NOW it is official and indisputable as it comes from the horse’s mouth. And hear this: Morgan Richard Tsvangirai’s political career is “opposing the government of Robert Mugabe”.
This startling revelation which contextualises and explains Tsvangirai’s politics over the years is contained on page 45 of his memoirs, “At the Deep End”, ghost written by William Bango and published by Penguin Books two weeks ago in South Africa. The hardcover copy has 563 pages.
While Tsvangirai’s book admittedly has a point here and a point there, its lack of substance is best captured by the metaphor of the skull of an ox: a horn on the right to make a point and a horn on the left to make yet another point and a whole lot of incredible bull in between.
The truth is that there is nothing new in this book which only succeeds in transferring bones from one grave to another. The real Tsvangirai does not come out in his “At the Deep End”—maybe because the chap cannot swim.
To any villager and many urbanites across the country, it must be big and disappointing news to hear that their Prime Minister and leader of the MDC-T has published his memoirs to be serialised by 11 South African newspapers supposedly detailing the story and dreams of his life outside Zimbabwe. The news must be terribly disappointing to Zimbabweans because it is utterly wrong and actually treacherous for a Prime Minister and leader of a political party such as the MDC-T to publish a major political work of this kind outside the country, and to have it serialised only by foreign newspapers apparently for financial gain.
But on second reflection, Tsvangirai’s decision to publish his memoirs outside the country is a fitting confirmation of his foreign-driven politics and an unspoken acknowledgment that the book is not meant for Zimbabweans at home but for foreigners with Zimbabweans in the Diaspora accessing it only by reason of the geographic accident of their residency.
It is curious and even revealing that Tsvangirai, who entered active politics a long time ago in 1999 at the formation of MDC and who has lost two presidential elections in 2002 and 2008, has now decided to publish his memoirs. History shows that memoirs are written either when one is about to seek office for the first time — as did Barack Obama before he sought the American presidency — or when one is exiting that office as has done many leaders around the world, including the likes of Tony Blair, after serving in the highest office of their land.
So what is Tsvangirai up to by publishing his “At the Deep End” memoirs at this eleventh hour of his political career? Is the valedictory tone of the memoirs his backhanded way of saying goodbye to his founders and funders in Britain, America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and South Africa which still have active Rhodie colonies? And does this explain why the audience of the memoirs is unmistakably and shamelessly foreign?
On pages 44 and 45 of his memoirs, Tsvangirai talks to his ghost writer about a defining moment in his life, saying that he responded from “Umtali” in November 1974 to an “advertisement in the Rhodesian Herald. Anglo American’s Bindura Nickel Mine was looking for a variety of trainees for its operations. Initially, I was not much interested… three months later the company invited me for an interview at Ranche House in Salisbury… The interview in Salisbury marked a turning point in my life. Youth always has high hopes for the future, but little did I realise that as I boarded the train I would be taking my first steps on a path towards national union leadership and, ultimately, a political career opposing the government of Robert Mugabe”.
Tsvangirai’s definition of his political career in his own words as being about “opposing the government of Robert Mugabe” is very important and very telling not only because it summarises the essence of the book in terms of what it is all about, but also because it explains the timing of the book’s publication. No wonder then that the book, although styled as memoirs, is far less about Tsvangirai and much more about Mugabe.
In the same vein, and for the same reason, the timing of the book’s publication has been determined by the fact that apparently Tsvangirai understands, and not without good reason, that his career “opposing the government of Robert Mugabe” virtually came to an end on February 11, 2009, when he took an oath administered by President Mugabe to faithfully and lawfully serve the very same government that he had until then opposed as a career objective.
What this means is that the book is indeed valedictory and is thus Tsvangirai’s ironic way of saying goodbye because his career is over by his own admission. This is a very important point to note and keep in mind when reading the book — particularly in relation to its meaning, purpose, audience, relevance and timing.
While the book is very useful in giving its readers a very clear reason for its publication at this time, the fact that Tsvangirai’s “career opposing the government of Robert Mugabe” has come to an end as he is now serving in that government, it must be said that the book is quite frankly useless as a purported informational source on President Mugabe and his government. Of all people, Tsvangirai does not have any objective premise to be an authority on President Mugabe yet this is what he precisely pretends to be in the purported memoirs.
