IN the tense moments of Zimbabwe’s transition on November 20, 2017, then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa wrote a letter to his former boss, President Robert Mugabe, from an undisclosed location turning down the latter’s offer to return home for negotiations, urging Mugabe to resign. He noted that Zimbabweans had expressed themselves in various fora and forms against the latter’s continued stay in office.
By Munyaradzi Ndovuyako Ziburawa
The self-exiled Mnangagwa implored Mugabe to heed the people’s voice and resign, invoking the mantra the voice of the people is the voice of God. Since then, ED has repeatedly alluded to this statement and popularised it in a speechs at various other fora. The statement is a very loaded with a lot of innuendos and is subject to various interpretations.
In his birthday speech recently, Mugabe as reported by our sister paper The Standard seems to confirm ED’s statement as the final nail that sealed his fate when he blames the latter for turning down then Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga’s attempt to reconcile the two. But as history will record, the people had spoken. This perhaps sealed Mugabe’s fate as for Christians and most other religions, when God speaks, He has the final say. What He decrees no one can undo. He makes and can unmake.
Perhaps when ED coined this statement he had had a deep divine revelation; a Damascene moment of sorts. Lest we forget, this man was writing from exile and had just survived various “forms of elimination”. Perhaps it was emerging from a deep personal and perhaps spiritual reflection. It is clear that this was a new revelation to Mnangagwa – a former Zanu PF strongman, a veteran politician and chief strategist responsible for the survival of the Mugabe regime by hook or crook.
We have no record of ED’s usage of this statement prior to the 2017 military intervention. Perhaps, the events of November 18 were so overwhelming and instructive that it suddenly dawned on him that even the crocodile had to accept the revelation that “the voice of the people is the voice of God”.
Indeed, the historic march against Mugabe was unprecedented. Such voluntary convergence of forces against the post-independence leadership and center of power were unprecedented. That even Zanu PF members and leaders could stand up against their own boss was unheard off; that rare convergence of Zimbabweans was just but a first, all, in unison that Mugabe must go.
Perhaps it is this convergence that brought about this revelation on ED. It is trite to note that Zanu PF politics prior to the new era did not seem to accept this truism. I will not dwell on the 2008 election debacle and ask why Paul was Saul since following his Damascene experience; Mnangagwa has at least promised on numerous occasions free and fair elections.
Perhaps it’s the revelation that all politicians need to embrace across the political divide. Many a time, politicians are deified, flattered by cheerleaders and affirmative slogans and in the process begins to listen more to their own voices rather than the people. One is reminded of former South Africa President Jacob Zuma, a master of the courts, who could not understand why his fellow comrades in the African National Congress were advising him to resign. Msholozi, as Zuma is affectionately known, tried his best to hold on, but then the people had spoken.
The people have a tendency of expressing their voices in more ways than one, this could be by way of silence, apathy and passivity which one may mistake for affirmation and support, through the ballot like they did in 2008 against Zanu PF, through the #Tajamuka/Hatichada/Hatichatya phenomenon or through freedom marches like they did on November 18, 2017. Slogans, songs and dance at rallies or public gatherings also reflect the people’s voices.
This brings me to the current events and developments in the biggest opposition party, the MDC-T, following the passing on of the people’s iconic leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Writing on February 14, I urged the leaders in the MDC-T to put on their humility jackets and put their house in order. Penning that article, I didnt know that the people’s icon will breath his last on the very day the NewsDay would publish the article. May Save – the peoples, leader rest in peace or is it in power, as many have so wished him. I was only concerned with the petty ambition-driven leadership squabbles that were playing out between party vice-presidents Elias Mudzuri, Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe much to the detriment of the people’s movement.
