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Lessons from Obama’s message

By Garikai Chimuka

SENATOR Barack Obama is a young, sharp and eloquent African American with a Kenyan father and a humble upbringing.


spite such a background, he has launched an inspiring campaign that has illuminated US politics for the Democratic Party presidential nomination en route to the White House in a field including Hillary Clinton who is well supported by her husband, Bill.

His message has reverberated and inspired the whole world. It is in this context that the Zimbabwean opposition can learn from his extraordinary message that clearly finds resonance in Zimbabwe today.

Speaking after an unprecedented victory in 96% white Iowa, Obama said: “We are not a collection of red states and blue states; we are the United States of America. We have shown here in Iowa that at a defining moment in history, Americans who love their country can come together whether they are Democrats, Independents and even Republicans to serve the American dream that is in peril.” This message is significant to the opposition in Zimbabwe in many ways.

Firstly, it demonstrates that when the survival of a nation is at risk, opposition forces must overcome all sorts of petty divisions based on ideology, race, tribe and personalities to espouse an unstoppable united coalition that must be inspired by the patriotic need of saving the country from collapse.

Hence, the reality of Zimbabwe today where the poor people are suffering under the weight of Mugabe’s misguided policies need a collective response from all Zimbabweans.

Thus the challenge confronting Zimbabwe’s opposition is not who will be the leader but saving the country from Mugabe.

To this end Tsvangirai, Mutambara, Makoni, Madhuku and Ncube must put Zimbabwean interests ahead of personal ambitions and urgently craft a formula that will deliver victory to the people of Zimbabwe.

Secondly, Obama’s message shows the importance of each and every vote.

Recently, the opposition has been complaining that the delimitation report was gerrymandered by producing more rural constituencies as opposed to urban constituences. This is clearly beside the point.

For if the ultimate prize of election 2008 is about evicting Mugabe whose squatting at State House is now long overdue, every vote whether rural or urban will count.

It will not make any sense even if the opposition wins a majority of constituencies and fail to win the presidency for an assault on Mugabe is the magic formula to resuscitate the Zimbabwean dream.

Thus instead of wasting time engaging in trivialities, the opposition must launch an all encompassing campaign blitz and beat Mugabe by defeating him not only in urban areas but also in rural areas like Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe.

Obama’s message has also been underpinned by what he calls “the audacity of hope”. He makes it clear that if he had no hope, given his background, a middle name “Hussein” and a surname that rhymes like “Osama” in America, he would have never been in the campaign.

In as much as Zimbabweans are tired today of the liability that Mugabe has become, they have clearly lost hope.

That’s why with all hardships including the daily power cuts, shortage of food, water, cash and employment, the people have failed to confront Mugabe on the streets.

The Zimbabwean people are now helpless and hapless.

It thus behoves the opposition to craft a strategy to give hope to the people and assure them that if they can vote in their millions, Mugabe can and will be defeated.

Indecisive talk of election boycotts or spreading the gospel that elections have already been rigged will worsen the hopelessness of opposition supporters who will simply not vote.

If Mugabe wins the election in 2008, it will not be because he is popular, but it will be because the opposition leadership will have failed to inspire their economically battered and disillusioned supporters that victory is not only possible but certain.

Even during the liberation struggle when Zanla and Zipra forces were pitted against Smith’s well oiled Rhodesian forces, patriots like Tongogara emphasised to his troops that victory was certain and this gave the guerillas the strength to proceed despite the hardness of the front.

Obama also speaks about the “fierce” urgency of “now”. This is not being power hungry but a realisation that if the people of America do not seize this moment to fundamentally change the confrontational politics of Washington worsened by Bush, America is headed for colossal damage and destruction.

Thus the opposition must get to the trenches by taking the campaign to each and every village and street in Zimbabwe. The consequences of giving Mugabe another
term in office are too ghastly to even contemplate.

The opposition must cross the Rubicon and draw a line in the sand and lead the people in saying enough is enough to Mugabe by voting him out of power in 2008. Whatever the outcome of Obama’s campaign, it’s crystal clear that the Zimbabwe opposition can learn from his message and strategies.

When the stakes are too high like in Zimbabwe, all democratic forces of goodwill must rise up and be counted for the sake of the unborn Zimbabwean generations.

* Garikai Chimuka is a writer based at Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

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