MDC Alliance’s role in undermining national development

Zanu PF Youth Leader Pupurai Togarepi

President Mnangagwa continues to pursue an ambitious economic reform agenda that has, within a short space of time, seen the budget deficit being tamed, economic fundamentals once again in place and a clear trajectory towards an upper middle income economic status by 2030.

However, the MDC Alliance’s (MDC-A) anti-Government antics are an attempt to undermine Government efforts to court international investors through engagement and re-engagement. The MDC-A has been continuously calling for economic sanctions against the country.

The MDC-A leader, Nelson Chamisa, has distinguished himself as a problem that enjoys selfishly abusing the democratic space at the expense of the general populace and the development of the country. It is important that the nation at large takes note of the role of the MDC-A, especially the role of Chamisa, in trying to cause instability and fomenting chaos in Zimbabwe.

The MDC-A’s negative contribution emanates from the party’s undemocratic conduct and its tendency to pay lip service to what democracy entails. Democracy is a game of rules; and the rules also apply to elections.

Throughout the life of the MDC-A, the party has failed to accept the fact that in a democratic election, some win and others lose. The loser is compelled to play the game better next time. The rejection of election outcomes has characterised the entire history of the MDC.

The party has repeatedly rejected election results where it has lost fairly. It rejected the 2000 Parliamentary Elections, 2002 Presidential election, 2005 Parliamentary Elections and the 2008, 2013 and 2018 Harmonised Elections.

The MDC has also failed to acknowledge the endorsement of the 2018 Harmonised elections by various international observer missions. A number of these observer missions declared the July 30, 2018 election day peaceful and only deplored the post-election violence instigated by the MDC-A, which left six people dead and several others injured.

In each election, the MDC-A focuses on a noisy narrative about rigged polls. Despite the peaceful campaign prior to the 2018 elections, with a level playing field for everyone, the MDC-A went on to threaten violence which the party said would accompany any election outcome that did not constitute a victory for them.

As the 2018 Harmonised elections took a steady shape on a new trajectory of non-violence, Chamisa took to violent and foul-mouthed politics. He declared that no one except him should win the election and any other result was unacceptable.

Chamisa also declared, before the polls, that he should be the only winner, failure of which he would render the country ungovernable. His propensity for political show-boating through demonstrations is self-serving.

Threats of violence if the elections did not go the MDC-A way were the order of their campaign messages, “we have the numbers and we can close down Harare  . . . We will not let the election happen if we do not agree on crucial issues”.

Other members of the party spelt out their intentions. The then MDC-A youth chairperson, Happymore Chidziva, said “we will make the country ungovernable” unless their demands were met.

In other words, if the MDC-A did not get their way at the ballot box, they would use other means. Chamisa highlighted this point at almost every campaign rally. There are more examples of some of the threats that the MDC-A made. While addressing an MDC-A rally at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka, Masvingo, on April 14, 2018, Chamisa threatened that “we will bring into the streets guys from Mbare Musika who are ready for violence”.

He further stated that he was “ready to take power either through votes or by any other means”.

In another incident at a campaign rally at Chemhanza grounds in Mabvuku-Tafara on June 26, 2018, Tendai Biti (then national vice chairman of the MDC-A) said that “the Alliance would not accept election results if Zanu-PF was the winner”.

During an interview with First TV on July 13, 2018, Biti was quoted as saying “if they cheat us they will have to kill us on the streets”.

The Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the August 1 2018 post-election violence highlighted that: “There was indeed overwhelming video evidence as well evidence from institutions which presented submissions to the commission that show that MDC-A leadership made inflammatory statements in its campaign rallies and also at several press conferences, inciting violence . . . During the pre-election rallies, the MDC-A had taken a position that if their Presidential candidate did not win the election, they would protest”.

The violent character of MDC-A was further noted by the Motlanthe Commission, which concluded that:

“The protests were pre-planned and well organised as shown, for example, by the evidence of the pre-election speeches of the MDC-A leaders and the evidence of all of the events that took place on the 1st of August 2018, including the fact that groups arrived with an assortment of objects such as containers of stones, bricks, logs, and posters, which they used in their demonstrations.”

After the MDC-A lost the 2018 elections, they responded by rolling out their violent strategy in which the main plan was to attack the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Command Centre in a bid to capture power from the streets.

