Popular African opposition brands lacks political acumen

MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa
MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa

Political calculations or decisions are derived from critical political strategies. Political clout makes political institutions relevant, and political capital makes political structure strategic. A successful political institution will never survive on popularity, but thrives on intellectual capacity to deal with political crisis.

By Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo

Key political decisions require soberness and level headed to avoid discrepancies and conflicting decisions. What you need to understand in politics is there are what we call political variables which defines key political strategies and decisions.

It is not only popularity contest which defines the outcomes of any electoral contest, political institutions must re- invent their political strategies and strategic intelligence to deal with ruling Governments. We have heard of popular brands failing to occupy State House.

My article is going to come up with a comprehensive analysis on why we have such scenarios particularly in the African context. Opposition movements are failing to turn their popularity into political dividends. Addressing huge rallies is one thing, and voting patterns is another issue, and counting of votes is another ankle, and the one who announces the results, is another key factor.

The focus of opposition movements is more on popularity failing to capitalize on their popularity contest to leadership acumen. Another factor which determines the decisions of political parties remains with those who control their leader or rather leaders. Remember we have several people who have vested their interests in leaders, but you must understand that every political leader or leadership has it’s not handlers people who control them with financial or skills muscles around them.

During the Tsvangirai era, we had kitchen cabinet which made actual decisions though we had a standing committee, and there were vested interests. Decisions may not be based on current prevailing situations, but they are more of political and economic interests. Numbers in politics is an important factor, they assist you to build facts or case against the competitor, they assist you to justify your eligibility in office, but they must be accompanied by key instruments to get to plot number one. Opposition needs to be armed with political strategies to deal with their prevailing situations with any given context.

As we speak let’s talk of Zimbabwe context where we have a civilian face on top, covering the face of military regime. When you define militarization of the state, we are talking of all state apparatus being handled by the security apparatus mainly the military versus the majority which comes from popular brands. How then do you justify your existence as opposition movements with numbers only?

To prove that, we have the Douglas Mwonzora case arising from the Supreme Court verdict, and the MDC Alliance must have seen this long back, and this is where strategic intelligence and political strategy comes in to prevent such scenarios. Zanu PF is ahead in-terms of intelligence, and they are well –oiled, and I guess someone may ask me this question “what is the impact of this towards economic growth of Zimbabwe?” well you need to know that ruling Governments, particularly the revolutionary movements, they are war type of leadership, they thrive on war and protection of political and economic interests.

This is what the opposition must be studying using case studies. You don’t remove Zanu PF with singing songs in the streets or twitter rants or flooding on social media. You may flood on social media then what? After those rants then what? I’m not saying it’s not necessary, but there must be variables on political strategies and interests. If you look at the opposition scenario, there is a de-link between political and legal strategies. From 2018, till date, opposition in Zimbabwe have been losing legal cases on technical grounds.

The Mwonzora project is armed with lots of political and legal strategies. Mwonzora may not have the political capital ahead of Nelson Chamisa, but he is a strong strategist who is armed with strategies. I’m not in a position to label anyone, but my analysis tell me that whether Mwonzora is being used by Zanu PF or not, but the ruling party thrives on political interests ahead of anything else.

Guess what in 2004, during the first MDC split, Welshman Ncube was accused of being a Zanu PF spy but where is Welshman Ncube today? He is the Vice President of the MDC, and in 2014, Tendai Biti, the then Secretary General of the MDC was accused of being a Zanu PF sponsored project, and today, the former Minister of Finance is back at the helm of the party as the Deputy President of the party.

It’s not necessarily that they are being sponsored but it is the ruling party which thrives on intelligence and political interests. Opposition is focusing on popularity contest instead of diverting their political interests to creat a strategic intelligence to counter the ruling party’s political machinery.  During Michael Sata’s, the former Zambian President, around 2010/2011, Sata would know anything that the Government is planning two months before the actual implementation, and he was ahead of them on time. You need to study the deep roots of politics of the current political environment and prevailing situations.

