The Zimbabwe Sentinel-Media Centre

Telling the other story – MEDIA CENTRE

Opinion & Analysis

Remembering #Zimbabwe ’s Opposition Political Movement.

By Takura Zhangazha

Someone accused me of betraying the mainstream opposition political movement. I laughed out quite loudly. I have not been involved in opposition politics for at least eight years. I however am a founder member of at least two organizations in the mainstream civil society and opposition politics.

The first being the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) which I left after internal disagreements about the format of changing it into a political party. The second being the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) which when we formed/formalized it in Chitungwiza in September 1999 what we considered a proper working people’s leftist movement.

So I know most of the actors’ in the current debacle about the future of the national political opposition. Including those who have passed on and those that are alive. I also know those that joined well after. Either in opportunistic or religious fervor.

I am also slightly tired of the tag that I could have been a better political leader in one respect or the other.

And for this reason I will explain my personal political journey in Zimbabwe’s opposition politics between 1999 and 2008. After that I have had temporary solace in working in the development NGO sector.

As abstract as it may seem, I was involved in the formation of the original MDC at the National Working Peoples Convention in 1998 through to its launch via the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) in 1999.

I was also a bit part player in the negotiations that led to the Global Political Agreement on an Inclusive Government of 2009 until 2013. As facilitated by SADC under the aegis of the legendary former South African president, Thabo Mbeki.

I never worked for the inclusive government but I understood its nuances and its mechanics. By the time the inclusive governments tenure was over, based on constitutional court cases, I also quickly realized that opposition politics in Zimbabwe had changed.

Within the then social and civil society movements we had already done the Zimbabwe People’s Charter, one that was deemed too ‘leftist’ to receive international rightwing support. The NCA had also decided to transform itself into a political party, a decision me and a few colleagues agonized over and eventually had to leave the organization because we saw a regrettable lack of organic political direction. An issue which still vindicates us today.

But back to the inclusive government and the failure of the opposition to defeat the ruling Zanu PF establishment in 2013. To be honest we were shocked at our electoral loss. We assumed it was a given that the vote would go in our oppositional favour. We had failed to factor in the rural vote, the changes in urban settlements and also the moral questions around our then national opposition leader.

But we lived to fight another day in one form or the other. We were products of two processes. The labour unions and the students unions. The front runners were the ZCTU and for us, as leaders of students unions was the Zimbabwe National Students Unions (ZINASU). For the latter our able leader was Hopewell Gumbo, popularly referred to as “Msavayha” because he was studying surveying and our Secretary General was Nelson Chamisa who was at that time studying marketing at the Harare Polytechnic.

There were many other comrades that helped with the expansion of opposition politics in Zimbabwe. Suffice to say it was both the labour and student movements that formed the mainstream opposition as we know it today.

The key point however is to explain the disastrous state of our opposition politics today. We were originally leftist opposition comrades. We derided ESAP and also initially argued for a land reform programme before the Chinotimba war veterans started invading farms in what they called the 3rd Chimurenga.

We argued among ourselves about what should be the way forward and the legendary Morgan Tsvangirai accused us of being ‘nhinhi” for refusing the new constitution in 2013. A term we accepted after the 2013 referendum ‘yes vote’ as the peoples will.

But the question remains about the state of our contemporary opposition politics. I have not been involved in it for at least ten years. What I know is that it has lost its organic link to the working people of Zimbabwe

It has a new mix of religion, politics and a very abstract populism. It does not belong anymore to the people as it used to. Never mind the vote counts. It remains a created construct that many comrades flow toward because of materialist reasoning and inferiority complexes.

Personally, I take responsibility of the state of affairs of the opposition given my own history. We saw what was coming. We did not think through it. And we are between a rock and a hard place. But we will recover.


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