By CONWAY TUTANI
But the more closely I look at Zanu PF and MDC Alliance, the less I see differences in style and substance between them, with mere days before the election in which they are fiercely contesting against each other.
The style has been largely the same — they have been crisscrossing the country bussing supporters to rallies for the optics of it, to show their strengths.
As for substance, again they are kinda like role models of each other and you don’t have to look closely to discover that even though they have been trying to accentuate the differences between them to show that the other as falling short in terms of democracy. In many instances, this has amounted to nothing more than cheap points-scoring because both are guilty of what they are accusing each other of.
As far as using traditional leaders for political purposes, both Zanu PF and MDC are guilty as shown in part of this petition to MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa by MDC-T activists in Shurugwi South (NewsDay, June 22, 2018): “The community in Shurugwi South is very worried about having two candidates having registered, one as MDC Alliance and the other one as independent.”
“The community, who include CHIEFS, priests and VILLAGE HEADS, had spread in the constituency that the alliance candidate is Mabonga after you (Chamisa) had declared to them that he was (sic)”. There it is in black and white that the opposition is also in the game, the only big difference being that Zanu PF, taking advantage of incumbency, is in a position to splash largesse on traditional leaders, but not making any less illegal both parties’ conduct.
The MDC Alliance has accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of having an incestuous relationship with Zanu PF where the statutory electoral body, despite the requirement for it to be independent, is seen as an extension of the ruling party establishment. Fair enough, because there are credibility issues surrounding Zec, particularly from the farcical and bloody 2008 election where the opposition was clearly robbed of victory with the electoral body a passive spectator or sleeping partner.
But the MDC Alliance can also be accused of the same, because while they were justifiably accusing Zec, they were at the same time benefiting from such an incestuous relationship with civic organisations to the disadvantage of other opposition parties. Wrote MDC-M official David Coltart in his book 50 Years of Tyranny In Zimbabwe: The Struggle Continues: “In my mind, the stance adopted by civic groups amounted to a fundamental compromise of their raison d’etre — the promotion and protection of human rights. It concerned me that by turning a blind eye to intra-MDC violence, civic groups and church groups undermined their moral high ground to condemn Zanu PF’s human rights violations.” This turning of a blind eye by most — yes, most — civic groups has continued into the pending 2018 elections.
The MDC Alliance has also expressed reservations over the secrecy of the ballot and vote-buying by Zanu PF. Fair enough, but the MDC has not been that exemplary itself. Wrote Coltart regarding the vote for National Asembly Speaker in 2009: “Despite the parliamentary standing orders’ requirement for a ‘secret ballot’, MPs were told that they would have to show their ballot to MDC-T MP and its vice-president Thoko Khupe prior to voting. When voting began, several MDC-T leaders, including Khupe . . . displayed their ballot papers before depositing them in the ballot box, encouraging their subordinates to do likewise. The combination of the threats levelled against their own MPs and the inducements offered to some of the MDC-M MPs worked.”
Fast-forward to 2018, Human Rights Watch wrote: “The MDC-T appears to have established a militia-type, uniformed youth group called the Vanguard, which was implicated in several cases of violence against former party vice-president Thokozani Khupe and her supporters . . .” The irony is not lost that Khupe was herself pushed out from her post, falling victim to the undemocratic conduct she had shown in Parliament.
As for corruption, indeed during the tenure of former president Robert Mugabe it reached stratospheric levels — and the MDC fell for the temptation when it went into the Government of National Unity (GNU) with Zanu PF in 2009 until 2013. Wrote Bhekimpilo Sibanda in his review of Coltart’s book in 2016: “The GNU saw many MDC parliamentarians and their leaders make a beeline for the feeding trough. The trappings of power were too comfortable and very little, besides a new Constitution, was achieved. Whether by foul or honest means, the MDCs lost the 2013 elections and this led to further splinters causing many people to lose hope.”
As one can see, there is not much to differentiate between Zanu PF and MDC in terms of political conduct, corruption included. Only diehards cannot see these obvious similarities. What has been at play in this campaign — as often happens when there is much at stake — is a toxic combination of the negativity instinct, straight-line instinct, generalisation instinct, single-perspective instinct and blame instinct, among others. These instincts, according to the late Professor Hans Gosling in his acclaimed book Factfulness, distort our perspective. The book is an assault on both ignorance and pessimism. The message is refreshingly clear: When you only hold opinions about things you know the facts about, you can see the world more clearly
In that vein, I shall quote Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji, a professed MDC Alliance supporter, who wrote recently: “Having listened to the rigging allegations by president Chamisa, I am more than convinced that no one knows how the 2013 elections were rigged. The evidence presented is conjectural and, at times, fallacious and, at best, very weak. But having said that, I think the demands of the MDC Alliance are not outrageous. If Zec has nothing to hide, then why not concede to these small demands?”
Indeed, we should only carry opinion for which we have strong supporting facts. We need more of this way of thinking, both in business and politics. When you only hold opinions about things you know the facts about, you can see the world more clearly and vote more rationally.
Concluded Mugwiji: “Let us unite and move our country forward. Neo-imperialism benefits from chaos within our nation and our disunity. Our people have suffered enough. Whatever the outcome of the elections, Zimbabwe must be the winner.”
Indeed, if I may paraphrase Gosling, Zimbabwe, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing views based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.