Before you quickly dismiss the article because of the title, think of a soccer player named Fred at Manchester United. He plays his lungs out in the middle of the pitch, but a section of the Manchester United fans think that his best is not good enough. They think he is not the type of a midfield player that can drive Manchester United to win trophies.
How does he feel when he reads the unappreciative social media comments? Think of the supporters who truly love Manchester United and wish they could have the best midfielder. The supporters want someone who plays with flair like Fabregas, someone who gets down and dirty like Kante, whilst controlling the tempo like Xavi Alonso. This is what they think is required for Manchester United to get to where they want it to be.
Fred’s sin is that of being there. He is occupying a place that could have been occupied by Wilfred Ndidi or any other player that the ungrateful supporters want in the field. The call for a player better than Fred in the midfield is not without merit. It is warranted to an extent. The club has failed to get the trophies that they want with the crop of players they have; thus they demand a better crop of players, among other things.
The criticisms directed at Fred are in a way similar to the rumination posited herein with regards to the MDC outfit in Zimbabwe. The sin is that of occupying a space that could have been occupied by a different political player that does what needs to be done. Even though the MDC plays its heart out against the despotic regime, it falls short of what is required to win against the regime.
Where does the MDC Fall short?
- it cannot instigate a cultural revolution
- it holds dear an ideology that conflicts with reality
- it is not capable of carrying out intelligence and counter-intelligence operations
- It is not capable of running a decentralized intelligence organization
- It is not capable of mobilizing huge financial resources to fund the struggle
- it does not have the capacity to unite us, that is, to unite 95% of the people against the 5% that oppress us
- it is incapable of fermenting a revolution
- It is incapable of radicalizing
- it is incapable of militarizing
The MDC identifies itself as a social-democratic party. It solely believes in elections alone as the ONLY way to get rid of a dictatorial regime. It delusionally believes in a peaceful transfer of power. This is against the reality of a dictatorial regime that cannot be done away with via an electoral process. A regime that is as unconstitutional as it can ever get but sanitizes itself under pretexts and ceremonies that are characteristic of a constitutional democracy. The identity, ideology, beliefs, value-systems of the MDC prevent the party from realizing that more is needed to free the people. The party is not in sync with reality. It is delusional, just like all the peaceful protests and peaceful what groups that do not accept that meaningful change usually comes from non-peaceful confrontations. Peaceful confrontations typically evoke small and artificial changes, and when they drive meaningful change, it is an exception, not the rule.
The MDC is confronted with an ideological crisis. Its belief in establishing a constitutional democracy by “constitutional means” implies that it cannot obtain power by means other than an electoral victory. The oppressor is aware of this, so he has one role to play, that of denying the MDC an electoral victory, by any means necessary, including rigging, violence, and abductions. It's a deadlock. The MDCs position includes that of mild protests. The oppressor’s response is that of stamping authority and thwarting down protests by any means necessary, including live ammunition raining down on protesters. The ideology of the MDC prevents it from adopting the ‘by any means necessary’ stance, whilst that of the oppressor is anything goes. By default, the policy actions and responses of the MDC are limited by its ideology.
If the ideology of the MDC was that of achieving the goal of establishing a constitutional democracy by any means necessary, the oppressor would know that he has been served a notice. The oppressor would know that outright war is not out of the question. The oppressor would still oppress but the nation would not be so daring, lest it invokes a war. Currently, actions from the oppressor do not get an equal and opposite reaction from the people, led by the MDC.
The oppressor is aware that MDC will never radicalize or militarize because its guiding philosophy prevents it from doing so. The oppressor is thus comfortable that he can rule for as long as the MDC hold dear the belief system that it has. The invincibility of the oppressor is underwritten and guaranteed by the oppressed, as led by the MDC.
Peace without justice is vanity. First, establish justice followed by peace. Why would you preserve peace under an unjust system? Whose interests are you serving? It is the interests of those who are sustaining the unjust system. The orientation of peaceful protests is thus wrong, and incorrect when the system is fundamentally unjust. This is how the ideological crisis in the MDC comes about. The party does not want to be associated with the word radical or the word militant. But the bulk of peace in the world is a form of peace that came about after people fought for that peace, and people still fight to preserve that peace. Peace typically comes after war. Constitutional democracies are established after prolonged fights to establish such democracies, fights that are nasty. Besides war, revolutions are a manner in which constitutional democracies are established. The MDC shies away from the idea of a revolution when a revolution is what is needed to establish a constitutional democracy in Zimbabwe. Intellectually shying away from a path that leads to victory is an ideological crisis.
The space that the MDC occupies is a delicate one, in terms of the struggle. As much as people say, if you are not happy with the MDC, you can start your own party, they do not realize that the dynamics of the underlying population do not allow for the existence of two or more leaders of the struggle. The mentality of the population is shaped by past betrayals and false revolutions.
The people are wary of outfits that are sponsored by the ruling party as a fake version of the opposition. The politics is that of bifurcation, and it ought to be so. It is either you are with Zanu PF, the ruling party, or you are with the true opposition. At this moment in time, politics ought to be bifurcated. The bifurcation has to go beyond the political party (Zanu vs MDC) to the extent of enmity. It is either you are for the oppressor or for the oppressed. It is either you are a friend or an enemy. The battle is not fundamentally different political ideologies but a matter of fundamental human rights, freedom from oppression, liberty, and independence from an oppressive regime.
