By Dr. Tapiwa Shumba
1. A name, a good one for that matter, is everything, whether in politics or in business. The whole essence of trade mark/trade name is to protect people from confusion and abuse by free riders.
2. The reason why election after election there is a tussle for the MDC name is because the name has created a certain identity which the electorate associates with. It always looks like anyone who calls himself MDC is guaranteed votes. Yet in truth, it’s a simple lie not supported by facts on the ground.
3. In Zimbabwean politics the situation of the MDC is no different from the story of the 20th century liberation movements. Many were banned several times but always returned the following week with a new name. The people were never locked in a name. It was a rename on the go.
4. The people of Zimbabwe must understand that the conditions of their fight for freedom from the ZANU-PF oppression is similar to the fight for liberation from the colonial oppressor.
5. The dictator suffocates you financially, creates spies among you, sponsors opposition against opposition using taxpayers’ money, intimidates you in every way possible and essentially bans you from existence.6. Each time and at every turn, the citizens have to find ways to exist and at times live to fight on another day. 7. Such has been the life of Zimbabweans and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Although the people would love to have one solid banner and identity, over the years our people have learnt and accepted that the dictator will never allow that to happen.
8. That is not to say the MDC seeks permission from the dictator but to explain that the whole essence of a dictatorship is to oppress and deny freedom at all costs. ZANU-PF is an expert at this ever since independence. It is simply perfecting the art of the colonial system of oppression.
9. As the democratic alternative, the MDC has done exceptionally well to be in existence for 22 years. ZANU-PF has tried every trick in and outside the book ever since, but failed to destroy the people’s hope for change.
10. ZANU-PF is a desperate and ruthless dictator. Surviving thus far against all the bombardment and barrage of attacks shows the exceptional strength of the MDC as a formidable formation. Most importantly, it proves the political astuteness of Zimbabwean people.
11. The continued existence of the MDC in Zimbabwe is down to mainly two things. Firstly, whereas the Party and indeed its, soul, DNA, tradition and agenda remains that of the 1999 People’s Convention, the Party has always maneuvered and weaved through ZANU-PF landmines at every necessary turn. Secondly, the people have understood that for the MDC to maintain balance, like riding a bicycle, you can’t stop in one place, you have to keep cycling. So, they are always ready to move.
12. This explains why the MDC, which has changed its name time and again remains very solid despite false breakaways engineered by ZANU-PF.
13. Few realize that the electoral name.MDC was abandoned many years ago. All first time voters in 2018 were not born when the MDC last used that name in a Parliamentary election. The only time the MDC participated in elections as MDC was in 2000 parliamentary elections and 2002 presidential elections.
14. In the election that followed, in 2008, the MDC was abandoned for the MDC-T because it had already been hijacked. This is how we got to use the MDC Alliance in 2018 after the MDC-T had also been hijacked. 15. 4 years later, in 2022, we are back again, the MDC Alliance name has been hijacked by ZANU-PF. Never be fooled to believe that it has been hijacked by another MDC. It was like that ever since. ZANU-PF, through captured state institutions, gives the name to its collaborators in the MDC to hijack and derail the people’s agenda. People must understand that ZANU-PF, the Party, is dead and only survives through these tactics of state abuse.
16. This will not be the last time either. All attempts have failed ever since and this one will fail too. This failure is because over the years the people have learnt and understood that the trademark of the MDC is not in the name but in the composition of its leadership.
17. By whatever name, the MDC was Morgan Tsvangirai. By whatever name, the MDC is now Nelson Chamisa. You can call it donkey you can call it cow but where Nelson Chamisa addresses from, is where true MDC people are gathered.
18. That is why it is not a surprise that even after forcefully hijacking the headquarters, the MPs and the name, still people gather under thorny bushes to listen to Nelson Chamisa.
19. It is not to say the struggle has been personalized as academics on your TV screen and twitter would want you to believe. The struggle in Zimbabwe is real. People die. People get jailed. People starve. People are brutalized. The crocodile wants to grab and swallow you. It is therefore a seasoned survival strategy and lifestyle of the MDC to change names and colours like a chameleon to deceive vultures.
20. There is nothing much in a name in the struggle for freedom in Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe have shown that they know their party whenever it changed its name in previous elections. We have many living testimonies of people who can tell us how grabbing the name from the MDC is in fact a dangerous game.
21. It galvanizes and angers citizens. It simply makes the Zimbabwean people more vigilant and determined to separate wheat from chaff in the ballot booth. This is when they go take a shower, with their towels on the shoulder, whistling a song they call simba revanhu muchariona. And for sure unotoriona, 2008, 2018 and now 26 March muchariona. They look weak and disinterested but mama yooooh they can’t wait and they will deal with you for sure!
22. Someone may ask how it happens that this name is hijacked. Again we go back to where we started. Trademarks are stolen to confuse customers. In the Zimbabweans case ZANU-PF controls the institutions that allocate names. History has shown that ZEC enjoys allowing many MDCs on the ballot to dilute the opposition, cause confusion and assist ZANU-PF.
23. The tactical response by the true MDC has never been to register the same name. That would be playing into the path of the strategy to dilute and confuse voters. Therefore, although you know you are the true MDC Alliance and legally entitled to the name, you change your identity card for electoral purposes to escape the trap and deal with a free rider.
24. There is no doubt even if the party goes as MDC Alliance, the people are vigilant and will thoroughly beat the sellouts. But the question is whether the Party wants to leave it to the electorate or wants to deliberately deny the free riders the benefit of even the slightest confusion that may arise. What are the people themselves saying?
25. What is that identity and name for the upcoming elections? I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that whatever name the MDC uses now will still not be the name it will use in the next election.
26. Before Christmas, there will be some ZANU-PF surrogates again crying very loud for that name and their master, ZANU-PF, will give it to them. Such is the lifestyle of the MDC. Not even the registration of political parties will solve this problem. Only removing ZANU-PF will.
27. In the meantime, this is why the Party does announce its electoral identity many weeks before nomination day. There are some ZANU-PF sponsored sellouts, lurking among comrades, waiting to hijack that name for their master before the MDC registers its candidates.
28.In the end, its wise to know that, by design – The MDC is nomadic, it is a moving target, but it has one home and that home is in the hearts and minds of the people of Zimbabwe. Whatever the name, the struggle remains the same and the struggles continues.