Philemon Mutedzi Correspondent
Zimbabwe under President Mnangagwa has opened up democratic space in the country since November 2017. As the country celebrates the first anniversary of Zimbabwe’s rebirth, there is reason to celebrate on the democracy scorecard.
The Second Republic has ushered in freedom of speech, freedom of information, freedom of association, freedom of conscience, all enshrined in the country’s extensive Bill of Rights. Probably the most telling indicator is the country’s renewed commitment to open up media space to the traditional media and social media alike -Zimbabwe is open for media business.
However, the biggest opposition party in Zimbabwe, itself a key player in enhancing Zimbabwe’s democracy credentials, has been found wanting. In fact, the MDC Alliance is guilty of upping the ante, pursuant to trashing all democratic principles – an issue that will be dealt with in-depth later.
Through the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services led by the triumvirate of Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, her Deputy Energy Mutodi, and Permanent Secretary Nick Mangwana, Government has been availing information to the public through the official Government Twitter handle. In addition, the post-Cabinet Media Briefings have provided both the Fourth and Fifth Estates with an opportunity to get first-hand information on Cabinet deliberations, as well as ask pertinent questions on policy.
The inclusive and participatory trajectory Government is taking is exemplified by the fact that the ministry will hold two defining consultative meetings as it speeds up the amendment and realignment of the country’s media laws with the Constitution. First, it will hold roundtable discussions with media stakeholders, civil society, advertising agencies and other interested stakeholders end of November 2018. Secondly, it will hold a media stakeholders’ conference as part of efforts to come up with an inclusive Media Policy. The ministry is also distilling key findings of the IMPI report that dovetail with the thrust of the new dispensation – which is to enhance the country’s democratic credentials.
Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections were held in a peaceful, intimidation-free, free and fair manner. The Biometric Voters’ Roll eliminated ghost voters, while opposition political parties campaigned freely in Zanu-PF’s rural strongholds, a development that was taboo under the first dispensation. Miscreants such as Jimu Kunaka, leader of the defunct and disbanded Chipangano Terror Group, whom the opposition now celebrates as a beacon of peace and truth during the ongoing Motlanthe Commission hearings maimed and killed their own.
On the democracy scorecard, Zanu-PF is leading the MDC Alliance by a mile. As we celebrate the first anniversary of the second dispensation in Zanu-PF and Government, one cannot help but peep into the goings-on in the MDC Alliance, which ironically is in its second dispensation, following the death of Morgan Tsvangirai.
Nelson Chamisa usurped power and forcibly took control of that party before the body of Tsvangirai had been interred. Famed for his violence streak by close admirers such as Happymore “Bvondo” Chidziva, whose name ironically connotes violence, Chamisa is aptly nicknamed Wamba Dia Wamba. Wamba was a rebel leader in the DRC. He singlehandedly trashed the MDC-T constitution, seized control of Harvest House, using his military wing, Vanguard, led by its violent commander, Shakespeare Mukoyi, and silenced all dissenting voices such as those of Thokozani Khupe and Obert Gutu by jettisoning them out of the party.
During the campaign trail ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections, Chamisa constantly threatened violence if he was not declared a winner. What kind of democracy does not have winners and losers? In Chamisa’s warped undemocratic thinking, there was no democracy, if any of the other 20 candidates were to win the election. During his party’s primary elections, Chamisa protected serving legislators from being contested as part of a devil’s deal for their support in his unconstitutional takeover of that party. He did not stop there, he gazumped smaller parties in the then shaky Alliance by taking over their allotted seats in the coalition.
Instead of conceding defeat after losing the democratic Presidential election, Chamisa inexplicably accepted the parliamentary and local authority results, but cried foul over the outcome of the Presidential election won by President Mnangagwa. At 11pm on July 31 2018, sensing defeat, Chamisa set the tone for the violent demonstrations witnessed on August 1 2018, which resulted in the death of seven people. Chamisa partly tweeted that, “We won the popular vote and will defend it” – and “defend’’ they did, defending their loss by unleashing untold violence, arson and unprecedented looting. If this is democracy, then democracy is a bad thing – but it is not, Chamisa is just an autocrat, who wants to impose his will on the people.
Democracy is the tyranny of the majority, some wise man once said. It is governance for the people by the people. The young man believes he is an anointed leader, as if the MDC Alliance is a kingship, a monarchy. During that party’s anniversary celebrations at Gwanzura Stadium, Chamisa warned his would-be challengers at congress that he had not yet finished the job he claimed he was given by Tsvangirai, hence, they should not contest him. Recently, he told his challengers that there was “no vacancy” for his post during a thank you rally in Chinhoyi. His blue-eyed boy, Morgen Komichi, echoed this sentiment, warning all challengers that Chamisa should not be contested at the delayed congress.
The democracy deficit in the MDC Alliance is epitomised by the undemocratic and autocratic action by Chamisa to single-handedly veto the election of mayors in Mutare, Masvingo, Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, where his appointees were defeated. Such manifest interference with the will of the people in those local authorities is an unimaginable attack on democracy by Chamisa.
Cognisant of the foregoing parallel trajectories that the pro-democracy Government of President Mnangagwa is taking, and the anti-democracy route being pursued by Chamisa, one can safely conclude that the biggest impediment to democracy in Zimbabwe at the moment is the MDC Alliance. It is the responsibility of the media and civil society to rail against Chamisa’s undemocratic actions, which are a threat to democracy. Opposition politics does not have to be undemocratic, rather, it should be a teaser, an appetiser of the type of governance the opposition is going to offer, if ever it is elected into office. At this rate, Chamisa is proving to be a nemesis of democracy.