Yesterday, on Facebook, I asked what people think of the emergence of Independent candidates as we approach elections, particularly Advocate Fadzayi Mahere who has caused much comment with her decision to run for MP in Mount Pleasant.
This is a topic I had given much thought to and I sought to see what other people thought, and more importantly why some would support such candidates.
A number of the people who responded castigated Mahere and company for what they view as a sure way to divide the opposition vote and therefore benefit the current government. Others went as far as accusing Mahere of being a decoy planted to give ZANU PF an advantage citing her background and familial links to power, a point given more cogency when she was granted an interview in the State run Herald.
The other group insisted that Mahere and the others, like all of us, have a democratic right to not only vote but also contest. Additionally as a friend eruditely put it, a democracy can only benefit from more candidates and no one owes the opposition (MDC) anything. The electorate’s votes must be earned, not given to the opposition merely because they oppose ZANU PF.
These are the two camps in which most people who have an opinion on the matter generally fall and social media is full of debates either in support or rebuttal.
My own view is that, while I am not opposed to them exercising their democratic right, the candidature of these new entrants- at least in its present form as “Independents”- is unhelpful in the pursuance of a better state of affairs than the mess we are in.
The reason I say this is because I think a party or politician wants to achieve one of the following objectives: to get into power proper by having a majority or presidency, to have enough seats or numbers to get into a bargaining position, like the EFF in South Africa, or to have enough numbers to bring attention to a cause.
Realistically speaking the independents in Zimbabwe cannot attain any of these goals; the first and second are absolutely impossible while the latter is, in our situation, not of great import- there’s simply no such cause.
Additionally in the current setup, it should be clear after 37 years of Independence that only winning the Presidency matters. The point that parliament or councilors have any power is, quite frankly, academic. For all their good intentions and abilities, councilors and MPs will inevitably be impeded by Presidential and ministerial decree.
Since the “Independents” cannot win, every vote cast for them is a vote not cast for someone who might win. Thus to vote for them is in effect t0 give votes to the incumbents.
This is why some people will feel like Independent candidates are there to split the votes and prolong ZANU PF rule. It is not a fear entirely unfounded, the memories of 2008 are fresh in people’s minds. To such people Independent candidates are little more than puny opportunists out to muddle the political waters and confuse the electorate.
The logical conclusion therefore, is that unless one is content with the existing order, we should rally behind a single candidate. In this case that candidate is Morgan Tsvangirai, for the simple reason that he commands the greatest support of all opposition players.
The question of whether Tsvangirai is suitable to lead is one that should be contextually considered. In other words it should be whether Tsvangirai is better as compared to Mugabe who has led us for almost 4 decades.
To pit Tsvangirai against Nkosana Moyo and then call him, for whatever reason, unqualified is an unhelpful characterization. It is a view that I feel is prevalent in the well-off middle class, aspiring political players and the intellectuals in their ivory towers who view the rest of us as cretinous.
Tsvangirai is not perfect, far from it but at the end of the day the question that I think we ought to answer is whether we should continue with Mugabe or perhaps change the government. This is a question for each individual to answer.
Yet the MDC must be reminded that it is indeed not entitled to our votes and should perhaps start a thorough introspection especially pertaining to the caliber of their Parliamentary and Council candidates, a great number of which have been outed as corrupt, while others have been in Parliament for so long that they consider being an MP a full time job.
The course of action for me is clear and it is to get rid of the ZANU PF cancer that has impoverished this country. For that to happen I will give my vote to the best candidates amongst those who stand a chance to win.
For Independents like Fadzayi Mahere who represent the kind of politics which we ought to aspire to, albeit with her privilege, I think the idea is noble but the timing unfortunate.
In another time and place she would get my vote, my support and perhaps even my money.
Unfortunately it seems to me that such a time has not yet come.