Is MDC the new Zanu PF?
05 Jun 2018
Under the stewardship of its late founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) maintained a non-violent stance and insisted on ‘free and fair’ elections.
That way, the party won the hearts of many Zimbabweans and the international community. Its ability to thrive in a hostile environment characterized by violence without engaging in the same was admirable. Since 2002, MDC activists were harassed, brutalized, raped or even killed as Zanu PF supporters unleashed new techniques to intimidate and torture them.
Naturally women bore the brunt of this violence, as they were more vulnerable – if they were not victims, they were widowed.
Not only does Zanu PF have a history of turning against the opposition but it has perennially marginalised women in the party. Women in the party have been relegated a status of endorsing party positions, made by a predominantly male leadership. They are cheerleaders who are violently pushed out of the party if they challenge the status quo. Former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s ouster in 2014 is an example of this. Her ejection from the party was accompanied by attempts to humiliate her through the changing of a heroic liberation narrative as a freedom fighter by attaching labels of her as a ‘loose’ woman.
In his book, Pedagogy of the oppressed, Paulo Freire states that over time the oppressed start internalising the ways of their oppressor. He says that the oppressed begin to desire the position and role of the oppressor so that when they are eventually promoted to a position of authority, they may actually become more oppressive than the original taskmaster.
Could this be the case with the MDC?
Signs of the Internalised Oppressor Complex
The culture of violence and intolerance, which has crept into the MDC over the years has today left the same women that sought refuge in the party suffering or pushed to the periphery.
Early signs of the party evolving to can be traced as far back as 2006. That year, former Member of Parliament, Trudy Stevenson, was assaulted with other members in Mabvuku for belonging to a rival faction. Later in 2014, the party’s Harare North Youth Secretary for Information, Angela Hwanyanya was also beaten on allegations of belonging to a faction led by Elton Mangoma.
So the recent occurrences in which former, Deputy President of the party, Thokozani Khupe became a victim, the party had morphed into the very oppressor that it was fighting against. Khupe was assaulted by members in the party at a rally in Bulawayo and at Tsvangirai’s funeral in Buhera. Later at a Supreme court hearing, members of the party court labeled her a “whore” in chants that followed the setting aside of a ruling by the High Court that a faction she leads, could use the party and symbols.
Most disturbing is the fact that the MDC youth, known as the Vanguard, are in essence, a militia that have been in the forefront of terrorising members of the party that are seen to go against the grain. For example, former Harare West legislator, Jessie Majome, alleges that she was abused by party youths (both young men and women) by being called names on social media platforms. It is clear that Majome was ‘managed out’ of the party and was forced to opt standing as an independent candidate in the same constituency.
Time for real change
So even though, MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa has castigated the ill treatment of Khupe and other women in the party, it will take concerted effort to redirect the movement towards non-violence and tolerance. This is particularly as some women in the party are allegedly also participating in the continuing violations against their counterparts or endorsing sexism against women by its leadership.
It is the responsibility of the party’s new leadership to stir the ship back to the founding values of tolerance. This can be achieved through reflection, introspection and ultimately bold decision making in flushing out any oppressor tendencies within the party.
The current state of toxicity and violence that the party finds itself in will alienate women who for a significant number of years, had found refuge in the party, as they exercised their democratic rights as citizens.
Itai Nyamawuya is a passionate writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. He is also a Gender Focal Person for Magamba Network. He is a design engineer by training.
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