HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsNation needs boundary breakers like Mutsvangwa

Nation needs boundary breakers like Mutsvangwa

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I AM not an obituarist, but it appears President Robert Mugabe’s fate has been sealed by Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association chairperson, Chris Mutsvangwa’s no-holds-barred unpacking of Mugabe’s now irreversibly untenable situation.

echoes: CONWAY TUTANI

Conway Tutani
Conway Tutani

Said Mutsvangwa last week: ”The best times of Zimbabwe, in the 1980s, were when we had a very alert President who was in charge of running this country. He made some of the most astute decisions which any country could ever make because he was of an alert mind.”

This makes me rewind to the first time Mutsvangwa and myself met Mugabe: The year was 1975, a day after Zanu chairperson, Herbert Chitepo had been assassinated in Zambia by Rhodesian agents. University of Rhodesia students, including Mutsvangwa and myself, walked into town to demonstrate against the regime and we then proceeded to Mugabe’s Highfield home to express solidarity with him as the emerging face of the liberation cause. It was quite something to shake the hand of a vibrant, quick-witted Mugabe, who was the centre of attraction, as the place was teeming with politicians, foreign journalists and, of course, the menacing armed Rhodesian State security police.

In no time at all, young Mutsvangwa was standing next to Mugabe, as if they had known each other before as the future President skilfully fielded questions from journalists, with the Rhodesian spooks openly snooping. Sensing the rising tension against the trigger-happy Rhodesians, Mugabe astutely advised us to disperse. That’s the Mugabe that I knew, who inspired Mutsvangwa to abandon his studies at the university to join the liberation struggle some three months later. I only reunited with Mutsvangwa soon after independence in 1980 and he was beaming with hope for the future. So, I am not surprised at all that many people, including Mutsvangwa, have been disappointed at the turn of events.

Of course, you cannot rule out that a monumental hoax or massive disinformation campaign — the dissemination of intentionally false information to deliberately confuse or mislead — is at work here ahead of the 2018 general election.

This would be tailored for the consumption of overwhelmingly opposition voters in urban areas, who are over-eager to swallow hook, line and sinker each and every negative development in Zanu PF.

You can’t deal with Zanu PF without factoring in each and every possibility. Remember shortly before the 2013 general election when almost the whole nation was enthralled by the faceless Baba Jukwa on Facebook and from that, prematurely saw a staggering defeat for Zanu PF?

But, unlike Baba Jukwa, Mutsvangwa has put his face to his words. He knows no fear. Was he not the first person to openly warn against the conflation of the marriage institution and the State when First Lady Grace Mugabe jumped into the political fray, riding on the back of her husband, destabilising both the party and State?

But one thing that cannot be faked is the bad blood between the Zanu PF Team Lacoste faction — to which Mutsvangwa reportedly belongs — and the G40 camp.

That pointed out, it’s clear that Mugabe’s standing within Zanu PF, not to mention outside the party, has fallen big-time. He is now like a football manager, who has lost the dressing room when the players no longer respect him or follow his instructions.

When that happens, it spells the end for the manager. There is no way a 93-year-old can reassert his power and authority. That’s more of a shove than a nudge because it has been — until now — a no-go area in Zanu PF to ever even suggest that Mugabe is now a spent force. It can only point to one thing: The political initiative has been seized from Mugabe. He does not hold the cards anymore.

Which brings us to the next point. Mutsvangwa further said: “At 93, you eventually mentally lapse, (but) still in power, you have to respect the State apparatus, which makes it possible to (continue ruling). The order, which makes it possible about this country, comes from the Zanla and Zipra tradition.”

That’s a whole loaded statement. First, there is the reality that military power is more pronounced in Zimbabwe than in neighbouring countries because, one, we had a protracted armed struggle, entrenching militarism; and, two, Mugabe himself militarised institutions to consolidate his power.

Thus, there is need to avoid any dangerous games of playing State institutions against each other or taking advantage of proximity to power as, for example, one Zanu PF faction has been doing, resulting in conflation of power, which could draw in the military with disastrous results. If this stricture is partly directed at G40, it’s quite correctly and justifiably so.

G40 has been Grigori Rasputin-like in further poisoning the political atmosphere in Zimbabwe by exerting undue influence on the First Family. Many of the crises facing the nation today are because G40 has been taking advantage of the First Lady, who is far from a seasoned politician.

G40’s proxy wars should be exposed for what they are — and Mutsvangwa is doing exactly that. The G40 faction has been after him, but has found him too big and too hot to handle. And all indications are that he is coming out on top of G40. He has bested them — that let’s not play with the State.

In the same vein, Mutsvangwa said he once warned main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to respect the State in order to get into power, but he would not listen.

“I told Morgan this when he formed the MDC in 1999. I had the courage to see him and he was very pompous (believing) that ‘we have arrived’ and I told him ‘you will get nowhere until you come to the State . . . The State survives on its own — it’s an organism.’”

Of course, we should not give a veneer of normality to the killings, vote-buying and intimidation that have kept Tsvangirai out. Observes political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya: “Any alleged Zanu PF victory in 2018 that is not qualified by fundamentally unconstitutional activities — including militarisation of electoral and public affairs, commandeering of villagers, patronage etc in the midst of a Zanu PF-manufactured economic and governance crisis — is not worth my attention. It’s said it has become fashionable for colleagues to ‘predict’ the obviously known abnormality as legitimate.”

That said, the State — whether largely subverted as currently in Zimbabwe — should be respected by whoever comes into power. In Iran, the shadow of the Ayatollah always looms large with a whip over the elected President. He has the last say on every decision that matters in the Islamic Republic.

In America, the State — through Congress and institutions like the Federal Bureau of Investigation — has stopped President Donald Trump in his tracks, showing him that there are a lot of things that he cannot exclusively control.

So, I really have no problem with what Mutsvangwa calls the State. What’s needed is a modus vivendi — a feasible arrangement that bypasses difficulties, a working arrangement between conflicting interests.

There is that need for a working arrangement to allow for co-existence between two parties in spite of differences or unresolved disputes. We know that the Zanu PF-inclined State and the opposition are too far apart. From that, a new approach is needed. There is need for political trade-off.

Such a modus vivendi will serve and, thus, save Zimbabwe as the State will belong to us all. I can assure you of that because in the true spirit of modus vivendi, I am still very much on speaking and friendly terms with Mutsvangwa.

Come to think of it, this nation needs more boundary breakers such as Mutsvangwa.

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

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