MDC breaking its own constitution

There are two political discussions taking place concurrently around the MDC-T leadership spectacle that reached a crescendo with the passing of Morgan Tsvangirai.

By Hopewell Chin’ono

One led by rationale and logical thinking hinged on constitutionalism and one led by sycophancy and a popularity contest that doesn’t want to subject itself to the legal dictates of the MDC-T constitution and one that refuses to show respect in death.

The MDC was founded for a reason beyond winning power for the sake of it. It was a political movement meant to reintroduce constitutionalism and a fair environment for political contestation and ideas after a torrid 19 years of Robert Mugabe’s abuse of power and disrespect for the rule of law.
A ruinous legacy which was extended to 37 years.

The MDC was a project underpinned on the need to have clean elections which allowed the winner to govern. This contestation was to be defined within the confines of the rule of law and democratic tenets of free and fair elections.

Unfortunately, the MDC morphed into “The Mugabe Must Go” political party which instead of being an alternative government to ZANU PF, it became the poor cousin of the ruling party. It aped all the bad habits of its opponents and lost control of the moral compass that it had been defined and based on at inception.

This was characterised by the use of violence as a weapon of settling disputes and illegal and unconstitutional decisions like the appointment of two more Vice Presidents.

The MDC-T as it became known also aped ZANU PF in allowing teams of thugs meant to enforce unsavory and undemocratic decisions. These thugs exist at the center of this party to this very day.

The party of democratic values, rule of law and constitutionalism disappeared a long time ago, we were left holding on to an idea. A dream deferred.

That project became utopian for the MDC-T and instead, they replaced it with Robert Mugabe’s way of running and ruling a political party. The ruinous method.

So events of the past two weeks are rooted in that political misadventure which the MDC-T decided to embark on when it lost its moral compass a while ago.

When citizens are critical of what has been happening in the party of Morgan Tsvangirai, it doesn’t mean that we support the MDC-T opponents as some lazy minds allege.

It simply means that on the basis of the contract that the MDC offered to the electorate, more was expected from them than they have practically offered and delivered.

Unfortunately, those that support Nelson Chamisa fail to understand the relatedness of things.
Chamisa would have won a free and fair contest, I have told him this on many occasion but unfortunately the route he has chosen has many toxic outcomes.

It will be difficult bordering on impossible for the MDC-T and indeed Chamisa and his alliance partners to talk about return to constitutionalism as a campaigning tool when they themselves have failed that test dismally.

It will be impossible if not ridiculous for them to accuse ED of being a coup leader when they have done the same thing, grabbing power by any means necessary.

It will be difficult for characters like Tendai Biti that had created a name for themselves from Harare to Washington DC by calling the current government a “Junta” or an illegal government to do so when they are part of a similar arrangement.

The civil society brigade that went to town about the constitutional breaches derived from the military intervention have been rendered partial and partisan by not condemning the unconstitutional arrangements in the MDC-T.

Only activists like Brian Tamuka Kagoro and Pedzisai Ruhanya among a few in a group of honest people have been bold enough to call out this charade for what it is. By doing so, they are staying true to the founding principles of the MDC and refusing to endorse mob rule enforced by thug militias.

The citizens have a responsibility to determine the type of rule and leader they want. However, this must be done within the confines of the law.

The fact that the MDC-T has been breaking its constitution and some citizens seeing nothing wrong with it has now created a monster, which if elected will resort to the same default positioning when confronted with similar challenges in the future.

The citizens who support and defend the actions of what happened yesterday have essentially entered into a transactional relationship with Nelson Chamisa and his team.

They hate ZANU PF and will give support to this group of people in the hope that it will replace ZANU PF through the ballot box, a dream now too unreal, based on the fast changing political circumstances in the country.

But what was the struggle against Robert Mugabe’s rule underpinned on?
Was it value based or it was a personality hatred for Mugabe and ZANU PF?

This transactional relationship assumes that all they ever wanted was to replace one group of people with their own people and that values were not an issue and by extension a requisite for one to get elected.

If constitutionalism was an issue, they would actively encourage that it be adhered to in their party first, in order to show the world that they mean what they say.

They have failed that major and defining test and for those who use logic and not mob psychology to make decisions, the MDC-T in its current form is NO different to ZANU PF under Mugabe. At least Mugabe would choreograph his circumstantial requirements around the law although we all knew that it was contrived. Now the MDCT was not even bothered to create an illusion of constitutionalism.

The “Mugabe Chete Chete” doctrine won the day yesterday and the fact that short term gains have triumphed over long term values, this will be remembered as the day when the opposition killed and buried the dream of a democratic Zimbabwe as espoused in the MDC founding charter.

The irony is that it was done by a lawyer in a party full of lawyers.  For a party that was once known for its advocacy for constitutionalism, it is also ironic that it doesn’t have a constitution readily available online or on request. The current MDCT constitution is as difficult to get hold of on demand as Mugabe’s immunity deal. You only hear about it but never able to get hold of it on demand.

In our African culture, we mourn and grieve with the family of the deceased until he is buried then we can deal with replacing him. Unfortunately, before even Morgan Tsvangirai’s body had arrived back home, the vultures were already circling.

This was a very despicable act of desperation and power mongering that totally disregarded the norms that define us as Africans. It shows lack of tact and everything done yesterday was in bad taste.

The defence proffered was that there was now a power vacuum created by the death of Morgan Tsvangirai.  How can there be a power vacuum when someone was acting all along when Morgan Tsvangirai was in South Africa?

This was simply a very crude, deceitful, tasteless and Machiavellian power grab which is not scaffolded by the constitution and they know it or they try to offer pathetic excuses for doing so.

As popular as it might be within certain circles in the MDC-T and civil society, I hate to accept that Winston Churchill’s statement hit the nail right on the head when he said that “…the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with an average voter.”

Nelson Chamisa was appointed Interim President by the MDC-T National Council in violation of the constitution. According to the MDC constitution, the National Council is the main policy implementing organ of the party with the authority to lead the organization and implement the political objectives of the party.

The National Council has no power to appoint an Interim President. The MDC-T constitution has clarity on that issue beyond. In the absence of the President the Deputy President acts and in the absence of both the National Chairperson assumes the role of the office of the president.

This is NO different to Mugabe’s lame argument that “…the people still want me so who am I to say NO to them.”  This is a very deceitful, undemocratic and a ridiculous way of transitioning from one leader to the next.

The MDCT was meant to show the country a better way in commitment to leadership renewal but it has joined ZANU-PF in failing to resolve leadership transitions within the confines of the law and their constitutional prescriptions.

If this is not resolved within the confines of the MDC-T constitution, remember this day as the demise of the once glorious opposition movement that was the first and only alternative to ZANU PF.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning journalist and filmmaker. He is also a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman fellow. He can be contacted at hopewell2@post.harvard.edu