SO the SADC summit which was dubbed as a make or break Zimbabwean election theatre script has now come and delivered resolutions that continue to tap into the high adrenaline levels that parties in our GPA sketch went in with.
Summit back row rumour has it that Ministers Tendai Biti, Elton Mangoma, Pricilla Misihairabwi and some Tanzanian folks were seen clearing their throats, faking a sneeze before losing the will to be honourable and burst out in laughter during what should have been serious deliberations. The comedy was not the look in an agitated adrenaline-filled face of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, but a response to the hurricane but humorous delivery by the leader of what has often been described as the other MDC, Professor Welshman Ncube, the “Vunguman”.
Like most Zimbabweans, I love football. I am a life supporter of Highlanders and Arsenal and have long known that when I watch a match between Highlanders and Dynamos or Arsenal v Manchester United with someone who supports the opposite team, we would differ fundamentally on who played better and if, after a deliberate Rio foul on Theo in the box, the referee was right not to award a penalty. But even then, there are days when all fans come to conclude that van Persie was the man of the match, hands down.
In a similar polarised environment, where everyone was desperate to claim credit and victory, it appears to be the undisputed view of those who attended Maputo, from all political divides that the man of the summit, based on performance, effectiveness and results, was the Vunguman. But is this a significant arrival of a future President, or just another minor scene in this theatre of tribalised Zimbabwean politics?
The drama was to play out in rumours that Finance Minister Biti took over the Presidential suit and refused to budge when PM Tsvangirai arrived. PM advisor Alex Magaisa, speaking as one in the know has rubbished the hotel rumours but the moral of that story remains that the summit was so important to both MDCs in so far as it needed a legal delivery. There were many whispers in the MDC-T. Some were anxious and would have preferred Minister Biti to do the talking for the party in place of an often blundering PM. There was no room for mediocre performance. It needed a seasoned lawyer. The stakes were too high. The old fox had gone too far.Advertisement
Relief and joy is evident from Biti’s rushed communication post summit to the public. Both MDCs and democracy loving Zimbabweans have one man to thank – Welshman Ncube – for rising to the occasion. It is said that he delivered a Usain Bolt of a speech that left an aging President Mugabe embarrassed, forcing his party into a retreat and a grateful PM Tsvangirai. Biti even hinted Zimbabwe needed Ncube as part of the coalition package going forward.
President Mugabe has said that the outcome of the summit, recommending that he approaches Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court to ask for “one or two weeks” more is a happy outcome. The MDCs have celebrated the courage of SADC to return Zimbabwe to common sense and constitutionalism.
The question that many will be asking themselves long after the Maputo tents come down is: “Who was the winner in Maputo?”
President Mugabe and Zanu PF have been claiming victory of sovereignty by arguing that SADC acknowledged the verdict of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe and thus reaffirmed the principle of non interference in member states’ judiciary systems. They may also be having quiet celebrations on the idea that both SADC and the ConCourt have identified it as Mugabe’s responsibility to approach the court and following the judgement, call for elections.
The MDCs, despite their protests have until now, not challenged both the ConCourt on this using what PM Tsvangirai has often called the “GPA is clear that he cannot do it unilaterally.” Others have also doubted Tsvangirai’s assertion that it is him as PM who must be consulted while ignoring the fact that he has worked with Mugabe hand in glove to deny Prof Ncube the same GPA right to be consulted.
There is a second thinking that Mugabe played a dummy by pushing for compliance with the 31 July ruling to gain ground on the SADC and the other parties in the negotiations. It is an old trick of negotiations where you demand more than what you really want and hope that the negotiated outcome would be closer to what you really want. This is cited especially by those who say in the event that the ConCourt agrees to a 2 week extension it is Mugabe who wins more ground than Tsvangirai because the latter was calling for elections in October 2013. Could it be that Mugabe has always eyed 15 August as the election date?
By coincidence or design, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa of Zanu PF is the man tasked with approaching the ConCourt following the SADC resolutions. Do I hear someone say he may, if he chooses, present a weak case? There is also a legal possibility that the man who brought the initial action may challenge the jurisdiction of the court to hear a case when the executive through the President has already complied by calling for elections.
