MDC Alliance Generational Divide At The Heart Of Defections
24 March 2021
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By Taruberekera Masara in Pretoria| The defections that are currently happening in the MDC Alliance or the MDC perse has a dominant demographic characteristic,age. This common denominator has exposed the rift between old and young. Nelson Chamisa’s youth firewall is pushing old guard out.

The defections represent a classic form of generational cleansing.

Profound fractures and divides in an organization can remain deliberately hidden only for so long: sudden dramatic events act like flares, making them impossible to ignore. The rise of the youths inside major political organizations in Zimbabwe MDC and Zanu PF has been a reason of factionalism and factional purging. 

Most of the people who have left the MDC-Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa feel that the leader is too young to steer the party and often times have threw maturity caution in the air.

But what stands out is that the old guard feels so intimidated by the rise of the youths. Zanu PF equally had to throw Douglas Mwonzora as it’s preferred candidate to lead the MDC-Alliance. Bizzare as it is,Victor Matemadanda of Zanu PF underscored the importance of age factor saying that Mwonzora was mature enough than Chamisa. 

Research Advocacy Unit Zimbabwe once argued that voters end to vote for their age mates because they think that their aspirations will be heard well. Life cycle generational politics a major mobilising factor. The defections rocking the MDC speaks volumes of such. The old guard can’t trust the youths with their aspirations. They think they are better off with their age mates as leaders. It is not surprising that people who are leaving MDC-ALLIANCE find solace in a septuagenarian north aged party Zanu PF.

Statistically MDC is a dominantly youth led (45 years southwards) and this is so intimidating. Old politicians feel the threat of their voices being drowned,hence the choice to move out and find new homes.

From Tongai Matutu,Blessing Chebundo,Lilian Timevous,James Mushore and Obert Gutu to mention a few the age factor says a lot. They were at peace with Morgan Tsvangirai as their leader because he was either older than them or in their generational bracket. 

Obert Gutu in his justification for leaving MDC said that Morgan Tsvangirai died together with the party. What is clear in his justification is that he could not stomach any other leader at the helm of the party other than Tsvangirai. 

The demographic fact amongst the is just one illustration of an undeniable truth: that Zimbabwe’s generations occupy completely different political and moral universes, to a degree that seems without observable precedent in our modern history.It primarily takes the form of a generational clash that divides not just the  progressive politics, but the nation too.

Generational politics is not just an uncomfortable phenomenon. It can be positively poisonous, because the very foundation of our politics is that the cleavage that really matters in society is who has wealth and power, and who does not; who has to work in order to survive, and who profits from that labour. Young people are in the periphery of government policies and hence they should fight to get included,yet exclusionary politicians loathe it. They want to remain captains of the gravy train as long as they please.

Generations as categories seem too unstable and contradictory to be useful, in any case.

While it is undeniable fact that there are Zimbabweans over 65 who believe in the revolutionary overthrow of Zanu PF fascism, while some of the most stridently rightwing commentators in the public sphere are significantly younger for example the social media savvy (Varakashi brigade). But there is no question that profoundly contrasting social attitudes have fused with economic realities to, overall, create a generational chasm.

The prisms through which we see the world and interpret the events around us are formed, after all, by our lived experiences. Why would younger Zimbabweans side so decisively with Chamisa over the old guard? For a start, they are likely to side with people who identify with their own personal experience. While older citizens report solidly high levels of this kind of patriotism,  fewer younger citizens do so. This really is not surprising? For younger Zimbabweeans a life of economic insecurity and stagnating living standards, leaves more question marks inevitably hanging over pride in country.

In large part, generation has intersected with class. Homeownership is a preserve of older citizens– they own the majority of properties. Apparently homeowners’ housing wealth – is heavily septuagenarian,while collapsing among the youth who have been driven into the insecure private rented sector. While social democracy has rightly been preserved for older generations through the triple lock in pensions, the lot of many of young Zimbabweans – whether they’re saddled with university debt or not – is insecure work, a decimated social security system and slashed public services.

Economic insecurity fuses with progressive social values: here is a generation whose attitudes have been forged by decades of struggle the younger people increasingly stridently assert their values and challenge the cultural norms of an establishment dominated by older Zimbabweans has led to moral panic. The loathing, of younger Zimbabweans threaten to trash the established order.

Even though the media is aware of demographic facts around the youthfulness of Zimbabwean population, any concessions to the moral outlooks or social demands of younger Zimbabweans – however superficial – cause terror among an insecure old order. It is hard to not to interpret the establishment’s preference of Douglas Mwonzora at the MDC T Extra Ordinary Congress as an attempt to build higher walls to stave off the rising tide of a younger generation.It is trait that young voters would prefer any youthful representative to older ones  as leader, unlike their older peers, is hardly unsurprising. 

Generational relevance has a greater appeal among a disenfranchised youth. Chamisa is, in part, a reassertion of the dominance of the youth – far more wedded to  Third Way politics –whose base are the millennials,unemployed graduates,the economic refugees in the Diaspora and the women whose sexual reproductive health care is at stake.

All of this represents a serious challenge for progressive politics. Older and affluent Zimbabwe are of course the most likely to vote, and the keen to have Zanu PF rig the electoral system further in their favour.

Can the alternative leader (Chamisa) successfully peel off enough economically secure, socially conservative older voters without alienating their younger supporters in order to build an electoral coalition? That question remains unanswered.Chamisa faces an enigma of a seismic rift that has opened up between the generations: it is only likely to widen further.

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