TWO separate news items from the past few days have been most instructive in their own way.
The first was about MDC Alliance presidential spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda walking into Herald House, hitherto offlimits to anyone remotely associated with the opposition, and having civilised discussions with Herald editor Caesar Zvayi.
Sibanda, who is proving to be much better in his new role than all his predecessors rolled into one, said after the meeting: “. . . I hope that this is the first step for us to engage regardless of perceptions and we also accept that we, as MDC, we do not expect any newspaper to cover us as we wish to be covered. We simply accept that everybody has their opinion.”
This is a mature, sober and intelligent way of arriving at rules of engagement with the opposite side. Such an approach will definitely lead to the maturing of Zimbabwe’s political culture from the current unnecessarily and needlessly adversarial and confrontational approach, which has resulted in a lose-lose situation for the ordinary Zimbabwean. Indeed we need to disagree with each other in a measured and responsible way.
In return, Sibanda made an undertaking that he would ensure reporters from The Herald covering MDC-T events would be safe. That is not only civilised politics, but pragmatic politics, realpolitik involving quid pro quo, something for something, this for that, give-and-take on both sides, not the all-or-nothing inflammatory hot air being emitted by some people who have been caught up in the political euphoria engulfing the nation as polls loom. These excitable types among us — who are obviously not on the same wavelength as Sibanda — ought to be reminded that although we are in the silly season of electioneering, no season lasts forever. After July 30, whoever wins or loses, they will have to get on with the trials and tribulations of life.
Another takeaway from that meeting is that it did not become an issue among MDC-T supporters, whereas when vendors leader Sten Zvorwadza met President Emmerson Mnangagwa and, before that, Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube also met Mnangagwa, all sorts of insults were thrown at them for doing exactly what Sibanda has done — reaching across. It ought to be said here and now that individuals in their own capacity do not require the permission of MDC-T or any political party to dialogue and associate with whoever they want despite growing misconceptions based on wrong presuppositions of political self-righteousness. These words from Sibanda after meeting Zvayi apply equally to a virulent section of MDC-T supporters: “We talked about understanding that political contestation is necessary for the development of our country . . . and that we need to work together regardless of perceptions.” Indeed, the political space that has been opened up since the November 2017 ouster of former President Robert Mugabe is big enough to accommodate us all, and should not be used irresponsibly.
We then had the ugly spectacle of some people celebrating what appeared to be the attempted assassination of Mnangagwa soon after he addressed a Zanu PF rally at White City Stadium in Bulawayo last week. It descended to a chillingly sadistic low. Whole adults — many of them degreed for that matter — were incoherent with joy. It was obscene joy. It was grotesque. There is no nice way of saying this. It’s disappointing to see how easily people are willing to give excuses for such dastardly acts.
We saw this vile politicising when some people were livid with anger after doctors and nurses called off their strike and teachers did not carry out their strike threat after finding common ground with the government. The fact that doctors, teachers and nurses — who constitute an essential component of the nation — can find common ground with the government shows national cohesion is still there despite what malcontents and malevolents might say and do.
Last week people of such ilk posted on social media regretting that the assailants had missed Mnangagwa by a whisker.
To ever celebrate such a tragedy — which has led to two deaths — is absolutely grotesque. It’s absolutely inhumane to hear such kind of talk. These proper idiots reminded one of the horrifyingly inappropriate language used by Zimbabwean sports journalist Farayi Mungazi when most of the Zambian national football team perished in a plane crash off the Atlantic Ocean on April 27, 1993. Mungazi said words to the effect that the path was now clear for Zimbabwe to advance since their stiffest competition, Zambia, had been eliminated. But, to his immense credit, MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, who is Mnangagwa’s direct competitor in the coming polls, unequivocally condemned the bomb attack.
But these sick minds do not factor in the real danger that in the event Chamisa wins — and he is in with a chance because fine margins could be involved — he could be much more of a target from those in the system who might not stomach that. They need to be educated about the copycat effect or copycat crime — defined as a crime inspired by or replicating another crime. Security at MDC Alliance rallies is virtually non-existent compared with Zanu PF rallies, whereas ED even with State security resources at his disposal, was attacked. They should be careful what they wish for on another person because it could come back to haunt them.
The positive takeaway from those disgusting comments is that they have tilted a significant body of opinion across the political divide against the culprits and those making excuses for them. One such person who appeared to be making light of the attack through dehumanisation — by not showing sympathy and empathy to injured fellow human beings — and politicisation of the bombing initially posted this on social media: “Explosion at #zanu PF rally in Bulawayo today where @edmnangagwa addressed. There is speculation of an assassination attempt on the president and fear this could be used as an excuse to unleash violence ahead of elections.”
But after realising that his post — devoid of the human element of the tragedy — had caused disgust and horror across the political divide, he quickly posted another comment, this time toned-down: “Zimbabwe Explosion: Thoughts & prayers for those injured in the awful cowardly explosion in Bulawayo where @edmnangagwa addressed. May the authorities thoroughly investigate & hold accountable those responsible. No to Violence.”
That’s what he should have done in the first place, that should have been his first reaction, but ego does not allow some people to admit they have been wrong. Such people are unqualified to give anyone lessons on civility.
Need it be reiterated that nobody wins spiteful wars? Anger and resentment do not constitute a guiding philosophy.
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: email@example.com