsequently failed in his bid to create a one-party state is due solely and entirely to MDC and no one else. For that, MDC has paid and continues to pay a very heavy price, with 700 of its leaders known to have been killed and untold thousands of supporters falsely imprisoned, tortured, abused, dispossessed, forced into exile or simply “disappeared”.

The other factor is that 2018 will not be just another democratic election. For a start, ZANU PF has proved it takes no notice of a defeat in the polls. It will just ride roughshod over it. Indeed, if the opposition were to press the point strongly enough, there would be a serious risk of civil war ensuing.

So defeating ZANU PF in an election may not be enough. Removing it may only be possible through a mass movement of the population making it impossible to continue in government, the proven most successful way to get rid of dictators.

Given that, I cannot understand two things. First, the action of the opposition politicians who have not joined the coalition. Don’t they realise how important it is to put all political differences aside for the sake of the Common Good? Or is their ego and self-interest so strong that they are prepared to put that ahead of the interests of Zimbabwean citizens and of Zimbabwe itself? Surely, the time to air differences is after ZANU PF has gone, not now.

Second, the attitude of Zimbabwe’s activists and campaigners. There are laudable exceptions, but most of them seem to spend a lot of time and effort on negative criticism of Tsvangirai, the MDC and other opposition political leaders. In a working democracy that might be a good thing. But not now. In this situation, and given that it is now too late to come up with another strategy to remove Mugabe and ZANU PF, they also need to act responsibly, not irresponsibly as they do now, for the sake of the Common Good. That means encouraging everyone to support the coalition, and in that way helping to create the necessary mass movement.

I know you may be extremely loathe to support leaders whom you have accused of corruption and other faults, but if your main concern is to work for the good of all Zimbabweans and of the nation, if you really want to remove ZANU PF, then you must be sensible and not blindly idealistic. You need to act with what you’ve got, not pine for something that isn’t and won’t be there. For you also, the time to air your grievances about your political leaders and parties is after ZANU PF has gone, not now.

As I said, love or hate MDC or Tsvangirai, now is the time for solidarity. But what too many activists and campaigners are actually doing is to undermine the chances of getting rid of Mugabe and ZANU PF.