The 20 February 2021 Big Saturday Read on Political Reforms by Dr Alex T Magaisa opens with the issue of challenges of problem solving. Effective problem solving involves identifying and isolating issues quickly and address them by making informed and timely decisions. One way of identifying cross cutting issues is through dialogue.
Dialogue is critical in problem solving. It’s an open secret that Zimbabwe has socioeconomic and political problems. These problems need to be solved in order to allow the nation to plough ahead developmentally. Dialogue is one of the three main known consensus based approaches to problem solving or dispute resolution. It leads to a mutually agreed outcomes. Dialogue is an exchange of views with the intention to build understanding and trust between those on two sides of a divide be it political, social or economic. Dialogue opens the doors to negotiation. Negotiation is basically joint decision making with focus on results and decisions for mutual satisfaction of parties involved. Dialogue and negotiation often lead to a win-win situation for those involved as there is a tendency to accommodate varying interests through compromise. Dialogue and negotiation lead to tempering of hardline positions. It is a give and take.
The assumption that Zanu PF has no incentive to implement reforms is based on a judgmental preconceived notion. This preconceived judgmental notion can only be dispelled through dialogue. Dialogue fosters understanding and trust. It’s time to understand each other and build trust for the benefit of Zimbabweans.
While Magaisa covertly admits and defines it as madness that the opposition, read MDC Alliance of Chamisa, should hope for a different result from doing the same thing over and over again. The confrontational route has not led to any reformed and fair electoral system. It is also a grudging acknowledgment on his part that Mwonzora and his politics of rational disputation and positive arrogance has brought a different breath of air to Zimbabwe’s politics. Mwonzora has deviated from the hitherto opposition trademark of disparaging the government even during the electoral off season.
Indeed Mwonzora has taken a fresh look at the nature of political reforms. This has left Chamisa and his MDC Alliance attempting to clutch on the tail of a horse that has already bolted. What Magaisa is attempting to present as a new argument is nothing but a reiteration of what is already trending on the political market. Mwonzora has already started reforms from within the opposition MDC T, a formidable opposition judging by the waves of attacks they endure from fellow opposition MDC Alliance players. Mwonzora did the unthinkable and unexpected when he took over the reins of the MDC T. First, unlike Chamisa Mwonzora accommodated his rivals in the top decision making body of the party. All those who wanted to be in the MDC T presidium were accommodated in the presidium. He didn’t throw them into ineffectual positions where they have no say in critical decision making. He acknowledged their potential as leaders of the party. If today for any reason Mwonzora is incapacitated the top leadership of the party is intact. When Chamisa took over he relegated all real or perceived rivals to the periphery where they have or had no say on critical party issues. Mwonzora introduced a culture of collective responsibility and constitutionalism in the opposition. When he proposed to have Mudzuri as the Second Vice President he sought the mandate of the relevant organs of the party. Before the relevant organ acted those Mwonzora appointed to elected positions where in acting capacity. It was also evident he never allowed Mudzuri to act in his new role before the relevant organ said so. When he took over the reins of the MDC T Chamisa outsourced Dr Nkululeko Sibanda as the Presidential spokesperson. When he wanted a party spokesperson to replace the ineffective armchair activist Daniel Molokele he outsourced Fadzai Mahere the 2018 independent candidate for Mount Pleasant constituency. More so, picking her ahead of the former Director of Information and Presidential spokesperson he had initially appointed deputy party spokesperson, the negatively affable Luke Tamborinyoka. By outsourcing he clearly confirmed his lack of confidence in known party cadres. For him some positions are reserved for lawyers and doctors. And this coming from polytechnic college nurtured individual is the height of hypocrisy. When he wanted a party spokesperson Mwonzora picked on Witness Dube a well-known party activist. When he wanted a Presidential spokesperson he picked on Lloyd Damba former party secretary for Chitungwiza province. Indeed its clear Mwonzora brought in a new way of doing things internally in the opposition.
It’s totally agreeable when Magaisa says that “political reforms should not only be what is expected from ZANU PF to improve the electoral field, but what is expected from the opposition to improve its chances of winning political power.”
Magaisa is a bit blunt when he takes a jab at Chamisa telling him to build himself and learn from past errors to be a better electoral candidate. In short according to Magaisa Chamisa was not a better electoral candidate in the past election. This is a surprise about turn from a man who has always maintained that Chamisa was the strongest and best electoral candidate in 2018.
