I AM surprised that it has taken the world this long to discover that Tsvangirayi is a man of limited intellect. Or could it be that the world is only coming to terms with a fact they had all along wished wasn’t true? Either way, the phenomenon of leaders hamstrung by intellectual handicaps is not peculiar to the MDC.
Most movements or revolutions produce leaders with the attributes necessary for the particular historical circumstance but not necessarily imbued with all the skills needed to see the revolution through. The liberation movement in Africa and in Zimbabwe in particular, also suffered the same problem at some stage.
The Zimbabwean liberation movement needed leaders whose main attribute was courage, but you needed more than just courage to lead a liberation movement. Men of courage who came up to lead the liberation movement in the initial stages were not necessarily imbued with the sharp intellect needed to mobilize a people and project a liberation philosophy to the world.
Zimbabwe thus had people like Benjamin Burombo, Masotsha Ndlovu, Joseph Musika, Simon Muzenda, James Chikerema, George Nyandoro et al, being at the forefront of the genesis of African nationalism. These men were not men who had much academic education, but they had the courage to take on the brutal colonial regime. Courage was needed because the colonial regime was very repressive and having been defeated in 1896, Africans had all but given up on ever competing with the all conquering white man, who had the Maxim gun, which the Africans had not.
However, just like Tsvangirai now, these early nationalists’ leaders had the courage and conviction but not the intellect sharpened by education to understand the intricacies involved in executing a decolonization project of a people conditioned to accept that they were inferior and were to be perpetual hewers of wood and drawers of water.
These early nationalists were acutely aware of this handicap and they set about persuading the learned Africans of the time to lead them in the complex decolonization project, which was “above their simple heads”. And so it was that emissaries were sent to Enoch Dumbutshena, Stanlake Samkange, Joshua Nkomo and others to persuade these learned Africans to take up leadership positions in the nascent nationalist movement. The emissaries met with varying degrees of failure in their efforts to persuade these African luminaries to join hands with them in dislodging settler colonialism.
Uncle Tom politics
At the time, the learned Africans like the Fort Hare boys, Tennyson Hlabangana, Herbert Chitepo, Joshua Nkomo and others were involved in Uncle Tom politics in the ostensibly multiracial Capricorn Society which essentially sought to make Uncle Toms of emerging African middle class aspirants by cultivating white tastes in them, distinct from their uncivilised fellow Africans.
However, as the liberation movement gained momentum, these learned Africans sensed potential for self-aggrandizement and started scrambling to take up leadership positions in the movement. These Fort Hare boys had absolutely no history of being involved in politics at Fort Hare. So it is clear that these latter-day nationalists were relative mafikizolos to the liberation movement; lured not so much by a desire to liberate Africans but by the prospect of grabbing power.
Still, after negotiations with the settler regimes yielded nothing, Africans had to resort to armed struggle as the only way to liberate themselves and courage to put oneself in harm’s way was needed in the armed struggle. Thus leaders emerged who were courageous militarily but not intellectually gifted coming forward to prosecute the war.
People like Mayor Urimbo, Josiah Tongogara, Rex Nhongo (Solomon Mujuru,) Nikita Mangena, Sheba Gava (Vitalis Zvinavashe) were the main players in prosecuting the war but they were not necessarily very learned. In his Chimurenga memoirs, Tekere reveals that some of the people who today posture as liberation war fighters were in fact what the Shona call vana Muchekadzafa (cowardly opportunistic hunters who rush to make a show of killing an animal already dead).
Many may be shocked to discover from Tekere’s book that those who have privatised Zimbabwe claiming they fought for the country may never have fired a single shot to liberate the country. Some of them cannot tell a Sub (Chimurenga parlance for an AK 47) from a bazooka. So the foot soldiers in the liberation struggle were not the ones who ended up claiming its leadership and pride of place in the political scheme of things in Zimbabwe.
Just as the liberation project needed men of valour, in Zimbabwe, the democratisation project also needed men of valour once it became clear that the liberators had replaced the colonial regime with a dictatorship. This is because the post-colonial dictatorship was just as repressive as the colonial regimes.
As in the liberation project, the democratisation project also produced leaders who had the guts, but not necessarily the brains to see the democratization project through. Thus we had Morgan Tsvangirayi emerging as a leader of the democratization project, but lacking in the intellectual depth needed to see the project through.
Again, like in the liberation project, intellectuals were supposed to come in to provide the intellectual leadership to steer the democratization project to a successful completion. Tsvangirayi emerged mainly due to the platform accorded him by the mass-based trade union movement that he led.
So instead of leaving Tsvangirai at the mercy of foreign handlers who had their own agenda, it was the duty of democratically-inclined intellectuals to do the massive hand-holding on Tsvangirai that Dell had to do after the criminal dereliction of national duty by intellectuals in Zimbabwe.
Particularly culpable are Welshman Ncube and Co. who put their egos ahead of the national interests by deserting Tsvangirai and leaving him at the mercy of imperialists like Dell. Zambians suffered Chiluba’s disastrous leadership in the interests of establishing and entrenching democracy in that country.
