Opposition?… What Is That??? An Observation

Opposition?… What Is That??? An Observation

Christmas is gone and 2017 is here. To us Zimbabweans it is a reminder that, in just over one (1) year we will go to the polls. This is probably the most anticipated election since… dead people started voting and MDC had the election stolen from them.

In the red corner we have ZANU (PF) – they will be hoping that they can retain their seemingly boundless control of the country, whilst trying to prevent themselves from imploding as a result of internal strife between the G40 and Lacoste factions.

In the blue corner we have the Opposition parties – who seem to cover all aspects of the opposition spectrum except the important ones. It is with this group that this paper takes issue.

 

Name The Opposition Political Parties in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean opposition parties are not very good at communicating who they are and what exactly they stand for. It took us almost a week just to get the information in the table below from public sources and even then we had to request assistance from the more informed amongst us. Henceforth we will refer to them collectively as the Opposition.

Zimbabwean Political Parties

PARTY NAMEPARTY LEADERCODE / NERA MAIN WEB PAGEFACEBOOKTWITTER
African Democratic PartyMarcellina ChikwashaNERA@africandemocraticparty@AdpZimbabwe
Build Zimbabwe AllianceNoah Manyikahttps://buildzimbabwe.org/@buildzim@buildzimbabwe
Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment (DARE)Gilbert DzikitiCODE / NERA / Peoples Rainbow Coalitionhttp://dare.org.zw/https://www.facebook.com/groups/313608835476748/
Freedom Front Cosmas MupondaNERA@FreedomFrontPartyZim@freedom_front
FreeZim Congress PartyJoseph Bushahttp://www.freezimcongress.com/https://www.facebook.com/Freezim-Congress-365283566995841@FreeZimCongress
Mavambo/Kusile/DawnSimba MakoniCODEhttp://www.mavambokusiledawn.org/@mavambokusile.dawn@Mavambokaone
Movement For Democratic Change - NcubeWelshman NcubeCODE / NERA / MDC Alliance@movementfordemocraticchange@MDCPARTY
Movement For Democratic Change - TsvangirayiMorgan TsvangiraiNERA / MDC Alliancehttp://www.mdc.co.zw/@zimbabwemdc@mdczimbabwe
Peoples Democratic PartyLucia MatibengaPeoples Rainbow Coalition
Peoples Democratic PartyTendai BitiMDC Alliancehttp://www.pdpzimbabwe.co.zw/@pdpdzimbabwe.co.zw@ZimPdp
Progressive Democrats of ZimbabweBarbara Nyarie Nyagomo NERA@progressivedemocratszim@democratszim
Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe Elton MangomaCODE@RDZHQ
Transform ZimbabweJacob NgarivhumeNERAhttp://tz.co.zw@transformzim@TransformZim
Viva ZimbabweAcie Lumumbahttp://www.vivazimbabwe.com/@vivazimbabwepolitics@vivazimbabwe1
Zimbabwe African People’s UnionDumiso Dabengwa@ZimbabweAfricanPeoplesUnion@zapu
Zimbabwe National African Union-NDONGA (ZANU Ndonga)Denford MusiyariraNERA
Zimbabwe People First (ZIMFIRST)Agrippa MutambaraNERAAgrippa Mutambarahttps://www.facebook.com/Zimbabwe-African-National-Union-Patriotic-Front-ZANU-PF-1512766735406622
National People's PartyJoyce MujuruPeoples Rainbow Coalitionhttp://nationalpeoplespartyzim.com/@NPPZimbabwe
Zimbabwe United For Democracy (ZUNDE)Farai MbiraCODE / NERA / Peoples Rainbow Coalitionhttp://www.zunde.org/@zundezimbabwe@zundezim
Please Note:
This table was created with help from 3rd parties and extensive online research. Where information is missing either there was no information, links were broken or the social media content was unsatisfactory. If you have information that can improve the quality of this table please feel free to drop us an email.

Definitions:
* National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA)
* Coalition of Democrats (CODE)
* People's Rainbow Coalition (PRC)
* MDC Alliance


 

The Role and Purpose of the Opposition

In a normally functioning democracy Opposition parties do not necessarily have to come up with the best alternative solution in order to constructively criticise a particular policy. By facilitating thought provoking sessions, which lead to refreshing solutions, they will already be doing their part.

Opposition parties are there to serve 3 main functions:

  • Firstly, they are an essential part of the checks and balances that must exist to ensure accountability by the sitting government and leadership.
  • Secondly, to ensure that the people get the best possible service from their elected representatives. They are NOT by default there to protest for the sake of protesting – that would be counter-productive. The opposition members of parliament need to be proactive enough to raise intelligent and probative questions and recommend solutions to the government.  Apart from examining the performance of the executive, they must also be there to support the successful achievements or policies introduced by the sitting government that make life better for the citizenry of our country.
  • Thirdly they are there as an active threat to the incumbent government that loss of power is only a ballot box away, therefore a failure of the points above by the sitting executive could result in the opposition taking control.

