By Rungano Dzikira- Divisions on how to handle perceived deficiencies of democracy in the SADC region have crippled the MDC-Alliance’s diplomatic charm offensive.
For example, opposition parties in Tanzania had expected their MDC-A brothers to issue a statement condemning the “flawed” electoral process in Tanzania. Even some western countries felt let down by the dearth of African voices condemning the electoral processes in Tanzania.
They expected the MDC-A, Jonathan Moyo, Hopewell Chin’ono and others to support them on the issue. Western diplomats need such voices to counter the narrative that they are condescending to Africans on governance issues and timid in condemning human rights abuses and lack of democracy in the Arab world and in Asia. They have a pressing need to point at like-minded Africans.
The regional “prefects of democracy” such as Mmusi Maimane and Ian Khama are also unhappy to observe that the MDC-A always demands international support on Zimbabwean issues but hardly ever makes statements in support of democracy in the region and beyond.
However, the MDC-A’s silence is based on the calculation that the case of opposition parties in the region is hopeless. The MDC-A positions itself midway between opposition and governing parties in Southern Africa.
This posture has been discussed at length among MDC-A leaders. In the discussions most MDC-A leaders resolved that the MDC-A should maintain an ambiguous position on the Tanzanian elections so as to avoid irritating the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.
The MDC-A has calculated that drawing ire from the opposition would be less harmful than inviting the wrath of the Tanzanian government. This has angered the democracy proselytising faction which, in the fashion of Popovic, wants to convert the whole continent to Westminster style democracy.
The impulsive Job Sikhala is said to be the leading member of this group while Biti, and other strategic thinkers, lead the group which seeks to appease ruling parties in order to isolate ZANU PF. Chamisa is said to be vacillating between the two groups.
These divisions have compromised the MDC-A’s diplomatic offensive which had gained traction following the launch of the #ZimbabweLivesMatter movement.
At one point, it looked like South African diplomats in Harare and Lindiwe Zulu had shifted Pretoria towards supporting the opposition in Zimbabwe. It is now a very different story. The South Africans, the Tanzanians, the Angolans and others, through intelligence and diplomatic means, have unmasked the MDC-A’s unprincipled ambiguous position.
Regional opposition groups, trade unions and western countries have also sensed the MDC-A’s serious divisions and lack of solidarity with fellow crusaders of western style democracy and neoliberalism. The MDC-A is no longer held in high esteem.
The party needs to urgently re-strategise but Chamisa is not well known for being a strategist. He should, for the sake of MDC-A, let Biti guide him in that area. Sometimes a leader has to be a good follower.
The question to ask is whether the emerging new leaders around Chamisa will allow him to let Biti make strategic decisions. The new leaders led by Fadzayi Mahere in fact want Chamisa to expel Biti, Sikhala and others who they view as pretenders to the throne.
This would create room for them in the MDC-A top leadership. Chamisa should demonstrate leadership before the party is written off by the international community.