How Britain left MDC-T in the cold

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By Tafadzwa Masango

HAVE you ever watched an accident taking place?
The whole tragic affair might happen in a matter of seconds but for someone to narrate in detail what happened, it might take more than 15 minutes.
These past days it has been like a hopeless bystander watching a drunk driver recklessly weaving through traffic, going through red traffic lights until his car jumps the curb and smashes into a store front.
That crash not only damages his vehicle and the building, but also injures the drunk driver who gets out his wrecked vehicle oblivious of what has just happened and proceeds to lay down on the curb and falls asleep.
The safety of his passengers is not assured.
The recent developments which have seen some senior MDC politicians, that party’s appendages in civil society and supporters coming out guns blazing against the British establishment are much like the gloomy clouds that are the prelude to a heavy storm.
Much like the helpless bystander, many Zimbabweans have been watching as the MDC took the unfortunate steps that led to their recent embarrassment and unprofessional conduct.
It all began with efforts by the MDC to attempt to outshine the new dispensation following a recent visit by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Sibusiso Busi Moyo, to the UK.
One has to understand this really fazed the opposition, which, much like a spoilt territorial child, has always regarded the Brits as ‘theirs’, given that that party’s roots can be traced back to that country.
For so long, the narrative has been that ZANU PF and its successive governments have no sympathetic ear in the West because of the whole regime change business and the MDC has always been welcomed with open arms ‘overseas’ because it was pushing the same agenda as the West – ‘removing ZANU PF from power.’
So when it looked like the red carpets had been rolled out for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s emissary, the MDC went into panic mode because their golden goose (mhene) looked like it was about to switch sides.
The panic, which saw Nelson Chamisa, Tendai Biti and company pulling all stops to wish away the narrative that Britain is now ‘siding’ with ZANU PF, has seen them not only attacking the British media, the local British Embassy and Ambassador Catriona Laing but also criticising the UK and Standard Chartered Bank for advancing any financial assistance to private Zimbabwean companies.
The ‘ZANU PF must be removed from power’ narrative has always been the golden key that opened doors for the MDC in the West and with former President Robert Mugabe now out of ZANU PF, it has been shamelessly lobbying that President Mnangagwa is the new bogeyman and it, again, has the most chance of removing ZANU PF from power.
To understand the MDC’s targeted wrath at the British, one has to take a trip down memory lane.
In 1998, Britain prevailed upon the European Union (EU) to commission a study on Zimbabwe.
The study was conducted by the Conflict Prevention Network (CNP), a division of the EU Analysis and Evaluation Centre. CNP produced a report titled, Zimbabwe: A Conflict Study of a Country without Direction which was forwarded to the EU Africa Working Group.
This report, together with a draft produced by the Harare-based director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Rudolph Trauber-Merz, that same year convinced the EU to support the ‘Robert Mugabe must go’ drive.
With the rest of the EU having come on board, a rapid succession of meetings in Europe and the US were undertaken.
Among other things was the formation of an opposition political party for Zimbabwe which would be the vehicle to topple Mugabe and ZANU PF.
One of the first meetings in this respect was convened at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London on January 24 1999.
At the meeting, experts on Zimbabwe thoroughly examined the implications of the EU decision and charted out strategies to be adopted to achieve the objective of removing ZANU PF from power.
The meeting was led by Richard Dowden, who, years later, became the director of the Royal African Society.
Four optional strategies that needed to be developed and implemented were presented as:
– A military coup.
– Buying the opposition.
– Insurrection.
– Subverting ZANU PF.
Another major meeting was held across the Atlantic Ocean, two months later, at the US State Department on March 23 1999.
The seminar, whose agenda was to discuss a strategy for dealing with the ‘Zimbabwe crisis’, came up with the following strategies:
– Civil society and the opposition to be strengthened to foment discontent and dissent.
– The opposition to be brought together under a single banner to enhance its chances of success at the polls.
– Funding to be funnelled to the opposition through Western-backed non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
– Dissident groups to be strengthened and encouraged to take to the streets.
On how to create the perfect vehicle to push for ZANU PF’s removal, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) was a ready-made halfway house for the political party that would challenge ZANU PF.
The NCA provided the various sectors that the political party needed and it could be used to build the structures for the said party.
There was work already underway to transform the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) into a political party and the seeds for this had been sown by George Limke of the Danish Trade Union Council.
Limke was posted to Zimbabwe between 1996 and 1999 with the main task of identifying which other groups in the country, apart from ZCTU, needed to join this new political vehicle that would be at the forefront of the regime change agenda.
Among those roped in were students through the Zimbabwe National Students Union.
ZINASU and another youth movement, Youth Initiative for Democracy (YIDEZ), were the creation of the US.
The US State Department’s Zimbabwe 2007 Performance Report reads: “Youth organisations like the ZINASU and YIDEZ are two good examples of civil society organisations that were natured through US funding from an ideal to a level where they are able to stand on their own and attract other funders.”
For those not privy to ZINASU’s roots, the union was formed by the American Embassy in 1986 for the sole purpose of destabilising ZANU PF.
ZINASU was to become the major training platform for opposition and resistance politics which eventually grew to be the pillar of the regime change agenda in Zimbabwe.
A good number of opposition and regime change proponents in Zimbabwe today, such as senior and prominent figures in the MDC, NGO and civil society sectors, were nursed by the US State Department through ZINASU.
Arthur Mutambara, Learnmore Jongwe, Job Sikhala, Tafadzwa Musekiwa, Munyaradzi Gwisai, Nelson Chamisa and Marvellous Khumalo, are just but a few who were at one time or other leaders in ZINASU.
