By Special Matarirano

THE political discourse that has hit the larger polity in Zimbabwe today is a rhetoric that assumes the MDCs, in their variants, can offer a competent alternative political leadership to Zimbabwe. 

The greater politically active polity is then engaged and persuaded to believe that the MDC in its various forms and variations, needs to be given a chance to lead the country. 

The rhetoric assumes that and is made to be seen inferring that the MDC has not been in the political leadership of the country hence its call for regime change. 

That’s a canard or a daylight robbery of the truth.

For the record, two fundamental events that changed the course of Zimbabwe’s history and fortunes took place in the year 2000. 

The February 2000 constitutional referendum and the June Council and Legislative elections. 

The referendum of February 2000 came to define and created a clear ideological binary on the country’s political discourse. 

On one extreme end stood the opposition MDC whose ascendancy into the political arena stood pillared by the trade unions and the civil society. 

This political outfit brought the ‘politics of now’ albeit with a full renegation of the country’s history, past and enduring liberation aspirations. 

On the other end, was the ruling ZANU PF which had fought and tried to sync into the mainstream national development the ethos of the war. 

The February 2000 referendum then became a litmus test for the battle for controlling the Zimbabwe narrative. 

The referendum produced an enormous ‘no’ vote against the constitution.

The June legislative elections were then held against a perceived loss of ground by the ruling party. 

The opposition MDC spurred by their earlier campaign against the constitutional referendum and the massive support from the urban workers, took most, if not all the urban council elective positions and garnered votes in major towns on the legislative assembly.  

Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru and a lot more towns and cities went to the MDC. 

Although they could not win a majority in Parliament, they had political control of both the urban constituencies and urban councils. 

The question now is how did they use these positions to improve the plight of service delivery to the citizens?

One thing that we must understand from the onset is that the opposition in Zimbabwe was driven by trade, workers and student unionism founded around a political ‘protest’ ideology. 

A political ‘protest’ ideology holds that the host is driven by ‘reactionary’ instincts. 

Born out of protestation, the MDC then failed to come out of its ‘protest’ shell. 

So a sensor for reactionary attitude found a way into the grand practical options of the party. 

Hence from the beginning of their elective service, there were abstruse political reactions by this outfit in response to the ruling party’s programmes for the nation.

So the MDC-controlled urban councils busied themselves in checkmating the ZANU PF national policies, and instead of working to improve the citizens and ratepayers’ service delivery, spent more time on attempting to match ZANU PF ‘blow by blow’. 

What they forgot was that ‘the change’ they had preached waited outside their offices to be actioned. Roads needed mending, waste needed to be managed, healthcare needed to be provided and sanitation and water reticulation needed to be improved. 

All these were waiting to be done in a way different, a new way of doing things, a changed way to befit their ‘chinja maitiro’ mantra. 

After all, the conviction that was driving the opposition was, that ‘the world can be other than it is’. 

But the change never came. 

It was never even seen, never practised, never. 

All what came out from mostly these urban councils was a worsening infrequent water provision, burst water and sewer pipes, faecal contamination of major water sources, deterioration in roads networks, non-functioning traffic lights, non-collection of refuse, among a host of other things.

Over the years, the incarnation of the MDC reviewed its true identity at those local levels. 

Urban councils have mostly remained a preserve ion till today and a look at the current state of these councils reviews the inept neglect that have come to be associated with the party.

A Report of the Auditor-General (2019: 5) on local authorities presented to the Parliament of Zimbabwe for the financial year ended December 31 2018 paints a grim picture of inadequate service provision in the country’s cities and towns.

It depicts a pitiful picture of service delivery characterised by, among other things, paralysis, massive strain, poor and non-existent water provision, intermittent refuse collection and dilapidated service delivery infrastructure. 

The issue of inadequate service delivery was topical throughout 2019 and even courted international news headlines. 

On July 17 2019, US-based CNN reported that over 2 million residents of the City of Harare were accessing water once a week. 

In the same vein, on July 31 2019, The New York Times reported that the City of Bulawayo had gone for over two weeks without water. 

On August 20 2019, online news agency, Pindula, reported that Norton Legislator, Temba Mliswa had taken Norton Town Council to court over alleged poor service delivery. 

The newspaper quoted the legislator saying: “You have to make court applications as that is the language which they can understand. How can they (Norton Town Council) continue collecting rates when they are not providing water or the requisite service delivery?” (Pindula 2019, p.1).

On September 3, The Herald reported that Chitungwiza residents ‘besieged town council offices, manhandled and assaulted Mayor councillor Lovemore Maiko over poor service delivery’. 

Poor service provision is not confined to Harare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and Norton. 

It is a feature that cuts across all 32 cities and towns in Zimbabwe. 

There, however, are two sides of a story. 

The MDC Alliance has found an explanation to the allegation by aligning ‘the Local Government minister’s role in the destabilisation of the councils. 

What they don’t give is what have they managed to achieve within the small scope of their so-called limited jurisdiction in the last 20 years?  

At one point Tapiwa Mashakada, the then deputy secretary-general of the party revealed that 12 councillors were expelled for corruption after an audit in 10 local authority districts around the country. 

The dismissed councillors were Emmanuel Chiroto, (Harare) and was the deputy mayor of Ward 42, Peter Marange of Ward 49, Phumulani Musagwiza of Ward 22 and Xavier Vengesai of Ward 28. 

In Gweru there was Tedius Chimombe of Ward 9, Clemence Kwaru of Ward 17 and Holly Dzuda of Ward 2. 

Bindura had Ivory Matanhire of Ward 4, Vengai Mudadi of Ward 8, Rickson Kaseke of Ward 11. 

In Zvishavane there was Alois Zhou and Kwekwe had Johannes Ngozo of Ward 11. 

Currently we have had the Herbert Gomba and Jacob Mafume issues. 

As a matter of fact, one can easily discern that for the opposition ‘the change’ they sought was to focus on corruption and use of power ultra vires which Bernard Manyenyeni, Gomba and Mafume were all accused of.

How then would the opposition bring change at the national grid when they failed to change the compressed jurisdiction space they had in councils? 

Much as the MDC have issues with the nationalistic ZANU PF ideology, they were and are never supposed to stay ‘in the protest’ ideology of trade unionism, student unionism and labour unionism.

There are therefore discernible issues on the MDC Alliance’s claim that they have never been in power. The only issue that has made them not realise the extent of their contribution towards the wrought they have created in the urban councils is and has a direct result of their advent. 

The February 2000 referendum and the June 2000 parliamentary elections, gave them a false start – the same false start that is likely to engulf them in 2023 and beyond. 

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