Reformist Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who was not ideologically hidebound, famously said: “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
Deng was most perspicacious, meaning he had that ability to notice and understand things that are difficult or not so obvious especially when people become conditioned to thinking in a politically correct way — that is, conforming to language and practices that do not offend the political sensibilities of those at the very top who invariably call the shots.
One of the old guard of the Chinese Communist Party, Deng became the party’s secretary-general in 1954, but was purged by Chinese leader, Mao Zedong in 1966 for his strong objections to the excesses of the regime, including the political idolisation of Mao. However, after Mao’s death in 1976, Deng took over as the de facto Chinese leader until his death in 1997, after plucking China from the dark depths of unlimited personalised rule, and prevailing against Mao’s widow Jiang Qing’s grab for power, ending her dynastic pretensions once and for all. Jiang’s fall from grace — no pun intended — was spectacular as she hurtled from the pinnacle of power into prison.
Indeed, China is not a paragon of constitutional democracy, far from it. But Deng left the political legacy where there is leadership change every 10 years. Now, who are worse off between us Zimbabweans — who go through the meaningless ritual of voting when the result is pre-determined to legitimise one-person rule for life that we have been burdened with for all of 37 years and still counting; and the Chinese, who — at the very least — get new leaders every decade? The Chinese don’t pay lip service to democracy. What you see is what you get, not the illusion or mirage of democracy we have here. Deng untiringly articulated the politically incorrect bare truth and facts about the situation despite the personal risk involved. It really takes a brave and principled insider to lay bare the officially-propagated political falsities.
No one is suggesting that Christopher Mutsvangwa is as big or as great as Deng or won’t be, but the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNVLWVA) chairperson has amply proved that he is not a yes-man. And — like it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice — we should not disregard legitimate national issues of grave concern just because they have been raised by Mutsvangwa, as this won’t make them any less critical or less urgent. People eventually resist when they are being made to say and do not just wrong, but bad, things. Deng started out with Mao on the famed epic Long March in 1934, but came to realise decades later that something had gone drastically wrong and pointed it out. Mutsvangwa this week said President Robert Mugabe’s bid to establish a dynasty would be resisted. Said Mutsvangwa: “President Mugabe is gravitating towards dictatorial tendencies, including allowing his wife to make illegal pronouncements on issues in the courts of law.” Yes, we don’t need Jiang-like dangerous dynastic pretensions. They are not part of the Look East Policy package. And, why should First Lady Grace Mugabe unilaterally exonerate Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo of corruption instead of saying he is innocent until proven guilty? What is her locus standi? Who is she really in such matters?
Mutsvangwa’s “freedom of speech” could be because he is now free from the golden cage that Zanu PF Cabinet ministers are in after Mugabe fired him from the War Veterans portfolio. Now, he is ZNLWVA chairperson not at the pleasure of Mugabe, unlike in Cabinet, but at the pleasure of the war vets themselves.
As for the over-enthusiastic Zanu PF youth league leaders like Kudzanayi Chipanga, who, like attack dogs, are at the beck and call of the First Family, labelling us all as “donkeys” before the First Lady, the perspicacious Deng knew the type very well and saw the damage and danger they could wreak, saying: “Young leading cadres have risen up by helicopter. They should really rise step by step.” Where did Chipanga erupt from? He was parachuted from the top, as one can see from his total accountability to the First Lady, not to the Zanu PF youth league members he supposedly leads. Such irresponsible elements will eventually be stopped when their benefactors and sponsors are gone in the same way it happened in China to those hiding behind Jiang. It’s not a threat, but a promise because history tends to repeat itself.
Continued Mutsvangwa: “When executive authority is being abused, as is happening, a constitutional republic like Zimbabwe can use impeachment, elections or even votes of no-confidence against the monarchists …” Indeed, Mugabe is not beyond impeachment. He would have been recalled from office long ago if there were enough brave men and women in Zanu PF like what befell former South African President Thabo Mbeki in 2008.
So this headline this week in a Zanu-controlled newspaper reading “Cabinet endorses $1 billion RG Mugabe University” did not reveal anything new or significant, making it much ado about nothing. Would Cabinet ministers reject the funding when they are so sheepish? If it may be asked, did Mugabe, to avoid conflict of interest as an interested party, leave the room for the ministers to decide themselves? Was there something like a secret ballot like one which saw South African President Jacob Zuma survive a no-confidence vote this week?
Declared Mutsvangwa: “We will make sure there are free and fair elections [in 2018]. The [opposition] MDC joined us in the constitution-making process. They may have their agenda, but we do not consider them as enemies anymore.”
Yes, it’s ultimately about giving each other political space — not the farce (mahumbwe) looming next year.
I have had criticism, some of it abusive, from some circles that I disproportionately commentate on what Mutsvangwa says just because he is my friend. Lloyd Mutasa, the Dynamos Football Club coach, went ahead to buy his son, Wisdom, for the team. It was not about the son in the player, but about going for the player in his son. I can clearly distinguish the politician in my friend and detach the two from each other as and when. Yes, Mutsvangwa is my friend, but it’s a fact that he issues statements, hard-hitting ones for that matter, regularly — some say too regularly — and this keeps him in the limelight. How often do we read such statements as made by Mutsvangwa this week: “We will not allow them [G40] to use a marriage certificate to effect a putsch [coup]”? You cannot be more lucid than that. It’s clearly expressed and easily understood. Surely, this is stuff that makes news anywhere anytime. I wish I could say the same about Simba Makoni, but when did he last issue a headline-making statement on his own? People can criticise Mutsvangwa’s motives, but his articulation of what is going on cannot be faulted. You quickly get an insight into and understanding of issues.
Continued Mutsvangwa: “Mugabe has no magical powers. He is not superhuman. There is nothing magical about becoming President of Zimbabwe. It all comes from the people. We know he is not superhuman because we made him.”
Indeed, Mugabe is a fallible, faulty human being like you and me and the sooner not only he, but all of us, accept that, the better. By being still the war veterans’ leader against Mugabe’s wishes, Mutsvangwa has indeed shown that Mugabe’s one-centre-of-power mantra, which has strangulated Zanu PF and, by extension, the nation, can be prevailed against.
The lesson to all those who are being treated with malice and purged by Mugabe is that their day will come if they stay true to themselves — like Deng did.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org