When the Morgan Tsvangirai led MDC-T first attempted to have Mps that had broken ranks with the party recalled in parliament, they met resistance as the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda said only the courts could settle the dispute.
Tendai Biti bragged then that he was an authority on matters of the law and if ever efforts of recalling the MPs succeeded he would change
his name to Morgan Mugabe. To him chances of this happening were very remote.
Indeed they would be remote for as long as the Renewal group enjoyed the protection of ZANU PF and institutions it controls. But circumstances have changed within ZANU PF and this is playing out in parliament.
The ruling party also has its own rebels to deal with and it has its own power struggles that are spilling into government and other state institutions. It is being proactive and leaving nothing to chance.
Biti had already showed his sympathies to the Mujuru camp by his representation of Gideon Gono in his court case against Munyaradzi Kereke. While Biti’s backers defended him saying he was exercising his professional rights, political animals saw otherwise.
Now the ruling party has struck Biti and company. In their confusion they are now at war with Tsvangirai. They have accused Tsvangirai of working together with ZANU PF and donating seats to ZANU PF. The argument has its own merits but on further interrogation it carries no water. Noone accused Biti and company for working with ZANU PF while Mudenda chose to protect them.
First and foremost ZANU PF has two thirds majority giving it the power and right to change the constitution or make decisions it wants. The seats that Biti and company controlled were cosmetic and of no significant political relevance. They would not block any proposed laws or do anything significant. Perhaps what has been lost is quality parliamentary debate.
The truth is ZANU PF remains in control with or without the Renewal group in parliament. What has been lost here are the allowances and other patrimonial benefits that would have accrued to the honourable former MPs. The cries of bitterness are more about the twin cabs and sitting allowances that have been lost.
What is lost though by Tsvangirai’s seemingly spiteful decision is any chance of reconciliation with his erstwhile Cdes. This development will further widen the chasm between Tsvangirai and his former colleagues and strengthen ZANU PF’s chances of a landslide victory in
The decision is likely to put the final nail on the renewal’s political coffin. They have not shown that they have supporters who can make them win in 2018. In fact they may go the route of Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC.
This is not to say Tsvangirai will be better off. The rebels may be irrelevant but they have the inevitable effect of eating into Tsvangirai’s support base. These developments may spell doom for the Renewal group but they also mean that Tsvangirai will have less supporters come 2018.
It remains to be seen how the political permutations will play out considering that the ruling party also has its own internal fights. Some argue it will also be weakened. This is true but ZANU PF’ ability to organise itself and regroup is legendary. Despite its weakness it also still controls the state’s levers of power and therefore in a better position to preserve its power.
A more significant point is that the vacancy in parliament could be a source of infighting in the MDC-T.The party has split before over differences on whether to participate or not in elections.
Already there is a congress decision not to participate in any elections until the electoral environment is reformed. The party has already indicated it may revisit this congress resolution as the constituencies concerned are traditional MDC-T strongholds.
Whether this rethink is based on principle or personal interest is anybody’s guess. If it turns out that some within the party are willing to bend congress resolutions in order to get into parliament it would be very worrying. Being in parliament will come with its own perks and those who think stand to benefit may be tempted to bulldoze congress resolutions for personal aggrandizement.
It would all a garden of roses if the seats are retained but if they are lost the long term ramifications may be far reaching. If they are lost, the MDC-T must not expect public sympathy. There is a genuine risk that its cries of an uneven electoral environment will not be taken seriously by both the electorate and other key regional bodies such as SADC. Participating means legitimizing whatever processes that are in existence and one must not only accept outcomes that are favorable to them.
If the MDC-T decides to participate in this election, it then must be ready to throw into the water any future arguments about the electoral environment being unfair.