“I AM a seasoned politician. I am not a political prostitute.”
That was Matabeleland South governor Angeline Masuku protesting her innocence which threatened to be sullied by those trying to link her to “political prostitutes” who have joined Simba Makoni’s brothel.
It all started with President Mugabe attacking Makoni as worse than a prostitute for challenging him in the presidential elections on March 29.
The protest was so pathetic and undignified one didn’t know how to react. The league of the political epithet now includes Nkomo, Mugabe and Msika, all of whom should be enjoying their dotage in the backwaters of Zimbabwean politics. What example are they setting for the youth by their ignoble theatrics on national television?
Masuku’s protest came after Zanu PP party chairman John Nkomo made intemperate remarks about Dumiso Dabengwa’s decision to support Makoni. Nkomo said there were “infiltrators and sellouts” during the war but Zanu PF had survived. He described Dabengwa’s departure as “good riddance” for the party. “It is now clear that we have infiltrators among us,” he said. “We would like to thank those who fought hard to bring about what is Zimbabwe today, those who led us during the difficult times enduring subjugation in order to bring about a new Zimbabwe.”
Nkomo doesn’t need reminding about revolutionaries and infiltrators or saboteurs. He must feel unreal even to himself that he can call Dabengwa an infiltrator or one who betrayed the liberation. I was reminded of President Mugabe asking at Joshua Nkomo’s burial at the Heroes’ Acre that if Nkomo didn’t deserve to be buried there then who did? That was despite all what happened to Nkomo up to the Unity Accord in 1987. The same can be said of Dabengwa.
The trouble is that in the heat of trying to express loyalty to Mugabe, our leaders get intoxicated with rhetoric, so much so that they don’t know when to stop. For to call Dabengwa a traitor is to subvert the entire liberation war project and its ethos.
If the liberation struggle was about freedom, including freedom of choice and association in a “New Zimbabwe”, why should breaking away from Zanu PF be equated with treachery? Why should support for President Mugabe be equated to patriotism and anybody who disagrees with him be labelled a traitor?
People are bound to disagree and try to defend their turf in an election period. But to resort to revolting language like traitor, sellout and infiltrator is to go over the top and reflects more on the speaker than the target of his diatribe.
On the other hand, Makoni’s decision to enter the fray against President Mugabe has helped not only add excitement to an otherwise drab election but also expose how our democracy has failed to mature in almost three decades of Independence. There is in fact growing intolerance for dissent. An impression is still peddled that only Mugabe knows what is best for Zimbabwe. There can be no alternative point of view.
This doesn’t speak well of a country which boasts the highest literacy rate on the continent. For if that literacy prepares us to only think and behave like sheep, it is not worth boasting about. If Mugabe still fears that a movement such as Zanu PF cannot defend his legacy, then it means that legacy has no national appeal, it doesn’t embody the national vision. For a legacy to endure it must have people ready to sacrifice for it well after its authors are gone; it must transcend the individual.
Makoni and Dabengwa’s decision has also helped to expose the party’s deceit. We asked questions why, if Mugabe had already been endorsed at the 2004 people’s conference, was Zanu PF calling for a “special” congress in December. There was no convincing answer. At some point there was confusion about the agenda of the special congress. Some said all the posts in the politburo were up for grabs while others said the congress was about endorsing what had already become law – Constitutional Amendment 18 Act.
There were others who obviously felt excluded from the presidential race. For some reason someone expected somebody to raise the issue. In the event, nobody did. Apart from the clash between John Nkomo and war veterans aligned to Jabulani Sibanda, everything seemed perfectly stage-managed to preclude dissenting voices. That is the problem which has come back to haunt the Zanu PF leadership.
Not even attempts by Vice-President Joseph Msika to paper over the cracks at the unveiling of the Zanu PF manifesto last week would do the trick. There are calls for leadership renewal, a term first used by President Thabo Mbeki. What is not clear is why “tribalists” in Zanu PF are allowed to get away with the mendacity that Dabengwa’s decision is a revocation of the Unity Accord between PF-Zapu and Zanu PF. Does that mean everyone else in Zanu PF is happy with the current Zanu PF leadership except for former members of PF-Zapu?
Does it mean except for MDC followers, the rest of the people in Mashonaland are perfectly happy with the state of the economy, the political environment, the water and food crisis? To hear George Charamba talking of Dabengwa being rejected by the people of Nkulumane, you would think he knew nothing of the revulsion the Zanu PF tag evokes in some parts of the country. Yet all senior Zanu PF leaders from Matabeleland have endured over 20 years of daily ridicule for the sake of national stability.
In any case, how many Zanu PF politburo members have seats in Harare? Why are all its aspiring MPs scurrying for the bush and vice-versa for the MDC? That’s what I call hostage politics.– By Joram Nyathi