Professor Lovemore Madhuku

Unmasking the science and history behind the ‘Madhuku strategy’

By Felix Chiroro

ZIMBABWEAN opposition politicians Professor Lovemore Madhuku and Douglas Mwonzora have been roundly blasted for being selfish, greedy and for ‘going to bed’ with Zanu-PF led by President Mnangagwa at a time Zimbabweans are yearning for ‘change’

The two gentlemen have had the word ‘sell-out’ thrown at their faces wherever they go, including when they ‘go’ on their social media platforms. Madhuku is being blasted for working with Mnangagwa in the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD), which those against it perceive as a tool that not only milks public funds dry, but also hands Mnangagwa a veil of legitimacy, if at all he needs it or lacks one.

Mwonzora’s ‘crime’ is that he upstaged social media favourite Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance at the courts This led  to loss of party headquarters, party assets, elected officials and source of funding from the Treasury, to Mwonzora. Both Mwonzora and Madhuku seem unmoved by the anger against them and the accusations of selfishness, with Madhuku telling media this Tuesday that he actually would want each POLAD principal to get three cars from State funding!

In a 2010 interview with Tazzen Mandizvidza, Mugabe described with breath-taking ease what he called the ‘Madhuku strategy of survival.’ He said Madhuku, when broke, causes a political scene that benefits him financially, after which he keeps quiet for a while. Madhuku, according to Mugabe, always resurfaces again when broke, causing yet another scene from which he benefits. What Mugabe said eleven years ago about Madhuku is still happening, and will continue happening.

This kind of selfishness by Madhuku is breath-taking and cannot be justified, but it is understandable. Here is why…

The science behind the ‘Madhuku strategy’

Economic theory says humans are selfish. Madhuku, a constitutional lawyer who should know better, is blatantly selfish when he accepts a motor vehicle bought with public funds yet his party has not even a ward Councillor elected into office. Mwonzora is equally selfish when, armed with a court ruling, he recalls elected officials and replaces them with his appointees who the people on the ground are dying to vote out at the earliest opportunity. Now, agreed that the two gentlemen are selfish, let’s scratch a little deeper.

Behavioural scientists, while acknowledging that humans are by nature selfish, have proven beyond reasonable doubt that humans actually often act unselfishly when unselfishness leads to a better outcome for the group, and act selfishly if selfishness benefits the group. In the language of behavioural science, we are “pro-social” beings who are often willing to make individual sacrifices to promote group goals.

In other words, Madhuku would decline the Government vehicle if it appeared to him that declining the car would in some way benefit his supporters. Problem is, Madhuku has got no “group” or supporters to care about or report to, so it made natural sense for him to grab the car keys from Mnangagwa’s hands last Friday and shove them into the ignition. It’s that simple! Anything else we try to lecture to him won’t fly because the dude absolutely has no supporters behind him that would be hurt by his decision.

As Mugabe remarked, Madhuku is both the leader and the members of the NCA.

On the part of Mwonzora, if we follow behavioural science again, he would not have recalled elected officials if his “group” were not going to benefit from that. Mwonzora’s supporters are mainly disgruntled former pro-Chamisa officials who fell out of favour with Chamisa mainly due to Chamisa’s ill-advised politics of accommodating G40 bigwigs at the expense of veteran MDC activists.

Tapiwa Mashakada, Morgen Komichi, Elias Mudzuri, Joyce Makonya etc are all former office holders in the Chamisa camp who lost positions and clout to Chamisa’s favourites, just like their boss Mwonzora. These are Mwonzora’s group; he has no grassroots support worth mentioning. Since Mwonzora’s “group” stood to benefit from his recall of elected MDC Alliance officials, Mwonzora took the action and indeed, the losers ended up in Parliament, eating and rubbing shoulders with their Zanu-PF counterparts

MDC-T president Douglas Mwonzora and rival MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa

Let’s scratch the argument one inch deeper again. We have now seen Mwonzora and Madhuku are perfectly human and did exactly what humans do: be selfish if it benefits your group. We all do that even at family level. A wife lives for decades with an abusive husband who no longer loves her, all for the sake of her “group”: the kids. It’s selflessness of the highest order.

But—and this is a very important “but”—the scientific evidence also demonstrates that people only act unselfishly and pro-socially when they think others in the group are unselfish and pro-social. This is the elephant in the room for the opposition, and one which the MDC Alliance camp tragically continues to ignore with drastic consequences for its future.

