Ten reasons why Tsvangirai must go

New Zimbabwe.com   Opinion - by Wisdom Katungu

19 December 2013


Morgan Tsvangirai – AFP/Ghetty Images

I HAVE great respect for Morgan Tsvangirai because of the courage, bravery and determination that he has shown since the formation of the MDC in 1999. At a time when it was unthinkable and daunting to challenge the mighty Robert Mugabe in a presidential election, he boldly rose to the occasion and he can only count himself unlucky that he has failed to dethrone the veteran Zanu PF leader.

Since he declared his ambition to lead Zimbabwe fourteen years ago, Tsvangirai has been arrested many a time; faced a show treason trial; survived assassination attempts; his close associates and supporters were murdered. He has also lost a good number of his loved ones because of his political ambitions. He has been tortured several times at the hands of the police and has been humiliated by the public media. Despite all this, Tsvangirai has fought, is fighting and vows to continue fighting until he becomes the president of Zimbabwe.

A man of modest educational credentials, Tsvangirai has demonstrated how determination and courage can lift one from being a nonentity to becoming a global figure. I respect and admire him for his achievements so far in the struggle for change in the country. However, I strongly feel that he has done what he could and can do no more. After his heavy defeat in the recent elections, several voices have questioned Tsvangirai’s ability to unseat Zanu PF and I think these voices have a point. The man needs to step aside and let new blood take the party to the Promised Land.

The following are my ten reasons why Morgan Tsvangirai must relinquish the leadership of the MDC:

1: Dictatorial tendencies

The major reason why the MDC failed to remove Zanu PF goes back to the (in)famous October 12, 2005 spilt which gave birth to the MDC –T, MDC-(M)N and later the MDC-99. Despite what Tsvangirai tried to make us believe in his autobiography, the main reason for that split was, to a large extent, due to dictatorial tendencies on his part. Several debates can be held on the issue but the bottom line is that the schism was a result of dictatorial tendencies and Tsvangirai’s failure to deal with intra-party democracy. One more day that he continues to lead the party is one more step towards its eventual demise.

After the July 31 loss, Tsvangirai should have initiated debate about leadership renewal himself so that, if the “people” indeed want him to stay, they would have said so. It took bold men like Roy Bennett, Elias Mudzuri and others to have the issue openly discussed. The question of succession needs to be discussed openly with no fear or favour. In the 90’s people like Tekere, Zvobgo, Mavhaire among others, were censured when they dared raise the issue of succession within Zanu PF and the same cannot happen in the MDC.

As a leader who claims to be democratic, Tsvangirai should not only allow the issue to be discussed openly, but also be prepared to prove that he is still popular and has the “people’s mandate” to lead. Tsvangirayi has demonstrated dictatorial tendencies therefore he needs to go sooner, rather than later. The imposition of candidates which threatened to split the party several times, also points to Tsvangirai’s dictatorial tendencies.

2: Moral principle

Having led the party for the past 14 years; having gone through five elections; having been Prime Minister of the country in a coalition government for four years and still having failed to depose Zanu PF, it is time for Tsvangirai to take a break. His claim that the elections have been rigged since 2000 cannot help his cause. Whether elections were manipulated or whatever, it is time for Tsvangirai to step down and give an opportunity to a new individual. In the words of Elias Mudzuri, Tsvangirai should step down now and be the “Mandela” of the MDC.

If he steps down, his Western backers can gladly award him the Nobel peace prize and he can be invited to speak at some lectures about peace, democracy and human rights at some universities in Europe and the US. Generally speaking, Tsvangirai has overstayed his usefulness and, simply put, he has done all he can and can do nothing more.

3: Damaged personal reputation

A leader, especially an aspiring president, his private life is as important as his public life. A leader is therefore judged by the way he handles his private and family affairs, especially his sexual relations. He can get good advice from Bill Clinton who knows more on that one. Tsvangirai’s sexual and marriage scandals have left even his boldest praise-singers wondering whether the man is indeed fit to rule. Talk about Loretta, Locardia, Nosipho, Elizabeth and probably others that didn’t make it to the front pages of newspapers. His scandalous love affairs did well to dent his reputation and raised a lot questions about his judgment and fitness for office. And rightly so too!

Voters ask themselves if they can entrust their future into the hands of a person who struggles to make important decisions such as choosing a life partner. Voters ask themselves if a man who engages in multiple and simultaneous sexual affairs apparently without practicing safe sex in this HIV and Aids era can indeed lead them. Tsvangirai needs to do the right thing by stepping down because his personal scandals put the voters in a very difficult situation.

4: Indecisiveness

If there is one thing that Tsvangirai has consistently demonstrated over the years, it is his lack of decisiveness. A leader and most importantly one aspiring president, is judged by his decision making abilities. Over the years, Tsvangirai has made some reckless and contradictory statements that have often come back to haunt him. His decision- making leaves a lot to be desired. On numerous occasions he informed voters that he was going to boycott elections only to turn around and participate in the votes. Joyce Mujuru once mocked him and said he should be called “Boycott” Tsvangirai.

Patrick Chinamasa once pointed out that the MDC-T leader is an unpredictable man who indicates left only to turn right. Christopher Dell, the former US ambassador to Zimbabwe also described him as a “brave man, largely a democrat but not open to advice and indecisive” in documents released by WikiLeaks. Thanks to Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, Tsvangirai now knows what his ‘friends’ in the US really think about him.

