MY political activism dates back to the late 1970s when I actively participated in the armed liberation struggle as a young mujibha attending pungwes in my rural area in Gutu district, Masvingo province.
Sometime in 1979, when I was still in my teens, I had my first harsh encounter with the racist colonial police. One of my maternal uncles, the late Raphael Mushava, was employed as a medical assistant at Mvuma District Hospital. Then, I was a school boy at Fletcher High School in Gweru and during some school holidays, I would stay with my maternal uncle and his family in Mvuma.
Along with a group of other young and radical black youths, one day we picked up a quarrel with the white district commissioner, who stayed at a house somewhere in that small town. He was a rabid racist who was in the habit of routinely ill-treating and harassing black residents.
He was a much hated man within the predominantly black community.
For our troubles, we were picked up by the police and locked up in the cells at Mvuma police station. There were about 12 of us, all juveniles and we were detained for 10 days without being taken to court. We were eventually released from the cells and sent back to our different homes.
That was the first time I was locked up in police cells.
Looking back, this nasty experience radicalized me and in a big way, excited the political animal in me. At the University of Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, I became a member of the Zanu University Branch. This was my very first time buying a Zanu membership card. During my time at university, the predominant political parties were Zanu followed by PF Zapu.
Later on in life, I became a passionate MDC activist before formally joining the party soon after its formation. In the year 2000, I was elected MDC Harare North district organizing secretary. Over the years, I rose within the party ranks until I was elected the national secretary for information and publicity at the MDC fourth annual congress in 2014.
During its formative years, the MDC was a formidable opposition political party that was bench-marked on the values and ethos of social democracy.
Birthed by the labor movement, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the MDC propagated pro-poor policies that easily resonated with the interests of the urban working class. Little wonder, therefore, that the MDC support base is still predominantly the urban working class up to this day.
With time, however, the MDC’s ideological benchmark became blurred, conflicted and confusing. The majority of white former commercial farmers, who had been dispossessed of their farms at the onset of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme, became major funders of the MDC.
Naturally, because of their immense financial power, these white former commercial farmers began to develop a vice-like grip on both the party’s ideological reconfiguration as well as the general trajectory of the party in both the national and international context.
Gradually, the MDC became increasingly reactionary by playing to the whims and fantasies of its chief financiers, the white former commercial farmers as well as powerful Western countries who poured millions of dollars into the party both overtly and covertly.
Therein lay the foundation for the inevitable collapse of a once mighty and powerful opposition political party. The nationalist and progressive social democracy ideology was promptly replaced by a clearly reactionary and anti-nationalist sentiment that deliberately lampooned and poured scorn on anything associated with nationalist and Pan-African ethos.
This includes respect for the armed liberation struggle as well as the revolutionary thrust to empower historically disadvantaged indigenous people by giving them land that was previously owned and occupied by white commercial farmers. Indeed, it was an incredibly racist set-up that ensured almost 90 percent of the fertile and arable commercial farming land in Zimbabwe was owned and occupied by about 4 500 white farmers.
The MDC was virtually hijacked by powerful local white interests as well as the invisible, but clearly powerful hand of influential and rich Western nations. It was apparent that the main agenda of these alien interests was essentially to reverse the gains of the land reform programme, hence the fervent interest of white former commercial farmers in the affairs of the MDC.
Even the first split of the MDC in 2005 had the hidden hand of these powerful alien interests. The handlers of the MDC were becoming disenchanted with the late Morgan Tsvangirai and they sought to influence the rise of a new party leader whom they deemed better educated and more acceptable to the design and construct of the main funders of the party.
Smart propaganda was disseminated in order to portray the late Morgan Tsvangirai as an uneducated dictator who was deviating from democratic notions and values.
Alas! The grand plan was to torpedo Tsvangirai’s hold on the party and to make sure that the labor-backed founder members of the MDC were slowly, but systematically displaced from positions of power and influence within the party.
Put bluntly, the ideological decomposition of the MDC had begun in earnest.
Intra-party fighting, violence, intolerance and factionalism became the norm within the MDC ranks as opposing factions fought for control of the levers of power within the party.
With time, the party had its founding values of peace, tolerance, empathy, solidarity and social democracy virtually completely eroded.
It became a dog-eat-dog affair that only worsened with the unfortunate passing on of Tsvangirai in February 2018.
The violent scenes that marked the funeral of the late Tsvangirai at Humanikwa village in Buhera clearly depicted that the party was now gravitating towards a self-destruction trajectory. Some power-hungry and unprincipled individuals had found it fit and proper to unconstitutionally usurp power even before the late Tsvangirai’s body had been removed from the mortuary in South Africa.
Personally, I wasn’t impressed by this thuggish and uncouth brand of politics and I promptly resigned from the engulfing madness.
I was not going to be part and parcel of a violent mob that was only interested in grabbing power at whatever cost. This was anathema to my own personal values, beliefs and principles.
In its factions, the MDC is currently ill-disposed to win any national elections. The party has never been this divided in its entire history.
The leadership in the factions are deeply divided and polarized. The level of intra-party hatred is unprecedented. There’s an entrenched lack of party cohesion and there is too much negative energy.
Alternative views and opinions are routinely shot down.
Hero-worshipping is now in vogue. There is no way in which I could continue to associate with such an organization in any of its factions.
The lack of decisiveness in calling for the unconditional lifting of all forms of unilateral and punitive sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe made it impossible for me to continue associating with the party.
Actually, I had had it up to here!
After reaching my Damascene moment regarding sanctions, I could no longer associate with a political party that effectively propagates and lobbies for the continued imposition of these evil and satanic sanctions.
These sanctions have caused and continue to cause untold suffering to the majority of the people of Zimbabwe.
MDC is literally a house on fire. It is a crumbling edifice. Regardless of the denialist tendencies of some MDC leaders, that party has pressed the self-destruct button and at the harmonized elections in 2023, it will suffer a humiliating and crushing defeat at the hands of a resurgent Zanu PF.
Opposition politics in Zimbabwe right now is toxic, divisive and directionless. That is their Achilles’ heel.
Instead of mobilizing and effectively growing their support base on the ground, opposition political parties are busy being swayed and fascinated by social media popularity and activism. They will surely reap their miserable harvest in 2023.
I am not saying that Zanu PF is perfect. No. There is no political party in this world that is perfect. The thrust of my argument is that Zanu PF has a clear and well-defined ideological template. They are a nationalist and Pan-Africanist revolutionary party that fervently advocates for the total and complete political and socio-economic emancipation of the black majority.
I have joined Zanu PF to serve the nation and not to be served. I am perfectly comfortable with being just an ordinary card-carrying member.
I am not a position-oriented party cadre. More and more MDC politicians will be defecting to the ruling Zanu PF party in the coming weeks and months. Few people are able to tolerate the ongoing erosion of internal democratic practices within the MDC’s various formations. Many supporters are completely disgruntled and totally disillusioned.
Obert Gutu is a Harare lawyer and former spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.