After 14 years of major strategic mistakes and failures, I firmly believe that Mr Tsvangirai is no longer electable and thus not worth staying with. He has contradicted just about every statement he has made and broken just about every promise he has made. The latest election failure was a predictable tragedy. It is clear now that under Tsvangirai the MDC has no capacity to revamp and rejuvenate itself, offer new and better ideas to the electorate today and well into the 2018 general election and beyond.
For the first time in Zimbabwean politics, Matabeleland is no longer a guaranteed constituency for the opposition and that reflects badly on Tsvangirai; any objective MDC performance review should be recommending that he stands down. However, with Tsvangirai at the helm, the capacity of the party to even consider questioning the leadership is questionable; owing to his overbearing leadership style, major organisational and systemic safeguards meant to protect the party from its executive excesses and foster internal transparency have been compromised and weakened to an extent that they are no longer capable of holding the leadership to account.
The mark of a great leader is the ability to appreciate when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish greater ones; Tsvangirai has to give way now for his own political future and that of the opposition movement. He has to appreciate that his position as a leader is a privilege not a right and that he has taken the party as far as he could; his brand has reached its limit and he is increasingly becoming a liability to the progress of the party. The MDC needs new leadership with fresh ideas for an effective rebranding exercise, forging new relationships with other opposition parties, winning the rural constituency confidence and reclaiming its labour origins.
Without a doubt, Tsvangirai has played a significant role in opposition politics and has at times taken illegal and heavy blows while dealing with a repressive ZANU PF regime. However, serious as they are, the personal physical hits he has suffered as the opposition leader should not cloud our judgement of his performance as the leader of the MDC. There is no room for sentiment here; Tsvangirai is a good leader but what we have seen is that being good is no longer enough, the opposition needs an excellent leader and Mr Tsvangirai is quite frankly not that leader.
Tsvangirai has committed serious judgement errors that have severely compromised the opposition progress. He has contradicted just about every statement he has made and broken just about every promise he has made. The failure to respect internal party processes led to the split of 2005; agitating for targeted sanctions that turned out to be more global than targeted; the ill-advised dash to the Dutch embassy in the 2008 disputed election, the withdrawal from the election re-run and the subsequent joining in the government of national unity (GNU) mainly at ZANU PF’s terms.
Significantly, Tsvangirai has failed to convince the rural constituency that he can truly represent their conscience; the party has not devoted enough time to articulate its agrarian reform programme including land ownership laws to an anxious rural population.
Zimbabweans have shown time and again that they can respond to clearly defined goals as evidenced in the Constitutional Referendum in 2000. Right now Zimbabwe is crying out for a credible opposition leader. Under Tsvangirai’s leadership, the MDC has become more of a movement for unspecified democratic change, an also-ran.
The failure to articulate his vision for Zimbabwe and the reluctance to effectively share power and genuinely effect diffusion of power within the MDC structures has been the Achilles’ heel of his entire leadership tenure and the major factor in the latest poor election performance. The MDC’s political fortunes are still too dependent on ZANU PF’s performance; the party has yet to step up from being a mere protest party. Lack of innovation has rendered the MDC an inferior replica of ZANU PF hence an ineffectual opposition entity.
The renewal and rebranding of the MDC must start now and I honestly do not envisage Tsvangirai – a man too intricately linked with the recent MDC failures – being essential and relevant to the future not only of the MDC but that of the entirety of the opposition movement, certainly not as a leader.