By Denford Magora
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe would have us believe that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is dead and buried. Only last month, at the Zanu PF national congress, the president s
tood in front of masses of his supporters to declare that the MDC’s 15 minutes of fame were now up.
The president, I am afraid, is gravely mistaken. The MDC is in existence today because of the failures of his party. Moreover, the MDC will remain in place as long as his party fails to deliver.
Inaction and disinterest in policy matters from Mugabe started in 1993, leading the Economist magazine to speculate that he was about to step down. Instead, the president had put the country on automatic pilot, an unforgivable sin for any elected leader.
Mugabe sat on the sidelines on the real issues affecting the people who had voted him into power. He chose to rely on ministers to steer the state, oblivious to the fact that the ministers themselves had also put their responsibilities on autopilot.
No one was taking charge and it was a free for all. The president turned a blind eye. People struggled with issues like employment, health, transport and even basics like food.
Zimbabwe, instead of developing, witnessed an unprecedented assault on the forces of progress. True development — not the wells and boreholes type — was stymied at every turn.
This country, which got a television service before South Africa did, still finds itself with only one free-to-air TV station and no satellite network. We have to import DStv from South Africa.
The examples of the ruling party’s failures are numerous. Inflation was
allowed to reach the highest levels in the world while the president’s party was, at best, a mere spectator and, at worst, an active participant in fuelling the monster.
Still, the president and his ministers and his party insist on believing that governing the country is about making speeches. It is not. Action is a concept that the ruling party needs to pursue not only when it feels threatened but all the time in order to uplift the lives of our citizens. Land alone is not an elixir that will cure all our economic ills.
So, Mr President, the MDC will continue to be in place and to attract people as long as housing is treated with the cavalier attitude that Ignatious Chombo currently shows with a vengeance. The MDC will continue to exist as long as people have to wait for two or three hours after work to catch a lift home; as long as they have to wake up at 5am in order to be at work by eight; and as long as the Grain Marketing Board continues to behave not as a grain buyer but an arrogant bully.
Yes, the MDC will continue to exist as long as the people feel that Zanu PF acts only when its interests are at stake.
This criticism has nothing to do with imperialist running dogs, unless a homeless Zimbabwean has now become an imperialist running dog. It has nothing to do with sabotage of the land reform unless demanding that the government finds a lasting solution to our perennial transport blues is now sabotage of land reform. No.
This criticism has to do with broken promises. It has to do with empty speeches and pronouncements. Threats to deal with land-grabbing buffoons within the upper reaches of Zanu PF have proved to be just that: threats. Threats to dismantle corruption have proved as hollow as the space between Joseph Made’s ears.
From experience, then, Zimbabweans have learnt not to trust the government of President Mugabe. They have also learnt not to trust his party. And who in their right minds would, given the broken promises and the ineptitude?
If the president wants more examples of his party’s ineptitude, then he should consider this: Didymus Mutasa is employed in a specially created ministry that is supposed to get rid of corruption. And how did the new minister go about his job? The nation remembers that the man went to press to ask corrupt people to own up and hand themselves over to his ministry.
Perhaps we will be lenient,” said the minister. If there ever was an example of ineptitude, then this is it. It’s like the police sitting in their offices, appealing to thieves to come and hand themselves over to the law. Fat chance. But the president and his party seem to think this is how such an important ministry should be run.
Then you have an acting Finance minister who thinks that a Public/ Private Partnership policy means calling on the private sector to “join hands” with the government. The attempts by Herbert Murerwa are so nakedly half-hearted that I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that the man will still be issuing exhortations to the private sector three years from now, if he is still in government.
Until Mugabe finds ministers with a passion for developing Zimbabwe and not lining their pockets and throwing their weight around, the MDC, whether in its current ineffectual guise or not, will continue to exist.
One thing Mugabe and Zanu PF need to know is that, today, they appear stronger only because the MDC appears weak. Zanu PF is not strong in its own right and that is fact. People are finding themselves with no choice because the MDC/Zanu PF show is not a choice.
Just as the MDC assumed that it was strong because Zanu PF was weak, now the roles are reversed. But with a strong opposition, a tireless and visionary alternative leadership, Zanu PF would be wiped off the face of the earth in a heartbeat. It has been unresponsive to people for too long.
So, to answer the president, the MDC will not disappear or be “dead and buried” as long as he insists on promoting mediocrity over merit, as long as he puts loyalty to the party above national interests.
Here is the true fact of the matter: Zanu PF has been given a new lease of life today not because of its visionary policies, not because of its credentials when it comes to caring about the welfare of home seekers, commuters and food seekers. No. The party is strengthened only by the power of incumbency. This is complemented by a paralysed opposition that is busy picking its teeth while the country burns. That is not the foundation upon which Zanu PF should be building its claim to leadership of this nation beyond the silver jubilee of Independence.
*Denford Magora is a Harare-based marketing executive.