As Zimbabwe prepares for next year’s elections it is very prudent for opposition political actors to understand the changing political, economic and social factors rather than clinging on to previous political glories as this may prove to be fatal (once again) in their endeavour to take over power.
A number of analysts, researchers and opinion makers have asserted that the reasons why the opposition political parties in Zimbabwe fail to defeat Zanu PF is because of the margin of terror- use of violence and marginal of error- manipulation of figures.
While this could be to some extent a plausible explanation given the fact that the ruling party is in charge of a state referred to as a competitive authoritarian state where competition does exist but in actual sense it is unfair.
Given these sad realities of existence it is very crucial for those that seek to oppose Zanu PF to have a clear ideological clarity that will leave the enemy green with envy and at the same time contextualising their current conditions of existence.
If one were to attend public meeting and rallies where the country’s main opposition party’s officials/ intellectuals speak, they would mistake the 2018 elections as the same as the 2000 elections which the MDC shocked Zanu PF, gunning 57 seats to Zanu PF’s 63 albeit the MDC was just a year old.
The year 2000 is probably the party’s best ever election victory given that they were a year old and that this is the election that gave them hope to contest in the 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2013 with the belief that we have done it before.
While one may ask why I chose 2000 as an exemplary election when the party won in 2008 (though failing to gunner), it is of paramount importance to note that I use 2000 as a symbolic election for ideological purposes since 2008
It is the purpose of this article to warn the MDC that they need to take note of the fact that the conditions from 1999 to date have changed drastically in many ways.
The MDC at its formation had the backing of the then vibrant Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union which had a strong membership and could easily organise strikes, stay puts and demonstrations that could easily choke Zanu PF.
Fast forward to 2017 the ZCTU is now just there for the purposes of posterity, with its numbers having shrinken due to the de-industrialisation and as such unemployment that the country has experienced since then.
Another movement that cut pulted the MDC into the political domain was then civic movement the National Constitutional Assembly which had proper structures and could easily moblise its members towards a party that would offer ‘democracy and constitutionalism’.
In 2017 the NCA is now a political party with fundamentally different principles and objectives as its sister organisation the MDC-T which it views as a failure due what they perceive as the failure by the MDC to bring a ‘democratic constitution’ through the GNU.
The unstoppable MDC of that contested the 2000 elections was also buoyed by the existence of a very strong student movement led by ZINASU and had the ability to galvanise the students and young people in general.
Today’s ZINASU represents a pale shadow of its former self with lack of ideological clarity, demobilised plus unconscious members and endless squabbles crippling this former representative of the country’s future.
Given that the MDC of 2000 also consisted of a broader involvement even among the church especially the largest circular church- the Roman Catholic this was a plus to the movement as it could easily draw significant respect and support from this constituency.
Then respected Bishops of the Catholic church like Bishop Pius Ncube could command the church to vote for righteousness and make a distinction between good and evil- this message proved to work as the party gunned all the seats available in the urban constituencies and others in rural areas.
The MDC of today faces a mammoth task in uniting the church given the fact that Zanu PF has managed to capture this important social institution with the rise of African tradition churches such as the apostolic and Zion churches.
Such is the capture of the church by Zanu PF that one scholar commenting on the relationship between the church and the ruling party asserted that ‘madzimai emusangani ave madzimai esangano’.
This relationship hence made it seem common sensical for the church to be associated with Zanu PF with some pastors even making pronouncements that President Mugabe is an angel sent to rule Zimbabwe and will only be removed by him.
Now this is a very important aspect of ideological state apparatuses as viewed by Louis Althuser a cultural studies scholar; the MDC has a difficult task to navigate around this.
While they may be a number of changes in the way society is organised probably the MDC need not to dwell in the past and try and craft a message that today’s classes- the small scale miners, the vendors, tobacco farmers can be conversant with.
- Mlondolozi Ndlovu is the president of the newly formed Young Journalists Association (YOJA)). He a freelance journalist and researcher based in Zimbabwe.