IT is becoming increasingly apparent, as each day passes, that MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s family is overwhelmed by the awfully complex situation confronting them, namely the prolonged illness of their relative who is, on the other hand, a colossal public figure who has millions of people keen on knowing his state of health.
By Learnmore Zuze
The bewildering state of affairs has left it open for debate whether the family is acting in good faith in the whole saga of power struggles within the MDC-T or they have allowed themselves to be drawn into the vortex of political battles.
The nation has heard all manner of reports, ranging from downright falsehoods to some misty truth regarding Tsvangirai’s actual state of health. And this has not helped matters.
The confusion resulting from Tsvangirai’s bad health is clear testimony that the man is critically ill, otherwise he would never have wanted a situation where there is mystery blanketing his illness and a few claiming to have “monopoly” over access to him. The truth of the matter is that Tsvangirai is terribly ill.
It must be acknowledged that it is never easy for a family, trying to maintain the privacy of an illness of a national figure and acknowledging that his mass of supporters have a right to know how he is doing.
It must be accepted that Tsvangirai’s health and what happens to him has critical political significance and serious implications for the future of his party and, by acting in a way to influence certain outcomes in the MDC-T political matrix, his family won’t be doing justice to the man and the millions who have stood by him and continue to stand by him.
But, in my view, there should be a guiding principle in the matter.
Just like Tsvangirai himself noted several times, his family should have no business in politics.
This should be the guiding principle in the whole fracas surrounding the man’s fragile health. What does Tsvangirai himself want to happen?
This is no conundrum. Tsvangirai has strived to espouse an open style of leadership and democracy, even coming out in the open to disclose that he was fighting colo-rectal cancer at a time when his nemesis, former President Robert Mugabe, kept everyone guessing about the purpose of his cryptic trips to Singaporean hospitals.
Tsvangirai, much as he knew that his political enemies were going to rejoice over his demise, never made a secret of the state of things.
It is only natural that the world and his supporters, in particular, are kept informed without necessarily delving into the intricacies of his illness.
The damage realised so far in both his party and his family must have whoever, amongst his relatives, is keeping a tight lead on the true state of affairs, thinking twice.
Tsvangirai’s health is a matter of national interest. This is a fact manifestly acknowledged by Tsvangirai himself, who has tried to be open from the outset to his supporters and to the nation at large.
We all recall how, on the very day he left for South Africa, he allowed an impromptu visit by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his entourage.
Even then, there were noises about him having allowed cameras in that state of health. Even well-meaning people like MDC-T acting president Nelson Chamisa were besmirched and accused of masterminding the visit.
But those who know Tsvangirai well will attest that he knew fully well that Mnangagwa was coming and could have barred camera people if it was necessary, but he chose not to.
The reason is simple: Hiding illness and the true state of things is not consistent with his way of doing things.
Even the very statement he made that sparked a row hinting on the need to “leave the levers of power to a younger generation” is clear testament of his openness in handling affairs. This, from where I stand, should be the guiding principle.
Recent reports that Tsvangirai had insisted on getting back his diplomatic passport with a view to travel to Zimbabwe in order to defuse the simmering tensions in his party speak to a man unhappy with the state of his health being a continued mystery.
The calls to get back his passport are very consistent with his behaviour.
This is not to say Tsvangirai should be allowed to make strenuous travel when he is unfit. The point is that if he had at least been in better health, he would have levelled matters and quelled the dissonance almost about to rip his party apart.
The dark blanket currently covering Tsvangirai’s health threatens to do more harm than good.
I don’t suppose Tsvangirai would disclose that he has cancer and not update the people on the progression as is currently happening.
Tsvangirai’s family, in this regard, have a duty to act in good faith. A duty not to take sides or attempt to influence the succession matrix in the party.
They must respect Tsvangirai’s wishes. They must accept the man made himself the brand he is and that his affairs are very much his own.
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity.