THE 29th of March 2008 is just around the corner. This day is rightfully seen as D-day for Zimbabwe.
The country has been hurtling downhill for almost a decade now, with those in power totally clueless about how to staunch the deterioration. There seems to be a common view that the Zimbabwean problem is essentially a governance one. Those old enough to remember the Rhodesian situation and that of South Africa prior to 1994, will know that even with all the economic creativity of the best brains in the land, when political management becomes anachronistic, economic dysfunction is the upshot.
In Zimbabwe, we have a regime that ascended to power on the back of a very strong anti-colonial sentiment that found expression in the War of Liberation of the 1960s and 1970s. For a while, the regime basked in the image of being liberators, while a significant population savoured the euphoria of Independence. In that euphoria, regrettably, the sense of the future was lost.
The majority of the citizens naively surrendered their power and responsibility to be part of governance to the new rulers, the liberators. Here were people who had gone out to fight an oppressive colonial system. They were brave, patriotic, selfless Zimbabweans. They had finally prevailed over a stubborn minority regime. They were heroes. Herein lies the provenance of our present day woes.
There were early signs that indicated that, left unchecked, our liberators could become oppressors. Soon after Independence, fellow liberators were called counter-revolutionaries and were hounded out of the system until we ended up with a “dissident” situation. The rest, as they say, is history.
Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces became killing fields and anyone who spoke with a click became a “dissident”! In Harare, Matabeleland was derisively referred to as “Ngale”, a clear indication that it was regarded as a far-off place with “funny” people. It was the Kosovo of Africa. In those heady days people got blinkered by the mantra of “Pasi naNgomo!” There was murderous zealotry for Mugabe and Zanu PF, even when it was clear that what was happening were signs of a revolution losing its way. It became sacrilegious to say anything remotely critical of Mugabe and Zanu PF. You were either with them or you were a “dissident”! After the 1985 elections, miffed by being rejected in Matabeleland, Mugabe addressed a very poorly attended rally at Barbourfields, at which he said, “The people of Matabeleland have to choose between war and peace. By voting for Zapu, they have chosen war. They are going to get war!” Anyway, that war was already ongoing as the depredations of Gukurahundi dated back to 1982.
The point is that Zanu PF manipulated ideology and a gullible ethnic majority and used scare tactics to entrench its rule. Liberation history was redefined and re-written to give an impression that they, and they alone, were the bearers of its greater purposes. Academics and intellectuals fell over each other in a bid to reinforce the revolutionary project according to Zanu PF.
In the 1990s, Zanu PF made an ideological shift by adopting the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap). However, politically, it remained unreconstructed. It resisted any calls to open up political space. Unfortunately, Esap created more problems than it solved. Zanu PF failed to convince the population as to why things were not working out. Then economic questions became political questions. A whole chain of events followed, leading to the formation of the MDC with Tsvangirai as the leader.
The viciousness and ferocity of Zanu PF’s attack against the MDC in general, and Morgan Tsvangirai in particular, was one actuated by a sense of betrayal. The revolution was now eating its own children. Mugabe has vowed that the MDC would never rule Zimbabwe. MDC is a puppet of the west. Zanu PF liberated the country. They invented freedom in Zimbabwe. They have the right to rule until donkeys grow horns, no matter how much they wreck the country.
They fought colonialism. They brought freedom and therefore the nation should turn a blind eye to their obvious fallibilities. Anyone who criticises Zanu PF is an agent of imperialism. In their scheme of things, patriotism has a Zanu PF definition. The fact that they “delivered” Independence grants them exclusive rights to know what is good and what is bad for Zimbabwe. We see the service chiefs carrying out a pre-emptive coup by announcing that they will not salute “stooges”, and that is not seen for what it is. A national election is a constitutional process for change of leadership. Subverting it by extra-constitutional means amounts to a coup and that is treasonous.
Now, we have seen how Zanu PF got where it is today. In comes the MDC, which at one point carried the hopes of millions of Zimbabweans across the globe. The MDC split in 2005 in circumstances that were tragic. Ostensibly, it was on the issue of whether or not to participate in senatorial elections. A process was undertaken to arrive at a decision about the matter. The outcome of that process is known. Morgan Tsvangirai could not have it. He remarked that he was not going to accept the result even if it meant the breakup of the MDC! He stormed out of the venue, called a press conference and told a big lie. He said that there was a toss-up in the vote and he had used his casting vote in favour of those who opposed participation. MDC was therefore not going to participate in the elections. From then on things were never the same for MDC.
Like Mugabe in the 1980s, Tsvangirai mobilised support on an ethnic card, accusing rivals of tribalism when issues were very clear. Like his former master in Zanu PF, he was adept at calling names, alleging that rivals were agents of Zanu PF. Again, as in the case of Zanu PF, “progressive” academics and intellectuals, at home and in the diaspora, rallied behind Tsvangirai. Innuendos and insinuations were made that Matabeleland politicians had a history of treachery.