In other words the Opposition does not have to be in power in order to wield power. By ensuring that they able to rally the court of public opinion they can under normal democratic circumstance exert greater authority than the incumbent ruling party.

The challenge for Opposition parties in Zimbabwe is that the game is rigged. This is illustrated by the contempt with which they are treated by the ruling party and their apparatik. However a significant number of the challenges faced by the opposition are self-generated and for this reason they could easily lose to the dis-organised ZANU(PF) in 2018.

 

The Problem with Zimbabwes’ Opposition Parties

The bulk of the current crop of opposition leaders come with a strong background of working for or with ZANU(PF). This should be a strength, however as time has progressed this has proved to be  something of a weakness. Opposition leadership appears to be stuck in the ZANU(PF) mindset. This means that they are still playing the politics game, according to ZANU(PF) rules.

Most of the larger Opposition party leaders appear be surrounded with facsimiles of themselves which means that the possibility of dynamic and original thinking is almost existent. Few if any millennials (ages 18-36 in 2016) are visible in the Opposition leadership.

The Opposition leaders for the most part appear to have cultivated the politics of personality, just as ZANU(PF) does. A visit to those opposition websites that do exist (or even the FB pages) and there is no real indication of who the senior party members are, besides the leader. Neither is there any indication of which members in the individual parties form the the shadow government or have portfolio responsibilities. The only real head above the parapet is that of the leader.

In 2016 Zimbabwe had its Hashtag (#) Revolution, the result of which was the banning of flag waving and wearing amongst other things. The Opposition were very slow to embrace, support and engage in a very public manner with the actions of private citizens who were addressing collective problems. From an observers point of view it appeared as if the Opposition at some level as individuals supported these actions but as parties were only prepared to handle things at arms length. It would appear that due to leadership myopia a golden opportunity to make ZANU(PF) really uncomfortable was lost. The irony should not be lost that the principle protagonists for 2016 were in the millennial age group.

The events of 2016 were fast moving due to the use of technology and showed a number of weaknesses in the ZANU(PF) armour. The Opposition again appears not to have taken onboard the lessons of the #Revolution, that speed of communication and action, through the use of technology are strengths. The recent abortive price hike in mobile data charges resulted in the public taking the offensive against the regulator and the operators, however where was the Opposition, again they appeared to be very slow in making their own position known in a very loud and clear manner.

It is said that to win an election in Zimbabwe you have to get the rural constituencies. Instead of holding endless rallies that contribute little to the constituents daily lives except maybe bake them in the sun, perhaps Opposition parties should look at being providers of social support to get that rural vote. Things like drought relief, drop in clinics, dip for cattle. Basically doing the things the government should be doing but in their small way. Furthermore they should be working to put both urban and rural constituents on the same information footing.

A significant question that has been persistently avoided by the current crop of opposition parties is, what is the plan for the day after they win the 2018 general election? Looking at the material available in on websites, Facebook and in manifestoes there is nothing that is being said that is substantive. Leaders make promises but do not explain how those promises will be achieved. Zimbabwe is at a  point where as a people we need to know HOW our political leaders are going to implement the WHAT (the promises). For example one of manifestos promises to return the farms and offer compensation (a noble idea). The question is where will the money come from; what is the priority of this against healthcare, roads and education; what strings will be attached to the compensation. By putting the full strategy in the public domain we Zimbabweans can challenge and improve the ideas. There is nothing worse than promising what can’t be delivered (see ZANU(PF) since 2000).

To this last point should the Opposition win in 2018 there is a risk that, just like in an Animal Farm the Zimbabwean constituent could wind up in the position of having new political leaders but still suffering the same abuse. Opposition parties must put forward strategies, not just promises, of what an election victory will look like. The strategies do not have to be fully formed but they must give an indication of how the Opposition envisage the fulfillment of their promises to their constituents.

There have been attempts to unite the Opposition with arrangements like NERA and CODE. However these alignments have also highlighted how fragmented the current Opposition is and the question in most peoples minds, is can these alliances catapult ZANU(PF) into the dustbin of history. Perhaps it would be better if some of the parties merged, to combine the old guard with the new millennials thereby allowing for a paradigm shift in the approach to 2018. Alternatively perhaps the Opposition should recruit technocrats locally and from the diaspora and use them as think-tanks. The locals will bring an understanding of the environment and the diaspora will bring a fresh approach and dynamism to Opposition politics.

To win 2018 there needs to be a totally new approach and what is clear is that the Opposition needs to rethink its leadership and strategies. If the Opposition leadership is truly about rebuilding Zimbabwe then they must be prepared to put their ego’s to one side in order to remove ZANU(PF). They must be prepared to look towards a future where tyranny is a history lesson not a fact of daily existence.

Questions for the Opposition