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Full Text: Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) survey report on the MDC split

A Survey Report December 2014 Zimbabwe Democracy Institute Foreword The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), a politically independent a...

A Survey Report
December 2014
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute
The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), a politically independent and neutral public policy think-tank whose vision is a democratic Zimbabwe, has undertaken this crucial study on the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) split as a modest contribution to building strong democratic institutions essential for our nascent democracy.

ZDI presents this study in line with the recognition in the preamble to Zimbabwe’s new constitution on the need to entrench democracy, good governance and the rule of law, reaffirming our commitment to defending fundamental human rights and freedoms. Political parties guided by strong democratic principles are essential pillars for good governance and sustainable democracy.
Full Text: Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) survey report on the MDC split
This study is not gratuitous criticism of the MDC-T, but rather, a timely pointer to the pitfalls of easy resort to splits that inherently weaken the party and the pro-democracy platform broadly. One hopes that relevant authorities will receive key findings in this report in a positive spirit and take immediate, corrective steps.

A key finding from this study is that, although the MDC-T was faced with significant internal challenges, a split was neither necessary nor strategic. Therefore, a logical conclusion flowing from this finding is that re-unification is essential and strategic. Building of a grand political coalition should begin with the urgent re-unification of the MDC-T and the MDC-Renewal.

From an emotional view clouded by personal ambition, greed and ginormous egos, it might appear that re-unification is impossible, but in the sober interests of the democratization of Zimbabwe such a step can easily be taken in a stride.

This is especially so considering that the MDC-T was able in September 2008 to cobble a political agreement with arch-rival ZANU-PF leading to a power-sharing government between February 2009 and July 2013.

The multiplicity of political players guided by democratic values is good, but it is also desirable to democratize and strengthen existing political organizations in the interests of wider democratic practices in the country.

To ensure accountability, good governance and economic development, it is essential that there are strong, effective, democratic political parties that keep pressure on the ZANU-PF government to transform constitutional provisions into a lived- reality for all Zimbabweans.
By Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Advocate

The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute conducted a study in December 2014 to assess the intra- party inconsistencies that recently rocked the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party and the subsequent split and the implication that this has on the party support base ahead of the 2018 election.

The study was conducted with 150 respondents drawn from the MDC-T stronghold area of Harare using a purposive sampling technique.

By design, the study targeted those who are affiliated to the MDC-T party and those holding positions within the party structures for the important information they possess that cannot be obtained from other random choices.

Strong and sustainable democracy is dependent on the existence of well-functioning political parties. Political parties are crucial actors in bringing together diverse interests, recruiting and presenting candidates, and developing competing policy proposals that provide people with viable choices.

While crisis and conflict are common features of political parties the world over, it appears the MDC-T may have failed to manage and contain its internal conflicts resulting in yet another split that saw some senior officials forming the MDC-Renewal Team.

Research empirically shows that various reasons account for party splits including low levels of internal party democracy; greed; perceived personal class differences; weak leadership; failure to adhere to the party constitution; repeated failure to capture political power; and failure to handle factionalism within the party.”

Unfortunately, a split invariably weakens the party as dents credibility and negatively affects the party’s recruitment drive and supporters’ loyalty and affiliation.

This study established that the MDC-T split seriously weakened the party, although the Morgan Tsvangirai group remained significantly stronger than the Tendai Biti group in terms of grassroots support.

Although the party was confronted with significant challenges, a split was not necessary and the party could have done more to avert it. The split has serious implications on voting intentions in 2018.

Problem Statement
Zimbabwean political parties, like any other social groupings, are susceptible to splits due to various reasons. According to Sabelo Gatsheni-Ndlovu, splits that rocked political parties since 1963 cannot be explained in terms of one factor or singular political theory; “splits are products of build-up and coalescence of various factors ranging from ethnic, constitutional, ideological, tribal, personality clashes and external infiltration.”

Notwithstanding the incentives to stay together, parties sometimes do breakup.

In April 2014, the MDC-T suffered yet another major split following the 2005 split over disagreements on whether or not to participate in the country’s senatorial elections. To distinguish between the two splinter parties, the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai was named MDC-T while the other formation was dubbed MDC-N.

The MDC-T has been slowly losing support because of this split despite the 2008 election result where it almost dislodged ZANU- PF from power. Some scholars noted that during the Inclusive Government era (February 2009 to July 2013), there was a gradual shift of public opinion and political affiliation.

According to a survey conducted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute in June 2012, the support base of MDC-T declined from 38% to 20% from 2010 to 2012.

