21 things the Zimbabwe opposition has to address to effectively compete with ZANU-PF


“ZANU-PF under Mnangagwa is much stronger and more organised than what it was under Mugabe. The party also runs on a bit of euphoria related to the removal of Mugabe,” so argues Leon Hartwell who was the senior policy advisor for Political and Development Cooperation at the Netherlands Embassy in Zimbabwe from 2012-2013.

“The MDC-T and its splinter parties look much weaker. There are too many individuals who want to be the king or queen of his or her castle. While such an approach to politics might be lucrative for a few individuals, it will not induce change at the national level for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.”

Hartwell argues that if opposition parties really want to make a difference on the political and economic landscape of Zimbabwe, they have to confront 21 issues and they will have to do so together.

With elections only 13 days away, it might be too late to implement them but it’s good to know them, and here they are:

1-Demonstrate leadership

Hartwell says although his study focused on the years of the inclusive government from 2009 and 2013 what he learnt still applies even to the new leader Nelson Chamisa. He says that although the party leader at the time, Morgan Tsvangirai, deserves enormous credit for his early party building, during the government of national unity (GNU), Tsvangirai seemed more focused on shoring up his own power than abiding by the MDC-T principles.( How does Chamisa fare).

2-Institutions are more important than individuals

“The MDC-T has fallen into the same trap as ZANU-PF under Mugabe by organising itself around an individual rather than institutions. The party name, with the ‘T’ specifically referred to Tsvangirai. It suggested that he personified the party to the point where it would implode without him,” Hartwell said. And it did.

3-Delegate and do not overstretch

Hartwell says the MDC was born out of many organisations and many organisers but many of these have disappeared. During the GNU while some party members had nothing to do, others had too much to do. He lists some of those who were overstretched as Tendai Biti, Elton Mangoma, Nelson Chamisa and Douglas Mwonzora. “If the opposition is to revive itself, opposition parties need to focus more on delegating responsibilities, creating a clear division of labour, and supporting rather than overstretching organisers so as to maximise their productivity,” he says.

4-Listen and re-establish a culture of debate

Hartwell says there was no culture of debate within the MDC.  “Even before the GNU years, the MDC-T leadership began to stifled debate, treating those who oppose key issues as enemies rather than establishing a culture where disagreement is welcomed or at the very least considered,” he says.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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