WHAT most of my readers may never know is that apart from the American opinion survey on the forthcoming harmonised elections which gave Zanu PF a clear lead, there is also the latest EU survey which established an even more devastating result for the MDCs.
It gave Zanu PF a clear lead of well over 60 percent. I doubt that this new result amount to a new shift in political attitudes in the country in the last few weeks. Far from it. The American survey got as much, but had to be tinkered with in order to temper a hard reality with a bit of hope. The project would have been smothered by a brutal truth.
The “unedited” finding of the American survey ended up being for the “president’s eyes” only, and shall stay so until the die is cast. Only after that shall the world know that the so-called uncommitted voices in the survey actually absorbed a huge chunk of voters who had an unpleasant message for the MDC and by extension, for its handlers.
Epiphanic rethink all round
Significantly, the EU team which gained entry into the country “surreptitiously” was led by a Briton. You clearly see how Europe intends to work on obdurate Britain and her imperial sibling, Netherlands: get their own nationals to lead such a fact-finding mission so the outcome is closer to the British bone, indeed so the findings play more intensely on those least disposed to a policy shift.
Let their nationals be the bearers of this hard news, the EU correctly calculated. And it seems to be working. Ever since that “result”, there has been a definitive rethink in many Western capitals, Washington included.
Part of that rethink has been coming through: by way of diplomatic statements; by way of epiphanic opinion pieces which seem deliberately planted to shift opinions in order to prepare for the inevitable, in order to gently nudge, to encourage gradual adjustments on the part of those irrationally and emotionally wedded to a contrary result; indeed by way of certain dramatic shifts in positions we have lately seen at international fora.
Whoever thought that Brussels would be so well disposed towards us ahead of the crucial KP meeting held recently in the US? Who had budgeted for the result which Obert Mpofu and his team brought home? Unless you were an insider, you simply expected another round of bare-knuckled acrimony the preliminaries of which we had witnessed in the preceding Diamond Conference held in Victoria Falls. We have entered the age of realpolitik, an age in which doctrinaire politics or politics of causes melt before inevitable courses.
The courage to face realpolitik
Give it to them, Westerners are rational bigots, realistic disputants. However, intensely visceral their hatred of an individual may be, they still have a big ear to the ground, indeed a mettle for contrarieties, however unsavory. They clearly know that while they are preferences to be wished and even worked for, there are inevitabilities to be endured, to be reckoned with, as providence disposes of what the white man prefers and proposes.
Yes, the gods also trifle the holy wishes of the white man, killing them for sport! But you cannot help, but admire how Western institutions quickly adjust to the unwanted likely, while pulling away from the wanted unlikely. It is called realpolitik, and on that they beat us hands down.
More important, part of that rethink has been coming through by way of clumsy but directional adjustments within the MDCs themselves. There is definite rethink within the executive echelons of the MDCs, albeit done with varying levels of finesse. Come to think of it, these are rudimentary village political formations coyly and prematurely catapulted onto big, international politics by powerful neo-colonial circumstances.
It would be unkind to expect polish. True, Robert Mugabe has been training them indefatigably, but these have also been very difficult, hard-to-grasp interns for the old, very patient teacher. So their conduct will always fall clumsily short, which is to be understood but still decried. Equally, the direction of those clumsy politics will always be derived, a consequence of massive hand-holding, something to be expected and suffered but without being accepted or softened.
One Billy Bango and his little revolution
Give it to him, the Prime Minister has made far-reaching adjustments to his party machinery, less out of charity or choice, more out of circumstances and necessity. The wheels were coming off, and he had to do something. The recent personnel changes in his office are deeper than personalities, however borrowed, however ailing. There is a definite turn, a new bourne whither the whole machinery is tending.
I am particularly fascinated by William Bango, his new spokesperson. In inmate of colonial detention centres during years of struggle, William has wasted no time in stamping his master's authority by stating categorically that Principals cannot be wished away in the constitution-making process. That simple declaration restored the ordained order of things, the great chain of Being. Little mice were beginning to gnaw at the lion, and chaos threatened.
When he said this, very few knew that his was an internal audience, his interlocutors decidedly internal, firmly within the MDC echelons. He was putting an end to the internal obduracy which was building, daily getting bolder in a way that made Tsvangirai's authority softer than ice-cream in a malfunctioning cooler. Lower echelons of his party were becoming truculent, very truculent, threatening an already severely stretched and ductile centre.
Uneasy lies the head that carries the crown
What is worse, this failing center was beginning to affect national processes, national interaction. Contradictions internal to the MDCs were beginning to impinge on national programs. Before Bango, these deep divisions had clearly etched, splitting the MDC-T machinery right up to Tsvangirai's office.
And the big man from Buhera saw many shadows bustling about, bustling around the contested crown, making good Shakespeare's ever fulfilled observation that "uneasy lies the head that wears the crown". Banquo's ghost was everywhere, party power slowly becoming insipid and colourless.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, so each day passed in unvarying monotony. Much worse Tsvangirai's head wouldn't even lie, only drooping for short, carnal mischief, itself a way of purging ever mounting political tensions, a delightful escape from the woes of the party. That solace did not last for long, proving unsafe sooner.