Masunungure also argues that after the 2008 elections, the MDC-T “lost many of its passive supporters and not a few of its core supporters.”5

Following the disputed July 2013 elections ZANU-PF effectively retained its hegemony leaving opposition political parties severely weakened and disoriented. After the MDC-T failed in its legal and diplomatic maneuvers to ensure the conduct of fresh elections, it started to battle strong internal conflicts.

Disgruntled with the party’s loss, some high ranking members began to call for leadership renewal, especially regarding the party presidency calling for an early congress to elect a successor to Tsvangirai in order to ‘renew’ the party and the leadership. As the then party treasurer, Roy Bennett, put it:

“Mr. Tsvangirai has served two terms and he is nearly completing a third. Deep introspection needs to be undertaken by our collective national leadership, not for purposes of looking for scapegoats, but for our party to reinvigorate its leadership with a leadership which reflects the will of the people. Regrettably, some within our leadership, as the case with many political parties, do not wish the grassroots democratic will of the people to prevail.”

After this statement by Roy Bennett, a number of MDC-T leaders expressed the same sentiment. For example, Ian Kay, a former member of parliament for Marondera Central said that the MDC-T as a party is “like a soccer team” and that “if the coach continues losing, there is need for the technical board to sit down and deal with the issue.”

The leadership renewal agenda came to a head when the then deputy treasurer Elton Mangoma wrote a letter to Tsvangirai in which he urged him to step down from party leadership. In the letter, Mangoma stated that;

The aftermath of the election has been a state of confusion, consternation and apprehension on the part of the movement. The party is grieving from a crisis of leadership legitimacy, crisis of expectation and above all a crisis of confidence, externally and internally.

Leadership renewal is an inexorable truth that the party will have to confront lest it is plagued by the same succession conundrum affecting ZANU PF.

Since the outcome of the election, calls for leadership renewal have been made in different quotas and at different platforms.

It is my unbending resolve that leadership renewal, at this juncture, could be the only avenue to restoring the credibility of the party lest it risks being confined to history.

The tension within the party fuelled violence, suspensions and counter suspensions which finally culminated in a split, with the pro-renewal team led by Sekai Holland and the then Secretary General, Tendai Biti, and the other formation remaining loyal to Morgan Tsvangirai.

Rationale of the Study

Political parties form a cornerstone of democracy. “They are instrumental organizations for modern politics and are indispensable tools for modern democracies;”

democracy requires the participation of strong and effective political parties. Without effective parties that can command at least somewhat, unwavering bases of support, democracies cannot have effective governance.

This notwithstanding, political parties across the globe continue to grapple due to many challenges that resultantly compromise their legitimacy. It is therefore against this backdrop that the study sought to assess the processes as well as the factors that influenced the MDC-T split in 2014.

From independence in 1980, until 1999, Zimbabwe remained a de facto one-party state, although it is a de jure multi-party state. This is because the country witnessed the formation of a plethora of small and ephemeral opposition political parties that often emerged before elections and disappeared thereafter.
Taking a leaf from the Zanu PF manifesto: Tendai Biti seen here with Morgan Tsvangirai
Taking a leaf from the Zanu PF manifesto: Tendai Biti seen here with Morgan Tsvangirai
Although opposition political parties existed before, the formation of the MDC, in 1999, was the first time that Zimbabwe saw the emergence of a credible and strong opposition political party. ZANU-PF faced its first strong electoral challenge from the then MDC in the 2000 parliamentary elections.

But with the 2005 party split and the recent 2014 split, there are concerns that divided opposition political parties can only serve to ensure ZANU PF’s continued stay in power.

While the MDC-T once proved to be a viable opposition capable of articulating problems of the day and presenting voters with coherent electoral alternatives, the continual splits might weary the electorate and wane the party’s support.

Naturally, after an election, all political parties are expected to look into their internal issues to see where they went wrong and map a way forward. Instead, MDC-T’s self-introspection resulted in a split that counters party development, and is detrimental to democracy. The split, as viewed by some, drives the party into a political cul de sac that neither helps it to move forward nor strengthens it.

Instead, the split scatters the party’s energy. As such, it became inevitable for the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute to assess the impact as well as measure the extent to which the split affects the support base of the party.

How many of its passive and active supporters will desert the party and how many will continue to serve with loyalty? Could a political party split deter and affect opinion and party/candidate preferences?

