President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s visit to main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai marks a monumental moment in Zimbabwean politics despite the various interpretations ascribed to the visit.
By Learnmore Zuze
As usual, there are many who have become career-critics; people, who would, in every event, strive to bring up the negative.
For a long time, Zimbabwe has reeled under polarisation at the instance of political leaders. Since the days of the respected late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, Zimbabweans have been divided by politicians along ethnic lines. Reading Nkomo’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, one gets a profound sense that the man abhorred the polarisation of people on racial and tribal grounds.
Even one of the early video footages of the liberation struggle shows a sobbing Nkomo on the unfortunate fact that Zimbabweans had to fight Zimbabweans during the war; to put it in his words: “It’s unfortunate that we had to kill each other as brothers.”
The old man of Zimbabwean politics was a nationalist par excellence. Nkomo had a finer grasp of politics, preaching that we are Zimbabweans before anything else. His brand of politics is precisely what was not given to former President Robert Mugabe, a man whom he endured a lot from soon after the war.
Nkomo was massively popular in places like Mutoko and Murehwa then. He was above tribal and ethnic perceptions. His politics knew no skin colour, creed, race or denomination, hence the slogan that became popular, “Kwese kwese Joshua Nkomo (Everywhere Joshua Nkomo).”
It was after the war ended that the politics of hatred and tribes emerged becoming an integral part of Zimbabwean politics. The new cancer would, from 1980, to this very day, see the sad and tragic deaths of thousands of Zimbabwe. This new politics of hate would make the subject of national governance something feared; something that people would talk about in hushed tones in the darkest of rooms.
Many would die from the politics of hatred. It was precisely the rule of Mugabe that entrenched fear and openly paraded hatred. Mugabe was never one to make it a secret how he wished pain upon his political opponents. I recall in the year 2000 when Mugabe told people at a rural rally that: “We must strike fear in the heart of the white man.”
Similar remarks can, with ease, be attributed to him even as he led an onslaught on civilians on the pretext of hunting armed dissidents in Matabeleland in the 1980s.
Thousands of innocent people were brutally killed by the notorious Fifth Brigade. All this stemmed from the man’s political ideology that anyone who did not perceive things from his angle was an enemy. This, I would say, was among the most fundamental flaws of Mugabe. The man saw things in black and white; loyalty meant agreeing with everything he said.
It is no wonder that Mugabe’s rule produced shocking sycophantism, a problem, which even the administration of Mnangagwa needs to deal with. It would appear the politicians around Mugabe knew with certainty that hatred mindset of their leader, hence, they had to play zombies to appease the leader.
It was also this politics of hatred that would go on to claim Mugabe’s scalp in his final days. The man, weighed down by old age, failed to see that he was surrounded by a very few sincere people. It finally led to his epic fall.
One of the worst things about Mugabe’s rule was his failure to recognise that politicians in opposition were not enemies, but fellow Zimbabweans with a different set of ideas. Mugabe criminalised a difference in perception. At some time he mocked the opposition saying: “How do I even talk with people who are not themselves, people who are puppets of the British?”
It was this magnitude of obstinacy that fostered the politics of hatred. People would naturally go on to maim and kill each other with such divisive statements from a Head of State. Over 200 opposition supporters were killed in the year 2000 and 2002 against the backdrop of such a political message.
Certain constituencies were declared “no-go areas” and blood was spilt simply because people held a different political view.
Well-meaning people like Itai Dzamara went missing because of this gospel of political hatred. Innocent men and women, to this day, are languishing behind the walls of prisons in the country because of political differences. This should never be the case
anymore Mnangagwa must, therefore, be lauded for the overtures, he sends a clear message and reverses the bitterness and hatred of political opponents as we saw Mugabe do on numerous occasions. When leaders act this way they set an example; they preach, in that vein, a message that cascades down to the people.
Your brother does not become an enemy because he belongs to another party. This understanding would greatly enhance the quality of politics in Zimbabwe and Africa in general.
Therefore, while some might want to insist on the negatives in the visit to Tsvangirai by Mnangagwa, it goes a long way in mending Zimbabwean politics going into the future.
Let it be grasped: “No man is your enemy by holding a different political view.”
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org