The MDC Alliance was on the right direction until Komichi, Mwonzora and others decided to drag the party into the gutter for their personal political interests. All party cadres and structures should be concentrating on implementing the 2019 Gweru Congress resolutions for the MDC family to emerge stronger. The current shenanigans are therefore an unfortunate and a gratuitous attempt to unravel progress made by the party since the 2018 elections.
The 2018 election was a plebiscite of hope. This was due to relative freedom in rural areas and a generally peaceful atmosphere before and during voting. The MDC Alliance flagbearer, President Chamisa, re-energised the party, reminding MDC supporters and Zimbabweans at large of a higher hope. Admittedly, some organisational aspects of the party were fragile and in some rural extremities non-existent. Make no mistake, some of the fragility was a result of past splits. The Gweru Congress resolutions to a) reinforce the unity of the MDC Alliance and b) strengthen the supremacy of the Branches are therefore a significant buttressing step.
It is a not contestable that the return of Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube and others into the mainstream MDC has strengthened the party. It was always the MDC members’ desire to see a united front and Dr Morgan Tsvangirayi, responding to the suggestions of the generality of members, worked hard to reunite the party. Those who seek to deny us that unity should be ignored; they are ignoring the aspirations of MDC members.
My experience organising in rural Chikomba plainly showed that party structures are strong in some places but feeble in others. Innovative approaches were observed such as the ‘Morgan 20s’: whereby 20 members, mostly young people, organised the party around each polling station. It was clear from my interaction with these that the MDC Alliance would benefit from organising its structures around the polling station in future elections. This would potentially create robust platforms to mobilise members and counter voter intimidation, bribery and theft.
The polling-station based structure could work to mobilise virgin voters for 2023. Think of it – 13/14-year olds in 2018 will be joining the voting queues in 2023. The MDC branches can and must work to win their votes now. The days of concentrating political activism at the University of Zimbabwe only are long gone. Jonathan Moyo was partly right, Harare is not Zimbabwe.
The resolution to ensure branches are organised around polling stations was therefore pure genius. All party efforts must be towards building, capacitating and strengthening these branches instead of swallowing hook, line and sinker the ZANU bait veiled as constitutional neatness. MDC leaders who have been distracted by these shenanigans are just delaying the people’s struggle.
Yet this has presented us with an opportunity. The inescapable reality is that the MDC needs renewal. This renewal must be underpinned by the realisation that young people are now in charge of the party and will chart its destiny. The old will be allowed space to advice and counsel, but the battle has moved to the youth. This is in line with Dr Tsvangirai’s passing the baton speech. The departure of Mwonzora and others is an opportunity to refine the leadership through renewal.
The MDC Alliance must re-scope the future we want to see. This must result in a thorough rebranding process. The brand must carry a more vibrant, modern ethos: underpinned by the founding principles, yet appealing to a more exciting future.
The polling station-based voting has created an opportunity for the party to organise its structures. Whilst members are committed to the MDC mission, better organisation and capacity will go a long way to address some of the past gaps. The unity built through the Alliance is important to build upon. Those who are keen to deny us the chance at unity are setting themselves against the popular will: they will be spewed out of our important spaces. The opportunity is here now and must be seized with gusto.
Christopher Nyamandi is the Interim Chair of the Middle East and Asia Branch of the MDC Alliance. This article is extracted from a longer article on lessons learnt from the 2018 elections. You can contact him on twitter @chrisnyamandi or email firstname.lastname@example.org