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Leadership renewal needed

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A story is narrated (by me) of a national leader in Southern Africa (preferably Swaziland), who dresses like a pauper, takes an evening walk around the “locations” with two of his trusted bodyguards.

This nocturnal stunt takes the three past a large tent where loudspeakers blare hitherto unheard praises to a good leader. After listening pensively for a few moments, the national leader orders his less-than-smart bodyguard to slither into the tent and enquire the provenance of such emotional praises of him!

After a few minutes, the man emerges from the tent looking rather forlorn and uneasy. The national leader seeks an immediate answer. The bodyguard whimpers:
“That preacher, Your Excellency and Leader for Life, is referring to an image of the Jewish King Solomon on the projector screen!”

Personally, I am not into this hero-worshiping thing. You and I know that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been gnawing at the Zanu PF dinosaur since 1998; apparently the gigantic, nimble-footed mammal hasn’t even noticed, save for a few primate grunts once every five or so years.

Instead, with near-medieval aristocratic aplomb, it keeps eating up every MDC supporter in sight! And so those of us who generally work with “key performance indicators” would have had something like:

“Number of regime changes by December 31st 2010” as part of the array of political “achievables”. But it’s either I am blind, daft or both.

In 2000, the Tsvangirai mission ought to have been, “To have a new MDC government by 2008”. Ten years after, he is still only president of his party and a mere prime minister in a dysfunctional coalition.

Is mission accomplished? No! If there is democracy at Harvest House, the man should now gracefully “retire” from active national leadership, at least in my world of fair political competition and make way for another cadre with a “new and improved” regime change paradigm. Wouldn’t such a move be exemplary, dignified and sensible, almost Nelson Mandela-like?

Obviously, the guy is a good leader, but good has no synonmity with “delivery”. There are plenty of good leaders who are yet to build a single Blair toilet in their rural wards.

Frankly, anyone who cannot dislodge an unwanted 30-year-old dictatorship from power over a 10-year period needs a rethink.

Besides, Zanu PF has only one electoral strategy, violence and all competitors know it. How much more easily can it be than to destroy a competitor who has one known strategy!

Okay, you will accuse me of being a theorist, because you say in real life, PM Tsvangirai is a strong brand without which the MDC is a rudderless ship, also up against a Zanu PF strategy backed with half a million AK-47s. Exactly, that is my point! We call that marketing intelligence!

The truth is Zimbabwean politics is based on polarised cult leadership. It is either you are with “us” or “them”, no middle ground.

Look at it this way, President Robert Mugabe has been “first secretary” for donkey years and at this rate, it doesn’t seem he will ever be “second anything”, at least in his party.

But that’s okay, in Zanu PF; cult leadership leaves real power with one man. Nothing much to learn from them except political survival and back-stabbing.

Perhaps our threshold of expectation from Harvest House was perched too high. You see, PM Tsvangirai has always been a “president”. So tell me how on earth he will ever settle for less! Herein lies the problem.

There are those around him whose credibility and celebrity statuses depend on his benevolence. I just assume they would love to have him a “little longer”, hopefully not for “life” like in the discredited Zanu PF camp.

In any case, why would anyone want to be president for life in a Third less-than-a-dollar-per-day World country with 4 million citizens in exile unless he is not profiting from it?

My advice to the few voluntary Zanu PF supporters is that if you anoint an African man to be leader for life, once he starts whipping you, you’ll never be able to stop him. History has it that when dictators run out of shooting targets, they point the bazooka at their supporters.

Even if the MDC-T constitution does not have a “dignified exit” clause, it is just right that after three attempts at (real) national leadership, PM Tsvangirai passes on the baton to someone. Why do we want fatigue to set in before we take action? Right now, President Mugabe is basking in the glory of praise by his zealots.

There are those who want him for eternity because they are not good enough, so they would rather work with the devil they know. They are weak. Others, however, have this illusion that if they say “Mugabe must retire”, some mouse gnawing at some discarded nut next door will overhear and squeal. This group is not weak, but plain stupid. If someone says “please retire”, they are being good to you. They care for your health.

Millions of people claim to have noble intentions for PM Tsvangirai.

They are just not courageous enough to advise him that political fatigue causes costly mistakes and incremental popular resentment.

I have already proffered advice that the Premier should just say no to elections until all the institutions that guarantee a free and fair plebiscite are fully functional. But he keeps saying: “I am ready for elections if only they will be free and fair.” This is not smart.

Elections in Zimbabwe can never be free and fair until all institutions that govern rules of elections are independent and free to operate, and that includes President Mugabe’s ability to submit himself to the virtues of fair play.

That is why I insist that Harvest House is desperate for leadership change because PM Tsvangirai is now engrossed in brinkmanship that shrouds sound political, or should I say strategic-judgment.

Rejoice Ngwenya is a social commentator

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