People leaving Chamisa to join Mwonzora or Zanu-PF are being selfish and inconsiderate of the many sacrifices their supporters made over the 20 years when Robert Mugabe was battering them from all angles. Chamisa’s supporters are right to call this an act of betrayal and selfishness, but the other truth is that these members wouldn’t be leaving if they were convinced that Chamisa was not selfish.

Those leaving Chamisa are being selfish, but that has happened mainly because they have seen that those around Chamsia, including Chamisa himself, are equally selfish. How do you explain trying to smuggle people like Shadreck Mashayamombe back into parliament on an MDC Alliance ticket as Chamisa tried in 2018, only to be stopped by Zanu-PF’s Tongai Mnangagwa? Mashayamombe is a brutal and unrepentant former Chipangano mastermind who terrorised MDC supporters from Mbare all the way to Harare South, but he got a ticket at the expense of MDC die-hards who he brutalized! How do you explain Jonathan Moyo advising Chamisa, the same Moyo who crafted laws that handed Mugabe the weapon to unleash terror? How do you and allow Moyo to wriggle out of blame when he is now in exile by simply saying: ‘I never crafted those laws!’

Selfishness is a huge currency in the opposition, and those who have it in abundance can easily get into Chamisa’s corner and start acting all clean and smart.

The history behind the ‘Madhuku strategy’

This preoccupation with settling scores has been in the opposition MDC ranks for as long as the MDC has been existing. Madhuku was a key figure in the events that gave the MDC under Morgan Tsvangirai international prominence. Under the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Mugabe was handed his first public defeat in the ‘No’ vote of 2000. 

After months of campaigning under relentless political violence from Zanu-PF, and with no State media coverage, the NCA led by Madhuku fought fiercely against a draft constitution put together by a team of 400 commissioners who Mugabe had appointed. This was after Mugabe had freshly recruited Jonathan Moyo, who led the ‘Yes’ campaign for Zanu-PF, and enjoyed a long stay in a top Harare hotel at public expense.

The 2000 referendum was meant to decide whether or not to adopt the new draft law, but Zimbabweans for the first time gave Mugabe the defeat that removed all skin from his face. Out of the 1,312.738 people who voted, 697,754 rejected the draft constitution drawn up by a government-appointed team led by Jonathan Moyo. Zanu-PF was beaten by 119,544 and this made the world notice the potential in the MDC for the first time, as it had been formed a year earlier.

Funds started flowing into the MDC coffers and diplomatic missions in Harare started inviting top MDC sharks for tea and biscuits. The link between the MDC and Madhuku’s NCA was foolishly and selfishly discarded as those around Tsvangirai now viewed Madhuku as a threat. 

Slowly, the NCA and MDC went apart and never worked together again, including when Tsvangirai went into a unity government with Mugabe. Madhuku even opposed the 2013 constitution which the MDC and Zanu-PF both supported. In short, the MDC threw Madhuku under the bus so many times, including in 2000 and 2013.

People who complain that Madhuku is giving Mnangagwa ‘legitimacy’ are the same people who formed a Government with Mugabe and handed Mugabe fresh legitimacy even against the advice of some regional Presidents.

The same Jonathan Moyo who today castigates Madhuku for receiving a car at public expense, won’t tell his newfound supporters how much Mugabe paid him from public funds as recruitment fee to drive the ‘Yes’ campaign and write his propaganda. This is how ridiculous this whole mess has become. Facts mean nothing anymore.

Professor Jonathan Moyo

Madhuku, an ally who helped grow opposition politics in Zimbabwe, is now an enemy. True, but what Madhuku is now doing may be a case of revenge. It is sad that those accusing him of selfishness do not at all pause and reflect on the number of times they went against Madhuku when they were eating with Zanu-PF or with foreign diplomats.

This is the same way Chamisa hobnobbed with former rebels Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube and even G40 gladiators while frustrating Mwonzora, all because people around Chamisa such as Chalton Hwende felt threatened by Mwonzora’s aura. 

If MDC Alliance supporters pause for a moment and understand why Madhuku and Mwonzora are acting the way they are doing now, it could help heal rifts ahead of the 2023 elections. However, with even former Zanu-PF sympathisers such as Hopewell Chin’ono coming from literally nowhere and poisoning the pond even further, there is little hope that the opposition leaders will close ranks. 

While all this happens, Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF is recruiting even the Chipangas and Timvos of this world and sprinting with the ball towards a perfect scoring position, giving the tired MDC Alliance goalkeeper, the ordinary supporter, sleepless nightmares.

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