Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has sacked the party’s secretary-general, Tendai Biti. The sacking on Tuesday, April 29, is a sign of further disintegration on the part of the once-powerful opposition party, leaving something of a void in the Zimbabwean political environment. According to Reuters, Mr Tsvangirai sacked the respected Mr Biti (a former finance minister) following a series of power-grabbing moves in the MDC last weekend where the Biti-faction of the party said it had suspended Mr Tsvangirai for “violence and violation of the MDC constitution.” Several other senior officials were fired, including the party’s deputy leader Thokozani Khupe and national chair Lovemore Moyo. Mr Biti declared himself in charge, but on Tuesday Mr Tsvangirai hit back by sacking Mr Biti and reinstating the suspended officials.
While it remains unclear exactly who is in charge of the MDC, the fact is that it matters very little. Three weeks ago at the first (apparent) bout of infighting, we argued that the MDC was a dead party walking and that what really mattered is that Zimbabwe must find an opposition political party worthy of the name in order to prevent the political environment falling (once again) under the complete domination of ZANU-PF.
With the MDC now on the brink of total collapse, it becomes even more important for credible opposition leaders to regroup and form a viable and worthy opposition capable of taking on ZANU-PF, as the MDC of old once demonstrated was possible. If Mr Tsvangirai had even a fraction of honour he would have resigned after the party’s dismal poll performance instead of continuing with less-than-credible complaints and moaning about ZANU-PF stealing the 2013 election. The fact is that the MDC were so poor it was probably the first time in 15 years that ZANU-PF had no need to cheat. In any event, Mr Tsvangirai shows no inclination to accept responsibility and quit, so it may be time to move on and reinvent the opposition or Zimbabwe may well slide backwards once again.
WHY DO WE CARE? As we have argued previously, the ructions and infighting in the MDC are meaningless, pointless, and make absolutely no difference to anyone outside the party, so why we would care is a difficult question. But we must repeat: in order to prevent yet another backward slide in the country and another bout of suicidal politics under ageing megalomaniacs, the emergence of an effective, credible and decisive political opposition is crucial. Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC are not that opposition – and perhaps even under new leadership will still not be that opposition. Zimbabwe faces the real danger of regression in the face of the ruling party’s current absolute power and the documented weakness of regional groupings to protect ordinary Zimbabweans.
Analyst: Gary van Staden