Will this split work to the advantage of ZANU-PF to make inroads into MDC-T stronghold areas? Will this development transform people from being voters to passive citizens or from partisanship into independent voters?
The Study successfully assessed and generated evidence and answers to:
o The causes of the split
o The effects of the MDC-T party split on the support base
o The opinions of the support based on the split
o The impact of the split on the political party and democracy in Zimbabwe

This Study focused on MDC-T party splits and the consequential impact of the recent party split on the party support base and how it affects electorate decisions. MDC-T has since inception, enjoyed urban support with the rural areas being ZANU-PF strongholds. For instance, Harare province has always been a hub of MDC-T since 2000 with the party enjoying significant support from the province. Since this Study sought to weigh the heartbeat of MDC-T affiliates with regards to the party split Harare Province was purposively sampled as the area of focus.
Study Area Sample-Harare Province
Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 06.41.25

Secondary data was obtained from published research, articles, and official documents to strengthen the research. This is a rich source of both qualitative and quantitative data that provided background information of the MDC-T party context and history.In order to identify the reasons behind and implications of the MDC-T party split in the aftermath of the July 31, 2013 elections, ZDI supplemented secondary research with primary data obtained by interviews.

ZDI’s research personnel developed a questionnaire with close-ended questions and conducted face-to-face interviews. Data entry and analysis was conducted at ZDI using the quantitative Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS).

A total of 150 respondents were selected to participate in the study with the sole aim of objectively studying the implications of the split. The 150 questionnaires were administered to adult Zimbabweans aged 18 years and above, whose age was categorized as given in Figure 1.Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 06.43.06

Interviews were alternated between females (53%) and males (47%) with the Study achieving a slightly different statistics from that of the national picture- 52% females against 48%males.

Other demographic characteristics such as education and occupation were captured in the study. This will allow further analysis basing on the differential respondent demographics, that is, by expected research standards; it is good to assess variability across the different demography, whether the views of males differ with those of females, or variability across different levels of education attained by respondents.

A total of 41% have attained secondary school education, while those with high school (26%) are at par with those who have tertiary (26%) level of education. 4% went as far as primary level and this is closely followed by 3% of the total respondents who said that they do not have any formal education.

A plurality of the respondents are self-employed (46%), while two in very ten (21%) are unemployed but looking for prospective jobs. 17% stated that they are government/civil servants. See Figure 2Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 06.45.17
Research Findings
  • The MDC-T split weakened the party (66%), albeit, with the Morgan Tsvangirai remaining stronger and the Tendai Biti being the weaker party as reflected by a total of 87% who stated that Morgan Tsvangirai’s party remained stronger.
  • A majority think the split was not necessary (54%) against 46% who really feel that it was long overdue. 61% strongly feel the split could have been avoided.
  • Close to six in ten of the respondents (59%) are of the opinion that the split does not affect loyalty and party affiliation but a significant 41% think this is a pointer to an all is not well scenario with regards to affiliation and loyalty. Eight in ten (81%) still enjoy associating with the MDC-T even after the split.
  • Long standing party sympathizers might cling on to the party but the recruitment drive for new ‘converts’ will become a mammoth task. The study revealed varying degrees of impact on recruitment drive, 31% think the split is not affecting whereas 69% think it’s affecting, either to a lesser, larger extent or is fairly affecting.
Unemployed Manual Worker Student Professional Gvt/civil Servant Self Employed
  • There are many reasons behind the MDC-T split and rating each variable as a fraction of a 100, a plurality of the respondents mentioned greedy (43%) as the major reason when compared to lack of adherence to the party constitution (13%), successive failure to win presidency (12%), weak leadership (9%), contradictory party members’ interests (12%), class differences (14%) and lack of intra-party democracy (15%).
  • While to a larger extent the split does not affect affiliation, the research results reveal that this split will have an influence on the way that people are going to vote in 2018. Voting preferences are likely going to shift as reflected by some who voted for the MDC-T in the 2013 harmonized election who feel that they are not going to do so in 2018 while some state that they have not yet decided; at least by the time the study was conducted.
  • Voting in 2018 is going to be influenced mainly by political party preferences (29%) ahead of the state of the economy (24%) political party loyalty (24%) and caliber of the candidates (23%)And now the people speakIt cannot be disputed that democracy requires the participation of effective political parties, parties that can stand the pressures of dissension and manage factionalism as an important tool for progressive institutional growth and development. Semblance of open disagreement should not always culminate in split.
  • The MDC-T split, according to respondents, was unnecessary (54%) and preventable (61%). A united MDC-T has the capacity to assemble a national majority both in House of Assembly and for Presidential elections. Analysis against the age variable reflects that there was an equally divided opinion for the middle-aged category (50-50%) who said the split was a necessary evil and those who think otherwise. Close to six in ten (56%) of the youths are of the opinion that the split was unnecessary and 67% of the middle-aged share similar sentiments. This feeling is shared across board, even when analyzed across gender as reflected by more than half of both males (51%) and females (58%) who were opposed to the party split. The split has a bearing not only on the efficiency of the party but on its legitimacy in the eyes of the voters. Asked if they think the MDC-T split weakened the party, 66% of the total respondents affirmed while 34% being of the opinion that the split did not destabilize the party.
The dissention was conducive for leadership renewal, but the fragmentation that resulted has a dysfunctional impact not just on Morgan Tsvangirai alone, but on the break-away party as well. Respondents clearly stated that the renewal group emerged from the split more bruised and tattered than Tsvangirai’s group. A majority (87%) believe the Tsvangirai group is way stronger when compared to the Tendai Biti group against 13% who think the other way round. When analyzing across gender, the research empirically reflect just a few females (8%) who think the renewal team is so weak that it will not pull thorough to 2018 and one in eight (18%) males also think the same. Level of education affects the manner in which respondents perceive the centre of power after the MDC-T split. The higher the level of education one attained, the more they think that the renewal team is weaker when compared to the MDC-T.
Figure 3: Split weakened the party
Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 06.48.00
Questions: What is your opinion of the following:
  1. a)  Do you think the MT and TB split weakened the party?
  2. b)  Do you think the MT group is stronger than the TB group?