Those he had employed and trusted to keep the gate of excesses, soon flung it open, his unseemly side soon pouring out, gushing ceaseless into the public domain inhabited by eager eyes, preening ears and bubbling mouths all thirsty for juicy leaks. I was one of them and wasted no time once the main course was served by his diligent gossip cadres seeking fame and heroism. And their quest was assisted by the man's own unbridled natural humanity.
Equipped by a basic village wisdom meant to pamper and justify men of hot waists - rume rinemakaro rinoonekwa nekuwanza matura - roughly translated: a man of huge appetite cannot do with one granary, the man went for many, his appetites growing by each sitting. The first casualty was his sense of danger, weak and ever declining realization that he was surrounded by clever juniors with other ideas. Never has such huge tragic flaw helped such wily ill-will.
Great show of leadership
But Bango was not making any new point until now unavailable to the ailing Luke Tamborinyoka. He was only being maturely competent in handling information before the spokesperson's office. Way, way before, the Principals had agreed the constitutional logjam had to be broken, agreed that the mechanism for breaking that logjam would be the Principals themselves, through resolute intervention. Way, way before, the principals had agreed there were many points of merit in the amendments which Zanu PF had suggested, including also recognizing that apart from a few substantive issues, most of the suggestions from that party were drafting ones, merely stylistic.
The MDC leaders had conceded that they had marched too fast, gazed at a document they should have chewed thoroughly, thoughtfully, before swallowing. It was not a weakness, only a recognition of the enormity of the assignment, a recognition of the gravity of its outcome. In that respect, the Second Stakeholder Conference was a face-saver worked jointly by the principals to allow for progress.
Ncube's "hard balls"
And I am talking about principals in Government and of political parties, which is to say Welshman Ncube, for all his facetious denials, was part of that arrangement. He was never left out, or behind, if truth be told. He is still part of the process, for all his declining stature both in and outside Parliament. And I notice the Financial Gazette has just discovered that principals of political parties do meet every Tuesday after Cabinet. Well, this arrangement is as old as Maputo.
What the media never got to know is that while Ncube was pretending to push hard balls in the press, one Monday - the crucial Monday at which the decision to create a committee to resolve the points of constitutional variance was taken - he actually sat together with Arthur Mutambara in the same meeting chaired by the President, resourcefully communing with each and all as befits men in leadership. We have reached a crucial stage where we have to lead, or force leadership. Truth does that. There is unanimity amongst principals that this thing must now conclude.
Thieves upon thieves
I don't want to lose the thread of my presentation. There has long been a recognition that unless well managed, party internal disputes could very well undermine national processes. We saw that with the MDC-M or N, however you call it. Their squabbles burst banks, threatening to wash away national processes. What is more, those responsible for those squabbles behaved as if they were owed a solution by people outside of their parties, outside of their quarrels and blunders! The same was beginning to happen in respect of the MDC-T, which is where Bango' s appointment has been quite significant.
It takes a mature spokesperson. By faithfully and loyally stating the position of principals, he has lessened the spillover effect from his splintering party, tightly trimming otherwise overgrown, sprawling ambitions within his boss' party. And by creating a committee collapsing but comprising both COPAC and the Management Committee, the principals sent thieves to catch thieves! What a political masterstroke! Of course we know whose DNA it is! But that is not the main point. The main point is that the Principals are past politics of partisan obstruction.
They want to see movement, a forward movement towards a definitive electoral settlement whose outcome is virtually apparent to them all. While their supporters are still worrying about electoral outcomes, the principals have since moved ahead, grappling with post-electoral configurations with their eyes firmly set on stability, reintegration and recovery from the devastating effects of decade-long sanctions.
Making the electoral weather
Within the MDC formations themselves, young, ambitious politicians are looking beyond 2013 whose elections they regard as already decided. When it comes to mobilization, it is probably Zanu PF which is engaged. It needs a convincing win in a context of peaceful politics. The odds against it are not outward; they are internal to it: by way of its voters who may complacently decide to stay away, thinking victory is done; by way of its wayward supporters taking too long to realize governing parties do remake themselves, do slough off the culture of liberation wartime violence.
And the President has been passionate on this one. Please make no reference to factions. As matters presently stand in Zanu PF, ghosts are more real than factions. The party will move forward as one solid mass to win the next poll, thereby affording itself a calm and quieter environment within which to contemplate its vast, elastic futures so accommodative of any succession permutations it may wish. In that sense Zanu PF has made the weather!
When the music changes
Let me boldly look into the crystal ball. Sit up, tighten your belts a bit. Outside of Zanu PF, nothing else is definite, is cast in stone. You talk to senior MDC politicians and the one story you get breaks boundaries. You cannot help but pity our media for working with hackneyed dichotomies. The media still reads national affairs in terms of simple binaries of parties. How sad! The situation is much more complex, a lot more nuanced than that. The music has changed, so has the dance.