Again Chamisa takes a bit of some beating from Magaisa on the issue of discovery of ignorance. He is advising Chamisa to climp down from the artificial high pedestal he has put himself as the I know it all to admit his ignorance. This is serious advice. Acknowledging a shortcoming is a springboard to improvement. Chamisa began from the position that he knew everything which made him not discover the things he didn’t know making him unlikely to improve.
We are halfway through the electoral cycle starting in 2018 and Chamisa and his team are still viciously flooding the electorate’s mind with the cry of electoral rigging in 2018. This dominant narrative obscures many critical internal errors that cost them the election. There was candidate imposition which saw the Alliance losing about 32 constituencies they could have won. The internal cockpit driven divisions disenfranchised many in the opposition. Failure to field enough election agents obliterated any meaningful claims of rigging. These and many other strategic errors affected their performance and will likely be repeated and we start again the rigging mantra.
The reason why the opposition Presidential candidate outperformed the party parliamentary race does not need a rocket scientist to discern. Mentioned above are some of the critical factors that militated against the Alliance in the 2018 elections. The serious direct cockpit driven interference in candidate selection caused debilitating divisions on the ground thereby dealing a fatal blow on the ballot paper. While there was no question as to who the Presidential candidate was there were serious questions on parliamentary and local government candidates. Leadership imposition of candidates led to ground resistance. A glaring example is in Goromonzi West where leadership imposed Luke Tamborinyoka, despite losing the primary election, ending up with two candidates. In that case Nhamburo, the leadership unpreferrred candidate, had 10 274 votes and Tamborinyoka had 6 691 thereby rewarding Energy Mutodi who polled 12 384 with the seat. Simple arithmetic gives the MDC duo 16 965 votes, a whooping 4 581 more than Mutodi. And someone has the audacity to ask why the Presidential candidate outperformed parliamentary votes.
Magaisa is right support should not be taken for granted it is not permanent. Therefore, he must not portray Chamisa’s so called 2018 support as a constant. He is also right that a chunk of the support that Chamisa enjoys is a sympathy vote. And by indirectly referring to Mwonzora and team as Zanu PF surrogates he is attempting to portray Chamisa as a victim. To quote Macbeth those that Chamisa, “commands move only in command, Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title hang loose upon him, like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief.” He has no support except social media trolls and rogue academivists aka the Vietnam/Soweto section in Zimbabwean soccer parlance. The moderates and floaters are fast drifting away from the toxicity of Chamisa and his fanatics’ politics.
Like a fanatical propagandist Magaisa has started to believe his own flawed narrative. He continues to say the MDC T is judicially reconstructed yet there is evidence that the MDC T crisis began on the death of Morgan Tsvangirai and never died. To him when MDC Alliance loses its stolen from. When MDC T wins its favoured by the regime. He continues to insinuate that the MDC T was assisted by the state to repossess its Headquarters yet there are court papers from his party’s Secretary General one Charlatan Hwende, his party misChief of Staff one Zvavamwe David Shambara, his party member of insecurity one Washington Gaga, his party secretary one Edith Sana Munyaka and his party director one Kudakwashe Matibiri. In their sworn affidavits they accuse the police of not doing anything to help them get members of the MDC T from Harvest House. Now if the police had assisted Hwende and company to get rid of those who were in occupation of Harvest House was Magaisa going to call Chamisa and his team Zanu PF surrogates for getting state assistance? If Chamisa had won the numerous court cases he filed against Mwonzora was Magaisa going to call him a Zanu PF surrogate? To Magaisa anyone who opposes Chamisa or wins against Chamisa is a Zanu PF surrogate. Can anyone in his right mind give credence to this level of intellectual ineptitude dubbed as a sound argument?
What is clear in Magaisa’s writing is that he has taken sides. Like we have been saying before he is no longer an objective analyst. It is better he takes a fulltime propaganda role in Chamisa’s outfit. His choice of words to describe those who don’t agree with Chamisa is repugnant and full of toxicity.
Magaisa confirms that at some polling stations the opposition had no polling agents and is quick to say it is at such polling stations that claimed rigging took place. He doesn’t explain how he arrives at that conclusion. Should voting at a polling station be discredited when a participating party fails to provide representation. It would have made sense if the argument was that rigging is suspected because other party representation was denied. It is also possible that deliberately failing to field polling agents at some polling stations is confirmation of self-acceptance of lack of support at that particular polling station. Magaisa doesn’t explain how he confirms rigging in that particular case.
