Foul political play must not become the norm

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I STARTED my Secondary education in the early Eighties.  What fascinated me at the time was that some of my classmates were too old to be in school. As the war had just ended, most of the students who had dropped out of school went back into education. One of these students was Disaster and he was already in Form 3. I remember the first time I greeted him, my small palm completely disappeared into his massive paw and I had to crane my neck upwards in order to have a direct gaze at his face.
No one really knew how he got his name, but it appeared he changed his name and age in order to get back into education. He could probably have “borrowed” his name from VanaMukoma (War Veterans). Whatever its origin, we liked it as it matched him in many respects. We were told that Disaster got into the school football team on his first trial. It was said that he once blasted the ball across the goal post so hard that it left an imprint. As newcomers, we were religiously led to the goal post to “see” the damage for ourselves.
To be honest, I did not see the imprint. I did not want to spoil the fun and I had to join the bandwagon. Apparently all those who followed us continued to “see” the imprints even after those posts had been removed. This was legendary, I suppose. In June 1983, we had an away game with a newly established secondary school referred to as an “Upper Top”. I am not sure why they were given such a name except to say that I did not like the name. Anyway, we all wanted to go to the match and watch Disaster in action.
A day before the game, my friend and I asked for permission to visit an “ill” relative in the villages so that we could be well in time for the game. Before the game started, our team led by Disaster (the captain) suddenly appeared on the pitch. Disaster’s uniform appeared to burst from its seams.  I was just wondering what would be left of the shorts if he decided to fire a thunderous shot as his shorts had a slight tear at the back.  The contents of the shorts left nothing to imagination. This added fun to the game. Everyone was chanting Disaster! Disaster!
Shortly afterwards, the home team followed. Despite all these guys being in Form One, they were nevertheless big boys indeed. Rumour had it that they may have been Mujibhas (War Collaborators) during the war of liberation. Of late, some of these guys may have become active “war vets” in their own right. Please don’t even drag me into any discussion about how this could be possible. All the odds were stacked against the home team. Whilst our team had a new football kit, the home team had none. Even the match officials were intimidated by us because we were a “big school” in the District. We clearly had an unfair advantage over the home team. However, what the home team lacked in resources, they had it in fan numbers.Advertisement

The game started off at a fast pace, with each side seeking to outmaneuver one another. Disaster always had the ball glued to his feet, not that he was good enough, but because the opponents were scared of him. By half time, no team had scored. Predictably, Disaster was beginning to exhibit some signs of restlessness. A loss would probably have bruised his ego, especially given the fact that we were playing against a team without a “proven track record”.
Going into the second half, game possession went straight to the home team, which made a couple of fast breaks, catching our team’s defence off guard. In the dying minutes of the game, when it appeared that we were running for a goalless draw, the defender, under immense pressure from our boys, made a seemingly harmless back pass to the goalie, which was intercepted by Disaster. He made a few touches before blasting the ball. The ball went with a spin and pitched in a curving path as it approached the keeper, making it difficult to predict its direction. Surprisingly, the ball went past the keeper, then narrowly over the bar.
For a moment, we froze in disbelief as the referee briefly consulted the linesmen, and then decided that it was a goal. The fact that goal posts did not have any nets did not help matters. Amid protest and bemusement from the home team and its supporters, we bolted into the pitch in excitement. Whilst I am not in the habit of criticising referees, but on this occasion, his decision appeared to have been a blatant travesty of justice.  Anyway, if the referee says “bhora mugedhi/ibola egedini,” the matter is settled.
 In the absence of violence, we beat them “fair and square”. We were prepared to defend our “hard-gained win” at all cost. We proved to our “detractors” that we were a “non-violent” team with a “proven history of fair play.” Despite the hullabaloo the referee’s decision had caused, we were crowned the “undisputed champions” of the tournament in which, understandably, the other team boycotted alleging “rigging”.
An exaination of our political landscape would confirm that fair play is something that has eluded our politicians across the political divide. Whilst it is undeniable that the MDC-T has been on the receiving end in the recent past, the party had its own fair share of problems regarding lack of fair play within its internal operational systems. Its rank and file has complained about so many irregularities such as the imposition of candidates, leaving those who have been fighting in the trenches bitterly disappointed. Furthermore, there have also been disturbing reports of corruption among some MDC-T councilors across the country.
Admittedly, Tsvangirai has been on record as saying he would decisively deal with any form of corruption in his party but his initiative has largely been ignored. On the other hand, Zanu PF has never played by the rules. A spate of incidents involving violence that have characterised almost all elections since 2000 lend credence to the  view that elections in Zimbabwe have never been free and fair. The carnage that preceded the combined presidential and parliamentary elections in 2008 is a case in point.
When the MDC-T went into the “game”, the “invisible boys” had already done their homework. The Finance Ministry, responsible for administering the “national purse” had already been “cloned”. The GPA was very clear about what should have happened before the plebiscite. The MDC-T failed to ensure that all democratic reforms agreed upon had been implemented in letter and in spirit. The “big boys” ensured that, apart from the poll being peaceful, none of the other reforms would see the light of day.
In the previous elections, Zanu PF’s weapon of choice was wanton violence but this time around the Marange diamonds did their magic. The “big boys” had already made a plan and they executed it with ruthless efficiency right under MDC-T’s nose. To make matters worse, the security sector had even made it known that they would never submit themselves to anyone without liberation war credentials. Clearly, the MDC-T may have made a fundamental error of judgement by squaring off with the “big boys” in a game with obscure rules, with catastrophic consequences.
Although the MDC-T got more sympathy from the public, in truth, no political party had its “hands clean”. There has not been any fair play within the structures of either MDC-T or Zanu PF. With that in mind, who then is the injured party and how can they seek justice? The Highwayman’s case (1725), from which the maxim “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands”, clearly illustrates the nature of the political crisis in Zimbabwe. In this case, two robbers were partners in crime. Due to disagreements in shares of their loot, one filed a bill against another for the proceeds of the robbery. The Judges ruled that “they will never sit to take an account between two robbers.” In other words, without clean hands, seeking justice, no matter how unfairly treated by your adversary, becomes a big challenge indeed.
Harsh as it may sound, this perfectly fits well with our political situation.  Clearly, by all accounts, MDC-T appears a “lesser robber” in the political scheme of things. Kudos for that! But again, what then is a robber? Even if MDC-T had cleaner hands, as many believe, the judiciary, which is supposedly a custodian of the constitution has also been accused of being notoriously biased in favour ZANU PF. If these allegations are true, where would those with “cleaner hands” look to for justice? I am hope our current leaders would consider to learn lessons from the past and never teach our future leaders that foul play is fair play if we are to achieve a democratic and fairer society.
Benard Ruwanza is a Law graduate of the University of Huddersfield, England.  He lives in Manchester and can be reached at