A PERCEPTION that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was a creation of disaffected white Zimbabweans “delayed the party’s growth” and alienated it “within peer groups in Africa", Morgan Tsvangirai says in a new book.
The MDC leader blames the “exaggerated transparency” of his white supporters for aiding Zanu PF “propaganda” projecting the party as a front for powerful white interests.
Following the party’s formation in 1999, Tsvangirai says “many whites, especially in rural Mashonaland, began to enquire about the role they could play in the new movement”.
But instead of joining the party and being visible, most whites established “their own structures, in the form of support groups”.
“Generally, I have had an interesting relationship with white Zimbabweans,” Tsvangirai says in ‘At the Deep End’. “The few whites in the MDC exhibited both their strengths and their own idiosyncrasies. Our cultures are different – and that resulted in friction over policies, organisational styles and mass mobilisation activities.”
The Prime Minister says whenever the MDC came out of 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.”
He adds: “The information soon came into the public domain. So by rushing to show the world what we were doing, my white colleagues unsuspectingly and inadvertently briefed Zanu PF long before we executed our carefully worked out plans.
“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.
“When Mugabe and his vast state machinery saw these messages spreading, they were livid. He thought the whites were driving the agenda to unseat him; whites wanted Rhodesia back ...”
Tsvangirai says exasperated by these actions, he “tried to caution them, only to abandon the effort upon realising that they would still go public – and broadcast even my whispered warnings.”
Tsvangirai admits an element of naiveté on his part for failing to read how the perception of whites at the forefront of MDC programmes would ultimately “distort what the party stood for”.
He says: “Growing white support for the MDC brought more condemnation from Zanu PF. This never bothered me. I thought it was not important – perhaps naively so.
"I asked myself: what can a small group of whites do by way of influence? They would neither manipulate the MDC, nor shape our policy significantly along the lines of their self-interest."
But Tsvangirai says Mugabe's warnings about the MDC's dalliance with whites "appeared to be well received in traditional Zimbabwean circles and within his peer groups in Africa".
"That delayed the MDC’s growth and when spiced with Zanu PF propaganda, it distorted what the MDC stood for.”
But despite the setbacks, Tsvangirai believes the MDC is winning in projecting itself as a popular movement driven by the aspirations of Zimbabwe’s black majority.
“Whites must, of necessity, have a role to play in a racially integrated society in Africa if the continent is their natural home. Mugabe selectively used only prominent whites and marginalised the rest of the community."