Senior Staff Writer
AS ZIMBABWE’S political and economic crises continue to deepen, analysts have delivered a damning assessment of the country’s opposition, the Daily News on Sunday reports.
Speaking during a virtual meeting that was organised by SAPES Trust last week to discuss South Africa’s role in Zimbabwe’s ongoing crises, the analysts said the local opposition was too weak and disorganised to give President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF a real run for their money.
In addition, they also criticised the Zim opposition for its tendency to just bank on the international community in the ongoing quest to end the country’s long-standing political and economic crises.
At the same time, they also said the senseless bloodletting that is ravaging the MDC is currently making it difficult for the country’s main opposition party to get meaningful outside help.
All this comes as Thokozani Khupe and Nelson Chamisa are involved in a fierce tussle for the control of the MDC — which has been weakened severely by its relentless internal fights ever since the death of its late founding father, Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his valiant battle against colon cancer in February 2018.
British academic and international affairs expert, Nicole Beardsworth, as well as respected South African journalist Mathatha Tsedu, were among those who said Zimbabwe lacked a formidable opposition to push for local change.
“It’s very difficult to see at this point how South Africa can pressure Zimbabwe particularly because we don’t see a point of pressure. I think if Zimbabweans had gone into the streets or if there was some kind of dialogue process where South Africa could try to sort of influence the process perhaps we might see an assertive stance from South Africa.
“There is no point of pressure where he (President Ramaphosa) can influence any kind of reform process at the moment it is incredibly complex. As it stands we don’t see a strong opposition in Zimbabwe that is able to speak with a single voice and advocate for a kind of mediation or change. I think we have seen the arrest of Jacob Ngarivhume who has been calling for protests but of course he is also quite a small party,” she said.
The post-doctoral researcher — who has conducted extensive studies on why opposition coalitions have failed in Zimbabwe, among other things — also said it was fair to say that Zimbabwe’s opposition was not speaking in one voice as it had done in the past to force dialogue with the government.
“It is fair to say that Zimbabwe’s opposition is currently speaking with many voices and in South Africa…and in South Africa as many people have pointed out, all opposition parties are no longer using the Zimbabwe question to platform. We don’t see churches taking on the Zimbabwean question, we don’t see anyone in SA advocating on the Zimbabwean question.
“So I guess what I’d like to see is the Zimbabwean opposition coming together as it did during the 2008 crisis where it spoke with a single voice. They had joint press briefings, they sent delegations to SADC, delegations to South African opposition parties and get Zimbabwe back on the agenda. Only when it starts to look like it might hurt the ANC, will we see the government take a stronger line on Zimbabwe,” Beardsworth added.
She said rather damningly, that the government was being let off the hook on a number of constitutional violations.
“They appear to be reforming but there is no substance to the reforms…..We see these changes of the Constitution which we all know are regressive rather than progressive. We are seeing the repeal of Posa and replacing it with equally bad legislation. There is an attempt to demonstrate reform without the substance to reform,” Beardsworth said.
All this comes as Khupe and Chamisa have been involved in an ugly brawl for the control of the party ever since Tsvangirai died.
The fights took a turn for the worse after the Supreme Court recently upheld an earlier High Court ruling, which had nullified Chamisa’s hotly-disputed ascendancy to the helm of the MDC following Tsvangirai’s death.
The factional wars escalated even further after Khupe seized the party’s iconic Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House — allegedly with the assistance of State security forces.
In addition, Khupe has also recalled 21 MPs and senators from Parliament, as she has flexed her muscles in the mindless infighting.
Tsedu, a veteran journalist and acting executive director of the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), told the same meeting that the continuing turmoil in the MDC made it difficult for international players to help them in forcing the government to engage in dialogue.
“South Africa has always intervened when it comes to Zimbabwe’s political and economic issues, and whether or not that intervention has been successful is another matter.
“There are also internal dynamics between the opposition in Zimbabwe, within the MDC in particular, and how it is responding to things and fracturing as well.
“So when people say that the South African government did not meet with the MDC, the question becomes which MDC?”
“Because at any given time you have either two or three or more versions of the party,” Tsedu said.
“So even the ruling Zanu PF cannot take a fractured opposition seriously when it comes to the issues of dialogue,” he added.
Human rights activist Elinor Sisulu said Zimbabweans were traumatised people who had been subjected to massive violations over the years, which hindered them from being an active citizenry.
“The main thing that is keeping Zimbabweans down is a history of rights violations including abductions, torture, the fiscal madness and arbitrary arrests.
“South Africa and the whole Sadc region need to adopt a human rights-based approach and speak out against violations.
“This can strengthen Zimbabweans who fear the military and police brutality that they are subjected to when they take to the streets to express dissent,” Sisulu told the same meeting.
This comes as Zimbabwe is in the vice grip of a huge economic crisis, its worst in a decade, which has stirred anger and anxiety among long-suffering ordinary people.
As the country’s rot worsens, pro-democracy and pressure groups have lined-up anti-government protests on Friday, in a bid to force Mnangagwa and his government to address the debilitating myriad crises.
Meanwhile, several high-profile people and groups have been calling for Mnangagwa to end his long-drawn feud with Chamisa, in the country’s interest.
Both Chamisa and Mnangagwa have previously said that they were interested in dialogue, although nothing concrete has happened — primarily because of differences over the form and platform on which the talks should take place.
On his part, Mnangagwa has been consistent that any talks with Chamisa should be held under the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) — where he regularly holds meetings with fringe opposition leaders.
Chamisa himself has repeatedly ruled out joining Polad — demanding instead direct dialogue with Mnangagwa.
At one time, both men appeared ready to finally end their brawling when former South African leader Thabo Mbeki held talks with them last year, over the country’s worsening economic rot.
Mbeki — who helped to broker the stability-inducing 2008 government of national unity between opposition giant Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, who are both late — was in the country in December last year, to try and nudge Mnangagwa and Chamisa to hold direct talks.