When the MDC was formally launched in 1999, ZINASU was a key stakeholder.
Today, it seems the ‘dividends’ are paying off as the MDC-Alliance is dominated by ZINASU alumni from over the years, with the old and new members all hoping for a piece of the pie.
The heartbreaking thing in all this is, the US, through ZINASU, stole a whole generation of students in whom ZANU PF, as a Government, invested a chunk of the country’s resources.
They were stolen, misdirected and turned into a weapon for regime change.
Great minds who were supposed to be harnessed for the betterment of their nation became a national security threat in the hands of the West.
Anyway, I digress.
Following the decision to form the MDC by the West, most of the money to be used to set up the party’s structures was supplied by the British Government through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). WFD is the British equivalent of the US’ National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The two governments use these pseudo NGOs to carry out destabilisation activities in foreign countries under the guise of promoting democracy.
WFD funds British foreign policy projects through financial disbursements to three main British political parties — the Conservative Party, the New Labour Party and the Liberal Democratic Party.
Other projects are funded through the Labour movement and the Chamber of Commerce.
WFD financed all manner of backroom operations in Zimbabwe.
It paid operatives, organised seminars and assisted in the designing and printing of political party cards for the MDC. Between 1999 and 2001, WFD would publish on its website the funds disbursed and the use of those funds to the MDC.
This came to an abrupt stop when the Zimbabwe Government exposed the disbursements as evidence of British interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.
One can only wonder how much money has been disbursed to the MDC and its appendages since 2001.
A cursory analysis of the disbursements shows that the British Government funded the following MDC activities:
– Printing of MDC membership cards.
– £10 000 from the Labour Party to assist the MDC to train to produce membership cards before their first national conference in early 2000.
– Consolidation to party structures throughout the country.
– £30 000 from the Labour Party to assist the MDC to consolidate party structures throughout the country.
– Trips by MDC officials to London for briefings.
-Zimbabwe ahead of the presidential and other elections by bringing to the UK key leaders of the movement for briefings.
l Preparation of campaign materials for local government and parliamentary candidates.
– £5 263 from the Labour Party to assist the MDC to produce campaign material, especially for women candidates and voters in the run-up to the general elections in 2000.
– Payment of salaries for MDC office holders.
– £126 000 from the Liberal Democrats to provide salary support for the youth and women’s chairpersons for MDC in Zimbabwe in 2001.
– Production of leaflets and other propaganda materials.
– £8 594 from the Labour Party to assist the MDC to increase political awareness through the radio, in advance of the elections in June 2000.
– £7 018 from the Labour Party to assist the MDC in targeting women voters through media
– Acommunications to encourage them to vote in the
– Elections due in June 2000.
– Funding of provincial workshops, conferences and other MDC meetings.
– £19 982 from the Labour Party and £10 000 from the Liberal Democrats to assist the MDC to train party representatives on election monitoring techniques for the June 2000 elections.
l- £10 625 from the Labour Party to assist the MDC to organise workshops on election strategy in preparation for the forthcoming Presidential elections starting from July 2001.
– Payment of British experts attached to the MDC full time.
£10 000 from the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats in a project to continue training MDC party representatives in election monitoring techniques for the June 2000 elections.
– Funding of radio programmes.
– £8 594 from the Labour Party to assist the MDC to increase political awareness through the radio, in advance of the elections in June 2000.
– Purchase of office equipment.
– £4 375 from the Labour Party to assist the MDC in Zimbabwe to purchase a photocopier to produce materials in preparation for the elections in June 2000.
Apart from the British, the MDC has been receiving funds from the US, Canada, Australia and Europe.
The funding has been channelled mostly through NGOs.
Another crucial player in the regime change plot was the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust (ZDT).
The Trust was set up in 2000 to agitate for former President Mugabe’s ouster from power.
The patrons of this Trust read like a ‘who is who’ members list of the British and American establishment that had ties and interests to protect from a nationalist Government in Zimbabwe.
Theirs is a story for another day.
The MDC is Britain’s baby and like any child, it must have been shocking and distressing for Chamisa and Biti to find out that their mother had ‘baby dumped’ them in favour of ZANU PF.
The MDC has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the British establishment for close to two decades under the premise that ‘one of these days it would manage to remove ZANU PF from power’.
Surely pouring money into a project for over 20 years and not getting a return is equally troubling for the Brits.
The MDC had two tasks: ‘Removing former President Mugabe and ZANU PF from power’.
ZANU PF is still in power and Mugabe resigned through internal ZANU PF processes.
The tantrum being thrown by the likes of Biti, who has sunk so low as to engage in social media tirades against the Brits and their ambassador should be seen as the proverbial ‘chickens coming home to roost.’
When you spoon-feed insurgents, especially arrogant self-serving ones such as Biti, the day the tap runs dry, they are bound to turn on you.
This ‘throwing of toys out of the pram’ incident was bound to happen, as the tell-tale signs have always been there.
Now the British Embassy has been forced to spin the whole incident and is attempting to present itself as never having been a player in Zimbabwe’s political arena in the last 20 years.
I end with this: Dear former colonial masters, next time do remember, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Ours was a bilateral issue.
Three prime ministers (1997 – 2016) and their advisors chose to internationalise in a bid to win a battle which became a war that has had casualities on both sides, but more on the Zimbabwean side.
Years of economic isolation and sabotage have taken their toll on Zimbabwe.
However, pertaining the US, Britain and the MDC connection, there is no doubt the ‘chickens are coming home to roost’ for the MDC.
In fact, it’s a bolt from the blue.

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