Magaisa confirms the chaotic and lethargic electoral preparations by the opposition, again read Chamisa led MDC Alliance. Practically, he is revealing the reason for poor showing by the opposition ironically putting paid the rigging mantra in the same breath.
Magaisa seems confused a bit. He chooses to play it safe not to directly attack Chamisa but chooses to attack the late Morgan Tsvangirai on the issue of candidate imposition yet the subject of his discourse is the Chamisa led MDC Alliance whose imposed candidates were walloped. With evident malice he tries to attack Tsvangirai’s son Vincent for not following Chamisa. The double barreled attack on the late father and his living son is a possible indicator of where Magaisa’s loyalty has always been. He is confused in that his argument is that imposition of candidates leads to electoral loss. His bringing in the issue of Vincent Tsvangirai seems only a convenient opportunity to take a pot shot on the young MP. He is just trying to respond to what the young man wrote some time ago. It also tells the reader that the article touched Magaisa where it hurts most otherwise he would not have included this virtually unrelated matter in his discourse. Or he just wanted to emphasise his previous condescending assertion that Vincent Tsvangirai has no qualification to his name. Dr Magaisa should avoid getting this low to fight petty with young Tsvangirai. It’s not about what qualification the boy has but the content of what he wrote which ironically Magaisa doesn’t believe the boy has claim. Having dismissed Vincent’s ownership of the piece one wonders why the good Doctor is laboring to tell us the boy has no qualification. It’s also prudent for people to use their qualifications effectively for the betterment of the community. Talking of which the good Doctor should be using his expertise in the protection of indigenous medical knowledge systems to protect our Zumbani in this age of Covid 19 pandemic. At least his knowledge there is backed by a 2004 Doctoral thesis he penned at University of Warwick School of Law.
The import of this piece by Magaisa is simply to elicit sympathy for the Chamisa led outfit. He has a right to do so. However, he must not expect everyone to believe him especially when he doesn’t authenticate his claims. It casts a caricature of his intellectual standing.
While Magaisa pours vitriol of trollic proportions on other opposition parties other than the Chamisa outfit it goes without saying that some pieces of his advice are generally beneficial the opposition across the board.
It’s not correct for Magaisa to claim that a person can block someone because of inability to compete. Sometimes people are blocked for toxicity. Some social media trolls are insult savvy and to avoid sinking to their level its best to exercise the right to dissociate. Besides being blocked does not stop one from responding to anything anyone says.
The advice by Magaisa to his MDC team that it must make better use of social media platforms is admission of the inroads the Dougie team is making in that sector. Their non toxic approach has made them claim a substantive following both in the social and mainstream media. They seem to be holding their own in an environment infested by toxic and hostile cyber bullies some of them claiming to be objective academics.
Magaisa seems to be advocating the politics of antagonism. He is also highlighting that the Chamisa outfit has failed to play the role of an alternative government. What Magaisa doesn’t tell his audience is that in the UK where he is based the opposition collaborates with the government in national programs. In the face of the debilitating Covid 19 pandemic the opposition should not be fighting to demonstrate to the citizenry what it can do better. Instead it should be demonstrating to the citizenry that political leadership across the political divide can work together for the benefit of the people. He is practically encouraging the opposition to be irresponsible when citizens are dying. A pandemic is not an everyday occurrence and must not be used to score cheap political points.
Changing name or constitution is not a reform on the part of the MDC Alliance because its simply coming face to face with the truth. It’s being themselves, which is what they should have done a long time ago. The reason why they are holding on to the MDC franchise is fear of melting into oblivion. Without holding on the MDC left by Tsvangirai the MDC Alliance can never make it. Right now they are benefiting from the confusion they are feeding the ordinary citizens that they are the same outfit that started in 1999 when in actual fact they have morphed into something that has nothing to do with Morgan Tsvangirai and what he started.
Magaisa’s piece is inexplicably banal and borders on the intellectually tragicomic. He betrays a compromised academic who is at times battling his conscience. While he seems for some reason to have no option but to prop the Chamisa led MDC Alliance, in this article he has for once told Chamisa and team that they are weak and should not keep on blaming others for their failures. They have challenges in problem solving. And they need to start to act differently. This includes not having a know-it-all-sand-in-food mentality and has to discover his ignorance if he wants to improve.