Zimbabwe's opposition MDC is losing momentum. It should boycott next year's electionsby Tom De Castella / January 16, 2005 / Leave a comment
So has Mugabe won? Not in the sideshow contest with the England and Wales Cricket Board, but against his domestic political opposition. Things are not looking good for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). With parliamentary elections due in March, the party is unsure whether to take part. Since the last parliamentary poll in 2000, when the MDC won 57 seats to Zanu-PF’s 62, it has lost six seats in by-elections. A lot of this is due to intimidation. The party lost the safe seat of Zengeza, where it won 72 per cent of the vote in 2000, after one of its activists was shot dead.
The mass “stay-aways” that proved so effective in the past – shutting down the country for days on end – have not been attempted recently. Stay-aways are costly for an impoverished people. Slowly but surely the momentum is slipping away from the MDC. If things were not bad enough, the party’s popular leader Morgan Tsvangirai recently fluffed a chance to win over international sceptics. In a poor performance on BBC World’s HARDTalk programme, his answers were remorselessly dismembered by an aggressive interviewer. The international media gets bored of stories that stubbornly refuse to move on, and Zimbabwe’s is just such a non-mover, with an opposition party seemingly unable to make progress despite the country’s continuing economic disintegration and an unpopular ruling party riven by splits.
Some in the MDC point to these splits in Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party as evidence that their strategy is working. This is wishful thinking. The open warfare in Zanu-PF is not a symptom of MDC pressure but a sign that the leading pretenders believe the 80-year-old Mugabe will step down when his current term ends in 2008. The MDC is seen as a spent force by Mugabe’s possible successors in the Zanu leadership, and they are now busy jockeying for position.
The recent Zanu-PF national congress was a triumph of postcolonial ideology over reality. Mugabe’s speech reworked familiar themes of a degenerate and imperialist west trying to force its values on Africa. “Perhaps a new kind of devil found in Britain is spreading… The devilish system in which a man marries another man makes them disregard nature… This is a rotten culture.” The speech showed Mugabe has no new ideas other than fighting those things – homosexuality, the internet, civil society,…