The forthcoming MDC congress is a defining moment not only for the survival of the political organisation, but also for the well-being of the people of Zimbabwe.
Ambrose B Chimbganda
It comes at a time when the party is still reeling from its “loss” to Zanu PF in the last general elections; a time when the party is bleeding from internal strife. It comes at a time when the confidence of the party is at its lowest ebb and when the leadership is under severe pressure to fulfil its promises.
Above all, the congress is coming at a time when the economy of the country is on its knees, when the vast majority of our people are helplessly out of employment, when many of our factories and industries have shut down, when many of our families are wallowing in grinding poverty and self-pity, when the hopes of our people have been shattered by an insensitive and uncaring government, and when much of the world has turned its back on us because of our reclusive and isolationist behaviour.
It is against this background that the MDC congress is going to be held. Its primary task, it would seem, is to grapple with the question of its leadership which must deal with the issues affecting the country.
This means that in all the leadership positions, from the national executive down to the branch level, the party should have selfless leaders who are “clean” and not those tainted by corruption, thuggery and hooliganism.
For this to happen, it is necessary to go back to the founding ideals of the party: to be a party with a leadership that listens to the people, a party that is caring, compassionate and emancipatory; and a party that lives with the people, a party which is a “home” for the dispossessed and a party that is led by a fearless and indomitable leadership.
To achieve these ideals, the party needs to subject itself to the collective will of the people. This involves adopting a transparent and democratic electoral system, where the rules are clearly defined so that you do not end up with aspiring candidates who feel that the electoral process has been manipulated in favour of certain candidates, who may be considered to be the “holy cows” of the party.
Perhaps the most important task for the congress is to elect the leader of the party. The key question that the party should answer is: who is entitled to choose the leader? What does the MDC constitution say about the process of choosing the party leader? Experiences elsewhere shows that disputes arise mainly from the fact that the process of nominating the leader is not transparent enough and the power of branches, districts and regions to elect the leader is not clearly defined. Also, it is often unclear what sort of a leader the party wants.
The questions that usually arise are whether the choice of a party leader should be determined by the level of education, youthfulness, ideological orientation, tribal affiliation, or whether the party is looking for a charismatic leader, a visionary, a craftsman, a populist, an inspirational or a transformational leader?
In the case of the MDC, it would appear that the leader of the party is already decided upon. Morgan Tsvangirai is going to retain his position as the leader of the party. And, at this critical moment in the history of the party, it would appear that it may be a wise decision to retain him as the leader in order to provide stability.
Taking into consideration the economic and political stagnation of our country, the congress should come up with a plan of action to rectify the situation. The first is the rebirth of the party which should entail reorganisation from the branch, district, province, right up to the head office.
The party should be present among all our people — the villagers, farm workers, the urban dwellers, taxi drivers, street vendors, hawkers, the lumpen proletariat, the rich and poor, students, academics, medics, teachers, lawyers and all our people who feel the weight of oppression.
A crucially important action plan is to unite the fragmented opposition parties. We need to find each other even when it appears our views are irreconcilable. We share a common history and a common destiny. Linguistically and culturally, we all belong to the Bantu people with similar origins and totems. And I know that many of our white compatriots in this country are as patriotic, if not more patriotic than some of our indigenous black people.
The congress should also come up with specific plans for the economic recovery of our country. The MDC should not shy away from taking responsibility under the pretext that it is Zanu PF that should fix the economy because they are the ones who created the mess in the first place.
In any liberal democracy the opposition party is the government-in-waiting, and the MDC must therefore have alternative economic policies which must be attractive to the people.
We know that the millions of jobs promised by Zanu PF have not materialised, we know that their economic recovery programme is a facade, we know that the Look East policy is a pretentious gimmick because China and Russia, like all other capitalist countries, are interested in doing business in a country that respects the rule of law, a country that protects private property, and a country that has certainty in its policies.
This is why China, purely out of courtesy, is only prepared to give us droplets of aid.
This is where the MDC needs to strategically step in so that the party can provide hope for the economic recovery of our country. I am aware that the MDC had an election manifesto which provided a blueprint for economic reconstruction.
What the congress perhaps needs to do is to debate robustly the economic policies which can then be synthesised and disseminated throughout the country so that civil society can know exactly what the party has in store for them.
The other crucially important issue that the congress needs to resolve is the ethnic balancing of the leadership. Given the volatile nature of ethnic solidarity, the principle should not be to have a leadership that is proportional to the size of each ethnic group, but to ensure that different groups are well-represented at the national level.
Finally, in order to foster greater internal unity, the party needs to adopt a deliberate policy of a quota system for specific ethnic minorities, such as the white community because of its unique origin.
Once again, representation should be based on “maximum inclusion” so as to enjoy greater popular support. This should also include a gender quota policy which defines the minimum percentage of females at various levels of the national leadership.