The fact of the matter is that Tsvangirai’s “At the Deep End” is anything but his memoirs. Memoirs are supposed to be about their author and his or her experience. You cannot write memoirs about another person and it is worse if you do not have any close and regular experience or contact with that person to be able to write a credible and sustainable account about that person’s experience.
The fact of the matter is that while Tsvangirai says a lot of things about President Mugabe in his memoirs, most of them utter nonsense, he says precious little about himself, if anything at all, and yet his memoirs should primarily be about himself. This failure is made worse by the fact that what Tsvangirai says about President Mugabe is generally baseless, uninformed, outrageous and therefore useless from an informational point of view not least because it is based on hearsay and would not be admissible in any court of law as evidence.
In the end, readers of “At the Deep End” learn nothing new about President Mugabe from Tsvangirai who knows nothing about him and they learn nothing at all about Tsvangirai who is supposed to be the subject of the book. For example, the memoirs are silent about Tsvangirai’s three-day reconnaissance at a refugee camp in Mozambique during the liberation struggle and yet this is a very controversial point in his life which needs to be explained.
Tsvangirai is also silent about the role of the MDC in the sanctions saga, particularly on pages 416 and 417 where he mentions ZDERA (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act). He is also silent about the treacherous role of the Westminster Foundation in the founding and funding of the MDC as he is about the role of the British government in his party during Tony Blair’s years.
On Page 319, Tsvangirai claims that “on 16 September I was flabbergasted to hear Blair claim in the British Parliament that he was working closely with the MDC on a regime change agenda” in Zimbabwe, but he gives no new information on the issue to explain why he was flabbergasted.
Throughout the book, and especially on pages 298 and 299, Tsvangirai distances himself from nationalism which he says ended with independence in 1980. Earlier on page 88, he claims that “full of enthusiasm, and regarding Robert Mugabe as a champion of freedom, I had joined the ruling party after the elections of 1980. I would leave it in 1984, after losing faith in both the party and its autocratic leader, giving myself to national trade union activities.”
But there’s nothing in Tsvangirai’s book to explain why he joined the liberation movement only after independence in 1980 or to explain why he did not participate even in the election of that year. On page 25, he says “during my high school years I grew increasingly alert to warning signs that indicated white disapproval of independent African thinking. Perhaps I would have become a political activist, but my parents needed financial help to support the other children through school.”
This is very shocking, coming from somebody who wants to be president of this country of Nehanda and Lobengula. Tsvangirai’s submission is that he did not join the liberation movement because his “parents needed financial help”. Are we to take this to mean that the parents of our gallant sons and daughters who fought for this country did not need “financial help”? Are these the confessions of an incorrigible sell-out or what? There’s nothing in Tsvangirai’s book to answer this very important question which young Zimbabweans and their future compatriots will ask without fail.
While Tsvangirai confirms in his memoirs the already known fact that he became a member of Zanu PF after the independence elections in 1980, he alleges without proffering any verifiable evidence that he left the party in 1984. It is standard practice that any unsubstantiated or unverifiable factual claim made in a book must be dismissed as false. This is to say Tsvangirai’s claim that he left Zanu PF in 1984 is a lie specifically designed to gain Machiavellian mileage over the Gukurahundi affair to win emotive and undeserved votes in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces where searching and uncomfortable questions are increasingly being raised about Tsvangirai’s views on the matter in the early 1980s.
In any case, many in Zanu PF know for a fact that Tsvangirai would not have risen after 1984 to the position of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general without the political and strategic support of Cde Kumbirai Kangai when he was the Cabinet minister responsible for labour. Indeed, he would not have made it at the time without Zanu PF support. Not in a million years! Yet this pivotal issue without which Tsvangirai’s life today would be something else is not even hinted, let alone acknowledged, in his voluminous memoirs whose misplaced and incompetent revisionist focus is President Mugabe and his government that Tsvangirai says he has been opposing as a career which has now come to an unceremonious end with the advent of the GPA beyond which Tsvangirai will not be able to oppose President Mugabe with any credibility.