They wanted ZEC to merely perform the task of anointing them, whatever the actual polling results. But when ZEC refused to play ball, all hell broke loose against ZEC chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba. She was assailed and emotionally abused for refusing to declare the MDC-A winners of an election they had lost.

Justice Chigumba and her Commission must be congratulated for their courage to defy all the pressure, threats and intimidation that were stacked against them by the MDC-A. From the advent of the New Dispensation in 2017, MDC narratives postulated that “ED can never win an election in Zimbabwe.”

However, when the MDC-A was in danger of being embarrassed as all credible polls pointed to a President Mnangagwa victory, the narrative was adjusted to “ED can win only by corrupting the ZEC”. On this assumption, the MDC-A put most of their resources into defaming ZEC in a vain attempt to de-legitimise the elections. Voters vindicated ZEC’s professionalism by voting peacefully, voting for Zanu-PF and President Mnangagwa.

The MDC-A then opted for the strategy of invading ZEC’s National Command Centre itself to physically assault the centre and to make the final tallying of votes impossible. When the physical assault failed and ZEC announced the votes on time, the MDC-A rejected the results. They also rejected the authority of ZEC to pronounce “an acceptable result.”

Sadly, some lives were lost in the process. When MDC-A’s violent take-over of power plot failed, the party then pursued a Constitutional Court challenge. The court process was done transparently for the nation and the world to judge for themselves.

The MDC-A lost the case after a public trial. Everyone who followed the case is very clear that the MDC-A lost the elections. One of the MDC-A’s legal counsel, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, vehemently rejected a suggestion from the Bench for a recount, arguing that his case was based on Points in Limine (preliminary points) relating to the conduct of the election and not necessarily on the results of the elections.

So if their challenge was based on “points in limine,” how did these make the MDC-A the winner of the elections as has been claimed over and over by their leadership? It was obvious that the MDC-A refused a recount because they knew that they had lost the elections.

The MDC-A rejected the judgment of the Constitutional Court case, nevertheless. Two aspects emerge from the disposition of the MDC-A in these legal processes.

Firstly, the MDC-A rejected the results of a democratic electoral process, which is an anathema to their claim of being a “democratic” party. Secondly, the opposition formation rejected the judgment of the Constitutional Court, which exposed the party as being hostis constitutio (an enemy of the State and the Constitution). It is clear that the MDC-A was rejecting democracy while claiming to be democratic; rejecting the rule of law and constitutionalism while feigning love for the same.

Their stance showed that the MDC-A narrative only works when clothed in mystery, not fact.

They are good students of their CANVAS (a regime change Serbian NGO) tutors who introduced to them the strategy they are currently employing in all their activities namely; the dilemma action strategy meant to find Government/Zanu-PF at fault whatever the case. In spite of the unanimous Constitutional Court outcome and judgment, the MDC-A did not relent in their anti-people activities. The party then turned its attention to sabotaging Zimbabwe’s international engagement and re-engagement drive.

The MDC-A was alarmed by the stream of investors visiting the country, enticed by the Zimbabwe Is Open for Business clarion call by President Mnangagwa at various platforms, including at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2018. They started dissuading the flow of investment into Zimbabwe and sought to destroy everything that could benefit the economy.

The MDC-A has been adamant that the economic revival efforts of the Zanu-PF-led Government must not succeed. They are aware that the revival of the economy would render them redundant.

Resultantly, the MDC-A fomented the January 14-16, 2019 orgy of violence in a spirited attempt to undermine economic development and foreign investment, all with the ultimate aim of unconstitutionally and illegally seizing power from the streets.

These machinations of the MDC-A resulted, once again, in the needless loss of lives and damage to property. As usual, the MDC-A then presented themselves as victims, ironically of a plot which they engineered.

Smarting from the combination of their loss in the July 2018 elections, the failure of the August 1, 2018 attempts to destroy the ZEC Command Centre and prevent the announcement of results; the loss of their Constitutional Court electoral challenge; the failure of the 14-16 January 2019 violence amid signs of economic progress and burgeoning foreign investment interest the MDC-A then adopted another strategy centred on manufacturing non-existent legitimacy issues, concomitant with demands for political dialogue on their own terms.

The MDC-A draws unjustified comparisons with the 2008 Global Political Agreement which ushered in the Inclusive Government in February 2009, as a basis of their demands for dialogue in 2019. It is essential to stress the differences between the two scenarios.

