Let’s break out of the political madness zone

Conway Tutani

Now that the disastrously failed and highly polarising Robert Mugabe is out, the imperative is to manage expectations, which have shot high in a matter of days.


Flashback to 1980: There was an outbreak of strikes as over-expectant Zimbabweans demanded immediate change after the attainment of independence, pointing to a crisis of expectations. This was largely in the mistaken, but somewhat understandable, belief that there had been a revolution whereas it was evolution from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, where there was no abrupt and complete break from the past.

What has happened 37 years later is not a revolution, far from it, but evolution like in 1980, period. Had it been a revolution, former President Mugabe and his much-loathed imperious wife, Grace, would have met the same fate as that of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, who was executed after his abdication in 1918.

In the same way, there was no revolution, but evolution in 1980, which saw the ousted whites retain 20 parliamentary seats for 10 years. If there had been a revolution, Smith wouldn’t have sat in Parliament; he would have been summarily executed.

If there had been a revolution this time around, Mugabe wouldn’t have had the privilege of negotiating his $10 million exit package in the comfort of his mansion. He would be dead and gone. If given a choice between revolution and evolution, I would choose evolution.

Commendably, many Zimbabweans are mature enough to know that they should let the dust settle first, not make premature judgment.

They instinctively and intuitively know that they should not make a delicate situation worse by further clouding and even inflaming it with the false radicalism we are hearing from some armchair critics, who are far removed from the scene, that the army, after engineering Mugabe’s fall, must immediately return to the barracks or else; that any and all those associated with Mugabe in the past must go without further delay; and that they will have none of the “neoliberal” economic prescriptions after Emmerson Dambudzo (ED) Mnangagwa, on his inauguration as President last week, replacing Mugabe, sensibly called for re-engagement with the international community. Zimbabweans, in their famed maturity, know that the situation is evolving.

Then we have some “experts” outrightly condemning the military intervention which led to Mugabe’s removal as unconstitutional. But you cannot divorce the method used from the practicalities on the ground.

If you do that, your condemnation becomes a mere platitude — a statement that is trivially true, but practically invalid and totally useless in the circumstances that Mugabe was straying further and further from the Constitution as his wife tagged him along.

I, for one, have a serious problem with that line of thought because it leads to the question: Would it have been wrong to unconstitutionally remove the constitutionally elected Adolf Hitler after he began killing his political opponents?
Are they, by implication, suggesting that we should go back to the Mugabe era?

This not to say that there are no immediate deliverables for ED. We are, indeed, in a dire emergency situation, but cool heads are needed all round. For one, ED, on his part, should immediately do away with the “one-centre-of-power” mantra which was the metaphor for Mugabe’s ruinous despotism.

The new government should distinguish between urgent and important issues. Some issues are important, but not that urgent; others are urgent, but not necessarily as important; and others are both urgent and important. In that vein, Mnangagwa made a both urgent and important symbolic move by having opposition figures such as Morgan Tsvangirai, Joice Mujuru and Arthur Mutambara sitting right behind him on the podium at his inauguration last week.

No one is suggesting that from now on, Zimbabweans should not have political differences — far from it — but that we differ in a civilised and civil way. And even in a co-operative way.

Reacting to ED’s statement this week, former Cabinet minister David Coltart said: “(In) Mnangagwa’s statement — an interesting document — a key point is that he states that Zanu PF cannot transform Zimbabwe alone, which is correct. It also speaks of the need to respect democracy. It is early days yet, but let us give credit where it is due — it’s a good start.”

We need people like Coltart who, while he has been one of Mnangagwa’s sternest critics, still finds it in himself to point out positives from his speech. Coltart is not a serial critic, but a constructive critic. What we need now is constructive criticism.

Besides that, we need to move on, painful as it might be. Zimbabwe Communist Party secretary-general Ngqabutho Mabhena, in reference to the Gukurahundi massacres, said Mnangagwa was not squeaky clean, but that if he could transform from the biblical Saul to Paul, there was hope for the future.

Mr President, one of your both urgent and important tasks is to fully apologise, on behalf of the government, for Gukurahundi, and not — like your predecessor Mugabe — dismiss it as “a moment of madness”. I cannot pre-empt you, but this is definitely one of the biggest issues confronting you. It cannot be wished away.

