HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsTsvangirai can never be another Mugabe

Tsvangirai can never be another Mugabe


Everybody, it seems, has got an opinion on the envisaged opposition grand coalition for their own reasons, many of them self-interested.


President Robert Mugabe has dismissed the mooted coalition as bound to be a “grand failure”. What else would he say? Naturally, he would not welcome something which poses a challenge to his iron grip on power. His dismissal is not based on rules of fair play or ignorance, but self-fulfilling prophecy because, all things being equal, he is beatable, as happened in 2008 when the MDC-T, without any coalition partner as such, gave him such a thorough hiding that he had to withhold the poll results for all of three weeks to manufacture a runoff, whose run-up was so bloody — with over 200 MDC-T supporters killed by State agents — and whose result was, consequently, so farcical that even the pliant Southern African Development Community (Sadc) had to intervene and arrange for an interim inclusive government including the opposition, but dominated by Mugabe. It was really sad and tragic that Sadc rewarded the loser, not the victor.

It’s not a coincidence that even internal election results in Zanu PF itself are being reversed until the outcome becomes favourable to you know who. The winners end up being losers and vice versa. The genuine voices of local politics get buried under those of lesser and malleable candidates.

So Mugabe’s prediction of a “grand failure” is nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy because he will always resort to violence when defeat looms like he did in 2008. Something that is self-fulfilling — such as the “grand failure” of the coalition — can happen because people with the real power — like Mugabe — act in ways that make it happen — such as resorting to the violence currently being unleashed in Mashonaland East province against opposition supporters. Mugabe deliberately creates conditions for failure, if it may be called that, and, without any sense of irony, holds up this as the true facts of the situation. You set up people to fail and then claim, with a straight face, that you are the best and invincible. Well, this is most contemptuous and cynical conduct.

Mugabe’s self-fulfilling narrative was this week buttressed by State media apologists. We had this pontification — expression of opinion and judgment in a dogmatic way — passed off as expert analysis, from Nick Mangwana: “It is, therefore, quite important that for Zimbabwe’s democracy to thrive, there is need for a vibrant opposition which provides an alternative. But for our country, it’s a tragedy because we have a moribund opposition which has a tendency of only being active during election time.”

This cannot be further from the truth. This is not only disingenuous, but dishonest. Who does not know that the regime thwarts the opposition at every turn under all sorts of tricks and subterfuges? Has Mangwana conveniently chosen to overlook the terror that saw over 200 people killed in 2008? Yes, those unresolved killings will always be a point of reference to those who pontificate as if there is normal and civilised political conduct in Zimbabwe with all the political parties given their due democratic space as per the Constitution. The first and last time the regime opened political space for all was in 2008 and it got a mauling and decided: “No more!”
Now that space is opened just slightly enough to give elections a semblance or veneer of being free and fair for the benefit of Sadc and the African Union.

As if this was not misleading and out of touch enough, on the facing page of the same newspaper, we had this from Reason Wafawarova: “The coalition efforts themselves are a confirmation that the ruling party is the biggest political party in the country, and that there is no leader or political party capable of wrestling [wresting?] power from Zanu PF as currently comprised.”
This pontification is typical of the responses of all too many regime enablers in academia with banal revelations. Everything is meant to show the “genius” and “infallibility” of the regime as if everything is hunky-dory to the total disregard of the reality on the ground of political reprisal against anyone who “dares” show dissent within and outside the party.

That’s why people — both inside and outside Zanu PF — are increasingly finding themselves in the same boat. Those in the opposition saying that Zanu PF people should be completely shut out of the coalition are neither being practical nor fair. It’s impractical in that every vote is needed and that it doesn’t follow that all traditional Zanu PF supporters will vote for Zanu PF candidates, but can also cast ballots for the opposition as seen in the “Bhora Musango” phenomenon in 2008. And it’s unfair to exclude such people in that in a dictatorship like we have in Zimbabwe, not all Zanu PF people are cruel, but that it is actually the system which is wicked. There is need to make that fine distinction to reap maximum political benefit in the event of a cliffhanger election. And that the anger against the regime could now be greater within the party itself as members are being used and abused each other.

The opposition should conceive political messages to woo ordinary Zanu PF supporters who are sick and tired of their elitist leaders who are, for instance, evicting them from land they have been settled at for the past 17 years. The eviction of families from Arnold Farm in Mazowe to make way for none other than First Lady Grace Mugabe to expand her already gigantic business empire sticks out as a situation ripe for political harvest by the opposition. It’s about turning things to their advantage.

Back to the coalition, it now appears that it is going to be headed by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai naturally and logically because he has the biggest political clout; he is the first among equals in the opposition. That is how it stands. It’s a no-brainer. You are either in or not. Time should not be wasted on non-entities who only have nuisance value. Their only usefulness is in their capacity to cause difficulties and irritation. Their nuisance value must not permeate, pollute and derail the whole opposition.

As for those unhappy with that, it must be understood, from the word go, that a coalition is not a merger of parties. People should not lose sight of that. A coalition is, by definition, a temporary group or union of organisations formed for a particular advantage. Like in South Africa, where the pan-Africanist and extreme leftist Economic Freedom Fighters party joined hands with the rightist, white-dominated Democratic Alliance after the municipal elections last year to shut out the ruling African National Congress from mayorships.

From that development, an opinion piece from the other end of the political spectrum had this headline: “Will Tsvangirai’s government be any different from Mugabe’s?”

Of course, it’s a no-brainer that it will be different, markedly different. Why? Because there is no way Tsvangirai, even if he so wished, could have as much power as Mugabe because, unlike Mugabe, Tsvangirai does not have any State institutions in his pocket. Let’s not draw facile parallels.

Anyone acquainted with practical Zimbabwean politics can see that Tsvangirai will not have as much leeway as Mugabe. The system will see to that. It’s practically impossible for Tsvangirai to do any worse than Mugabe — he won’t be having the absolute power to do so. This makes it disingenuous to equate Tsvangirai with Mugabe. What Mugabe wants is what Mugabe gets, period. He is not accountable to anyone.

So, people should not be distracted from focusing on the job at hand — the coalition project — by such impossible scenarios.

Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: nkumbuzo@gmail.com

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