Listen to a recent conversation I had with a senior MDC-T politician. "The one happy outcome of the Inclusive Government is that we now know who speaks sense, who waffles - across parties! When we are in Cabinet, it is amazing how parties die during debates on issues. You cannot tell parties by thoughts, by submissions on issues. We have found one another and are...." "Finish your thought Minister, finish it!" Of course my exhortation is in vain.
The man had said enough already and firmly switched off! But it is anyone's guess what the next word was going to be. We must brace up for new permutations, both before and after polls. The only recognisable edifice shall be a Zanu PF one. This is perhaps the lasting but feared outcome of inclusive politics. Feared by outsiders of course.
A politician's bitter tears
It is from such a perspective that Biti's recent mournful remarks in Manchester should be received and interpreted. Don't get me wrong. He is not he politician I spoke with. Nor the one likely to generate surprising permutations, both before or after elections. But his remarks have a bearing on the scenario I am building, the meaning of his remarks largely unintended. Manchester did not give us a boastful politician. It gave us a politician's forward-looking tears. Biti disclosed a remedy he could not grasp in the past, a remedy he cannot hope for in the future.
Only a united opposition can win against Zanu PF, he said, surprisingly adding such a united opposition is nowhere to found in Zimbabwe's pre-election politics. Such a unity had in fact failed in the run up to 2008, he cried. Two conclusions ring out loud and clear. First, the MDC-T secretary general is saying the way is clear for a Zanu PF win, something in perfect accord with the surveys I have already alluded to. The only surprising thing is that the MDC-T secretary general has mustered enough courage to admit it in this most open way, and so far away from home, while being assured by digital technology that his mournful echo will reach and reverberate right through to home.
Secondly, Tendai Biti is not to blame for the elusive remedy, is not to blame for Zanu PF's inevitable victory! He tried his best soon after the split, soon before the 2007/8 elections. He failed. What is more, he won't try again, thereby guaranteeing a Zanu PF win! Was that not the message, dear reader? Maybe I am stretching matters, pegging mbambo paganda reshindi. Incidentally Tsvangirai was, more or less the same time, telling his Zanu PF interlocutors that Welshman Ncube is damned; that he will not ever consider working with him at all.
I am not so sure that Biti overheard this, thus correctly deciding never to be associated with any moves towards unity, now or in future. But he read his boss correctly, which means any search for a pact, let alone the unity he wishes for, would have to be pursued outside of the current framework.
The MDC-T is thus in capitulation mode, something Madhuku has accurately read. The only problem with Biti and his obliging media is with interpretation. He thinks the MDC formations lost presidency to Makoni and his Mavambo. He forgets that is exactly Zanu PF's argument, namely that it lost an outright win because of Mavambo which divided the Zanu PF vote. Biti is making a vain argument, one made vainer by the fact that Zanu PF has moved swiftly to neutralize Makoni and his Mavambo in so effective a manner that neither Mavambo nor its pretentious aftermath, ZAPU, can ever repeat its 2007/8 role.
The bhora musango mantra of 2007/2008 has now been turned into a bhora mughedhi call for 2013. And the MDC-T cannot wish for a new Makoni in Welshman Ncube whose stature and influence it has been subverting through exasperating defections between which lies a grinning Mutambara enjoying sweet vengeance but as a mere bus stop. Quite the contrary, it is only Zanu PF which can create a Makoni out of Welshman Ncube. Or a Motlanthe out of a Biti!
A party of permanence
So, much really rests with Zanu PF whose focus must turn to high politics. It must recognize the present moment, correctly interpreting opportunities which the warming West creates for it. There is a definite quest for some rapprochement and Zanu PF must grasp the nettle. The recent breakthrough over the KP conference in America is something to begin on. Zimbabwe has successfully leveraged on its resource power.
It must know when to stop browbeating, when to start a creative interaction with its opponents who have to be won over in order to make the world safe and supportive for her recovery. It must know that rapprochement with the West, while requiring some concessions, should never amount to a jettisoning of all-weather friends that have stood by it.
Quite the contrary, Zimbabwe must stick to its all-time friends, using their power, means and influence to bolster her independent politics, and to find an economy for those politics so she is better able to manage her opponents and her future. And a strong Zimbabwe abroad is a democratically elected one at home.
Zanu PF needs to regain her moral high ground by delivering a clean poll, a clean victory. It has begun well, coined a powerful message which cannot be equalled by any of its political rivals. The sentiment in the country is definitely favorable, with its main rival beating raging flames with dry twigs. Check what is happening at Masvingo City Council, itself a symbolic rendition of Zimbabwe's pawned and auctioned future under an MDC-T administration.
There is no opponent in the horizon. Zanu PF has unveiled a statement of permanence by way of the beautiful and solid facility unveiled in Gweru. Such a complex, such an edifice does not suggest a party about to go away, and its opponents have noticed. Everything seems in place and what remains is to run the last lap with dignity.
Only that way will her opponents kowtow. In the current gale, they have already started to sway.
Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald. E-mail him: firstname.lastname@example.org