In typical fashion, in 2012 he agreed with Mugabe and came out guns blazing against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights. However, in a space of a few months he made an about turn and said he supported those rights. In the rundown to the July 31 elections, he expressed concerns with regard to the lack of key reforms which he said compromised the fairness of the vote but he went ahead to participate in the same elections. On the 30th of July 2013 he addressed a press conference beaming with confidence and said he would win resoundingly only to wake up on the 31st telling us the election was a sham. Clearly, it is very difficult to trust this man with the presidency of our beloved country.

5: The failure of sanctions to achieve desired results

The West imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe* with the hope that once these bit hard, the people would turn against the Zanu PF government by way of the vote, uprising or otherwise. Tsvangirai is on record for supporting the economic sanctions which he calls restrictive measures and other complex terms. Denial that Zimbabwe is under economic sanctions is akin to denying that HIV causes Aids.

Over the years, the effect of the sanctions has been felt by each and every Zimbabwean and the results of the March 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections provided evidence for this assertion. Zanu PF became a minority in parliament for the first time since independence and who could have ever imagined Mugabe agreeing to a coalition government? The economic problems had reached fever pitch levels but still Tsvangirai could not depose Mugabe. What other new weapon can he now use to remove Mugabe from power? If the sanctions failed to achieve that objective, the MDC definitely needs to engage in soul-searching introspection and ask themselves whether their leader can take them to Canaan. I don’t think he can, therefore he must go now rather than later.

6: Reinvigoration of Zanu PF

The inclusive government gave Zanu PF an opportunity to restrategise and reconnect with the people whilst Tsvangirai enjoyed the perks and respect that came with being a Prime Minister. Zanu PF emerged stronger from the coalition government and the West seems to have realized that and is slowly beginning to unclench its fists. However, they are now doing it under Mugabe’s conditions bearing in mind that they need the mineral riches in Zimbabwe and if they snooze, the Chinese will fill in that gap. Although there is still a long way to go before Zanu PF can resuscitate the economy, Tsvangirai cannot mount a strong challenge to any of his possible opponents post Mugabe. Due to the ten reasons highlighted in this opinion piece, Morgan cannot defeat Amai Mujuru or Emmerson Mnangagwa in a free and fair election. As such it is time for him to go!  

7: 2016 is just too far

According to the MDC constitution, the next congress can only be convened in 2016 to choose the party’s new leadership. The problem with waiting for congress in 2016 is that so much is going to happen between now and then, and if the disgruntled voices continue to be suppressed until then, the party could have another split and this could weaken it even further.

In the event that the party does not split but rather chooses to replace Tsvangirai with someone else in 2016, that would give that new leader only two years before the 2018 elections. That does not seem to be a very wise move.

Again, if the party does not split and congress retains Tsvangirai as president, he will lose in 2018 and calls for him to quit will begin again.Mudzuri was spot-on in his opinion piece about the possible case scenarios that can happen if Morgan does not resign. The best time for him to go is now!

8: MDC-T is spoilt for choice of successor

While in Zanu PF only two names often emerge as contenders to replace Mugabe, the MDC-T has good leaders who are capable of taking the party to the Promised Land. The successor needs to start to connect with the people now and not in 2016. The party should therefore call for an early congress in 2014 so that a successor can be chosen; the earlier the better. The congress can choose the next leader from the following ten top contenders, in that order: Elias Mudzuri; Thokozani Khupe; Tendai Biti; Lovemore Moyo; Gift Chimanikire; Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, Eric Matinenga, Elton Mangoma; Jameson Timba and Thabitha Khumalo.

Mudzuri is top on my list because he has shown interest while the rest only whisper about the topic in the corridors at Harvest House. The MDC-T is at crossroads and Mudzuri has done well by taking a leading role on the debate. Soon after the overwhelming election defeat, the top leadership should have immediately called for dialogue about leadership renewal, and should have encouraged Tsvangirai to resign so that new blood can take over. I can’t help but wish that Welshman Ncube was still in the party because he is not afraid of saying the truth at the right time.

9: Averting another split

As the signs have already shown, Tsvangirai’s continued presence at the helm of the party will inevitably lead to another split, in the fashion of the 2005 divorce which cost the party a chance to wrestle power from Zanu PF. For sanity’s sake, the man should quit and hand over to a new leader who should restructure the party and bring in a new philosophy and strategy. Mudzuri is capable of doing that.

10: Rebranding and doing away with the ‘T’

One problem that bedevils the Tsvangirai-led faction of the MDC is its over-identification with the leader to the ordinary voter. There is need for rebranding of the party, in particular doing away with this ‘MDC-T’ canard, wherever it came from. The party should not be branded as MDC – Tsvangirai (or MDC-T) as it is now called.  The party cannot afford to go to the next elections still being referred to as MDC-T for several reasons, some of which have been highlighted in this piece.

Doing away with the ‘T’ should be the first step that should be taken in a series of other radical measures. In order to deal with the ‘T’, the party should call for an early congress in 2014 so that real issues affecting the party are discussed, including rebranding party officially by doing away with the ‘T’.  If the early congress is called and Tsvangirai wins, then all questions about his popularity will be brought to rest and he can truly boast about what he calls the ‘people’s mandate’. If he loses, we hope he will continue playing golf with those to succeed him.

Author:  Wisdom Katungu is an independent political thinker who writes in his personal capacity. He can be followed on twitter @wizziekat

*The “sanctions” are actually restrictions on Zanu PF individuals and companies which were imposed as a consequence of violations of human and political rights in the period from 1997 to 2002.  The MDC remains committed to the complete withdrawal of restrictions on the leadership of Zanu PF and on certain institutions on the grounds that these restrictions have done little to advance the programme of essential reforms to the way the country is governed and instead are providing Zanu PF with a "Fig Leaf" which they are using to cover up their own shortcomings. (Extracts from article by Eddie Cross, MDC-T, dated 18 October 2013)