Writes Nkopane Mathibeli
The All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (Tsvangirai branch) (MDC-T) are two political parties in two different Southern African countries but they bear a striking resemblance in more ways than one including in their senseless, unprovoked self-mutilation.
What is most interesting in both instances is that though their biggest rivals had not even lifted a finger to encourage the self-mutilation, some want(ed) to believe that somehow the tensions are/were stoked by outside forces.
In Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF had not in the July of 2016, advised Tsvangirai to parachute Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as Thokozani Khupe’s deputies in contravention of the party’s constitution which gives that prerogative to the party’s congress.
Worst of all, article 220.127.116.11 of the party’s constitution said that the president has a deputy president, not deputies and that like all the other 11 members of the National Standing Committee, the deputy President is elected directly by Congress from nominations made by the provinces.
There is nothing about the president unilaterally parachuting his preferred candidate.
What made the whole affair so deranged was that contrary to the reason given by Tsvangirai, that it was the pressing need to reinvigorate the party that necessitated him to deputise his deputy with two more deputies, it was obvious from the onset that the second deputy (Mudzuri) was only brought on board as a deflection, Chamisa was the real target that Tsvangirai wanted as his deputy.
That was because as president, he had fallen out with his constitutionally-elected deputy (Khupe) over two issues: entering into alliances with other opposition parties and participating in the elections.
The last nail in MDC’s coffin was hammered by the MDC itself when, even after Tsvangirai’s passing, the masses were mobilised to back Chamisa over Khupe for party president on the flimsy ground that the young man was not only enlightened but was a hit among the MDC masses.
He was what they wanted and so populism won the day over constitutionalism.
The traditional poll rigging aside, it is with this intra-party squabble, particularly because of its closeness to election day, that MDC’s chance of making a real showing in the elections started going down the drain.
How could it not when it destabilised it at such a critical moment?
While this self-mutilation went on at full speed, MDC’s closest rival (Zanu PF) watched in silence as the Democratic Congress (DC) is doing while the ABC self-mutilates.
What lesson does this MDC episode have for the war zone turned ABC?
It is that allowing the party to be destabilised by issues that are in essence, acts of constitutional delinquency couched in legal pretensions are tantamount to political suicide particularly when they happen towards an election.
I say towards an election because despite parliament being in a sine die adjournment – specifically to sabotage a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister stemming from the intra-party squabble, just like SADC intervened for its opening when it was prorogued – chances are that the same thing will happen and if by then the party has still not got its house in order, it is possible that instead of surrendering to the humiliation of disempowerment by a vote of no confidence, the PM would dissolve parliament and call an early election.
By so doing, the DC being it’s nearest and most potent rival would have been handed its electoral victory on a silver platter because unlike the ABC, the DC emerged from its leadership election conference still intact and above that, the new NEC hit the ground running to embark on a relentless, low key charm offensive.
At the moment and given the intensity of the intra-party tussle, this probably isn’t even the least of the ABC’s worries.
The only thing that currently matters for both factions, the incoming and outgoing NECs, is to take control of the party.
Can the DC, just as did Zanu PF during MDC’s internal wranglings, keep its supporters within its ranks and even poach a few from its rival thereby improve its electoral fortunes in case a snap election is called?
It may be true that in the separate weekly rallies held by ABC’s warring factions specifically meant to serve as each faction’s show-of-force, the so-called State House faction does not seem to be much of a force to be reckoned with.
This, however, doesn’t shed any light on the outcome of the committee meant to resolve the stand-off. What is however certain is that in case a compromise is not reached, election season will once again be upon us and in that case, just as happened to the Democratic Congress before the 2017 general snap elections, a new party may emerge Alliance of Democrats (AD) style from the ABC, significantly reducing its numerical superiority. This is certain.