Tsvangirai in Catch 22


Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose party seems destined for a massive defeat reminiscent of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa who fell from Prime Minister to secure only three out of 80 seats in 1980, is in a Catch 22.

He has to accept defeat quietly if he is defeated in the presidential election; take his grievance to court; or as he is being advised by his lieutenants, call for street demonstrations to protest against the vote.

It will be difficult to accept defeat because this was a shock to everyone, perhaps even to the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front itself. People expected ZANU-PF to win but not by such a wide margin.

One social media commentator said even if there was rigging “izvi zvanyanya”- this is just too much.

Having put so much and having been buoyed by the media, it might be difficult for Tsvangirai to swallow defeat. But as Nathaniel Manheru, who is close to ZANU-PF, said: Tsvangirai’s stance is understandable. “He carries the DNA of opposition parties on the continent. Definitionally, they are never defeated, only cheated.”

The second choice looks obvious. Can Tsvangirai take his case to the same court that ruled that elections should be held on 31 July? Can he take the case to the same court that said it was not going to change its mind about the date, despite an appeal from the Southern African Development Community? Can he take the case to the same court that threw out his application to have the special vote cancelled because of irregularities?

It seems the only option left to Tsvangirai is to organise protests, but what type of protests? His advocates have said he must organise protests that bring Zimbabwe to a standstill.

How do you bring a country that is already at a standstill- according to them- to a standstill? How do you force people that are self-employed not to go to work?

History shows that the MDC has never organised a successful protest. The only successful protest- or mass stay-away- was spontaneous. It was the people rising up against taxes and the high cost of living. The only organisation that can take some credit for this is the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. And this was before the formation of the MDC. Yes, Tsvangirai was the leader of the ZCTU at the time but it was not a political party.

The MDC’s final push of 2003 was a total failure and even the people that sponsored it admitted so. People stayed at home but none of the objectives were achieved leading to one of the organisers saying people just took a one-week holiday to save money for transport rather than that they supported the stay-away.

Besides, whenever people took to the streets, they had a grievance and had something to gain. What is the grievance this time and what do they have to gain?

While the MDC’s massive defeat smacks of rigging, Tsvangirai has actually fared better than Muzorewa. Muzorewa won 51 of the 72 black seats in 1979. Eleven months later he was down to 3 out of 80- dropping from a more than two-thirds majority to less than 4 percent. Tsvangirai did not even have 50 percent of the seats in 2008. So 2008 should not be a yardstick for the 2013 results.


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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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