FORMER Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has received his biggest rebuke over his decision to chicken out of the country’s electoral processes.
A top US diplomat, Gregory Simpkins, a director in the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organisations, this week criticised Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party’s “no reforms no elections” policy.
“We have heard that political parties here argue that it is tough to compete in elections. But we are saying they have to find a way of being effective rather than just saying it is too tough to compete.
“How can you criticize a process that you are not part of, one cannot criticize a process that they have not even taken time to test,” said Simpkins.
He added: “When you test the process you can say we tried to register our candidates or observers were turned away; you can point to examples.
“If you are not a part of it at all then it is as good as there is no opposition.”
Simpkins is in the country as part of Washington’s efforts to normalise relations with Harare following a decade and half of diplomatic fighting over allegations of human rights abuses levelled against President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Mugabe has also been accused of poll fraud with a number of disputed electoral outcomes since the turn of the century when the veteran Zimbabwean leader lost a constitutional referendum.
Simpkins urged the opposition to rethink its well-known modus-operandi of either threatening mass action or running to the courts.
“In the US you realise that at times the Democratic Party or the Republican Party wins elections,” he explained.
“We are representing Congress in which the Republicans have the majority but we work together with our counterparts in the executive comprised mainly of the Democrats.
“When we lose we do not take to the streets, we do not always go to the courts, we do not get angry but we go back, consider what happened and prepare for the next election and that is what you have to do.”
Tsvangirai has lost all but one election since the formation of the party in 1999.
He has, however, argued that Mugabe rigs the polls using the military and shadowy institutions including an Israeli company known as Nikuv Projects.
With Tsvangirai having presided over two splits since the formation of the main MDC on allegations of personalising the party, Simpkins urged inclusive decision making.
“Success by political parties is not built on personalities,” Simpkins said.
“However, when you start a political party in a country that is relatively new, very often the personalities override the ideology of the party; people vote for the person, ethnic groups and people who they think serve their interests.
” .. .but overtime as systems mature people learn to create coalitions but this does not happen overnight.”
Simpkins however, admitted that it would take time to develop a democratic culture and institutions.
He added: “It takes time for people to realise that it is not all about me, it is about the people.
“I think there is a lot of frustration on losing elections and the thinking that the people leading the party are not serving their interests so they leave thinking they can do it better,” he said of the constant splits in the opposition.