MDC-Alliance’s youth assembly held a national executive council meeting in Bulawayo two weeks ago where it resolved to boost the party’s electoral fortunes in 2023 by moving to rural areas to recruit a target of one million first-time voters in an initiative named the #1MillionCampaign.
The youths have already kick-started the campaign by holding recruitment meetings in Bikita South and Masvingo Central constituencies over the past week.
The question on most people’s mind relates to the chances of the opposition party succeeding to recruit youths in rural areas.
Those who are familiar with Zimbabwe’s political landscape would readily remember the late MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai making similar overtures to the rural electorate in February 2017 in the name of consulting the ordinary man and woman on the ground over the economic challenges bedevilling the country.
Tsvangirai even tried to embrace everyone by claiming that the meetings were apolitical to give the impression of a magnanimous political saviour that he was not.
“The meetings are private engagements where there are no party slogans, the only business being the crisis facing the country and the governance culture we should sculpt post-Mugabe in 2018,” he told voazimbabwe.com at the time, but everyone knows that the MDC formations have never been about the people.
They have always been about power which they do not deserve if their stewardship of the 28 urban local authorities that they control is anything to go by.
It is very clear that the #1MillionCampaign is not driven by the need to engage the youth to establish and address their need as any reasonable person would expect.
Despite touting the party’s leader, Nelson Chamisa’s youth as a trump card against President Mnangagwa during the 2018 harmonised election, the President ran rings around him, leaving him with an embarrassing defeat on his hands.
The fact that he lost despite his youth and the fact that their handlers in the United States are set to be led by a 78-year-old Mr Joseph Biden means that his youth is no longer a campaign plus to him anymore.
It is no longer going to be a source of appeal.
Given this background, how are his youth leaders, who are going out to rural constituencies, going to sell him and the party?
This is not the only issue that youth leaders, Obey Sithole leaders and Gift Siziba will have to grapple with when they on the ground.
For example, how will they explain to the rural youths Tsvangirai’s statement: “Muri kuti muri kushaya? Muchashayisia” utterance at Sakubva Stadium around 2001?
How are they going to explain Tsvangirai’s frustration with the European Union for not imposing debilitating sanctions on Zimbabweans as quickly as he wanted?
How are they going to respond to questions on Tsvangirai’s proposal to the South African government in 2002 to subject Zimbabweans to suffering by cutting all fuel and electricity supply lines to Zimbabwe in the name of fighting Zanu PF?
How are the campaign’s team leaders going to explain to the rural youths the alleged key role played by senior MDC Alliance members, Mr David Coltart and Tendai Biti, in the crafting of the vile Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) back in 2001?
What are they going to tell the young rural electorate when they demand answers on Chamisa’s 2019 trip to some European countries where he asked them to make life difficult for the Zimbabwean Government and, by extension, the innocent Zimbabweans?
When asked what Chamisa’s “sunga one, sunga dozen” means, one fervently hopes that they will proffer satisfactory answers.
What are they going to say in response to queries about Tendai Biti’s August 2018 bitter statement to some media houses that: “We will mobilise for more sanctions, ZANU PF won’t get a penny”?
The sanctions, which the MDC Alliance’s senior leaders actively participated in requesting and enacting as a law, have hit the rural folk the hardest for the past 20 years.
Jobs which the party is promising to rural youth are hard to come by because of the same party which invited in the stupid belief that it was fighting Zanu PF.
The story of who brought sanctions against Zimbabweans is now well-known by village toddlers across Zimbabwe.
Every Susan and John in rural Zimbabwe knows that the MDC Alliance “iparty yamasanctions.”
So how are Sithole and Siziba going to convince the rural youth of jobs against this background?
From which industry and economic sector are they going to produce the jobs when their party actively participated in the paralysis of the country’s economy?
It is interesting that the MDC Alliance is taking the campaign to the rural areas where Government is busy with life-changing programmes such as the Pfumvudza project and other related initiatives. The Government is not only doing this, this year.
It has involved rural citizens in many various such programmes right from 1980.
What will Sithole and Siziba tell the rural youth when asked what they have done for rural people since joining local politics in 1999?
What track record will they refer to when asked why the youth should believe them? Who will they bring to the meetings as a beneficiary and witness of the MDC Alliance’s service to the people of Zimbabwe?
The electorate does not just support a party because the party feels that it deserves their support. The electorate supports parties which demonstrate that they have people’s welfare at heart.
The MDC Alliance should know that its grudge with Zanu PF over its own serial electoral losses over the years does not constitute a sound manifesto to attract the people to its side.
The fact that it regards Zanu PF as an enemy does not necessarily mean the ruling party is an enemy of the rural people.
The MDC Alliance leadership and its excitable youth should know that the people-party bond that exists between the rural electorate and Zanu PF dates back to the days of the liberation struggle.
The two fought together for independence, which the MDC Alliance tried to reverse through ZIDERA. The rural electorate is more likely to stand in Zanu PF’s corner than ganging up with the people, who brought their suffering, against it.
As rural people encounter the opposition’s campaign team, they should ask them tough questions.
They should ask them about their party’s track record in the urban areas which they have been in charge of since 2000 and how they reduced once beautiful and thriving cities and towns into slums.
They should ask them to explain how they squandered the urban voters’ mandate by rewarding their loyalty with poor and non-existent service and shameless corruption.
Even as Sithole leads the campaign he should know that his secretary-general, Chalton Hwende, pushed the poorly thought out project to ward off criticism from party members who are unhappy with his and Chamisa’s poor leadership of the party.
It is clear that he and his team will walk back to Harare empty-handed because they are attempting to sell an unsellable, unpopular and reviled political brand.