Founder Mentality Killing The MDC – Opinion
19 March 2020
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Ndaba Matshazi

By Nqaba Matshazi|DEBATE has been raging over the past few weeks over the role former Zanu PF members, particularly the so-called G40, are playing in the MDC.

As usual, views are polarised, with some saying they have no business in the MDC while others are open to the idea of these former Zanu PF members working with the opposition party.

I am not a member of any of the parties and I would normally have let this one go, but I was tempted to say something because I fear that the MDC could be consumed by the “founder member syndrome”, whose biggest symptoms are entitlement and shutting out of other voices.

The real reason Zimbabwe is in such a mess is because of this “stockholder” mentality, where others think they are more important than the rest because they fought in the war of liberation.

This crew has utterly failed to run this country, but they justify their existence at the top by saying that they fought for this country.

When Zimbabweans raise their heads, they are reminded of the Mgagao Declaration, as if this was a pass for this lot to govern us forever.

This kind of entitlement runs deep within the establishment, to a point that when they felt their grip on power was loosening they staged a coup, which ensured they remained at the helm.

Make no mistake, the 2017 coup had nothing to do with you and I, it was about protecting the interests of an elite, who felt threatened by the route that the late former President Robert Mugabe was taking.

Why I raise this is because I sense that the founder mentality is taking hold within the MDC, as people that have been in the party longer than others want to dictate the pace.

I am not saying that the MDC should blindly welcome ex-Zanu PF members, but rather it should look for ways in which they can work together for their benefit.

For example, Excelgate, written by former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo is instructive on rigging tactics employed by Zanu PF, and the MDC more than anyone els stands to benefit from scrutinising that book to plug loopholes in the election process.

If MDC and Moyo’s former deputy, Godfrey Gandawa had come to an agreement in the last election, the opposition would be having an extra seat in Parliament and their voices would be louder.

This is not to say that these people’s transgressions should be ignored, but rather it is important to tap into their knowledge of how the Zanu PF system works and how it can be dismantled.

They might not have the wherewithal to dislodge Zanu PF, but the little knowledge they have and the networks they built when they were still in the ruling party could make the difference on whether the opposition constructs building blocks on moving towards being a ruling party.

This is not a magic bullet, but it could be helpful, as the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai demonstrated by bringing in the likes of Tracy Mutinhiri into the fold, although she has since abandoned ship.

The MDC could bring them into the fold or at least create a win-win situation and always remember to use a long spoon when they sup with this lot.

As the adage says: my enemy’s enemy is my friend, an old saying that suggests that two opposing parties can or should work together against a common enemy.

It is important for the MDC to remember that its leader Nelson Chamisa received 2,1 million votes, officially at least, and this was the highest number for an opposition leader in Zimbabwe.

I have no doubt at all that a big chunk of these people are not in MDC structures and have never contributed a dime to the party.

Some of them are people that have never attended a single rally and chanted slogans, but are tired of Zanu PF.

Some of them are ranking civil servants, who are frustrated at the turn of events in this country and are desperate for change.

Also, some of them were first-time voters, while others belong to the “Anything but Zanu PF” brigade.

Such type of voters are fickle, they vote for the party they think will deliver results for them even if it is not MDC.

They are not loyal to anyone except to themselves and their beliefs and the MDC should not take their votes for granted.

Also, one can argue that the former G40 members had their supporters, who in normal circumstances would not have voted for MDC, but because they were disgruntled and angry at the system, they donated their votes to the opposition.

At this critical juncture in our history, the MDC can ill afford to ostracise anyone, but rather they should be preaching the “big tent” mantra, which they preached a few years ago.

It might be unpalatable for some to work with the likes of Moyo, Gandawa and Patrick Zhuwao, all former ministers, but the reality is MDC needs all the support it can get at this point.

On the other hand, there are genuine questions about these former Zanu PF members’ deeds when they were in government, particularly accusations of corruption and there is need for the MDC to ask if these are the kind of people it wants to be associated with.

In addition, a key question is on whether the G40 members would have left Zanu PF had they not been pushed out.

These are questions that the opposition has to grapple with.

 Nqaba Matshazi is AMH’s head of digital. He writes in his personal capacity.