Increase in independent candidates testament to core key flaws among opposition parties

File Pic: Former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai

By Takudzwanashe Mundenga

Whenever you insert the word “opposition” in the Zimbabwean political terrain, you will be definitely talking about the MDC-T and cousins, but most importantly the MDC-T because it has a long service of dominantly challenging ZANU PF. From this perspective, the party itself has been given or gained the entitlement that has symbolically validated it as the only opposition party in the country despite having over 60 other small parties.

This has limited space for political participation of those who don’t agree with the ZANU PF ideology or some portions of the MDC-T ideology. This polarised system has created vilification and frustration of those who try to challenge ZANU PF out of the railings of the MDC-T.

Even though multipartyism is a definitive constitutional concept, there is no party bereft when another political party is formed than the MDC-T. Well, politics is a game, and elections are a tournament hence, I authenticate their concerns, however, this recent antediluvian attitude towards independent candidates using verbal assault does not even border common sense.

The emergence of independent candidacy through a number of young faces appearing and announcing their autonomous political standing in the 2018 Harmonised Elections instead of joining the proposed grand coalition speaks volumes about the inefficacies of the existing opposition parties already in the pitch.

Instead of castigating these youthful candidates as lubricating the ZANU PF agenda of maintaining incumbency through dividing the opposition electoral gains, the so-called coalition of opposition parties should consider a heedful self-examination. If they are really concerned that these candidates might split the opposition vote, then well, it means they have followers behind them and they cannot be underestimated.

This is truly contrary to the rhetoric that they are political nonentities who will stand to fall and fail. They indeed have a considerable impact which diehard members of the opposition are just choosing to understate. However, there is a need for interrogating why they have opted to run as independent candidates.

The political novice, Vimbaishe Musvaburi (35) has suffered so much criticism and hate speech from both men and women tapping fingers behind the interfaces of their precious electronic devices. Even so, she is not the only one, but her equivalents, Fadzayi Mahere (32) and Linda Musarira (34) went through relatable experiences.

These activists-cum-politicians are criticised for lack of affiliation yet running for parliament with hope to unseat the opposition’s common enemy which is ZANU PF. Interesting, top politicians from the leftist ideology have become experts in character assassination labelling the young contestants as underground ZANU PF projects and undercover agents of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

While the outcry zero in on ambitious candidates who are deliberately turning a blind eye on a coalition why can’t we also talk about these cliques of old self-aggrandizing folks we call political parties?

The former Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, Patrick Lumumba once said something that enamoured my attention. He said, “The problem of Africa is that those who have ideas do not have power and those who have power do not have ideas.”

The MDC-T mentality that they are entitled to the urban votes needs to dispel. In 2013, ZANU PF won all the seats in Masvingo including the urban constituency, not only because of electoral irregularities but hugely because they fielded useless candidates. People who have been implicated in corruption during the Unity Government were endorsed to run for another term.

Not always does the electorate vote for MDC for being MDC, or ZANU PF for being ZANU PF, sometimes they are more enlightened and decisive to vote for suitable and able candidates.

Young people in Zimbabwe have a history of being sidelined and shut out of political parties while the elderly and the senior party members are endorsed and nominated and they are left with no other choice except to run as independent candidates.

There is also an indubitably stinging question about gender equality across the political divide. While both the ruling party and the opposition are recycling the same old folks in the House of Assembly, the question of gender balance is rhetorical as well. The decision by Tsvangirai to appoint two more male deputies to assist the incumbent woman deemed her useless for the job.

The opposition parties especially the MDC-T need to stop viewing young people as passive voters and start integrating them as active contestants. Instead of vilifying and demonising women and young people, give them a chance to represent their demographic clusters.

The argument that Nelson Chamisa (39) holds an influential post in the MDC-T doesn’t hold water because apparently, Tsvangirai appointed him to neutralise him and to consolidate his position. That is not even a new phenomenon, it has been witnessed it in the ruling party more often than we can count. In simple terms, Harvest House is plagiarising the Jongwe Building notes.

Independent candidates whether they win or lose are not only challenging the ZANU PF rule but sending a message to the one-sided system that has infused across the political divide. A misogynistic system that also loathes the activism of young people.

Takudzwanashe Mundenga is an opinion writer based in Canada. Reach him at mundengatakudzwanashe@gmail.com