In 2008, there was a hung Parliament which necessitated that all the political parties in Parliament work together. Fast forward to 2018, Zanu-PF won a clear first-round Presidential election victory and a two-thirds majority in Parliament. There is no basis for Zanu-PF to bring in any other political party into Government.

Even if Zanu-PF chose to be benevolent and accommodate the losers, the MDC-A complicated the situation by refusing to recognise the President as the legitimate leader of the country. They chose to completely disregard the sovereign power of the people to elect their leader.

In the post-election period, the Government embarked on a programme of rebuilding the shaken economy through international engagement and re-engagement, and reaching out to potential investors through the Zimbabwe is Open for Business thrust, which gained considerable traction. Successes included a meeting between President Mnangagwa and the United States’ Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Tibor Nagy.

Alarmed by these successes, the MDC-A sought to destroy the positive moves by focusing on punishing the people and sabotaging the entire programme of the New Dispensation at home and abroad. The party, desperate to capture power unconstitutionally and illegally, embarked on a diplomatic offensive in an effort to poison relations between Zimbabwe, her neighbours and western countries that would coerce Zanu-PF into dialogue with the MDC.

In March 2019, Chamisa unsuccessfully lobbied South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa and former Botswana President, Ian Khama, to put Zimbabwe on the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) list of political hotspots.

Chamisa was banking on political dialogue morphing into the National Transitional Authority (NTA) project that would bring him into the corridors of power through the back door and become the Vice President or Prime Minister, positions he salivates for.

The MDC-A strategically chooses to diarise its nefarious activities to coincide with key moments for Zimbabwe on the world stage, to attract negative spotlight on the country. The first occasion in the New Dispensation coincided with the President’s election victory, when the August 1, 2018 protest orchestrated by the MDC turned violent and regrettably led to the loss of six lives and left many more injured. The other incident occurred on January 14-16, 2019, during the President’s five-nation Eurasian tour, when violent MDC-led/ZCTU stay-aways caused more loss of life.

In another incident, the MDC staged fake abductions during a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, which drew unnecessary negative attention and condemnation on the country. We will all recall the faked abduction and follow up drama of Dr Peter Magombeyi, who upon being exposed, claimed he had forgotten all relevant facts about his disappearance.

The real intentions of the MDC-A, in cahoots with its foreign handlers, are to stifle Zimbabwe’s economic growth trajectory in a bid to get into power through the back door.

The MDC-A cannot stomach the fact that Zanu-PF’s economic programme of “austerity for prosperity” has placed the country firmly on the path to improved national infrastructure, economic growth, enhanced exports and a better quality of life for all citizens.

The Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), the economic blueprint launched in October 2018 to span until 2020, is bearing fruit despite the temporary hardships which are necessary whenever economic reforms are implemented.

The hardships were made more painful by the fact that, unlike elsewhere in the world where major economic reforms, including austerity measures, are cushioned by financial aid injections for the social protection of the most vulnerable, Bretton Woods international financial institutions turned a blind eye to Zimbabwe.

The reforms were, thus, undertaken with the meagre internally generated resources, a feat that Government should be congratulated for as the process happened against the backdrop of a devastating Cyclone Idai and a climate-change-induced drought. Irked by the success of the reforms, the MDC, on August 16, 2019, had planned demonstrations in Harare, ostensibly to protest against the transient economic hardships, with the ultimate objective of forcing Government to accede to some form of a “National Transitional Authority”.

The so-called protests were not cleared by police as there was clear evidence that their real agenda was to go on a violent rampage in a bid to unseat Government.

The prohibitions notwithstanding, the MDC-A and its Civil Society Organisation (CSO) surrogates have continued to organise anti-Government protests across the country in a bid to impede economic reforms, create an air of uncertainty and coerce Government to enter into negotiations, all designed to seize power unconstitutionally.

The latest claim by Chamisa and his deputy, Biti, was that they were to violently seize power in June 2020. Government must make it clear to these power hungry fellows that it will uphold constitutionalism and the rule of law and democracy in this country. Nobody will be allowed to sneak into power other than constitutionally. If we all accept these values, we can all enjoy our political contestation in peace and our economy will be the beneficiary.

The underlying thrust of the MDC-‘s demands for dialogue is that they are attempting to subvert the outcome of the 2018 elections. They seek dialogue as a means of getting into power through the back door.

