Home » Governance » Who Is More Democratic Than Who? [opinion]

THE leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) Morgan Tsvangirai has come under fire from several sources accusing him of being undemocratic. Throughout the 15-year life of the party, allegations of being non-democratic have dogged Tsvangirai. The first allegations reared their ugly head in 2005, following a disagreement in the original and united MDC over whether or not the party would participate in the senatorial elections.

Although the majority of those who voted wanted the party to participate in the elections, Tsvangirai overruled that they not participate. This marked the first schism of the party which saw then secretary general, Welshman Ncube, lead a faction out of the fold to make their own splinter formation, which came to be known as the MDC while the bigger group adopted the name MDC-T, with the T coming from leader Tsvangirai’s name. Only recently Ncube repeated his claims that Tsvangirai was not democratic.

“I have no doubt that if we are able to put forward a candidate as opposition, a candidate of a united front, that candidate would win the next election in Zimbabwe. What matters is that candidate must be an undoubted democrat. I regret to say I do not classify Tsvangirai in that category,” Ncube was quoted as saying. Beyond that, several others besides Ncube were to call Tsvangirai undemocratic.

Kisinoti Mukwazhi, president of the Zimbabwe Development Party, also cast aspersions on the MDC-T leader’s ability to demonstrate democracy. “Ahead of the 2013 elections, we had discussed the idea of a coalition with other interested parties including Simba Makoni (of MavamboKusileDawn party) and representatives of Dumiso Dabengwa (of ZAPU) and MDC-T. We had thought it would be strategic to make Tsvangirai central, but we soon discovered he was not presidential material. We were put off by his big brother attitude and would not want to work with him again,” Mukwazhi said.

Because of that disappointment in Tsvangirai’s alleged lack of democracy, Mukwazhi said his party then withdrew his support for the MDC-T and supported ZANU-PF instead. Two months ago, Tsvangirai himself, recognising the futility of fighting President Robert Mugabe in disjointed efforts called on colleagues who had previously left the party to form or be part of other political formations to return and fight from one tent.

“The tent is big enough,” he said. However, political analyst, Allan Hungwe, scoffed at the call and told the Financial Gazette that it was worrying that Tsvangirai was not inviting former party leaders to a “democratic platform”.

“He says come and join me. He does not say come let us get together and map the way forward. He is already dictating the terms of the re-engagement if it happens. Yet these people are leaders of their own parties with their own clout,” Hungwe said.

Of late party secretary general, Tendai Biti, deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma and colleagues in the leadership renewal team have poked holes at Tsvangirai’s democratic veneer. They have accused him of being intolerant of dissenting views and for unleashing violence on those that express alternative views. A case in point is where violence was unleashed on Mangoma soon after his letter to Tsvangirai urging him to consider stepping down.

In whipping up support for the leadership change agenda, the renewal team has pitched their offensive on Tsvangirai’s failure to adhere to the democratic principles of the party. However, following the Mandel meeting on April 26, which saw the suspension of Tsvangirai and other key leaders of the party by Biti’s camp, questions have been raised as to what is happening between the two factions is not a question of the pot calling the kettle black.

Although others, such as MDC’s Trudy Stevenson, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Senegal, believe Biti to be “a committed democrat”, questions abound emanating from the manner in which the supposed ouster of Tsvangirai was staged. “You can’t have it both ways,” says political analyst Alois Masepe. “If you want to be on moral high ground and you say you are governed by the principles of democracy then play that up to the end.”

According to Masepe, by seemingly avoiding to be recalled and not subjecting themselves to the electorate in a by election if they are recalled from Parliament, Biti and company are short-changing democracy. “Values of democracy include subjecting yourself to the constituent. Let the people speak. Let them judge and vote. If you are saying you are principled democrats, then play the game to the end. Go back to the people and let them speak,” says Masepe.

A district organising secretary in the Harare East constituency, Collin Chavengwa, says the way Biti has gone about the leadership renewal agenda, has soiled his chances of being a proponent of the founding values of the party.

“We used to think Biti, as a lawyer, would be an exemplary leader. After all he drafted the constitution and he also drafted the party code of ethics but for him to fail to uphold the same shows he is not much of a leader. He does not have our democratic values at heart. The constitution and code provide that leadership is chosen at Congress. He should have just waited for congress,” Chavengwa said.

Source : Financial Gazette