I reminded the trio that the MDC-T was more than just a party, but a people’s movement, a people’s collective aspiration and longing for a better Zimbabwe. I warned the leadership that the people’s dream will never be a nightmare and reminded them that people have a way of reorganising, reinventing and redirecting the struggle. Indeed, following Tsvangirai’s death and in the context of the leadership squabbles which played out in the open prior to his passing on, the people have expressed themselves in various forms across various gatherings and fora. While the lawyers have taken to debating on the constitution and legal technicalities of succession, the people who neither read nor understand the legal jargon have also spoken in more ways than one. Former Tsvangirai advisor Alex Magaisa, a revered academic, has done justice to the legal dynamics and pitfalls of succession in the MDC-T.
Secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora has also laboured to impress on the legal technicalities of succession in the MDC-T. But what has been the people’s message – at Harvest House, at Freedom Square, in various cities and streets and in Buhera. Their voice has been expressed loudly and clearly in tears, song and dance, slogans and booing.
Following the demise of the MDC-T leader on February 14, people gathered at Harvest House on the next day in shock and grieving, wondering what had befallen their movement, why fate had been so cruel to the people’s movement?
Surely, Save should have chosen some other time to die, not on the eve of an election. But such is fate. There was a sense of hopelessness. The people at this point were crying for leadership and hope. Tsvangirai was not just a person, but a people’s icon, a personification of hope. As much as people were mourning, the person they were grieving more was Tsvangirai – the people’s leader. So they were looking for him at Harvest House.
When Chamisa and others emerged from Harvest House and addressed that crowd, declaring that they had lost a commander, but the generals are clear of the way forward, the people’s hope was at least restored. The people burst into songs and kongonya dances, songs of victory, not because they had no respect for Tsvangirai, but what more respect to give Tsvangirai than to declare the demise of Zanu PF, the language which would make sweet melodies to the former premier were he alive.
The other leaders for reasons best known to them chose to shy away from the people and Harvest House, the centre of power. Khupe issued a statement 72 hours later attributing her silence to the fact that she was mourning.
We take her word, but then Khupe, leaders are not supposed to be overwhelmed with emotions; they provide leadership in times of crisis and uncertainty. Indeed, the people’s movement was at a critical moment and the people required assurance. A dear founding father had departed at a critical moment. The people were crying for leadership.
While we appreciated that you (Khupe) were with the Tsvangirai family, it now encompassed the struggling masses of Zimbabwe. He was a “father of democracy’’ and the popular will. NewsDay recently published a picture of an unnamed woman weeping uncontrollably at Freedom Square that was Tsvangirai’s greater family. His house and yard was not the Highlands mansion, but the streets of Harare and many other parts of the country.
The thousands who had gathered at Harvest House on February 15, thousands who thronged his house during the funeral, thousands that painted Freedom Square red and those that gathered in Buhera from all directions. That family, required leadership and still do even as Tsvangirai is gone.
The people with limited understanding of legal technicalities have identified and endorsed a leader. The thousands that expressed themselves in slogans and praise songs for Chamisa cannot be mistaken for hired youths. The collective natural endorsement of thousands that all stood up to salute Chamisa when he gave that speech at Freedom Square, could not be mistaken for hired or mobilised youths rather a near unanimous collective endorsement of the man to take over from Save.
The people true to their character have begun to naturally redirect and reorganise the leadership in the interest of their dream. To ignore this would be naivety of monumental proportions.
The people have a way of making natural collective decisions by way of chanting slogans. The booing of leaders cannot be always dismissed as hooliganism, but a political expression of the people and their voice. Those that could not address their constituency mainly because the people were not receptive of their messages should understand that the masses with their limited legal knowledge are the arbiters in politics. Their voice is indeed the voice of God.
The violence in Buhera is condemned in the strongest terms. We expect the wheels of justice to roll. Whether there is congress or no congress the people who are the stockholders of the opposition party have spoken and it’s up to leaders to take heed. The voice of the people is indeed the voice of God.
Legitimacy goes beyond parochial legal technicalities, but is conferred by the people. In a membership-based organisation, it is foolhardy and self -destructive naivety to clutch on to legal straws; real power is with the people.
Mugabe is still questioning the legality of his resignation. Indeed ED’s revelation holds – the voice of the people is the voice of God. The people’s dream can never be a nightmare! Viva Zimbabwe.