.Lack of Strategy an indictment on the Opposition
THIS past week was filled with drama in the Zimbabwe body politic. First, it was the predictable fissure in the economy, with the crash of the Bond and the return of speculative pricing and buying, and the consequent emptying shelves. This was followed by the absurdity of denials of an economic meltdown and threats by the authorities and the straight-faced pretensions that all was normal. Well, it isn’t.
The authorities did their usual knee-jerk palliative responses: they injected foreign currency for imports in the sectors where the shortages had started to manifest themselves. A Panadol for a headache, but then again, the tumour remains. Ignatius Chombo, Minister of Home Affairs took the absurd step of issuing a statement threatening all who protest against the Government on social media. Evan Mawarire was arrested and accused of fomenting trouble (as if the Pastor controls the black market), only to be released by the courts. Daily News journalists Mugove Tafirenyika and Brighton Goko were butchered by the riot police for covering a demonstration on Bond notes.
That, however, is a problem for Zanu PF, the Government and the economy.
On the other end, before the week was over, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), expelled its President and former minister of Finance in the Government of National Unity(GNU), Tendai Biti, and other top-ranking officials. The case against him has to do with joining the MDC-T Alliance to fight the Mugabe regime under one umbrella come 2018.
The splits and expulsions within the ranks of the opposition movement in Zimbabwe are becoming monotonous by their frequency, and would make for excellent comedy were they not shuttering the only hope for the suffering nation and its people to rid themselves of the tyranny of Zanu PF. Unless this opposition circus stops now, any hope of dislodging Zanu PF come 2018 may be misplaced.
I have been trying hard to exorcise the demon in the opposition politics, and this is what I came out with.
The Quest For Unity Being The Source Of Disunity
While it is a no-brainer that one sure way of dislodging Zanu PF from power is for the opposition to come together under some structured umbrella and stand behind one candidate, it is ironical that this search for unity is becoming the major source of disunity within the opposition. The opposition seems not to have learnt anything from the elections of 2008 which would have been won by Morgan Tsvangirai if votes had not been split with Welshman Ncube and Simba Makoni. Yet of late, the search for that opposition unity is the main source of disunity.
There is no opposition party in Zimbabwe that has not suffered internal divisions as a result of seeking unity ahead of the elections. Biti is accused by his erstwhile comrades within his party for taking PDP into the MDC-T Alliance. Earlier, MDC-T President Tsvangirai had a storm in his own party, led by one of his own deputies, Thokozani Khupe, over inviting other parties such as PDP and the Welshmen Ncube –led MDC into the MDC-T Alliance. Joice Mujuru and her National People’s Party, would not consider joining the Alliance if it had already settled on its leader.
People may not be privy to the causes and details leading to these breakups, but given victory at the polls next year as the prize of unity, all other considerations should be subordinate to that strategic goal. The people asked for it and are begging for the opposition team to deliver this trophy. It is important to focus on the substance rather than the process and keep an eye on the bigger picture.
The Dearth Of Strategic Thinking Within The Opposition
There seems to be a dearth of strategic thinking and strategic thinkers within the opposition movement. In strategic management, a strategy is formulated and implemented after undertaking a Situational Analysis of your environment and assessed your position vis a vis your competition through a SWOT Analysis ( Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Strengths). It is this analysis that informs a business strategy and plan. Let’s look at how this plays out on the political scene in Zimbabwe
The Current Zanu PF Weaknesses An Opportunity For The Opposition
Any cursory analysis of the political situation in Zimbabwe at the moment would show that Zanu PF has been severely weakened by the infighting within the party between the G40 and the Lacoste Teams over the succession issue. They have lost the support of the War Veterans, who have been the pillar of their previous election ‘victories’. If the War Veterans go on to implement their threat to de-campaign Zanu PF and support an opposition candidate come 2018, then this current weakness is also a potent threat to the revolutionary party, and a great opportunity for the opposition to have the respected and brave War Veterans on their side. The expulsions of Joice Mujuru from Zanu PF, together with all those that were seen as supporting her is another opportunity for the opposition to tap into. In strategy formulation, the opponent’s weaknesses have to be exploited. Sadly, the opposition is not exploiting Mugabe's weaknesses.
The Economic Meltdown Is An Opposition Golden Opportunity
Then there is the golden opportunity posed by the economic mess in the country, with no jobs, no basic services like water, electricity, health and sanitation. There is open corruption and protection of corruption by the regime. There is the reckless profligacy by the first family, and foul-mouthed first lady Grace Mugabe who has not only succeeded in disgracing herself but the country at large. Her wayward boys are blowing so much foreign currency as if there is no tomorrow. It is no exaggeration that there is so much anger in Zimbabwe at the moment such that an opposition with strategic thinking would be going for the jugular.
Opportunities are meaningless unless they are seized. Imagine the mileage and traction that would come with the opposition mounting a demonstration every time Matemadanda is arrested, or mobilizing supporters in their numbers in their colourful party regalia to flood the courtyard every time Matemadanda appears at court. A simple symbolic strategy such as this shows some level of organisational planning and strategic thinking from people who seek the reins of power.
We saw how powerful it was in the case of Mawarire in July 2016 when he was arraigned before the Courts. Sadly it was more a movement spearheaded by activists such as Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights(ZLHR) who fell over each other with pro-bono offers to represent the Pastor. It was not something organized by the opposition political establishment. The opposition have remained mum over Grace Mugabe’s $ 1.2million diamond ring save for statements issued on social media. Mugabe and his Zanu PF do what they do because they know that no one in the opposition can organise or mobilise people to hold them accountable.
