“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator,” observed a sage.
I am not into political prophecy, but this week last year — precisely November 6, 2017, the day then President Robert Mugabe sacked Emmerson Mnangagwa, his deputy — I posted this on Facebook, where it stands of permanent record until Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg decides otherwise: “I believe the firing of Mnangagwa could have unintended and, crucially, positive consequences not necessarily immediately, but in the medium-to-long-term. I hold no brief for Mnangagwa, but this has the potential to backfire on Mr and Mrs Mugabe and remove their chokehold on the nation. Watch this space.”
Well, the rest is history.
I am not that egotistic as to describe my take which came to pass as a prescient characterisation of events, no. Not at all. I did that from solely and purely a political science perspective, not out of wishing for a particular outcome. But sections of people who refused to see the writing on the wall as they had a proverbial dog in the fight — a stake in the fight — did not like what had happened because it probably took away from them the political credit of removing Mugabe they had hoped to claim with elections due in less than a year. Caught completely unaware, they activated an alternative argument that while Mugabe had been removed, Mugabeism remained intact.
Before that, I had also stated in September 2016 that it would be wise for the main opposition MDC-T to start thinking about replacing ailing party leader Morgan Tsvangirai. I said so not because I hold any brief for the party, but from my observation from a distance that Tsvangirai would not likely make it to the 2018 elections. There was no prophecy on my part, but mere commonsensical observation. For that, I was attacked left, right and centre along with senior MDC-T official Eddie Cross, who also pointed out the same.
This intolerant lot displays cognitive bias such as hypothesis-confirming search strategies including claiming that biometric voter registration was being deliberately slowed in opposition strongholds in urban areas, whereas this was due to the initial rush of people when registration started. I say so because after that initial phase, caused mainly by excitement, it took less than 10 minutes to register, no wonder there was an unprecedented 85% voter turnout in the July 30, 2018 national elections; and, of course, they are still making the illusory correlation between the election results and the current economic hardships.
And this injudicious lot is blaming the government for the bus collision this week in which 50 people perished, whereas the Harare-Mutare Highway is now one of the best in the country after complete resurfacing, pointing to human error such as dangerous driving as the cause of the accident. It has become so ridiculous that even when an accident happens across the border in South Africa, they will still blame the government. I suppose when their favourite football team is beaten, they say the government has something to do with it. When the Aids Levy was introduced, these usual suspects went mad, saying they should not be made to pay for other people’s promiscuous sexual behaviour, but guess what? Many of them are now on ARV treatment paid for by that Aids Levy they were dead against.
As one can see, some people are failing to navigate as time flies. That is why they have again been wrong-footed by Econet Wireless founder and executive chairman Strive Masiyiwa’s call for the immediate removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe. Like Mugabe had to go, sanctions have to go too, even solely on these grounds given by American economist Steve Hanke: “Sanctions are economically illiterate and punish innocent civilians rather than targeted governments. Oftentimes the political elite get rich while ordinary citizens are left to live off scraps. It’s time to call sanctions what they are: war crimes.”
Indeed, sanctions are evil. Facts are facts no matter where you stand politically.
Wrote Masiyiwa last week after the usual brigades attacked him for calling for the removal of sanctions: “My name is Strive Masiyiwa, and I’m with the suffering ordinary Zimbabweans who need to see jobs, livelihoods, and investment in our country. I call for an end to sanctions now. And I reiterate my call for people to work together in the national interest. Intimidation and threats have never affected me. I stood up to Mugabe when most of those issuing threats by Twitter were either in diapers or hiding, or even simply minding their own business. Whatever! I did not rail at them and never will or demand that they say only what I approve.”
Indeed, it was high time they were told this to their faces because their abuse and insults should not go unchallenged. It’s unfair to brand Zimbabwe with the sins of the past. We should look at things in a benign, not malign, way. And no one is better qualified to say that than Masiyiwa.
I would rather be optimistic to a fault than be rabidly and antagonistically obstructive to the morbid extent of celebrating sanctions. Some of the ideas I expound in this column are from gifted, intelligent, level-headed, mature and patriotic Zimbabweans — both old and young — and I am not apologetic and ashamed about that. In fact, it renews one’s faith in humanity especially in these fraught times where some people have taken it upon themselves to be crisis-announcers.
Zimbabwean-ness cannot be defined through binary lenses of whether you are Zanu PF or MDC. No, not at all. It should be about what is right or wrong. There are cross-cutting values and political overlap between the two political parties. Cross-cutting issues are those which relate to and must be considered simultaneously within other categories to be appropriately addressed. You can’t talk of economic turnaround with your hands tied behind your back by sanctions. An overlapping consensus on national principles above partisan politics in which different groups of citizens accept the same conclusions — that sanctions must go — from quite different arguments — political or economic — can, indeed, be achieved. Values precede politics. No wonder people are sensibly closing ranks to condemn sanctions.
Tawanda Makanda came in with real gems this week pointing out the emptiness of partisan politics and poking big, big holes into many assumptions. Makanda said: “Did you know that: (1) One can support the removal of sanctions and not support either Zanu PF or ED? (2) One can be against the killings of August 1 and not support MDC? (3) One can see sincerity in ED and not in his cronies? (4) One can support nation building without supporting either MDC or Zanu PF politicking?”
Well, I will add my own fifth point: Did you know that one can support Mnangagwa without supporting Zanu PF, and one can support MDC without supporting Nelson Chamisa?
Let’s be guided by what Masiyiwa said quoting 20th century French statesman Charles de Gaulle: “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody.”
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org