The two scenarios are not likely to change much. If one considers that Zanu PF were calling for their primary elections on the 24th June, just 4 days before the sitting of the nomination court, one can assume that they always knew there would be a two week extension. The elections are likely on the 14th or 15th August 2013. That may explain why Mugabe did not seem bothered by the outcome of the SADC summitand called it a happy outcome. Foxy!
MDC-T on the other end can bring the champagne bottles and claim victory for constitutionalism and common sense. SADC has taken on board, the need to address media reforms and for securocrats to call a press conference and pledge to respect the constitution. For others like Biti, the very fact that Prof Ncube saved the day vindicates those in MDC-T who have always argued that a united MDC is a better ship to go into the election sea with. Their Matabeleland leadership may be dragging their feet for fear of being squeezed out by MDC led by Ncube, “the man from Vungu.”
The biggest winner by a mile though is Prof Welshman Ncube, the Vunguman. Here is a man that started it all, in a room with Brian Kagoro, Priscilla Misihairabwi, and others including Tawanda Mutasa, Deprose Muchena etc. They started the NCA that then gave birth to the MDC.
Although Ncube was the founder of the vehicle that took Zimbabwe by storm in 1999, he looked at himself as others would have. He is a clever former ZAPU member, educated, eloquent, and principled but belongs to “the wrong tribe” being from Lower Gwelo or “Vungu” as Biti would say. It was convenient to invite Tsvangirai, then Secretary General of ZCTU to lead the party.
Prof Ncube had an opportunity to lead when the MDC split in 2005 on an issue many now accept he was right on and Tsvangirai wrong. At that point, the Ndebele tribe tag and lack of political respect that went with it led to that faction inviting an exiled former student leader Arthur Mutambara. Mutambara brought rocket politics that flew over grassroots and lost Ncube and his party seats in parliament.
When Prof Ncube finally took over from Mutambara at Congress, it is said repeatedly that he was humiliated time and time again by Tsvangirai and Mugabe who took Mutambara under their wings during the tea and pancake sessions for GPA principals. Mugabe refused to make the Vunguman the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic. Cry my beloved tribe. He took it in his stride and waited for his day in Maputo for revenge.
Many Zimbabweans generally agree that Ncube has the quality to be a President but just like Peter Kenneth of Kenya, many think he can not win because he is a Ndebele.
This is why Maputo was important for Ncube. When he rose to the occasion, he is said to have delivered a compelling legal case against what Mugabe had done. It was his MDC’s position, as given in Education Minister David Coltart’s communication before the summit that a timetable allowing the full 30 day voter registration and inspection of voters’ roll. His party has always called on due legal process to be followed and for the constitution to be respected while the MDC-T has emphasised on pending GPA reforms rather than process.
So when the SADC leaders listened to the “Vunguman” and saw Mugabe pause, it would have been a great relief for Ncube. When Biti told the world what he had done in the summit, Ncube had at last earned the respect to be considered as an equal. It is unlikely that Tsvangirai will continue shunning Ncube in the GPA meetings but seek to work with him.
When in 1999 many Zimbabweans realised that Joshua Nkomo a great leader they should have voted for, it was too late to change the course of history. Likewise, when the true story of the SADC summit is told one day, many Zimbabweans will reflect and realise that at times, the tribalised politics may leave us with inadequate leaders. My Shona friend calls it: “Kufa nenyota makumbo ari mumvura.”
Unfortunately for my tribesman, Prof Ncube, the Vunguman, it will take another five years for some Zimbabweans to be tribe-blind. He will be an important player and now a respected politician. The people in Murambinda and Chendambuya will not see his brilliance and capabilities because the SADC Summit goings-on will not be televised.
Tsvangirai supporters now emphasise his tribe and origin by calling him “Save,” to quench the voters’ tribal thirst. You have to give it to him, our dear PM. It is likely that even if the MDCs unite, it is Tsvangirai’s face that will be tied onto tree barks and pasted on dilapidated factory walls.
The Vunguman may have to accept that not many with our PM’s level of education or lack of it and his unique face have achieved what he has in life. I am sure his mother would have told him that he was the most handsome boy in the village. Confidence is everything in politics. He who believes, wins. Maputo speaks to what is possible.