One consequence of Tsvangirai’s failure to focus his memoirs on himself in an incredulous attempt to pose as an expert on President Mugabe, when he has no objective basis for doing that, is his loose handling of facts throughout the book. Simple names are misspelt and simple dates of major events are mixed up as if William Bango, the ghost writer, did not have a competent copy editor seconded by the publisher.
For example, on page 258 the late MP for Mpopoma, Milton Gwetu, a veteran nationalist and long-standing ZCTU chairman for the Southern region, is presented as Milton “Gweru” and on page 560 the late Zanu PF MP for Gwanda and national hero Sikwili Moyo is indicated as “Sikwiki” Moyo. Now if Tsvangirai thinks Gwetu was Gweru and Sikwili was Sikwiki, how can he be trusted by anyone, let alone by the people of Matabeleland whom he is currently busy courting for cheap votes ahead of the forthcoming harmonised elections using emotive issues such as the Gukurahundi menace?
Tsvangirai now has an insurmountable dilemma in Matabeleland which he has hitherto taken for granted: If communities in places like Gwanda and Mpopoma cannot trust him to accurately remember the names of their departed MPs and national heroes in his book, how can they trust him to remember their community problems and aspirations in his policies should they vote for him next time round?
Tsvangirai’s “At the Deep End” is not only loose with names but is also very loose with dates in its pervasive mishandling of facts. On page 512 of his memoirs, Tsvangirai tells his ghost writer that “after we signed the original document (GPA) on 11 September 2009, Mugabe — through Chinamasa — changed a key part by deceptively sneaking in an amended document for public signature four days later, witnessed by foreign heads of state and government”. The problem with this assertion is that everybody knows the GPA was signed on September 15, 2008, and therefore the date of the incident alleged by Tsvangirai must be 11 September 2008 and not September 11, 2009, (a month before the MDC-T boycotted the Cabinet which they had joined on February 13, 2009!).
If Tsvangirai can get a crucial date wrong in his own memoirs, ghost written by his trusted former spokesperson and published by a reputable publisher such as Penguin Books who should have competent copy editors, why should anyone trust him about the substance of his allegation in the matter at issue?
When Tsvangirai is not being loose with important facts, he makes unintended disclosures without developing them further. For example, on page 412 he explains — without meaning to — how he thwarted the Welshman Ncube-led split in 2005 by disclosing that Gift Chimanikire did the job because “Chimanikire was close to me. He doubled up (sic) his role [as deputy secretary-general before the 2005 split] as my intelligence chief”. The rest is history.
But despite these revelations in between the lines, the book is littered with lies. Take the example of one telling lie indicative of the book’s unreliability. On page 398, Tsvangirai claims to his ghost writer that “Tendai Biti and Tapiwa Mashakada assembled a team of eminent economists and scholars and started to revise our (MDC) economic policy. Gideon Gono, previously Mugabe’s family banker, was now the governor of the Central Bank and had embarked on a series of dangerous experiments. He abolished money, replacing it with what he called local travellers’ cheques, subsequently renamed bearer’s cheques”.
But even a cursory cross-checking of the facts will show that money in Zimbabwe was never abolished but it simply changed its character and content and that, specifically, traveller’s cheques and bearer’s cheques were introduced in Zimbabwe in July 2003 when Charles Chikaura was the Acting Governor of the Reserve Bank long before Gideon Gono assumed the governorship in December 2003.
Tsvangirai’s assertion that Gono abolished money and replaced it with traveller’s cheques and bearer’s cheques is a lie. It is up to readers of “At the Deep End” to make up their own minds as to how many lies an author who tells one lie in his memoirs can tell without becoming unbelievable.
Another blatant lie is found on page 528 where Tsvangirai claims that “we [meaning him and his MDC-T after joining the GPA government] abandoned the local bearer-cheques Mugabe used as the official currency, the Zimbabwe dollar; eliminated the informal market for foreign currency and fuel and introduced a multi-currency system in which Zimbabweans can now use the world’s major currencies for business purposes”.
