Review and Mail Writer
The use of protests and demonstrations to wrestle power from the ruling ZANU PF party is an old strategy that has proved unuseful since the formation of the MDC in 1999, opposition People’s Democratic Party has said.
PDP President, Lucia Matibenga, told Review and Mail in an interview that dialogue was the only viable solution to the country’s political challenges.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai, led a series of protests against the government and the ruling ZANU PF party since its formation in 1999 in a bid to dislodge the ruling party to no avail.
A brain child of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), MDCposed the biggest real challenge to the late Robert Mugabe’s rule and worked with the ZCTU to organise mass protests, which however, have failed to yield any meanigful results, as the party lost in all the elections in which it took part.
After its split in 2005, respective splinter groups of the party also held several demonstrations, some of them which turned violent and led to loss of lives, but still without achieving their intended goals.
And Matibenga, a founding member of the MDC and former Minister of Labour and Social Welfare in the inclusive governmemnt between 2009 and 2013, says it is time to change tact.
“There is need for the opposition to change their strategy. Protests and grievances have failed to work for the past 20 years. My message to the electorate is that as PDP, we believe in politics of peace , tolerance and peaceful co-existence. There is need to work together for the greater good of our country. There is need to accept our differences and diversity with respect,” she says.
Matibenga noted that the fragmentation of the opposition political parties in the country would make it difficult for them to dislodge the ruling party, which has been in power since Independence from Britain in 1980.
“The opposition is too fragmented and this is not good for the cause,” she said.
She said like any other political party, their ultimate goal is to end ZANU PF’s grip on power-but using peaceful means other than engaging in violent protests and other undemocratice means.
“The broader aim should be to wrestle power from ZANU PF. It will be amiss if the opposition does not plan to win power. We are in it to win it.We are a member of the ( MDC) Alliance together with five other parties. We strongly believe in politics of dialogue, engagement and peaceful co-existence, therefore continue to explore the possibility of collaboration with like minded political oufits going foward. We are also working with parties in POLAD,” she said.
Matibenga said the PDP’s candidates were fielded under the banner of the MDC Alliance for the by-elections and her party was campaigning under that banner.
She said since the departure of her esrtwhile president, Tendai Biti, she has been working quietly building the party’s structures across the country’s provinces and also mentoring young women from various organisations.
The former member of the ILO Governing Board said women have a very important role to play in the politics of the country, especially in mobilising and building membership in most political parties.
“Women are naturally hard working and committed. In 2018 women constituted the higher number of registered voters,” she said.
She, however, bemoaned the uneven playing field, which said was tilted against women in politics due to many reasons.
“Women are not financially empowered therefore they cannot compete with their male counterparts. Politicas is expensive by nature. Women are very few in the decision making structures of most political parties therefore they are disadvntaged in terms of candidate selection and primary elexctions,” she said
PDP Spokesperson, Nqobizita Khumalo said in a recent statement that it was sad that people still associated the PDP with Biti, who joined the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Nelson Chamisa.
“People still associate PDP with Tendai Biti; the PDP did not follow Biti to CCC nor did it leave him. Biti left but the party was never disbanded. Thanks to Mr Biti himself, the party has a constitution , it has a character, it is a value based party built on the foundation of respect for Constitutionalism. Biti expelled himself by breaking the party’s constitution turning it from a peoples project into a personal one,” she said.
The PDP was formed by Biti and others after breaking away from the MDC led by Tsvangirai following disagreements over the party’s participation in Senatorial elections in 2005.
The party later joined hands with the MDC-T, together with several other smaller parties, to form the MDC- Alliance for purposes of contesting the 2013 elections as a unified opposition.
On several occasions protests by both opposition political parties and labour movements have tuned violent after being apparently infiltrated by criminal elements who caused mayhem to create an opportunity to loot.