Understanding Method to ‘Madness’ in MDC-Run Urban Councils

Nowadays, hardly a day passes without news headlines relaying salacious details of corrupt goings on in predominantly opposition run urban councils.

Often, these headlines are accompanied by the wailing voices of distraught residents pleading for the most mundane of social services.

The majority of urban councils are in a state of desperate neglect.

Water provision is literally non-existent, refuse collection indiscernible, corruption has reached staggering proportions, chocking every development effort in its wake. Housing is in a shambolic state.

As I argue here, this phenomenon is not merely a reflection of incompetence, but a poorly executed strategy of sabotage by the opposition which will soon boomerang, in the process hitting them in the face.

The problems bedevilling MDC run urban councils are not merely a reflection of corporate mediocrity embedded in the party’s DNA as widely thought, but are the product of brinkmanship, that dark art of pushing a situation to dangerously precarious levels, testing the boundaries of rational political contestation for political point scoring.

The strategy relies on dragging the country to the precipice, repeatedly pushing the narrative that Zimbabwe is in crisis, at which point the threat of total implosion forces power concessions from the sitting government.

The logic is that the pain of rebuffing the MDC must become greater than that of accommodating them in Government.

This being done outside democratic processes, which would otherwise never arrive at this outcome of accommodating the vanquished, as plebiscites in the past two decades have repeatedly demonstrated.

The strategy relies on a key variable for it to succeed, that central government’s hands be kept from intervening on the side of residents.

Which is why there was raucous objection from obvious quarters recently when there was chatter in the corridors that Government was considering to employ Commissions to takeover run-down councils.

For the opposition, this is undesirable for three reasons.

Firstly, any positive outcomes that may accrue from the work of these commissions would not be credited to the Opposition. Instead, it would demonstrate how inept the deposed councillors were.

This would lay bare the utter brutality and sadistic leanings of an opposition willing to descend to frightful depths of withholding service delivery to secure power.

Secondly, it would debunk the myth of an incompetent central government ostensibly inhibiting progress in urban councils, which would unavoidably resonate with the urban voter with dire consequences for opposition elements.

Thirdly, the opposition has for long milked councils, allegedly diverting funds to party coffers.

In the absence of sound political party funding owing to very anaemic financial inflows as a result of ever dwindling supporters, including from disenchanted foreign governments, revenue streams have been hard to come by.

Besides the Political Parties finance disbursement, which is also heavily disputed and hence still to be disbursed, it is an open secret that the opposition is tittering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Once councils are under Commissions, the opposition would simply fold for lack of funding.

So the levels of desperation are telling. Smarting from each electoral defeat, they have redoubled efforts to pull down the magnificent edifices that are our cities and towns that took decades of dedicated work to put up.

The party has reduced itself to a vicious wrecking ball swinging across hapless urban councils with reckless abandon, leaving a stupendous trail of destruction.

They have sought to dim the glow that has always characterised Zimbabwe’s urban spaces.

Urban councils are the face of Zimbabwe, the first zones of encounter for the international community, for diplomats deployed here, visiting delegations, and tourists among others.

These urban spaces are the initial or only points of interaction that establish lasting impressions of the country on foreigners. When they are run down as they are, the image of the country suffers terribly. So that when the question is asked, is there a crisis in Zimbabwe? These faux contrived impressions leap out and carry the day.

That the failure of urban councils is engineered is not in doubt.

How else does one explain the disparities that exists between thriving rural councils, set against the crushing incompetence of urban councils, both performing in the same economy, exposed to similar vicissitudes, albeit at different magnitudes, under conditions where urban councils are better placed in terms of revenue streams, asset base and high value locations to easily outstrip rural councils developmentally.

It’s clear the lives of millions of urban dwellers are being used as leverage in a convoluted high stakes game which has run its woeful course.

There is clearly no genuine desire to see urban councils meeting developmental obligations for as long as a ZANU PF-led Government is in power.

This cynical disposition has exceeded the rational, and has entered a murky scandal ridden world which compounds with each succeeding episode of high level corruption, bickering and subsequent under-performance.

For a party to feed on the shear desperation of residents with the hope of gaining power is simply astonishing.

Fortunately, the long and winding path of treachery walked by the MDC has left indelible scars on the political and social landscape for all to see.

At some point in the very near future, the music must stop and stop for good.

The Government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the decimation of service provision for a mere party’s political expediency. After all, it is within the legislative framework including the Urban Councils Act of (2015) for central Government to intervene in cases of gross under-performance of the magnitude we are currently witnessing.

I for one, will not object to the takeover of all non performing urban councils for the shear sake of sanity.

The non-performance of urban councils falls under a broader political framework which guides how the MDC conducts its politics; obstructing development wherever it can, spewing serial pessimism on the economy, and bad mouthing the government at international fora.

Some of us still recall with trepidation calls by Mr Tsvangirai (MHSRP), for South Africa to cut of essential power supplies and food deliveries in order to shore up support for his failing party, or the more recent false glory and popularity of Mr Tendai Biti as a doomsday prophet and fear monger divining against the economy.

It is a strategy founded on wishing, praying, actively designing for the state to fail at every level of governance by creating sophisticated scenarios and tea cup storms, feeding frenzied imaginations of impressionable masses while nudging them towards despair and revolt.

Granted, it was too big a risk to take, to bank a whole political party’s fortunes on so tenuous a strategy.

The promised Armageddon has not, will not arrive, however spirited the epitaphs and timelines have been set and pronounced. It is of course a fiction which has its own reality on twitter handles and Facebook pages. It has no traction with the lived realities of ordinary Zimbabweans and it has always come to spectacular failure.

To that end, the opposition has presided over a litany of horrible humanitarian crimes in the name of local governance.

And there is no letting up, considering the internecine strife within the innumerable factions within the MDC, which can only mean worsening service delivery as the tug of war for control of the main opposition body has since entered various urban council chambers.

The attempts to load all these failings on ZANU PF can no longer hold, and the plan to foment a revolt has since ricocheted with spectacular results.

The MDC has demonstrated beyond all doubt that the longer the status quo is maintained, the more rot and damage will be dealt to the ever deteriorating urban councils.

The legacy of these councils in the hands of the opposition will ultimately be about underwhelming clients’ expectations, one of missed opportunities through petty partisan politics, and one of disappointed hopes. It will be the legacy of the great betrayal of so grave a national responsibility.

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