It is unusual for a political party to threaten, assault and destroy the livelihoods of its own supporters and voters, but the MDC-Alliance has this week managed this by unleashing tsotsis and touts against the people of Harare and Bulawayo where it got high percentages of the vote in the last Presidential and general election.
This is not a mistake the late Morgan Tsvangirai would have made, but then he had a clue about democracy, something his successors seem to think was a mistake. He founded the Movement for Democratic Change; they obviously want another party, the Movement for Undemocratic Change, or a movement that will sweep them into power without the bother of an election. Mr Tsvangirai tried to persuade; they threaten using bully boys.
The result is likely to be obvious. The MDC-Alliance is unlikely to poll higher numbers and will almost certainly have lost support. Many people dislike being threatened, something President Mnangagwa understands and he enforced a democratic sobriety on his own party before the last elections. Which is one of the reasons he won.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions also highlighted the totally undemocratic nature of its two or three top officials by calling for the stayaway. Normally a trades union or a federation of trades unions goes through a complex balloting procedure before taking action.
In the case of the ZCTU, this would involve consulting its affiliates, the majority of trades unions in Zimbabwe, and they in turn would have to consult and ballot their membership. We have no idea of what the result of such a process would have been because a couple of people bypassed the whole democratic process and issued a decree.
And when it became obvious on Monday that most people in Harare and Bulawayo were, despite how they voted in July, not interested in taking part in the mass action ordered by this handful of opposition political and trades union leaders, squads of unemployed, and unemployable, young men, were unleashed to back up the threats made on social media over the weekend by a more literate element, who were, however, absent from the front lines.
The economic damage in the formal sector, and among the minority with jobs in this sector, will be very modest. Most businesses will be able to catch up lost production or sales and generally workers in the formal sector will be willing to put in the extra effort to ensure their employer remains viable and so secure their jobs.
Employers recognise that their staff were absent not because of any ideological desire to miss work, but because they were shut into their suburbs. The employers themselves received serious criminal threats. It is in the informal sector, where the urban majority have to be self-employed, where the damage was most hurtful. Many in this sector create and sell services, handle perishable products, or earn a living in other ways that require them to deliver daily. When they lose a day’s work they lose a day’s income. A kombi driver forbidden to pick up passengers cannot get a double load tomorrow; a hairdresser unable to serve a customer cannot give her two hairdos next week; a vegetable vendor sitting with a pile of rotting tomatoes can never sell these and has to restock.
We doubt if people who live by preying on others care. They are unable to understand that most people earn a living by creating, not be destroying or being parasites on the larger society.
When Nelson Chamisa seized control of the MDC-Alliance after the death of Mr Tsvangirai many party supporters recognised he was a loose cannon unfit for high office, but assumed the respectable and responsible element in the leadership would exercise the required adult supervision.
Now those have been forced out of the party, have walked out in disgust or have been sidelined, the young gang leaders exercise almost total control, as we saw this week.
The responsible element complained about the creation of a gang of thugs, and now perhaps everyone can see what they meant.
It will be interesting if those in the party who understand the meaning of the D in MDC will be able to regain control or whether the party will continue to be little more than a street gang of young thugs; if the former then it might be able to rebuild the support it lost this week. If it continues as a street gang, then others will fill the void, in particular a cleaned-up and rejuvenated Zanu
source: the herald