The local base of a political party, just like the roots of a tree, must be strong if the party is to grow and succeed. As such, the strength and success of a party highly depends on loyalty and affiliation of active and enthusiastic party supporters. Asked whether they feel the party split
But M.T group stronger than T.B
Yes No
affected loyalty, more than half of the respondents (59%) think that it did not affect while 41% think otherwise. Important to note is that even after the split, eight in ten (81%) of the respondents still enjoy associating with the MDC-T whereas 19% no longer sympathize with the party.

Members are the lifeblood of any political party. Leaders must not forget about the central importance of the individual member. Without members, party leaders, no matter how eloquent or smart they might be, are doomed to occupy the margins of the country’s democratic political life.

A combined majority (69%) feel that the split affects the party’s recruitment drive but they gave varying levels of the extent, with 29% saying it affects to a lesser extent, 19% saying to a greater extent and 21% said it is fairly affecting while 31% stated that it does not affect at all.

Figure 4: Split affecting recruitment drive
Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 06.50.24
Causes of the MDC-T split
Political party split might be a “consequence of subgroup formation and conflicting subgroup identities and or conflicting interests.”11 In 1999, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), formed under the stewardship of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was made up of many disparate groups with contradictory interests that included workers, employers, white commercial farmers, women, peasants, students and non-governmental organizations under the umbrella of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
Alexander, observed that many of groups that were mobilized against the state and President Mugabe during the crisis were disparate groups with disparate interests, therefore the party lacked a coherent framework for opposition politics, apart from their dislike of Mugabe’s authoritarian practices and the need to protect their individual and corporate interests.
While this, to a certain extent, accounted for the split, its margin and impact was less felt with only 12% agreeing that contradictory party members’ interests played a role against 88% who said this had nothing to do with the split.
A total of 14% mentioned class difference as the force behind the split and 86 % thinking otherwise. Cross-tabulation of those who mentioned class difference as the cause of MDC-T split and their level of education with each variable as a fraction of 100, the results reflect 11% who attained secondary level, 21% have gone as far as high school level and 15% acquired tertiary level of education.
A few respondents (12%) stated that the longer a party stays out of power, the greater the chance that it will be afflicted by conflicts and in most cases these inconsistencies will culminate in splits.
Of the surveyed respondents, one in ten (9%) advocated leadership renewal while an overwhelming majority (91%) go by Nelson Chamisa’s sentiments of allegiance that Morgan Tsvangirai is the “founding father of democracy in Zimbabwe, the doyen of constitutionalism. You can’t replace a person chosen by God.”
It is significant to note as well that among the many listed causes of the party split are issues of greed among party members, lack of adherence to the party constitution, and lack of intraparty democracy. See Table 1
Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 06.52.21Implications of the split on voting preferences
Political parties face a diminished likelihood of winning elections due to internal divisiveness and splits. Could this be the case with the MDC-T?

What are the chances of MDC-T popularity waning and level of general public disaffection after the split and of the party congress outcome? Especially considering that the MDC-T brought forward its party congress to October 2014, instead of holding it, as initially scheduled, in 2016.