Chamisa imagines himself as a Vice President or Prime Minister, but under what justification, when he lost the elections? The constitutional make-up of Zimbabwe’s electoral laws is based on a First-Past-the-Post system, which works on an absolute majority of 50 percent plus one for the winner and the fact that the loser waits for the next election.

In this case, 2023. Is that too difficult for anybody to understand? The people spoke when they gave electoral victory in 2018 to Zanu-PF. The MDC-A thinks it can author its own rules, informed only by its hunger for power.

The narrative of the MDC-A, proposing dialogue, a National Transitional Authority or a “Sabbatical on elections” which is spearheaded by its CSO allies, is all meant to undermine the democratic foundations of the nation. This reveals the MDC-A’s undemocratic DNA, as they do not accept the rule of law or democracy. While our constitution allows for people to freely associate and demonstrate peacefully, it doesn’t provide for anybody to do so violently or to unconstitutionally steal power.

Meanwhile, amidst the MDC-A’s crocodile tears about the economic challenges in Zimbabwe, their leadership gallivants the world calling for sanctions to be imposed on the country.

Chamisa has boasted publicly that he has “locked” the doors of Western financial and investment support, to make it more difficult for the economy to turn around. He has become the sanctions spokesperson and cheerleader.

The opposition formation continues to present itself as an anti-people project, abusing and disregarding the constitutional right to demonstration and assembly and substituting it with a repugnant and non-existent right to commit violence and destroy property, while undermining Zimbabwe’s re-engagement and engagement efforts.

As a result of the work of the MDC-A and other detractors, Zimbabwe faces a tough sanctions regime imposed by four jurisdictions: US, EU (including the now stand-alone United Kingdom), Canada and Australia.

The US has enacted the sarcastically-named Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), which, among other sanctions provisions, instructs American directors in International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to vote against the provision of financial assistance to Zimbabwe.

The United States Office of Foreign Assets Control maintains an asset freeze against Zimbabwean individuals and companies.

It prohibits American citizens and companies from doing business in Zimbabwe with the listed entities, some of which are Government-owned parastatals that are key to economic revival. The MDC and some of their foreign allies claim all these are targeted sanctions, a view that must be rejected deservingly.

Meanwhile, the EU adopted a Common Position which maintained asset freezes, travel prohibitions and embargoes, until most of the measures were suspended in February 2020. Australia and Canada also imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe that included asset freezes, travel prohibitions and embargoes.

The sanctions cause Zimbabwe to have a poor credit rating, and to be deemed a high-risk investment destination due to the possibility of bona fide investor funds being frozen. Conservative estimates are that Zimbabwe has lost US$42 billion in revenue due to sanctions over the past 18 years.

Put into perspective, the lost revenue would have been enough to dualise all Zimbabwe’s major roads, to build hundreds of schools and hospitals, bankroll capital development projects, support agriculture, mining, tourism, manufacturing and other economic sectors.

Zimbabwe’s US$8 billion external debt pales in comparison to the US$42 billion worth of sanctions-induced lost revenue. What then is the purpose of the MDC’s calls for dialogue when the party is actively undermining every effort at economic revival?

In spite of Zanu-PF’s 2018 election victory and two-thirds majority in Parliament, the Party has still given space to opposition groups to contribute towards national development, through the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD). Chamisa himself was offered a position of Leader of the Opposition a feature present in many Commonwealth democracies where the opposition offers constructive critique of Government policy – but he rejected it, using foul language, a trade-mark of his, in the process.

It is thus perplexing that the MDC refuses to be part of POLAD, but is ready to risk the lives of innocent Zimbabweans in mindless orgies of violence which characterise their protests and demonstrations. The opposition appears more interested in power politics than supporting Zimbabwe’s reform process.

In fact, when reform legislation is brought to the house by the Government, it is unreasonably delayed and at times sabotaged by the opposition in the House.

In conclusion, it is totally clear that the MDC, with its DNA of violence, is an undemocratic political formation that is bent on undermining Zimbabwe’s economic, political, social, technological, health infrastructural and educational progress.

The policies and activities of the MDC should be condemned in the strongest terms. They represent a breed of politics that Zimbabwe, and Africa as a whole, should rid itself of. Democrats must play according to the rule of law and democratic tenets.

Patriotic opposition is still noble.

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Pupurai Togarepi is the Zanu-PF Chief Whip