Given a population that is bifurcated and binary, the space that the MDC occupies cannot be occupied by anyone else as long as the MDC itself is alive in any form. Even if the people are tired of the MDC’s failure to do what needs to be done, they are stuck with that horse, as the ONLY nationally recognized way of fighting against the system.
The MDC is aware that it occupies a privileged position, cemented by first-mover advantages. The party is aware of the fact that it has a monopoly on opposition politics. This is the same power Facebook holds over social media. It was the first one to scale globally and lock in users into the network, excelling where Myspace had failed. The MDC excelled where ZANU Ndonga had failed. It can be argued that anyone can create his or her own ‘Facebook’, it is a simple website after all. Some have actually tried that, to no avail, including Google. You can create a better version of the Facebook software, but you cannot replicate the users and network effects.
Anyone with better ideas of fighting the struggle has to do so within the confines of the MDC political party. It will take ages for the MDC’s stranglehold on opposition politics to loosen a little bit and allow for the emergence of a more radical, practical, pragmatic, and aggressive outfit.
Even though the MDC is failing to unite 95% of the people against the 5% that oppress us, it nonetheless has the majority of the support (say 65%). The other 30% that are oppressed but do not rally behind the MDC have no alternative. Even if they try, theirs would be scattered efforts that have no real impact.
Maybe if Fred was not playing, Manchester United would find another player to get into that midfield area and do better than Fred. They want a player who can make tackles and get down dirty. Someone who is not afraid to dirty his pants just to win the ball. They want a midfield maestro who can help them win titles. Is this an unrealistic call?
Maybe if the MDC was dead, another player could emerge and occupy the space at the center. In this regard, liberation is not only dependant on Zanu PF disintegrating into pieces, but the ability of the MDC to radicalize and militarise, failure of which the liberation would be dependent on the death of the MDC, whereby it disintegrates and allows for a radical party to fight Zanu PF. There are a lot of variables and paths to ponder. Which one is likely to happen first?
- Is Zanu PF (and the junta) going to disintegrate first?
- Is the MDC going to radicalize and militarize first before Zanu disintegrates?
- Is the MDC going to disintegrate first, leaving a space for real warriors to emerge?
All of these three scenarios are highly unlikely to happen in the next decade, which takes us to 2031 before we witness any significant wind of change. Zanu PF and the junta are not looking feeble at the top. The bottom layers (where the foot soldiers, foot CIOs, and police reside) are rotting, but the structure at the top looks solid. It looks like it can last another decade. Rumors of disagreements and factionalism at the top are always abound, but the disagreements are not strong enough to disintegrate the party and the junta. Any wishful thinking of a split at the top is exactly that, wishful thinking. The bottom layers might be dissatisfied but they are not going to break away in a manner that disintegrates the party and the junta without a catalyst. The absence of a catalyst is worrisome. Any wishful thinking of a rebellion from the bottom layers is exactly that, wishful thinking.
The MDC is not going to radicalize any time soon. The ideology of the party is anti-radical. Ideologies don't change that quickly. It is going to take more than a decade for the party to radicalize. Maybe it will take more than a generation. Maybe it will take two more rigged election cycles. Maybe if there is total leadership renewal at the top of the party, with young aggressive leaders taking the top spots. Maybe if the party becomes less dominated by established lawyers who have law practices to run. Maybe if the party is led by commoners who have very little economic interests to protect. Maybe if the party is not led by religious fanatics who place all fate in God’s hands and loathe war. There are too many maybes.
The MDC might split several times with various splinter factions emerging but there will always be one true opposition. That one true opposition will always be where the majority of the people are. It will take more than a decade for that one true opposition to disintegrate. A decade is an understatement.
Thus, the country is trapped in a place where nothing much happens besides the same old stuff that has been happening for the past two decades. The 2020s will not be fundamentally different from the 2000s and the 2010s. The struggle continues, in the same format, with no change in tactics.
The Struggle is bigger than the MDC
The MDC is synonymous with the struggle. Anything else is regarded as a distraction. It ought not to be so, but that's just the way it is. Zimbabweans cannot believe that the struggle is bigger than the MDC. This is a position that is very similar to those Zimbabweans that believe that only Zanu PF is nationalistic, everything else is just a manifestation of the Western oppressor’s manipulation of local politics.
The question to be asked is, what if there was no MDC? What if there was no Chamisa? What if Tsvangirai had never gathered around with his fellow trade unionists and student leaders to form a political party? What if there was no Tendai Biti? What if these people had never participated in politics? Where would the country be? Would we still be a one-party state with Mugabe ruling from beyond the grave?
The what-ifs are wishful thinking. There was and still is an MDC. Chamisa is there. Tsvangirayi was there as well as Learnmore Jongwe. We are grateful for their role in the struggle. We are grateful for the ones who are still fighting the regime. But just like the Manchester United fans, we want to win and think a player that can get down in the center of the pitch can enable us to win.
If the MDC was never there, another form of opposition would have emerged. This is very difficult to think of or accept. If we wake up tomorrow with an MDC that has magically vanished from the face of the earth, another form of opposition would surely emerge. The question is, will this form of opposition do better than the MDC?
Is the struggle for establishing a constitutional democracy bigger than the MDC? Can Zimbabwe produce a better form of opposition? Food for thought!
So why would the MDC be bad for the struggle? Because it occupies a space that could have been occupied by a more resolute force. If the MDC did not occupy that winner-take-all spot, there could emerge a better player capable of leading the people to freedom, democracy, and development. The sin of the MDC is that of being there. It is not that of putting less effort. The MDC is putting in the effort, to the best of its ability, however, it still ain't good enough…just like Fred at Manchester United.