Regarding the new leadership that emerged after the aforesaid congress, close to seven in ten (68%) of the total respondents said they are happy while a significant three in ten (32%) expressed total displeasure at the outcome.

Cross-tabulating the outcome of the congress and age of the respondents, the research reveals that the middle-aged category (31-50 years) (74%) does not have anything to complain about. They are more satisfied with the leadership that emerged when compared to the old aged (44%) and young (66%) categories.

Zimbabwe general elections were held on the 31st of July 2013. Voters were expected to choose a councilor, House of Assembly representative and president.

The research depicts that within the total surveyed people, 82% voted for an MDC-T councilor, 86% for a member of the House of Assembly and 87% for their presidential candidate. However, following the split, there is a notable decline of those who are still interested in voting for an MDC-T councilor (57%), house of assembly representative (62%) and presidential candidate (63%).Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 06.54.34Question: In 2013, did you vote for the MDC-T for the following, councilor, house of assembly, presidential candidate?
In 2018, do you intend to vote for the MDC-T for the following, councilor, house of assembly, presidential candidate?

Voting in 2018 is going to be influenced mainly by political party policies (29%). Any party that will prove that it cares about citizen problems and shares its concern for the country, people’s hopes and their future, a party that will have a specific, immediate and feasible plan for improving lives of citizens will be appealing to voters. The state of the economy (24%) political party loyalty (24%) and caliber of the candidates (23%) are also matters that respondents will consider in selecting a candidate of their choice.

It is also important to note that the way respondents will vote in 2018 is greatly affected by gender of the voter. Pluralities of females are going to be influenced by the state of the economy (31%), this being at par with political party loyalty (31%). This brings us to the loyalty option, though contestable, which corresponds to a general female attitude of commitment when compared to males. It also points out to the assertion that whenever the economy gets tougher, women always bear the brunt and are at risk of being hit harder15 than their male counterparts. As for their male counterparts, the question of political party policies will determine the way in which they will choose representatives. Caliber of the candidate matters more to males (28%) than females (18%)
From the foregoing, it can be argued that the road ahead for the MDC-T after the 2014 split might be a long and tortuous one. Although the party will be in existence it will face a challenge in wrestling power from the ruling party especially when it is weakened by splits.

While the MDC-T party may continue to play a central role as a pillar of democracy in the wider society, it will remain in the periphery as long as it lives.

The gains made by the establishment of the once vibrant party in 1999 are going down the drain and diminishing as disintegrations continually limit the party’s influence, making change in power through elections even more unlikely, thereby negatively impacting on the struggle to democratize through elections.

Under current conditions, given the recent split, the MDC-T might face difficulties building new and wider bases in the population, leading to a danger of miscalculation of the party’s influence and popularity, lest they forget the split has implications on the support base.
The Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) is a politically independent and not for profit public policy think-tank based in Zimbabwe.
Founded and registered as a trust in terms of the laws of Zimbabwe in November 2012 ZDI serves to generate and disseminate innovative ideas, cutting-edge research and policy analysis to advance democracy, development, good governance and human rights in Zimbabwe. The Institute also aims to promote open, informed and evidence-based debate by bringing together pro-democracy experts to platforms for debate.

The idea is to offer new ideas to policy makers with a view to entrenching democratic practices in Zimbabwe. The ZDI researches, publishes and conducts national policy debates and conferences in democratization, good governance, public finance and economic governance, public policy, human rights and transitional justice, media and democracy relations, electoral politics and international affairs.

ZDI was born out of a realization that there is an absence of credible policy and research analysis by Zimbabwean organisations. A careful assessment of most publications on Zimbabwe’s political economy shows that a majority of them are generated from outside Zimbabwe.3.1. Vision
A democratic Zimbabwe in which citizens fully participate in all matters of governance, realize and assert social economic and political rights.
3.2. Mission
To promote cutting-edge research and public policy analysis institute for sustainable democracy
To be the leading cutting-edge research and public policy analysis institute for sustainable democracy
3.3. Objectives
  1. To strengthen policy formulation and implementation through public policy debate in Zimbabwe.
  2. To inculcate a culture of critical debate on public affairs among Zimbabwean citizens.
  3. To ensure that Zimbabwe’s development trajectory is shaped by locally generated information and knowledge.
  4. To stimulate citizen participation by strengthening the capacity of state and non-state actors in undertaking research and analysis of public policy.
  5. To ensure the direct participation of women and youths in public policy formulation and implementation. Email:
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