Home » Governance » Analogy of Deceptive Politics [opinion]

Deception has been a critical mark of politics, since time immemorial. It has been the hallmark of many political leaders and political parties and organisations. I was amazed at how much the MDC-T has learnt about this unfortunate art of politics. The past few weeks have been littered with the unbelievable splits and acrimonious witch-hunt in the MDC-T.

I took time to try and understand the real machinations that define the current heckling and the events that have characterised the party in the last few weeks. The epitome of the MDC-T crisis came last week when Morgan Tsvangirai called a hurriedly arranged press conference to announce what was supposed to be the re-unification of the warring factions. In a typical deceptive manner, Tsvangirai addressed the conference but never allowed his typified aersary, Tendai Biti, to utter a word.

Many would have thought that a genuine re-unification would have been exemplified by both leaders addressing the conference and making a public pronouncement of having “buried the hatchet”. Biti remained seated and removed from the illusory assertions by Tsvangirai which pointed towards re-unification. Biti’s body language spoke much more than Tsvangirai’s words and Tsvangirai’s words were let down by the obvious lack of conviction in what he pronounced. After the conference, Biti, did not confirm or deny the veracity of Tsvangirai’s enunciation.

On the other hand, Elton Mangoma, who is at the centre of the current storm did not attend the conference. Pro-Tsvangirai party members claim that Mangoma never attended because he remains suspended, and that his suspension is not a matter for discussion, not even for the reunification agenda. What exactly is evolving in the MDC-T? Is this a question of Tsvangirai jumping the gun to announce the resolution of the challenges before they have been actually settled? Why would Biti attend a conference whose pronouncement he never agreed with and yet consent to be presented as having taken such a position? Is there a disconnect between Biti’s position and the outright stance taken by Mangoma?

The biggest challenge in the current MDC-T squabbles is around control of what I would refer to as “the turf of domination”. Initially, when the leadership wrangle emerged in the party, Tsvangirai took claim of rightful leadership in the party. In that regard, he took a position in which he created some aura of invincibility, instructively demanding that those opposed to his continued leadership needed to quit the party.

The suspension of Mangoma and the subsequent disciplinary hearing were meant to begin the process of expulsion of the “rebels”. That action was meant to lead to further expulsions of those loyal to Mangoma’s cause, as they were to be later dragged before the disciplinary hearing, once Mangoma himself had been discharged from the party. The initial strategic option for the pro-Mangoma group, which included Biti, was to move out of the MDC-T and form a new movement or political grouping. A lot of groundwork went into preparing for a new political direction outside of the MDC-T.

However, there was a change of mindset in mid-stream. This pro-Mangoma group realised that if they were to move out of the MDC-T they would have surrendered the “turf of domination” to the pro-Tsvangirai group. Despite a lot of undermining of the Mangoma rebellion, there was actually a brewing lineage of support for this faction from deep and wide within the structures of the party. The pro-Mangoma posture actually found some taking in the provincial and district structures of the MDC-T.

Realising this kind of political support, the pro-Mangoma group decided not to move out of the MDC-T but to claim space within the MDC-T. Incensed by the possibility of losing this “turf of domination” the pro-Mangoma group began contemplating the idea of actually laying claim of the MDC-T leadership instead of moving out of the party to form an offshoot. They began to entertain the idea of staying put, and if anyone was to be pushed out, then it had to be Tsvangirai and his cohort.

The split of 2005 was also a huge learning curve for the pro-Mangoma group. They realised that, though Welshman Ncube continued to use the nomenclature of the MDC after he left the party, he was actually perceived to have been “booted” out of the original MDC. The pro-Mangoma group, buoyed by the massive support they received from the structures, decided not to fall for the temptation to move out and leave Tsvangirai an easy claim of credibility of the mandate of being the valid leader of the MDC-T.

Tactfully, the pro-Mangoma group has decided to mobilise for Tsvangirai’s ouster at the fast-tracked elective congress, which is now being planned for this year or early 2015. However, in order to participate at that congress and have a chance of ousting Tsvangirai and some of his loyalists, the pro-Mangoma group has to stay in the party. The group has to be part of the arrangements for the congress to ensure that they participate but also ensure there is no pre-planned rigging or irregularities that would disaantage them. This is the main reason that Biti has decided to play along to the tune of re-unification while Mangoma remains suspended but not ousted. In fact, the need to remain in the MDC-T, for the sake of the elective congress, is what has given Mangoma the impetus to challenge his suspension from the party in the courts. The pro-Tsvangirai group is also planning along the same lines as the pro-Mangoma group. They want to be seen as having made an attempt at re-uniting the party and averting a possible split. They therefore want to breed key pro-Mangoma leaders in the party and only work at spitting them out at the elective congress. So for now, both sides see the sense of working on a truce. The truce is not genuine but it’s meant to preserve some momentum and some positional leverages, which will then be fully utilised at congress to dispel the other. From both ends, the truce is a necessary channel to an eventual exclusion of the other. What will, however, happen is that both sidesfactions will begin to position themselves for the congress, with implosive implications for harmonious existence in the party. Both sides will begin to alienate each other and strategically begin to create traps for the other in preparation for congress. Tension will rise and divisions will continue to rock the party, without a split but with potential to deliver an explosive congress.

At that congress, even Tsvangirai’s position will be at stake. The factions will also mobilise heavily in the party structures with potential of more violence and even fatalities arising from ugly scenes of factional fighting. The inside of the MDC-T will resemble the electoral tension reminiscent of the ZANU-PFMDC-T divide that is always synonymous with national elections. So what we have seen in the MDC-T to-date, may merely be indicative of more to come. The depth of deceptive politics is at play in the party and this will divert the movement from being an effective opposition.

The decision to embrace some form of truce by the pro-Mangoma group, especially Biti, is not genuine. It is part of the grand strategy. It is part of the conspiracy to remain inside the party in order to utilise the positional and supporters’ leverages to attempt to dislodge Tsvangirai, this time through constitutional means – an elective congress. Tsvangirai on the other hand, wants the pro-Mangoma group close enough to redeem his leadership maturity, which he had lost when he carelessly led the crusade to expel and dismiss this group.

By keeping them inside the party, Tsvangirai is also hopeful of using the time between now and congress, to appease some of the pro-Mangoma supporters in the party structures. His idea is that, by the time of congress, most of them will have been re-channelled away from supporting and standing with the “rebels”. Whichever way things go, we are seeing the full evolution of deceptive politics in the MDC-T.

Source : Financial Gazette