“We Want Reforms And Then Elections” Demanded Mwonzora – This Was No Epiphany; Why Now
10 October 2021
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By Nomusa Garikai- ”We want reforms and then elections. Unlike our colleagues in the opposition who are calling for an election whether or not there are reforms,” said Douglas Mwonzora, leader of MDC – T.

“That government has not allowed reforms over some years is not a good enough reason to explain why we should not insist on them.  We shall not give up until there are reforms which guarantee secrecy of the vote and security of both the vote and the voter.”

Participating in flawed and illegal elections to give vote rigging Zanu PF legitimacy is insane, the more so after 41 years of rigged elections in this day and age. 

So after decades of telling Douglas Mwonzora and his friends in Zimbabwe’s opposition camp of the sheer folly of participating in flawed and illegal elections; it was refreshing to hear the penny had finally dropped. The announcement was a bolt out of the clear sky – or was it!

The question one has to ask is; “Is this Mwonzora and company Damascus Christophany moment?” The doubting Thomas in me cannot resist the follow up question: “Why now?”

The people of Zimbabwe have risk life and limb to elect MDC leaders into power on the understanding the party would implementing the democratic changes to end the Zanu PF dictatorship. And yet after 22 years of MDC on the political centre stage, 5 of which in the 2008 to 2013 GNU, the party has failed to implement  even one token democratic reform. Not even one!

During the 2008 to 2013 GNU, it was up to MDC leaders themselves to propose and implement the democratic reforms; they did not need to ask Zanu PF to do it. SADC leaders, who were the guarantor of the Global Political Agreement that gave birth to the GNU, nagged Morgan Tsvangirai and his friends to implement the reforms but all to no account. 

SADC leaders literally begged MDC leaders not to participate in the elections with no reforms in place but once again Tsvangirai and company paid no heed. 

By participating in these flawed and illegal elections MDC leaders were undermining the work of those demanding free, fair and credible elections; Zanu PF was able to point to the participating opposition as proof Zimbabwe had a healthy and functioning multi-party democracy. Why otherwise, would so many opposition parties participate in the elections if the process was flawed, Zanu PF argued. 

What makes MDC leaders’ betrayal, first the failure to implement the reforms and then participating in flawed to give Zanu PF legitimacy, particularly obnoxious; is that they clearly knew exactly what they were doing.

“The worst aspect for me about the failure to agree a coalition was that both MDCs couldn’t now do the obvious – withdraw from the (2013) elections,” confessed David Coltart, MDC A Treasurer General, in his Book, The Struggle Continues 50 years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe.

“The electoral process was so flawed, so illegal, that the only logical step was to withdraw, which would compel SADC to hold Zanu PF to account. But such was the distrust between the MDC-T and MDC-N that neither could withdraw for fear that the other would remain in the elections, winning seats and giving the process credibility.”

Four of the main MDC factions plus three other opposition parties did come together to form the MDC Alliance (MDC A) just before the 2018 elections. They went on to participate in that year’s elections, there was no talk of boycotting the elections, for the same reason they all participated in 2013 – greed. 

So the answer to why Mwonzora and company are finally talking of boycotting 2023 elections is clear – they are fearful their MDC -T faction will lose the fight for the few gravy train seats to the MDC A just as Thokozani Khupe, who led MDC -T did in the 2018 elections. 

Greed had blinded Mwonzora and company to participate in the elections in the past. Now that there is a real possibility they would not win any of the few gravy train seats on offer, they finally see the folly of participating in the flawed and illegal 2023 elections. 

Mwonzora and company are now demanding reforms before the 2023 elections not because of some epithany of enlightenment of the sheer insanity of participating in flawed elections to give vote rigging Zanu PF legitimacy. When they realised they would not win any of the few gravy train seats on offer the scales born out of greed that had blinded them finally fall off and common sense prevailed. 

In 2014 all the MDC leaders, including Nelson Chamisa, Tendai Biti, David Coltart, etc., endorse the “No reform, no elections!” MDC-T party resolution only to abandon it the following years. If Mwonzora and company’s chances of winning any seats in the 2023 elections were to improve, they will once again forget the demand for reforms and participate in the elections.