I have never claimed to be neutral —so here I go!
CONWAY TUTANI ECHOES
The standoff between MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and one of his three deputies, Thokozani Khupe, over the political trade-offs with other opposition parties to form a coalition under the banner of MDC Alliance, has escalated.
Some people are throwing tons of bricks at Khupe, but is it justified? In aid of who or what? Khupe has raised legitimate issues.
She has not thrown tantrums. She hasn’t behaved like a prima donna or drama queen. In Parliament, she is right up her street.
She does really well in raising her points and dressing down her opponents. I have always seen some real political quality in Khupe.
Thus, the Khupe saga puts under severe test Tsvangirai’s crisis management skills.
Not to mention that fellow MDC-T vice-presidents Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri have been disquietingly silent about the MDC Alliance.
For all we know, they could be inwardly seething with anger.
So, the characterisation and consequent demonisation of Khupe as the major stumbling block, the villain of the piece, the devilish cause of trouble in this venture, is wrong, premature and facile. Blunders have been made on both sides. Granted negotiations have been slow and tense, but Tsvangirai did not have to make dismissive statements about Khupe so publicly and so stridently when Khupe was calling for internal dialogue to settle the matter.
One, it was most impolitic of Tsvangirai to ever accuse Khupe of tribalism.
Need Tsvangirai be reminded that all politics is local?
You start by building a local base and use this as a springboard into national politics. So there is nothing tribalistic per se about Khupe claiming the Matabeleland region as her political turf because she is a local girl, so to speak, in the same way that Buhera is home territory to local boy Tsvangirai, his political comfort zone where he is at ease.
Two, accusing Khupe of tribalism was the unkindest cut of all. Need Tsvangirai be reminded that in 2011 when Khupe was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, the Welshman Ncube-led MDC’s women assembly president Thandiwe Mlilo made a most disgusting and distasteful remark that Khupe had lost hair because of supporting a Shona leader —Tsvangirai — implying that Khupe should have based her backing according to tribe.
This is not to say that Ncube was behind that, but that it actually harmed his electoral chances and shrank his party.
Ncube, to his immense credit, finally and openly threw down the gauntlet to such toxic elements in his MDC formation, saying members had to decide whether their party was to remain national or be regional. Gladly, the MDC chose the sensible and mature national path, as is evident in its endorsement of the coalition initiative.
Of course, regionalists are found in every province, not just Matabeleland, as heard in the obnoxious “Zezurus Unconquerable” chant spearheaded and danced to by you-know-who.
Yes, Tsvangirai is highly popular, but there are some things that can be better handled by his deputies and other senior party leaders. Some issues are simply beyond his ken because, as humans, we can’t possibly be knowledgeable about everything and dexterous in handling every situation to the same extent. “Whether we are talking about leadership, teamwork or client service, there is no more powerful attribute than the ability to be genuinely honest about one’s weaknesses, mistakes, and needs for help,” says American writer on organisational health Patrick Lencioni.
The organisational health of the MDC-T could be in grave danger.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we should not masquerade as all-knowing and infallible like the First Family in Zimbabwe is deliberately and actively projecting itself to be in the party, the nation at large, and even beyond the borders where they are sending the message that it was actually First Lady Grace Mugabe who was wronged by the South African woman she left bruised in a Johannesburg hotel room last month. We must not mistake power for omniscience.
Tsvangirai has needlessly put his authority to the test in the same way his party needlessly gave away parliamentary seats through a blanket election boycott which has achieved zilch, zero, nothing, as none of their demands for electoral reform have been met.
And let’s not mistake leverage for lack of democracy. The MDC-T, through its sheer size, will inevitably call the shots in the coalition. It will have a bigger say. Likewise, in the same way that all politics is local, Khupe, going by the poor attendance at the launch of the MDC Alliance in Bulawayo last Saturday, which she boycotted, demonstrated that she has considerable leverage in Matabeleland. Khupe has shown that she has real power, not the borrowed power that Grace Mugabe is flaunting and abusing, to the detriment of organisational health in Zanu PF.
There was no way that overnight Khupe could have turned into the monster some people — the usual suspects who rush to judge — are making her out to be. Khupe has taken a lot of stick for being with Tsvangirai. But she should not let anger and resentment get the better of her. Lencioni says: “Teamwork requires some sacrifice up front; people who work as a team have to put the collective needs of the group ahead of their individual interests.”
There will be a lot of backward and forward movement, to and fro before a clear picture or the final denouement — the outcome or resolution of a doubtful and difficult series of occurrences — about the envisaged coalition emerges. So Khupe is far from a goner. It’s not the fait accompli that some quarters are saying it is. It’s not an accomplished fact that she is finished. It’s not a done deal. It’s not a closed chapter.
But does Tsvangirai have a contingent plan? Or he is staking everything on the MDC Alliance without the necessary tactical fluidity? Zanu PF did not stake all on the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979. They held back some of their troops in Mozambique in case the ceasefire collapsed. Tsvangirai should be most careful not to irreconcilably antagonise and marginalise Khupe & Co who have always stood by him through thick and thin. A coalition is different from a political party, where you have to be all in, where you can’t be half-pregnant, as it were.
The MDC-T is far and away the biggest opposition party in Zimbabwe. However, while there is room for everyone, it could have given up or given away too much to other much smaller parties. Do the parts add to the sum?
Yes, egos have been bruised, but Tsvangirai and Khupe just have to work it out. Now, at this late hour, is not the time to throw it all away.