This is a blatant and shameless lie because the multi-currency system was introduced by Cde Patrick Chinamasa as acting finance minister on January 29, 2009, well before the formation of the GPA government on February 13, 2009.
There are many other key issues that are already in the public domain which Tsvangirai dismally fails to either mention or explain.
Throughout the book, particularly on pages 72 and 243 to 247, Tsvangirai fails to explain or justify the policy dominance of Rhodies in his MDC. On page 72 he says, “for those of us who witnessed this exodus [of whites in 1980] it was saddening, maddening, grim, amusing, and ultimately — we had to admit — a loss from which the country could not quickly recover. By the end of 1980 about 20,000 white Zimbabweans had left. That was about 10 percent of their total number in the country. The figure may sound insignificant, but given that most of them were highly experienced public sector administrators and skilled artisans, it meant a lot to a nation in the making”.
Tsvangirai does not say in his book why the 20,000 whites that are said to have left the country by the end of 1980 were Zimbabwean. Were they not mercenaries? Was their departure not good riddance to bad rubbish? How about the thousands and thousands of qualified and experienced black Zimbabweans around the world who were ready to return home, many of whom did, to take up strategic responsibilities in 1980 and beyond?
If Tsvangirai’s memoirs are as good as Penguin Books has cracked them to be, why then don’t they address this very important foundational issue which ultimately made the difference?
While the answer to this question is blowing in the wind, it should be acknowledged that even though Tsvangirai does not explain in his memoirs the dominance of Rhodies in the MDC-T, he nevertheless makes it clear that he did not trust them in the same way that nobody trusts Rhodies.
On page 246 he says “… whites in the MDC exhibited both their strengths and their own idiosyncrasies. Our own cultures are different — and that resulted in friction over policies, organisational styles and mass mobilisation activities. Whenever we came out of our confidential and strategic meetings, white officials quickly dashed to their laptops and mobile phones to inform their families and friends of the decisions taken and the progress made. The information soon came into the public domain… In their quest for what I thought was an act of exaggerated transparency, our secrets hardly survived. They were splashed everywhere: in the foreign media, at bowling clubs, around dinner tables, through internet blogs and in printed fliers. At the beginning I tried to caution them, only to abandon the effort upon realising that they would still go public — and broadcast even my warnings!”
Tsvangirai confirms, but without giving any new information, what Zanu PF has always said that “many whites wanted a collective white role in the MDC as a bloc — not as individuals”.
In another useful disclosure not supported by equally useful details, Tsvangirai confirms in his memoirs the widely known fact that the reason the MDC succeeded in Matabeleland is that it rode on the back of the Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP).
On page 297 of his memoirs, Tsvangirai says that “I was particularly keen to observe the impact of the changing times in Bulawayo, Matabeleland and the Midlands. The MDC had the unique advantage of having worked with ORAP in its formative stages.”
Building on the same theme on page 420, Tsvangirai declares that “we sought to overcome the hiatus of ideas, the negation of cruel abandonment of the views of the poor. The MDC had been founded in 1999 at a convention which weighed up the raw date and ZCTU/ORAP Consultative Report that came out of our survey of the national mood.” ORAP was thus part of the MDC deal despite unhelpful denials from its founders.
Another inadvertent but killer disclosure is on Page 485 where Tsvangirai admits that the reason he falsely claimed that he won the March 29, 2008, presidential election is because he was ignorant of the relevant electoral law.
About this, he says: “What was this runoff business all about? I was unaware that the law had been changed to deny a winner without 50 percent plus one vote to take over the government. It must have slipped my mind at the time when it went through Parliament. I did not know that in such an event, a runoff would be needed between the two leading candidates.”
This admission of Tsvangirai’s shocking ignorance of the runoff law which caused huge national security problems for Zimbabwe in 2008 and his disclosure that his chosen career is “opposing the government of Robert Mugabe” are the two most important revelations of what is otherwise a useless book by our Prime Minister published outside the country for financial gain and meant to explain to foreigners why he is about to disappear into political oblivion when the now dead GPA government is buried at the next polls which will see Zimbabwe’s G40 (otherwise known as the Gushungo Network) voting for defending national sovereignty and consolidating indigenisation and economic empowerment for posterity.