HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsIs Tsvangirai in the mould of Mandela?

Is Tsvangirai in the mould of Mandela?


While it may obviously be too early to talk about Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai being likened to Madiba (Nelson Mandela), considering that the GNU is yet to realise its fruits, the President’s recent assertion about what should constitute heroism cannot go unchallenged in a free democracy.

Nevertheless, we have to first attempt to describe what makes Madiba to be identified as a hero, among other iconic heroes of the World.

But before doing so, we have to disabuse ourselves by understanding that being incarcerated in prison for 27 years is not what necessarily makes Mandela an elaborate and adorable hero of the world.

There were obviously many other people who were incarcerated with Mandela and some of them even died of torture in prison, but they would not match Mandela’s legacy. The ability to wage and execute a successful armed struggle is also not what makes someone a hero, just as it was not Mandela who was directly involved in the command of the Umkonto we Sizwe.

Such violence may have been viewed as necessary in dealing with the apartheid regime of South Africa, but that could not have been what made Mandela to be what he is seen to be today in the eyes of the world. What makes Mandela a hero. The hero status of Mandela was actually confirmed during the transitional period, after his release from prison, leading to the elections that saw his ascension to power in 1994.

For the benefit of those who were young or not yet born, this period was scary, with gun-totting white Afrikaners threatening civil war, while the machete-wielding Zulus were running around threatening everyone who could not speak Zulu with death. Mandela is of the Xhosa background.

The most appealing response to such a scenario, from a human point of view, could have been to use the armoury and experienced soldiers, for any national leader who would have been crowned with power, in order to deal with such madness.

However, it is on record that Mandela restrained himself from using such forces and yet managed to pacify such a volatile environment by peaceful means, thereby confirming himself to be a hero of that magnitude.

Ironically, it is also on record that the former Prime Minister Robert Mugabe endeared himself with the world in 1980, at his inauguration, when he pronounced reconciliation with his enemies. Mugabe’s Independence speech actually dwelt on reconciliation as the former Prime Minister encouraged his supporters not to mete out revenge against the enemies of the struggle.

However, the former Prime Minister’s hero status was to be diminished by what was to take place during the Gukurahundi debacle and in scenes like what happened after the elections of 1985, when he encouraged his supporters then to go and weed out party enemies. The rest is history.

Looking at this through the law of opposites will portray a behaviour that would be opposed to the other and what makes one a hero is not the latter, but the former. I suppose Mandela managed to preserve his legacy by quickly coming out of power, before being corrupted by the accolades associated with power.

We should understand that any human being is vulnerable to such temptations and no-one should attempt to denigrate the seating president on what prevails in our country at present, because anyone could easily fall into that trap.

I am quite positive that if we were to tone down on highlighting the achievements made by the gun and instead, promote the reconciliation that was pronounced in the former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe’s speech in 1980, the world would shower the President with the accolades that may even surpass what is currently accorded to Mandela.

Tsvangirai may currently be judged by his messages of reconciliation, that are recorded as having been said by him wherever he goes, for him to be likened to Mandela, but it remains to be seen whether he would stand the test of time.

My prayer is that the President, as he plays a critical role in the GPA, should be helped to understand one thing: What makes a person a hero is how closely associated with peace the same person may be, not how ruthless he may be found to be in seeking to obtain his objectives.

This is why Jesus Christ is a model of heroism, yet He never used violence to obtain His objectives.

However, I still want to believe that what is emerging in Zimbabwe portrays what even the most powerful nations will envy as long as the principals remain focused. I want to congratulate those who worked so hard to come up with the current draft constitution. It looks reasonable as compared to the previous one.

The opponents of the draft should only be engaged and helped to understand that people need peace first, and later the constitution can be amended to achieve all the intended objectives. The draft constitution seems to drive towards the achievement of real peace in our country. It may not be the best constitution, but it could be a tool to transform the current confusion and bring stability in governance and political environment.

I just hope that some day, the Nobel Peace Prize will be shared among the principals, in similar way that the same prize was shared between Mandela and De Klerk, then the President of South Africa.

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