The MDC, alternative or substitute?

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa delivering Hope of the Nation Address in Mbare yesterday – pic by Jan-Dirk Visagie

The generality of Zimbabwean’s has, in the past two weeks been drawn to the MDC Supreme Court ruling like mosquitos to a lantern.

In what the main opposition laments as the weaponisation of the law, the powers that be stirred the hornet’s nest throwing Zimbabweans into a pandemonium.

The timing of the ruling was suspicious. Delivered in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown, it sent tongues wagging.

The verdict generated a brawled debate across the political milieu, this time, not between ZANU PF and MDC but within the MDC.

Social media has since been buzzing, awash with debates of polarity between the MDC families.

Some have been healthy. Some have been toxic bordering on bigotry and name calling. It is messy.

The MDC dogfight has gained the audience of ZANU PF which jeers and cheers from the terraces. It must be understood that ZANU PF does not create fissures in the MDC. It simply exploits them.

If the MDC does not play its cards close to the chest, ZANU PF will emerge as the proverbial enemy that reaps when two brothers fight.

The mdc power wrangle is a dramatic case of a clash between law and politics.

The Supreme Court ruling is not the problem. To interpret it as such is to miss the bigger picture. The ruling, if anything is a manifestation of a major crisis – the abortion of constitutionalism in the party that happens to be Zimbabwe’s only alternative.

Constitutional breaches in the MDC have been perennial. The Tsvangirai-Biti split of 2014 is among many others, an epic example.

More than a victim of the weponisation of the law by the state, the MDC is being haunted by its own omissions and commissions.

Perhaps the words of Professor Welshman Ncube, one of the MDC’s many prodigal sons whose damascene moment came when Dr Morgan Tsvangirai extended an olive branch to him before his demise are worth considering.

“Admittedly, things could have been done differently in the MDC T. But given that the major fault line legally had been done in 2016, there is pretty little that anyone could have done in 2018 even with the benefit of hindsight the moment you say the appointments of Tsvangirai were unlawful at law, they existed two years later in 2018, you were not going to be able to undo them. Yes there are legal issues which have been problematic but ultimately we must always be mindful that politics is not about legality. Politics is about the people.” Prof Welshman Ncube MDC A Vice President

Professor Ncube’s words are not only self-defeating but are a reflection of the character of the MDC. A constitutional lawyer cum politician, the professor is the MDC personified.  Like his party, he is at war with himself.

It needs no rocket scientist to deduce that the professor’s opening sentence to his statement points to the issue of legitimacy surrounding the MDC succession squabble. However, he is quick to blame it on another constitutional glitch by the late Dr Morgan Tsvangirai, founder of the MDC.

More than doing any good to the current position of the party, his blame shifting shenanigans further expose the root of the MDC crisis, that even during Dr Morgan Tsvangirai’s reign, the MDC has been in a habit of raping and ripping its own constitution without remorse.

The MDC constitutional breach of 2016 went unchallenged because of the guts and courage crisis that is characteristic of our politics.  We make deities out of our leaders so much that if they were a book, they would be the bible, only to be read without criticism.

We are where we are as a country because of the same problem from ZANU PF. We build our trust and loyalty around individuals. Not institutions.

Kowtowing deprives us of the capacity to provide checks and balances to authorities. It reduces us to genuflectors good at nothing but bootlicking.

Professor Weshman Ncube in his statement reminds us of the feud between politics and the law that politics is not about legality but the people. Again this is another gaffe. It robes the MDC of the moral ground to challenge ZANU PF on any matters constitutional.

Whereas the MDC says politics is not about the law but authority from the people, ZANU PF rides on the premise that politics is not about law but power derived from state apparatus.

As long as the two parties have a reason to bend the law, and reduce it to a restaurant menu where they choose only what appeases them, they are two sides of the same coin.

If for the MDC tempering with its own constitution is a means to the end then Zimbabwe shall know no peace. We have seen, for many years ZANU PF putting the country’s constitution under siege for similar reasons; to achieve political ends.

If the MDC does not mend its modus operandi it risks shrinking itself from an alternative to a ZANU PF substitute.

Putting the character of the MDC under spotlight with regards to constitutionalism is tantamount to kicking a tinderbox.

However, if we, as a nation, are serious about restoring constitutionalism and democracy, there must not be sacred cows in the highway.

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Nkosiyazi Kan Kanjiri is a Social Work Masters Student at the University of Fort Hare, South Africa. He can be contacted on (+27) 079 422 6246 or knkanjiri@gmail.com