By Patson Dzamara
I almost jumped out of my skin after reading a rather uncharacteristic and bold assertion by Dr. Pedzisai Ruhanya.
“90% of the current MDC-T leadership is not fit for purpose. Since the splits of 2005 and 2014, and more specifically after the GNU, the MDC has failed to project itself as a competent leader of society. It has been descending and not ascending. The idea that ZANU PF is decomposing and led by political cadavers does not translate into MDC-T competence. Don’t take advantage of the people’s suffering and assume that in your decomposed state you can run Zimbabwe. Talk of collective tomfoolery. What a group of power hungry delinquents and delusional losers! Shut up, get organised or go to hell or somewhere nearer. The parasitic ‘will to power’ and not ‘will to transform’ has been their occupation. It’s me who said this,” Pedzisai Ruhanya.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
I am not sure what indicators and parameters Ruhanya used to arrive at that somewhat confrontational but thought provoking conclusion. I am however sure that it left me pensive – with my mind meandering far and wide.
Perhaps the best way to unpack Ruhanya’s sentiment is to locate the mainstay of what he deems to be the problem. One wise man once intoned that understanding the problem is halfway solving it. In my view, the issue undergirding Ruhanya’s position has everything to do with talent or lack thereof within the MDC-T.
Admittedly and apparently, the splits and many other vagaries encountered along the way indeed inscribed an indelible ugly mark on the MDC-T notwithstanding that it remains the biggest opposition party in Zimbabwe at the present time. The MDC-T has lurched from one stubborn storm to another and despite that fact that it’s still standing, what can’t be contested is that the effects of the storms are conspicuously far reaching. The storms weakened the party and that is not debatable.
THE PARTY MUST HAVERST TALENT
What I cannot categorically state is the magnitude of the weakness brought about by the storms. In the same vein, what simple logic suggests to me and that I will state emphatically is that the MDC-T needs to harvest talent. That process is more critical now than ever as we stare at the 2018 plebiscite.
Cognisant of the fact that as an organisation, the MDC-T is guided by internal systems and processes, what is important right now is for them (us) to win the 2018 elections. There is absolutely no way the MDC-T, even with the help of its erstwhile cousins under the banner of an opposition alliance will win the forthcoming election without infusing new blood into its system.
The monumental damage of the ravaging storms the party has withstood outweigh the benefits of regrouping. The endgame is not located in regrouping alone even though it’s a quantum leap in the right direction and I have personally supported and pushed for it in my modest way. The endgame is located in harvesting talent. I say this because any individual or group that stagnates is doomed to incompetence – staying relevant means adapting and being dynamic. This means that the opposition needs to take on board the new vibrant elements arising in Zimbabwean society.
WHERE IS THE TALENT?
I have no doubt whatsoever that Zimbabwe is talent infested. There are so many competent Zimbabweans who can aid our journey to a better Zimbabwe in various ways. Some don’t even need to run for office, some don’t even want their names mentioned but they can and are willing to contribute.
The only challenge is that some of them are not within the structures of political parties but that is something which should be easily dealt with. For people who have their hearts and priorities in the right place, it can never be an insurmountable challenge.
What established political parties must be doing right now is stampeding for talent. They must be engaged in a cutthroat process of talent harvesting in order to bolster their chances of winning the forthcoming election. No-one must be left behind, especially those who can add value to the quest for a better Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately, in our part of the world, talent is fought, maligned, resisted and stone walled out. That has to change.
The game changers for the 2018 election are the young people. As such, any process which doesn’t have the young people at its core is doomed to fail.
Approximately above 65% of eligible voters are under the youth bracket. 2% of those between the age of 18 to 35 voted in 2013. 82% of those between the age of 35 to 55 voted in 2013. Those above 55 years constituted 16% of the voters in 2013.
Even though 2% of the youths (those between 18 and 35 years) voted in 2013 they remain the biggest constituency and anyone who increases that number from 2% is going to win the 2018 election. Indifference towards the electoral process has always been the major characteristic associated with this age group. A lot more than the usual rhetoric and approach needs to be done to turn the tables
ZANU PF has understood this cardinal fact and that is why they have inclined towards the young people. The youth interface rallies are not a coincidence. They are a result of a deliberate strategy and effort to entice and tap into the mainstay of the 2018 election. Whoever wins the youth votes wins the election in 2018.
On the other hand, I see very little being done by the opposition to assimilate young leaders into the alliance or to attract the critical youth vote. Ready for any sort of rebuttal which may emanate from me stating this, I will go ahead and state that an alliance without space for young leaders who are not a part of the political structures is not going to deliver the new Zimbabwe we want.
Like it or not, young leaders like Evan Mawarire, Fadzayi Mahere, Vimbai Musvaburi, Maureen Kademaunga and Promise Mkwananzi matter more than any opposition political party as far as the youth vote is concerned. And that youth vote is what will carry the day in the 2018 election.
With all due respect, these young leaders are more appealing and acceptable to the youths than any political party and their 60 something years old leaders. Ignoring this unquestionable and readily available talent is a sure recipe for disaster and I actually shudder to imagine what will happen is this pack of young leaders chooses to take the path which was taken by institutions such as the EFF of South Africa.
IT MUST BE A NEW AND WINNING FORMATION
The honest truth is that what we need right now is a new formation altogether. Our antiquated rhetoric and dogma will not help us. A new formation comprising of the old and new is needed as soon as possible.
I follow soccer and I am an avid supporter of Barcelona Football Club based in Spain.
In my many years of following soccer I have learnt that whenever a team is losing a game, the coach usually changes the formation. That is done through substitution and introducing new players. At times, taking a gamble through changing the formation is necessary and I have witnessed it bearing good results in many cases. Even if it doesn’t bear any fruits, there is no harm in trying because the team will be losing anyway.
We must truncate the spirit of entitlement. No-one is entitled to anything. All we need is the best team to be assembled.
I have witnessed how super stars like Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo get angry when they are substituted. It’s because they feel entitled. But if it’s not their day, they must give others a chance. This is what political leaders must be teaching their followers at this critical juncture.
I like what the leader of the MDC-T, Morgan Tsvangirai said at the alliance rally launch last Saturday. He said that no-one is entitled to anything and that the seats belong to Zimbabweans not individuals or political parties.
That should be our default posture as we come up with a new formation. No-one is entitled to anything. Let’s field the best team regardless of party affiliation or standing. It’s all about winning the election collectively and resoundingly.
If I want to contest in Mutoko for instance, I must not be judged based on my party affiliation but competence. It must not be about where I am coming from but what I can bring to the table.
We must have a new and winning formation transcending political boundaries and dogmatic positions.
Patson Dzamara is leadership coach and author, political activist and analyst based in Harare.