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Why the end is nigh for the MDC, Douglas Mwonzora

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…‘Mwonzorewa’ the undertaker

Taona B Denhere

BRITISH writer and political commentator Owen Jones in his seminal work The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It opined that “politicians are stripped naked and with no warning, shoved onto stage.

The audience gasps: someone familiar stands before them, but now, under the unforgiving glare of the spotlights, the character is finally exposed for who it really is. Yet, as suddenly as the figure appears, it is covered up again and taken back to where it belongs: offstage”.

This is quite revelatory and instructive with the latest political reality check that confronted the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T and MDC-Alliance, which he seized from Nelson Chamisa, on 12 February 2022. 

Politics is a game of numbers, so goes the old age adage. This means political supporters are the oxygen for any political organisation and in an unforgiving high-testosterone and populist-driven environment such as ours, any politician or political organisation worth its salt must possess this type of political oxygen and immune system in order to circumnavigate the political minefields and slippery slopes.

Mwonzora’s inaugural political  rally at Zororo Grounds in  the working class township of Highfield, Harare, was revealing as he was launching his judicially-constructed party for by-elections on 26 March, bring into  sharp focus the question on the future or lack thereof of the MDC-T or MDC-Alliance, whatever the party is now called. 

The recent poorly attended MDC-T rallies are the latest harbingers of the inevitable demise of the MDC in its various manifestations and the end of Mwonzora’s political career.

The moment Thokozani Khupe, Mwonzora and Morgen Komichi, and other pretenders assumed the leadership of the MDC-T in March 2020, that marked the beginning of the end of the party.

Road to the political graveyard

The date 31 March 2020 will go down in local political history as the  beginning of the end of the MDC as a progressive opposition movement formed in 1999. 

The party had fought tooth and nail the late president Robert Mugabe and his authoritarian Zanu PF regime which has ruined Zimbabwe and left a legacy of poverty and suffering. 

As Zimbabwe commemorated National Youth Day on 21 February – Mugabe’s birthday – that was a painful reminder of how the country has been destroyed,

yet people ironically celebrate the author of its ruination under the guise of his vague and contestable achievements that pale significantly in comparison to his glaring failures.

It was on this fateful day that the Supreme Court decided to rewrite history and attempted to reconstruct a bridge on water which had already passed. The judicially-constructed  MDC-T weaponised the controversial court judgment to politically cannibalise the then Chamisa-led MDC-Alliance. 

On that fateful day, Komichi, accompanied by his other co-conspirator Mwonzora, gleefully recited a prepared victory speech and in the process read the riot act to his erstwhile comrades in Chamisa’s MDC-Alliance. 

Through the passage of time it later transpired that the “victory speech” was nicodemously pre-written by Mwonzora on the eve of the Supreme Court judgment.  They knew they had “won”.

This clearly showed there was an unmistakable devious and underhand dirty tactics plot by the Zanu PF government in manipulating the courts to destroy Chamisa’s party and hopefully career. The fact that Mwonzora and Komichi knew the judicial outcome of the Supreme Court case before its official announcement was clear demonstrable evidence of the treacherous conduct of a compromised and captured judiciary.

Once armed with Mashavira case’s

Supreme Court  judgment, Komichi and Mwonzora went on an unrestrained political and parliamentary cannibalisation of the MDC-Alliance through vindictive and systematic recalls of both real and perceived sympathisers and supporters of Chamisa. 

The callous and ruthless parliamentary recalls were being ventriloquised as upholding and restoring the constitutional dictates of the MDC-T. The first significant road sign on  Mwonzora and his party’s onward journey towards the Mbudzi political cemetery was the MDC-T’s controversial and chaotic extraordinary burial of December 2020, euphemistically christened  as the extraordinary congress. 

The congress was meant to address the constitutional issue red-flagged in Mashavira’s Supreme Court judgment. However, it  became an application of dealing with symptoms rather than the cause of the disease. 

Despite being provided with unprecedented state largesse, including money, transport logistics and the Rainbow Towers Conference Centre, the MDC-T still failed to gather enough delegates to constitute the constitutionally required quorum. Suffice it to say the so-called extraordinary congress was plagued by mobocracy and blatant irregularities amid allegations of electoral fraud and vote-rigging levelled against Mwonzora. 

In those circumstances, Mwonzora controversially assumed the leadership of the MDC-T, ridiculously pitching his modus operandi under the “rational disputation” mantra, which is quintessentially the politics of appeasement, co-option and ingratiating the Zanu PF regime.

That is clearly the antithesis of the MDC’s traditional oppositional politics of progressive and adversarial engagement to hold government to account. 

Consequently, under the stewardship of Mwonzora, the MDC-T showed neirher the political will nor the inclination to advocate for electoral contests, especially for the outstanding by-elections, and electoral reforms.

The MDC-T, through public utterances from Mwonzora and Komichi, showed its willingness to short-circuit and subvert constitutional democracy through advocating for politics of co-option through dialogue that will result in an elite pact in the form of a Government of National Unity. 

Furthermore, the MDC-T became a willing tool in the tyranisation and dismemberment of the national constitution by the Zanu PF through uncritically and naively endorsing as well as supporting the controversial constitutional amendments number 1 and number 2.

All the above clearly show Mwonzora, Komichi and the whole of MDC-T were just mere constitutionalists of convenience who  promoted  a warped, corrupted and self-serving doctrine of constitutionalism without constitutionalists. 