Revolutionary movements are derived from military establishments. 40 years in power is not a light joke. Zanu PF has been in charge of the state apparatus since 1980 till 2020, it has been 40 years, look at their political structure, it is intact, and they have strong strategic intelligence which has kept them in power for decades.

In the Zambian scenario, Hichilema has lost five elections consecutively despite a huge command. In 2015, he lost to Edgar Lungu on a presidential by – election with less than 30 000 votes, yet he campaigned for more than 90 days. His arch-rival Edgar Lungu, the former Defence Minister and PF Secretary General only campaigned for 14 days despite facing internal rifes within the party who were resisting his ascendancy to power. Lungu had no resources compared to his main rival, and he won the elections.

The survival of any successful political organization depends on how they handle their implementation strategies to maintain the political acumen. Political capital is critical in dealing with political competitors or nemesis. Politics is not a church where you are expected to walk softly in the sanctuary, you have to come up with mechanisms of correct political calculations. Information is vital, but how you deal with the information at your disposal is critical.

I have seen so many rants on social media which may not be a problem, but sometimes, you may even be pre- emptying plans. I may ask you a simple question, have you seen Zanu PF putting their plans or social media? Whilst opposition is fighting in courts for political survival, they are busy underground campaigning and putting their structures in place.  How do you study infiltration or how do you fight infiltration is a key aspect. Information is used for political survival.   

Current political scenario – Zimbabwe as case study

The outcome of Supreme Court judgments clearly spells and leveraged the MDC T led by Khupe and put the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa invidious position. MDC Alliance has been losing court cases in sequence form, and this has put them under political spotlight, on how they are deploying their political strategies to deal with legal connotations. Basically in short I’m saying, there is a de – link between political and legal strategies.

Whilst the Alliance may have a good brand, this is outside the court yards or legal persona, court do not make decisions based on popularity contest but on legal merits. The huge following evolved around popular brand does not have any substantiated influence in court decisions. This is where strategies have to be effected.

This has led to Zanu PF harvesting on the political crisis and loopholes of the opposition. What the ruling party basically does is to harvest on any opportunity given the prevailing political situation. To them it’s about power matrix. In any successful political structure, you must deploy correct political calculations and be ahead of your arch rivalry and nemesis.

Total withdrawal from Parliament will be a fatal blow to the main opposition, and its contradictory to their core objectives, and you can never explain to your own people that we have withdrawn from Parliament because courts are captured.

There will be inadequacy and proportional decision in politics. You have to occupy the democratic space in solidarity with your own people, at the same time, you need to understand that courts, Parliament, Executive decisions, ZEC, and the State are called “THEATRE OF STRUGGLE”. This is a protracted warfare which must be properly defined in any given political context.

How to deal with current scenarios:

  1. There can be a possible PACT between MDC T and MDC Alliance. You must never rule out your political arc-rivalry. Work in hand for 2023 elections. This can assist you to build a strong movement ahead of elections. Supposedly Mwonzora leaves with a handful of supporters, those numbers are very important. A political PACT is key to build strong relevance in Parliament. This keeps MPs in Parliament. Total dis-engagement is a fatality.
  • One group (MDC T), remains relevant in Parliament, and another group remains relevant on grassroots connectivity. Creation of a framework which may result in those in leadership contestation occupying key roles such as Leader of the House, Official opposition, Chief whip, whilst the other group occupies key political leadership positions.
  • Accept the court verdict and participate in the extra ordinary congress (EOC), which can build a strong political legitimacy case and emerge as a strong winner from both camps. On this one I’m referring to Nelson Chamisa in particular.
  • Establish a new political party, and do away with the name “MDC”, and have preamble time to prepare for elections in 2023. This may result in loss of MPs, control of councils and may have financial implications on the embattled opposition.
  • Offer a stake in the main MDC – Alliance. You may have to re-structure the organization and reserve the key positions to the other faction in the involvement of the labour backed Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU).

Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo is a Policy Advisor and Researcher and he is the Head of Zimbabwe Institute of Strategic Thinking (ZIST) Think Tank, and he can be contacted at zimstrategicthinking@gmail.com