The democratisation project in Zimbabwe is now in danger of failing because of poor decision making by intellectuals in and of the democratic movement. An otherwise noble democratisation project has offended key constituencies in Africa and in the Diaspora as it is seen as lending itself to manipulation by the hated West.
The Pseudo-Pan Africanists in charge of Zanu PF have taken advantage of this to unleash propaganda to dismiss legitimate aspirations for democratic space by Zimbabweans as a project by the imperialists to destabilise a country led by a party out to empower its people. If the intellectuals in the MDC had handled the democratic movement astutely, it would not be open to attacks that it is foreign founded, funded and directed.
Zimbabwe’s liberators failed the people of Zimbabwe and they are now playing the propaganda game claiming that they are fighting Western imperialism. That a lot of well meaning Pan-Africanists are celebrating Zanu PF’s pseudo-nationalists as champions of African interests, is testimony to the dearth of true leaders that Africans can look up.
Just about all Africans -- at home and in the Diaspora -- have an axe to grind with the white devils and they therefore can easily be taken in by the propaganda of wily false prophets of African liberation and empowerment.
What many do not realise is that the Zanu (PF) government has been right wing right from the start in 1980. Witness how they jettisoned the African agenda in the 80s and early 90s as they cavorted with white devils while ignoring the interests of Africans at home.
People should not confuse the vengeance of Uncle Toms slighted by Tony Blair and out to avenge their wounded monstrous egos with sincere Pan Africanism meant to advance the cause of the God forsaken Africans.
Of all the liberation movements in the SADC region which became ruling parties, Zanu PF is the most disappointing. As a liberation movement turned ruling party, Zanu PF has been a great betrayal to black Zimbabweans.
Having been given a political blank cheque, well almost, at independence, they turned against their own people using the Rhodesian repressive machinery they inherited at independence comprising repressive laws and instruments of coercion like the police, CIO and army, in their quest to keep a grip on power.
Instead of using people-centred policies to maintain their grip on power, they used repression. The party also turned into a bunch of corrupt looters, using state resources to line their pockets in contemptuous disregard of the wishes of their people. Isn’t it a scandalous shame that the number of black people killed by the settler regime in its defence of white interests may be equal or is even less than those killed by the ZANU PF government in its quest to remain in power?
So the yearning for genuine freedom by the black people of Zimbabwe thirty years after independence is a legitimate aspiration, which should not be confused with the antics of the imperialists to advance their own cause using the suffering of black Zimbabweans. The progressive world should not throw away the proverbial baby with the bath water in their indecent haste to dismiss the MDC as a front for white interests.
The mediocrity of the MDC leadership, including Tsvangirai has always been an open secret. The preponderance of mediocre leadership in the MDC can be attributed to the fact that ZANU PF has managed to scare away people of substance from opposition politics.
It takes a lot of personal sacrifice for anybody to offer themselves as a candidate for opposition politics. One risks their life and livelihood by dabbling in opposition politics in Zimbabwe. ZANU PF has not hesitated to kill, or maim opponents or destroy their businesses and/or their careers.
Again because of an entrenched patronage system in the country business people can lose government business and business from Parastatals or even licences to do business if they come out in the open as opposition party members.
In addition, appointment to positions of authority in government, Parastatals, universities etc is also dependent on membership to Zanu PF or non involvement in opposition politics at the very least, so one would be jeopardising their career by getting involved in opposition politics.
The dirty nature of politics as practised by Zanu PF is succinctly captured in Chimurenga music guru Thomas Mapfumo‘s song Jojo “… Jojo zvenyika… Jojo siyananazvo/ Jojo unozofa….Vazhinji vakapondwa pamusana penyika…” (Jojo do not be involved in politics, because you will be murdered. Many people have been murdered for dabbling in politics.)
For a party formed and led by a mere trade unionist with limited education, together with students still wet behind the ears, I think the MDC has done reasonably well in very difficult circumstances.
However, MDC’s weaknesses do not make Zanu PF angels. Zanu PF may unleash all the propaganda they like about conspiracies by imperialists, but that can never belie the fact that as a liberation movement that gained power the party has been a great betrayal to the aspirations of Africans who waged a war to get them into power.
Zanu PF is not the panacea to Zimbabwe’s problems; it is part of the problem. There is still a struggle to be fought to improve the lot of Zimbabweans in terms of their freedoms and their economic well being.
The lot of the generality of Africans in Zimbabwe is not any better than what it was in colonial Rhodesia. In Rhodesia they lived in fear of the Special Branch and they had to be subservient to the colonial Nkosi / Baas.
In Zimbabwe they live in mortal fear of the dreaded CIO and they have to grovel before the black Shefu. In Rhodesia, Smith killed and maimed black Zimbabweans to maintain white rule. In Zimbabwe, Zanu PF kills and maims black Zimbabweans to maintain remain in power.