The  second significant signpost on the road towards the Mbudzi political cemetery was when Khupe threw the political spanners in Mwonzora’s petty MDC-T project.  

On 21 January 2022, Khupe, who was at the forefront of fighting Chamisa at the beginning, dropped a political bombshell when she uncompromisingly declared she had decided to split her MDC-T faction from Mwonzora’s MDC-T/A.

This further weakened Mwonzora and his faction of the MDC-T. Consequently, Khupe deprived Mwonzora of the residual Matabeleland social and political base she possessed. 

Khupe went on to urge voters not to vote for either Mwonzora or Zanu PF in the forthcoming by-elections. Mwonzora’s MDC-T will struggle to make an impact nationally without the Matabeleland vote which Khupe would have brought no matter how small compared to Chamisa’s support and influence.

The third  and important sign on  Mwonzora’s journey towards the Mbudzi political graveyard was the event on 12 February as parties started their campaigns for by-elections. 

On 12 February, Mwonzora launched his electoral campaign at Zororo Grounds in Highfield, Harare. This was the much-awaited first political rally of MDC-T under Mwonzora by both neutral and concerned observers.

This was crucial because since the controversial March 2020 Mashavira judgment, in which most judicial and parliamentary decisions went in blatant favour of the MDC-T, Mwonzora and supporters as well as handlers began to propagate a fallacious and delusional  theory that he is an adept, shrewd and strategic political operator who had outmanoeuvred Chamisa. 

However, analysts such as Alex Magaisa were quick to point out that the credible litmus test to objectively assess the shrewdness of Mwonzora was in the court of public opinion, not the captured judiciary, particularly in the unforgiving opposition heartlands of the urban townships and its environs.

On that rain-soaked sunny Saturday it became a politically harsh reality check for Mwonzora and the MDC-T as it turned out to be a moment of truth which shattered the myth of being a strategic and smooth operator. The so-called star rally at Zororo Grounds turned out to be a joke. 

When Mwonzora finally arrived at Zororo Grounds, he ridiculously tried to stroke his bruised ego and rig attendance by lying with a straight face that there were 5 000 people in attendance yet the number of attendees was just under 350. 

Even the state-run media outlets such as the Sunday Mail, which had since March 2020 provided unprecedented favourable coverage to Mwonzora and the MDC-T in an attempt to prop them up, objectively showed the video clip of the sparsely attended MDC-T rally. 

Now the Zanu PF government itself has realised that it was terribly wrong in gambling on propping up Mwonzora as part of an authoritarian consolidation effort to neutralise and emasculate Chamisa. This is  buttressed by  Zanu PF spokesperson Chris Mutsvangwa’s  recent media utterances when he admitted that the MDC is politically dead. 

Ironically, Zororo in our Shona cultural cosmology means a place of final rest and,  as such, there is a cemetery named Zororo in Chitungwiza.  Therefore, the Zororo Grounds where Mwonzora held his inaugural ill-fated and poorly attended rally became a fitting metaphor for the burial of the MDC with him being the undertaker.

The fourth road sign on Mwonzora and the MDC-T’s downward spiral towards political oblivion will be the 26 March by-elections. Thus, with each passing day it is becoming increasingly clear that the MDC-T is heading towards an embarrassing electoral drubbing. 

Accordingly, the past two years both Mwonzora and his newlook MDC-T/MDC-Alliance have tragically failed to win the battle of hearts and minds within the opposition ecosystem. 

Moreover, the  emergence of  the popular Chamisa-led Citizens’ Coalition for Change on the political landscape has clearly made the position of MDC-T/MDC-Alliance politically and electorally untenable.

The forthcoming by-election will  further push the MDC and Mwonzora towards their political grave .

Needless to say that the final beacon that will eventually lead Mwonzora and his party to the Mbudzi political cemetery will be the 2023 general elections.

After the by-elections, Mwonzora and his party will be pushed further   towards the  slippery cliff edge of political demise by the 2023 general elections. There will be no MDC to talk about after 2023.

In that Mbudzi political cemetery, the lifeless political corpse of the MDC-T/MDC-Alliance will  join other dead parties such as the Zimbabwe Unity Movement of the late Edgar Tekere, the United Parties of the late Abel Muzorewa and Zud of Margaret Dongo,

to name just a few. Ironically, Mwonzora was an active political player when both Zum and the UP went to their political graves. Now Mwonzora is acting as the political undertaker.  

However, when the future generations retrieve the MDC-T/MDC-Alliance death certificate, the cause of the political death will be written as the “tunnelled vision and myopic power-hungry proclivities of Mwonzora, Khupe and Komichi”. 

Additionally, the epitaph on the political tombstone of the MDC shall read: “Betrayed by Mwonzora, Komichi and Khupe”.

It is this historical political  affiliation of Mwonzora with Muzorewa, who is infamously renowned as the  grandfather of the politics of appeasement and puppetry, that has earned him the moniker “Mwonzorewa”.

This clearly shows Mwonzora is ideologically and politically rooted in the politics of co-option, puppetry and appeasement, an approach diametrically opposed to the radical, progressive, adversarial and combative politics of Morgan Tsvangirai, which have now found expression in the Citizens’ Coalition for Change.

Ultimately, Mwonzora and his MDC-T/MDC-Alliance ilk will be like Muzorewa and Morris Nyathi who conspired to derail and subvert the democratic struggle of the people. 

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