Recalling Members Of Parliament A Monumental Strategic Disaster
There is evidence of an absence of strategy in how the opposition acts and reacts to some issues. In November 2014, MDC-T recalled 15 House of Assembly members and 3 Senators following their joining the breakaway outfit of PDP, this, at a time they had decided they will not contest any by-elections. Whatever anyone says, I just don’t get it. Those fine minds and voices in Parliament such as Tendai Biti, Gorden Moyo, the Madzore brothers, Willias Madzimure, Sekai Holland, to name a few, were silenced. That sounds like doing Zanu PF’s bidding to me, as it amounts to donating those seats to Zanu PF on a silver platter. Clearly, this was done to “punish” and discipline PDP. But it weakened the opposition to Zanu PF.
Talk of the proverbial “cutting off your nose to spite your face”!!!
There Is No Coalition Strategy In The Zimbabwean Opposition
It is within the context of the palpable lack of strategic thinking as reflected in the failure to seize on the weaknesses of Zanu PF, that the issue of opposition unity becomes a strategic issue. Unity brings not just the numbers but also the brain power. Whatever one may say about the MDC of the past, it is undeniable that the brains of people like Biti and Ncube, both legal minds of note, made MDC the strong and formidable opposition party that it once was that made Zanu PF quiver. Love him or hate him, Biti is a brilliant mind who did not shy away from calling the regime for what it is, and the organisational competence within MDC has not been at the levels of the past. This is why these guys went on to do well in their portfolios in the GNU, a combination of brains and courage.
This organisational competence becomes more imperative given that the most popular figure in the opposition politics, Morgan Tsvangirai is himself a pale shadow of his former self. His ill health has come at a very wrong time. That aside, the zest to fight that used to be evident in him in the past is no longer there. His politics is now conducted in private and his views are expressed by the party’s communications department.
Opposition politics requires that you not only lead but are seen to lead from the front. This is what has sustained die-hard opposition politicians in Kenya. Raila Odinga of the National Supers in Kenya (NASA), which is a political opposition coalition formed in January 2017 to fight the elections in Kenya, is a no-nonsense political figure who has been a thorn in the flesh of all that have had to deal with him. One thing different though in Kenya is that NASA is the name of the coalition that brought together some five or six parties, with its Presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga being the head of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), thus separating the coalition candidature from any association with his sponsoring party. Complaints have been raised within Zimbabwe against the retention of the MDC-T name in the Alliance, and indeed, the likes of Joice Mujuru have voiced their apprehensions with that.
Whether these concerns are valid or not, they all speak to the absence of a coalition strategy in the way the whole all-important matter of unity has been approached. Odinga is a tough politician in his own right and no ruling party can ever afford to take him for granted. NASA fought the good fight in the August 2017 elections, and their pressure led to the unprecedented nullification of the elections and forcing a re-run for which they are out campaigning right now.
My point is one can see that the NASA coalition had a strategy and a sense of purpose, which could be seen by the way the principals campaigned together and severally.
However, in Zimbabwe, there seems to be no feasible strategy for bringing the opposition together, a strategy which recognises that there might be egos at stake that need to be managed. If that strategy had been in place and succeeded, the other strategic elements would find the manpower to craft and implement.
Building A Coalition Of Forces With Like-minded Movements
It is the responsibility of political institutions to identify like-minded forces and bring them into the fold. In South Africa, the ANC has been made strong by the coalition it has built with organisations such as COSATU. The Democratic Alliance is contemplating bringing down the ANC through a coalition, come 2019. In Zimbabwe, MDC was born from the labour movement in 1999, and for a long time, that association with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was evident. Not anymore. Activist movements such as #Tajamuka, #This Flag Movement, Women Of Zimbabwe Arise(WOZA) are organisations yearning for the same changes that the established political parties would want to see in Zimbabwe. Yet that synergy in planning and organising of events is not seen or evident. If it is there, then it is a bad strategy not to show it in public, because in politics it is important that the company you keep and the size of your strength is known.
The Lure Of Independent Candidature
The rise in the number of politicians opting to stand for the next election as independents is in itself an indictment on the state of opposition politics in Zimbabwe. It deprives the opposition of that needed competency of brainpower. Nkosana Moyo, a respected banker and technocrat, is running for President as an independent. With no disrespect meant to him, there is no chance in either heaven or hell, of him winning the Presidency on that ticket, due to the fact that he has no structures yet to support him, and politics is a game of numbers. The most likely thing to happen is a dividing of the vote which would have benefitted the opposition. Fadzai Mahere, a brilliant Advocate and activist who rose to prominence through her activities with #This Flag movement last year, is going to run for Mount Pleasant as an independent candidate. Firebrand activist Linda Masarira, who has scars to prove it, has announced her intention to run as an independent in Harare Central, following brief stint in PDP. Given the common interest of everyone, that of dislodging Zanu PF from power, and the knowledge that the surest way of doing that is by coming together, why would anyone choose to run alone, unless they are frustrated by what they see in the opposition? No Zanu PF aligned politicians stand as independent candidates save for Temba Mliswa. But then again, we all know that he's victory was secured through the backing of the opposition.
My take is that the rise of independent candidates is a reflection of the disorder within the ranks of the opposition and the absence of a coalition building strategy. Some of them once belonged to the established political formations, raising the red flag why they are not running under those formations.
Time Is Running Out But It Can Still Be Done
As 2018 elections are around the corner, Zimbabweans watch the circus within the opposition with bated breath and a sense of trepidation. There is the fear that Zanu PF may be handed victory on a silver platter, unless the opposition wakes up and shapes up. There is still time to sort themselves out. NASA in Kenya was only formed in January 2017, when the elections in Kenya were set for August 2017.The results they achieved are there for all to see.
If the opposition shapes up in 2017, they have everything in their favour come 2018. Zimbabweans have every justification to judge them harshly if they betray a nation ready to grant them the vote that will see the back of Mugabe and his Zanu PF forever.


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