That said, we should not forget where we are coming from. We need to tread carefully so as not to be set up to fight each other. People across the political divide need to adjust to each other.

The nation had been reduced to the psychotic state equivalent to that of a maladjusted child who doesn’t know how to love because all he has been taught is to hate and internalised it. There arose corruption of thought with people cheering on as Grace made outrageous statements.

Many of us — fortunately, not most — had been reduced to political sociopaths. There was political maladjustment under Mugabe, and this got worse when Grace barged in as people were further indoctrinated into more hate, fighting proxy wars of top politicians.

There was selfish, callous, remorseless use of others — like Zanu PF youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga, who is now facing the music on his own after being used by Grace.

What we saw among the “criminals surrounding” Mugabe, as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces put it, was failure to accept responsibility for their actions (like Jonathan Moyo’s lame and laughable defence of his theft of money from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund), displays of a high sense of self-worth (as Grace did ad nauseam) and possessing unrealistic goals (such as Grace’s naked Presidential ambitions which finally brought Mugabe’s downfall). All this raised questions about someone being chronically unstable.

Zimbabwe was turning into a schizophrenic outpost or zone in the region, as political madness ruled. We all — including those in Zanu PF — become victims of the system.

No wonder it has taken no time at all after Mugabe’s exit for the political gulf between Zanu PF and the mainstream opposition to narrow — which is healthy for a nation long buffeted by toxicity.

Fellow Zimbabwean Brighton Musonza wrote on Facebook this week: “Personally as an individual, while my political views are well entrenched in the opposition, I have adopted a compromise (attitude) in my faculty that as a nation, we should give Zimbabwe a chance of stability and not allow this nation to slide into a permanent state of political stand-off that attracts negativity for another decade. We have had two decades of the people vs Mugabe and what has happened to each and everyone of us during this time is that we have also regressed in two decades.”

Indeed, let’s break out of the political madness zone and move on.

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


  1. I’ve often read Tutani’s articles – mostly for their diction and expression, but never has it ever occurred to me he could write and present such rubbish as substance for reading. I cannot even engage it from any rational or substantive angle. It is borderline boot-licking (if not overtly). This is sad

    • mixit, it’s you who is mixed up. What’s bootlicking about quoting Coltart and others’ views? Tutani has given substantive examples, not created them from his head. It’s you lacking rational and substantive grounds to attack Tutani.

  2. Hey who is he boot licking? I think Mixit you lack substance yourself as this is an insightful article exhorting all of us to work together for the good of the country despite our political differences. What happened on ED’s inarguration has not happened that you find all political parties represented, it signifies the birth of a new era whic Mixit seems oblivious of. Wake up and smell the cofffe brother for new winds of change are blowing while you are burrowing your head in the sand like an ostrich!

  3. I find it hard to move on with the high-level dishonesty and hypocrisy still present. We still have the “criminals surrounding RGM” circling around the current incumbent and we have to expect a different outcome? Each one to their insanity please. The opposition leaders were used once again, fortunately they are not in this playground circus of a government. I have said to myself I can’t be an idiot for another 37 years or 37 months or 37 days nor 37 hours. It helps to identify stupidity early and have nothing to do with it. My take.

  4. Comment…I would endorse Conway’s suggested evolution, as the perpetually apt option for Zimbabwe. Undeniably we are not by nature a nation of political short distance event fast sprinters, but more in the mould of political long distance runners. Probably the reason it might require inordinate more time before this trivial political observation is accepted by majority of nationals. The sooner particular sprinter fully knows himself the greater his chance of ultimate victory in the appropriately chosen track event. Hinga wani takwesha 37 years with global admiration of our resiliance and undying resolve in relative peace and tranquility, important track records underrated only by seriously blinkered perspective.It is surprising then that when the long distance runner ultimately decides to suddenly increase pace to ensure victory, suggestions are put forwad querying why the athlete was created long distance runner and not short distance fast sprinter? What apt moment for event selection for the particular sprinter Zimbabwe.?

Comments are closed.