The Day The MDC Approached Makoni

Harare, Zimbabwe 12 September 2009

For three months now, I have been forbidden to publish this extraordinary occurrence, but now I can go ahead, respecting the conditions that I have been given.

Three months ago, two very senior MDC figures, both of them serving as high-profile ministers, asked me personally to "sound out" Dr Simba Makoni on thoughts that they claimed had gained widespread acceptance within the MDC.

Specifically (and I will never forget this question), I was asked to ask Dr Makoni the following:

"If Morgan Tsvangirai was to be removed as president of the MDC, would Dr Makoni be interested in taking over the leadership of the party?"

Yes, I was as surprised as you are right now when I was approached on the subject.

Now, I had to ask where this was coming from. As far as I am concerned, even to this day, the MDC is entangled with Tsvangirai in a death grip. His political demise will also signal the demise of that party. Like Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai has studiously avoided nurturing talent in his party and has refused completely to groom someone to take over from him.

Whatever Tsvangirai says, the MDC will do, as evidenced by the continued presence of the party in an "Inclusive Government" that is neither a government nor inclusive.

So, yeah, I was surprised.

The reasons I was given were that the people within the MDC National Executive were disappointed with the way Tsvangirai was behaving towards Mugabe, how he was failing to assert himself and how it appeared he had given up all hope of turning the party into the ruling and governing party.

Remember, this approach was being made with Tsvangirai serving as Prime Minister.

When I spoke to Dr Makoni about the approach, his reaction was to be expected, really.

Here was the response:

"Tell them that anyone who wishes to work with me is quite welcome to join Mavambo. I am not leaving this movement (we had not launched the party yet)."

He also pointed out that the people making the approach probably knew what his response was and that is why they had not approached him directly. One of them had been sitting next to him at Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions May Day Rally at Gwanzura Stadium on May 1 and had even asked him to confirm his phone numbers to him.

I communicated the message back to them and we have not heard anything since. I suppose that is the last we will hear of this.

What still remains interesting about this episode is that it showed that the MDC has no depth of leadership. In the absence of Tsvangirai, they have no other leader whom they think can win an election in Zimbabwe.

By implication, they quite accept that Simba Makoni has what it takes to win an election in this country and there was a lot of debate in Mavambo as a result of this, with most saying this was designed to try and neutralise the party before it even starts by removing its head and making him hold out on launching in the hope that Tsvangirai would be deposed and he would take over.

A lot of people were relieved by Dr Makoni's response.

Also, as I have written before on this blog, in the run up to the March election, an approach had been made by Tsvangirai directly to Dr Makoni, urging him to abandon his campaign and join with Tsvangirai. The MDC promised to make him Prime Minister if they won the election. Again he refused.

So, don't be surprised by the venom directed at Makoni by MDC supporters. They are genuinely afraid of his challenge, which is why they, contrary to all democratic belief and tenets, believe that he should be destroyed politically.

The fear of Simba Makoni stems from the fact that, despite launching his presidential bid barely a month before the elections and despite the massive campaign launched against him (including dirty tactics and smears), he still MANAGED TO GET A QUARTER OF A MILLION VOTES!!

What more if he had managed to campaign for six months?

Still, I think the approach reveals the bankruptcy of leadership within the MDC more than anything else, really. It is also an acknowledgement that Simba Makoni remains a powerful brand in Zimbabwe.

I really can not wait for the next election.


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