One academic even blatantly accused President Thabo Mbeki of wanting to sideline Tsvangirai in favour of his (Mbeki’s) “homeboy” (Welshman Ncube). Issues of violence in the MDC were conveniently ignored. When Trudy Stevenson was savagely attacked by Tsvangirai’s thugs, his own commission of enquiry euphemistically referred to infiltration by the CIO! It is instructive to note that this commission had in it “prominent and respectable” lawyers. The only credit to Tsvangirai during this forgettable episode is that he was so embarrassed he had to delay publishing the report. I am not sure that he finally made it public.
Then there was the Lucia Matibenga drama. It was hard to find any appropriate description of how wicked the whole thing was. You have a whole party president shamelessly removing a popular leader to anoint a friend’s wife in the same position. And when people
protest he unleashes his thugs. Women were clobbered in broad daylight in the centre of Harare for attempting to demonstrate at Harvest House.
This is the same place where many senior MDC leaders were beaten and bruised for daring to query certain things. Today, as was the case with Zanu PF, anyone who criticises Tsvangirai and the MDC is regarded as a Zanu PF agent or plant. Nobody has a mind of their own. Tsvangirai is said to be the brave face of opposition in Zimbabwe. He pioneered opposition politics in Zimbabwe. Therefore his path can or should only lead to State House. Is this not just the reverse side of a Zanu PF coin? How history repeats itself, and in worse forms!
I have heard the argument that now is not the time to focus on Tsvangirai’s shortcomings. Energy and attention should be trained on Mugabe, who is regarded as the greater evil. Only when Mugabe has been removed will some things be “corrected”. This can meaneither of two things.
Tsvangirai must be given some opportunity (rewarded) to taste glory for his bravery. But it could also mean that Tsvangirai is a meal ticket because of his “popularity”. He, however, could be dispensed with after victory and be “released to graze in the commons”.
I am not sure if the world of politics has things that simple. He has already gone on record saying that he possesses the keys to the MDC.
Â Are these just the rantings of a dullard or they are ominous signs of a schemer who is looking well beyond “tasting”?
The theory of his malleability must be tempered with historical precedent. Daniel arap Moi used to be ridiculed by the more lettered in Kanu before the death of founding president, Jomo Kenyatta. He was not given a chance on succession. What happened? He did succeed Kenyatta, not for one year, not two tears, not 10 years, but 23 years! Politicians dig in; digging them out is a Herculean task.
Lovemore Madhuku is not to be outdone in this “nhingi chete, chete!” syndrome. He wrote a piece recently in the Financial Gazette in which he rooted for Tsvangirai because he (Tsvangirai) is the embodiment of civil society principles and values. He tried to prepare people for Tsvangirai’s impending defeat by saying that the election is not for change but just to signpost the direction civil society wants to go. It is a most bizarre argument. Tsvangirai believes he will win (which, in the unlikely event that he did, would be a disaster for Zimbabwe). What Madhuku said must have unsettled Tsvangirai’s inner self. Madhuku’s support for Tsvangirai is predicated on history, which is that Tsvangirai and his civil society acolytes started the struggle for democracy in independent Zimbabwe.
They have a programme of a set of principles and values that represent the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe. It is this programme that nobody else, save Tsvangirai and Madhuku, can implement. He says that Makoni does not represent the aspirations of Zimbabweans, perhaps because he was not at the so-called people’s convention that led to the formation of the MDC.
How different is this thinking from Zanu PF? Basically, Madhuku sees himself and those around him having “right” in their pockets. It is only they who can define what is good for Zimbabweans. Apart from the fact that this is an insult to even those that Madhuku claims to represent, it is a giant lie that opposition to Mugabe started with Tsvangirai. For all their challenges, there was Zum, Forum, Zanu Ndonga, etc. Within Zanu PF Mavhaire openly called for Mugabe’s retirement way back in 1998. The late Zvobgo was known to resent Mugabe’s leadership. Please tell no lies and claim no easy victories!
Lest we forget; who is Lovemore Madhuku? What moral authority does he have to pontificate to us about values and principles when we know what his values are? Is it not the same Madhuku who has a not-so glorious legal practice record after he “borrowed” some funds from a Trust Account. Is he not the same Madhuku who, when his term of office as chairman of NCA came to an end, tweaked the constitution to award himself a further two terms? And what was his justification? He said that he still had a number of things to accomplish for the NCA. He could not leave unfinished business! Those who opposed him at that meeting were beaten up by hired thugs. How can we criticise leaders at national level for hanging on when it is time to go, but we do the same thing in our small worlds that we call civil society? It sucks. It is a mockery. Civil society must feel very scandalised to have a godfather of a brazen hypocrite who talks right but walks left.
On balance we see that Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Lovemore Madhuku are a tripod of evil. All three believe in their infallibility despite a welter of evidence to the contrary. They are not loath to resort to skullduggery to achieve what they want. There are records to show that they have used violence against opponents to stay at the top. All three have played the ethnic card to mobilise support. They are Machiavellian. They believe in the end justifying the means. They are as trustworthy as hyenas among sheep!
Bulelani Mokoena is a Harare-based writer.