By Masimba Mavaza | Zimbabwe has made significant democratic achievements since the 1990s following a wave of ferocious internal conflict which ushered in independence and freedom.
After all the war was to allow each qualifying person a vote. In order for this progress to be sustained, the country requires viable political parties, which play a key role in a democracy. The majority of parties currently in existence in the country are generally fragmented and weak. There is no urgency in opposition parties to pose a significant challenge to the ruling party in elections, but even ruling party need help to improve their ability to carry out their mandates. The ruling party becomes so relaxed stubborn and non compliant because they lack a challenging opposition.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) became closer to be a stronger party but for some selfish reasons it lost momentum and started to disintegrate. They started worshipping individuals and they split into six parties. Zimbabwean political parties have multiplied in number more than the inflation of 2008.
While it is democratically right to form a party of your choice it should be done with reason and thinking. Unfortunately thinking is clearly absent from the opposition parties in Zimbabwe. Any person who looks at the State starts dreaming of being there and wakes up with a political party.
It is against this background that NERA was formed but it too fell by the wayside. They wanted to develop a programme aimed at strengthening opposition political parties in the Zimbabwe. This project failed dismally because any person with a following of three people demanded an equal share with those with a million followers. NERA meant to focus on five key components: gender representation, intra- and inter-party democracy, outreach activities, conflict management, and party leadership. This project flopped because its sponsors had different ideas and the leaders could not compromise. Instead of fighting one target they targeted themselves.
Despite the coming in of ZimPF much acclaimed political stability, it faced the problem of establishing democratic practices that support cooperation both inside and between their organizations, i.e., intra- and inter-party democracy. Instead, it suffered the impact of rampant factionalism and cronyism with allegations of prostitution where leaders made a bee line towards Queen Bee’s honey pot. Now the party is divided into two factions, which diminished its electoral strength and thereby giving ZANU PF the an edge In 2018. dissatisfied with the factionalism, some of its members formed the NPP NATIONAL PEOPLE’s Party hoping it would unite the splinter groups. However, the opposition will not succeed and instead it will fragment into at least seven different parties like MDC T C D M etc.
Even after these many splits, clearly opposition politicians had learned no lessons about how to remedy intra-party conflicts. Over the years, they have not created any mechanisms that would allow them to circumvent party infighting. Such factionalism continues to be widely acknowledged as one of the major challenges in opposition party politics.
Four decades after independence, the ZANU PF remains comfortably in charge of the government, while the opposition has continued to fragment into smaller parties with trivial electoral impact (judging by the number of votes they received in the 2013) elections. In addition, a lack of party funding and the external regulatory framework equally affect the performance of opposition parties. Those who sponsor would want to control.
Despite these realities, the Achilles heel of the opposition parties is their failure to cooperate and form coalitions. Had opposition parties done this in the past, they would have won some constituencies from the ruling party Instead, opposition parties have a history of reneging on alliance agreements on the eve of or immediately after elections.
The party leaders are not able to transcend their narrow self interests for the sake of broader party unity.
Opposition political parties need greater internal democracy in the election/selection of party leaders. Much intra-party conflict is the result of power struggles between leaders, which leads to party splits.
Intra- and inter-party conflict has impacted the country’s opposition parties.
The opposition has the lack of visionary leadership in political parties. While they indicated that in most cases leaders are born not made, much could be done to improve a person’s inherent leadership skills. A person could learn through programmes on leadership skills, organisational management skills, project management skills, fundraising strategies, and capacity-building skills.
With their mind set ZANUPF will rule till Amen.