There is an interesting quotation from the Old Man in Charles Mungoshi’s “Waiting for the Rain” (1975).
It is a quotation that epitomises his lament about the alienation that has afflicted Lucifer, his grandson.
As the family prepares for the departure of Lucifer to Europe, the Old Man says something very profound to his grandson who seems to have given his back to the African ways of doing things in preference to the white man’s when he warns: “Remember that you are Black and no soap on earth will wash that colour of your face . . . And no amount of sleeping with the (palest) of their womenfolk nor any amount of eating at the same table with them will ever make you clean enough in their eyes. So, go there, see everything and envy nothing. Hear everything and reveal nothing . . .”
Despite the Old Man’s warnings, it appears Lucifer had already made up his mind never to return to his homeland, specifically Manyene communal lands which he described as “scorched nothing-between-here-and-the horizon white lands”.
Lucifer views his own people with scorn and fails to realise that the debilitating situation in Manyene is not out of their own making.
Colonialism pushed them into barren lands, but Lucifer is so de-familiarised from his own community that all he thinks about is to go to Europe and pursue abstract art and never to return back.
Lucifer suffers from rootlessness and brainwashing from colonial education. Without any ideological grounding and appreciation of his and his people’s historical circumstances, he is easily persuaded to frown upon his people.
In my view, the MDC Alliance, which of late has been experiencing defections, suffers from rootlessness and lack of an ideological glue that binds membership to a common vision and values.
The defections are a reflection of a deeper malaise afflicting the party especially after its defeat in the last Presidential election, which Nelson Chamisa lost to President Mnangagwa.
But the signs of an implosion were always there since the death of founding leader Morgan Tsvangira. In fact, it goes back to the time when Munyaradzi Gwisai decided to leave the party in 2002.
After failing to sway the party towards socialist leaning as a workers-based party, Gwisai decided to quit after realising that its leaders were mere lapdogs of the West.
One Takura Zhangaza once commented that being young was not a passport for winning elections or was not an ideology worth galvanising a party into a united entity.
Zhangazha could not have been more accurate in his analysis. In fact, what was clear since the party’s inception was that at some stage it was bound to run out of steam due to lack of an enduring ideological foundation.
Successful political organisations are never sustained by hollow political rhetoric or some religious fanaticism. Genuine practical grievances framed within a shared broader enduring ideological premise sustain political parties all over the world.
Sporadic popular discontent can be catalysts for mobilisation, but beyond that, political parties need to harness periodic disillusionment through ideological frameworks that bind membership.
This has not been the case with the MDC Alliance, whose founding leader described himself as a social democrat, whatever that means.
As they say, curses are like chickens, they always come home to roost. The centre in MDC Alliance is not holding. Chamisa can prance and pontificate all he wants, but the truth is people are getting disillusioned by his leadership style and the lack of strategic alternative vision to the one offered by the revolutionary Zanu-PF party.
Devoid of ideological foundational ethos coupled with perennial electoral failures, individuals’ interests are getting the better of a party, which at its inaugural electoral contest gave the governing party a run for its money.
While the lack of a binding ideological framework forms the party of the main malady in the opposition party, other critical issues have propped and are rendering the party moribund.
The party’s affinity to the West and its apparent endorsement by white former commercial farmers made it a clear front for neo-colonial interests.
The MDC has never made some efforts to repudiate that tag of being a Western puppet party probably for fear of chasing away its traditional funders, most of whom are domiciled in the West.
No one could have put it better in describing the problems of the MDC Alliance than the party’s former policy coordinator general and former MP for Bulawayo South, Eddie Cross.
We need to listen when Cross speaks because he was the party’s key strategist.
On 7 October 2017, Cross penned a piece on his blog site titled “Life is not Far,” The gist of his article is summarised in the following quotation: “Mnangagwa is in absolute control of the State and I think he is going to deliver. One of the key elements behind this strategy is that he knows the opposition is in shambles. The other thing he knows fully well is that only a democratically-elected Government will be recognised by the international community and recovery and reconstruction of the Zimbabwe state and economy is not possible without that.
“I was given a transcript of his speech in Shona to the faithful at the Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare when he returned from his brief exile while the ‘coup’ was planned and executed. In that address he showed clearly that he understood what a free and fair election meant for him and the party.
“Already, you can feel the impact of his early momentum. Time will tell, but the early indications are that we will see very significant changes in 2018 and that our economy and maybe our country will begin the long road back to where we should have been . . .”
The key input in Cross’ piece is that the opposition was in “shambles” and was in sixes and sevens, unable to offer a new nuanced paradigm different from the “Mugabe must go” mantra. He could not have been so prophetic.
Cross was to repeat his statements later in an interview with Star FM’s George Msumba when he described the situation within the MDC as similar to “herding cats” with people running in every direction and that it’s almost as if there is no centre calling shots anymore. Cross predicted serious fractious leadership contests after the demise of Tsvangirai. He was right.
It may be too late for the MDC to try and formulate an enduring ideological framework able to glue the fractious groups together who from the onset represented divergent interests.
It might also be very late for the MDC to have a paradigm shift divorced from speaking out about hollow issues meant to please benefactors to real issues that give hope to their supporters.
As I have always emphasised, the MDC Alliance’s top leadership have failed to transition from the rhetoric of student politics to national politics governed by national interests. The lack of a body of ideas that binds is the party’s Achilles heel.