By Tanonoka Joseph Whande
CIRCUS maestros Barnum and Bailey couldn’t have dished out better entertainment. The greatest show on earth runs in Zimbabwe’s poli
tics and parliament.
Go ahead, count the skeletons. It’s all part of the grotesque act because, you see, Zimbabwe’s parliamentary circus plays with skulls not balloons.
And these parliamentarians, supposed custodians of our democracy, are the authors of the current tragicomedy. They appease a dictatorship instead of clipping its despotic wings.
MPs from both sides of the political divide are on the Zimbabwean stage and are the ones cheering the audience. They are mistaking activity for accomplishments.
Our parliamentarians were elected to represent the people’s views yet, as has become clear, they just attend parliament to assure their salaries.
Morgan Tsvangirai’s mission, as leader of the opposition, was to topple Robert Mugabe, albeit constitutionally, to restore democracy. And the people gave him the necessary support.
Several times, Tsvangirai was physically battered for his efforts. The so-called “war veterans” were the first to have a go at him.
With the intensity of swarming bees, they beat him to a pulp as he sat helplessly behind his desk. But Zimbabweans were soon to discover that Tsvangirai had more guts than one can find on an abattoir’s floor.
People almost thanked God.
A lot then happened and some of his supporters and assistants died horrific deaths, like being burnt alive inside locked vehicles.
We remember all too well the farmers who were killed for their farms and for showing an interest in the possibility of a change of government.
We remember much too well the hundreds of citizens who were beaten up, abused and killed because they supported Tsvangirai. Thousands, both black and white, lost their homes, their property and lives.
Dogs were set on our children at colleges, with some disappearing and others dying mysteriously.
Just about everyone wished for a change of government.
Tsvangirai soldiered on, making some questionable decisions along the way. Although it is now obvious that there were some traitors waiting for a chance to rock the party, he must take the blame because he could have handled the issue better.
Earlier this year, Mugabe’s people had another go at him again. Tsvangirai’s puffed-up face was plastered on television screens across the world. The leader of the opposition was paraded in front of the world in a torn shirt and with bleeding scars on his head.
We were shown the bloodied face of Nelson Chamisa, one of our legally elected Members of Parliament. He could hardly talk and almost died. A Mack truck could not have caused such damage; these could have been Mugabe’s self-confessed “degrees in violence” on display.
Then a veteran cameraman was abducted and murdered for allegedly filming the victims.
Very shameful indeed!
People continue to be abused. Expensive mediation talks continue to be hosted outside Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, the country is gearing up for parliamentary and presidential elections.
Whichever way one looks at it; it is all an effort to give people a chance to change or renew their government’s mandate.
Yet people are still being abused and starved or killed for supporting not only an opposition party but a rival faction within Zanu PF itself.
The mediation talks are being held ostensibly to level the political playing field.
But, truly, it is Tsvangirai who, more than anyone else, stands to benefit from all these efforts. He is even the peripheral beneficiary of all this mayhem.
Last week Tsvangirai instructed his party’s MPs to vote for a constitutional amendment that allows Mugabe to anoint his own successor.
To me, it was like reading a book with the last chapter removed.
Tsvangirai now instructs MPs, whom people voted into parliament, to acquiesce to a Bill that denies the people of Zimbabwe the right to choose their own candidate. Many people were beaten up, starved and killed for supporting the MDC legislators from both factions but managed to support them well enough to get them into parliament.
Because I have a curious oppression of spirit, I have questions that arise from feelings.
To me now, the MDC behaves like a dog chasing a car and, as soon as it catches it, does not know what to do with it.
I am honestly burdened with frank curiosity. Given the current scenario, can Tsvangirai please tell me what the split within the party was all about? May you enlighten me on why you let many Zimbabweans who supported both factions get killed?
Survivors bear physical testimony as to how far they can go to fetch democracy. Now the MDC tells them it is fine to give Mugabe parliamentary approval to short-circuit democracy and to let him choose his own successor.
Take a little time and think, Mr Tsvangirai; you are about to become guiltier than sin.
Meanwhile, as these ringmasters monkey around the circus-ring, the “owner” of the circus is doing his funny bit too.
Mugabe is reported to have demanded from Sadc, of all quarters, immunity from prosecution should he choose to retire. Not only that, he wants a guarantee that the monetary wealth and personal assets, like land and houses, that he accumulated not be taken away.
Zanu PF took over and ruined the country. From economic and political survivors, Mugabe wants immunity from prosecution for crimes committed but whose responsibility he does not acknowledge.
It is very easy to give Mugabe what he is asking for. All we need to do is calculate how much he earned during his entire term as head of state.
In other words, Mr President, no chance of such guarantees. Anyone who says “yes” they can guarantee you this, even if it is your own hand-picked successor, will be lying, unless, of course, you choose Thabo Mbeki to succeed you.
And immunity from prosecution is not possible either. Who is in a position to offer Mugabe a guarantee of immunity from prosecution? Only the people who were wronged. Not Gordon Brown. Not the EU. Not Mbeki. Not even the MDC. It is only the Zimbabwean people.
Mugabe, Tsvangirai and company, the future is in clay since it can be moulded to our intentions. The past, our history, is cast in iron and that is why Mugabe is having trouble with the phoney “history” he has been trying to feed to our schoolchildren.
As for Tsvangirai, misunderstanding breeds distrust; you owe people an explanation and pronto. As a leader, you are accountable to the people.
* Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Botswana-based Zimbabwean writer.