TAMBORINYOKA: 2018 in retrospect – A peek into the ending year!

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By Luke Tamborinyoka

THE board of Manchester United football club earlier this week sacked manager Jose Mourinho for presiding over the famous team’s worst ever start to a football season in news that came as no surprise to football followers across the world.

In Zimbabwe, this came at time when even ardent Zanu PF supporters have similarly lost confidence in Emmerson Mnangagwa after the party’s worst possible start to a stolen tenure, even by former President Robert Mugabe’s stumpy standards.

Across the globe as the tenuous year closes, the Trump White House is in trouble, the Brexit soap opera rages on while hope springs eternal in Yemen as the starving nationals in this war-ravaged nation continue to hold out for emergency food rations to land at the port city of Hodeida.

There is no end in sight in the Syrian civil war which has sucked in the major global powers.  An out-of-sorts Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, amid serious ructions and resignations within his regime. Elsewhere, Russia appears to have become an unmitigated colonial power as evidenced by her increased imperial activities in the Baltic region, particularly in Ukraine. The Sino-US trade war rages while the legitimate clamour for reform of the United Nations has become a growing chorus across the globe.

For Zimbabweans, 2018 was a sad year that opened when the country’s doyen of democracy, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai passed on; leaving his own ineradicable footprints on the sands of history. Love him or hate him, Tsvangirai left an indelible mark in Zimbabwe’s national political story.

The inimitable Tsvangirai, who died on 14 February 2018, will forever be part of this country’s rich history. He was a patriot who braved all to dole out free practical lessons on democracy to a stubborn political dictatorship, sometimes almost to the point of losing his life for his political faith.

Indeed, it is by no coincidence that this icon of our time died on St. Valentine’s Day. The keen golfer’s death on the day when the power of love is celebrated worldwide only serves to show his unbridled adoration and devotion to his country and his fellow countrymen. At a personal level, I lost a boss, a father and a friend.  

2018 was a year that began with an exhibition of an odd mixture of unity and disunity in the country’s biggest political movement – the MDC. The return of old comrades was supposed to be a mark of unity that ironically led to disunity in the party when a sulking Thokozani Khupe and her allies left the people’s movement.

Yet the MDC Alliance will forever be part of Tsvangirai’s enduring legacy. It was sad that any rational person could so much as venomously fight the convergence of the country’s opposition forces which the people had sonorously clamoured for during the iconic leader’s nationwide consultation early 2017. As President Tsvangirai often told me, it was sad that this mark of unity could engender so much disunity in the party.

This was the year in which the MDC Alliance fielded a 40-year old Presidential candidate who pulled the rug from under Zanu PF’s feet in a landmark poll Zimbabweans know he convincingly won. As a presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa was only marketed for just about 150 days after the death of the iconic Morgan Tsvangirai. Yet even by ZEC’s fudged figures, he trailed by a mere 38 000 votes having been a Presidential candidate for only five months.

Indeed, 2018 was the year of the young – from 40-year Nelson Chamisa who many are convinced won the Zimbabwe Presidential election to 20-year old tennis sensation Naomi Osaka who won the US Open finals ahead of the highly fancied Grand Slam queen, Serena Williams.

Lest we forget – even Jesus Christ is known to have publicly expressed his unstinting love for the young. “Let the young ones come me” will forever remain a prominent proclamation by the Son of Man in one of the most famous verses in the Scriptures.

But if God be for the young, who can be against them?

Shockingly, 2018 became the year that veterans of the liberation struggle and Zanu PF apparatchiks, unsettled by Chamisa’s national popularity and rising stock, vainly sought to amend the Constitution by raising the Presidential age limit to 52. It was laughable that a whole nation would be exhorted to support a Constitutional amendment ostensibly meant to deal with an individual!

2018 was a historic year of unparalleled bleeps and blunders. It was the year in which Mnangagwa went beyond his remit by appointing a bloated Cabinet only to fire the likes of Chris Mutsvangwa some 48 hours later to meet the constitutionally permitted threshold of Cabinet Ministers who are not elected MPs. It was also the year in which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission three times revised downwards its own announced Presidential election figures in a poll the country’s highest court astonishingly still held as having been fair and credible.

To this day, even Mnangagwa does not know the actual votes after his figures were whittled down a record three times by the election management body – and this only AFTER the disputed poll had been taken to court! Yes, 2018 was the year in which a Presidential poll victory in this country was conferred by the courts and not by the people, who are truly sovereign.

Murky characters deliberately selected and planted in strategic national institutions, including the Judiciary, toiled to ensure a Mnangagwa victory. It was a classic case in which a candidate assumed the Presidency by dint of his support from the selectorate and not from the electorate.

And yes, 2018 was the year in which the G40 cabal remained scattered across the globe, smarting from the November 2017 coup-de-tat which removed their godfather from office. Some of them returned home and were hauled before the courts on allegations of corruption by Mnangagwa’s government. Strangely, Mnangagwa himself was only a few years ago implicated in the corrupt plunder of resources in the DRC in a public United Nations report.  

Talk of a mosquito claiming it can cure malaria! Mnangagwa’s own office is replete with shady characters, including one George Charamba, now a deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet. Charamba plundered funds from the Public Service Medical Aid Society and has yet to face justice. Only recently, Mnangagwa himself told us one of his Cabinet Ministers demanded a R5 million bribe. He did not even bother to name the culprit or to take any action. So much for this regime’s zero tolerance to corruption!

At Munhumutapa, the putschists continue to hang on, notwithstanding the indisposition of coup leaders Constantine Chiwenga and Sibusiso Moyo earlier in the year. The latter, a news anchor only for a few days in 2017, remains indisposed to this day amid reports there is intense suspicion and a serious fall-out among these robbers of power. There is definitely trouble in paradise, judging by the mysterious fatal bomb blast at White City stadium whose full details have yet to be revealed!

2018 was the year in which Mugabe suddenly became a staunch advocate of security sector reform. We heard him harping on the message that he had been impervious to all these years that the military must confine itself to the barracks in line with the dictates of the Constitution. Mugabe even put the icing on his new-found political beliefs by holding a press conference on the eve of the election and announcing he would for the first time be casting his vote for the opposition.

Despite Mnangagwa’s so-called electoral victory and in spite of his much-vaunted spin about “notable” progress across all the sectors, the economic situation has worsened in Zimbabwe. What has become palpable and notable is that the economy has imploded. Prices have gone haywire. Cholera has reared its ugly head again while drugs, medical supplies and foreign currency are in short supply. Fuel and bread queues have resurfaced—as if to confirm that this is not the Second Republic but a continuation of the first!

Notwithstanding all these visible signs of collapse around us, State radio and television continue to damage our ears and eyes about how much has been achieved under Mnangagwa. Yet in spite of the fancy rhetoric that Zimbabwe is open for business; the country is definitely not open even for decency and common sense, particularly in the top echelons of power.

And in spite of the nude lies that the country is now on an even keel, Mnangagwa’s so-called new dispensation has proved true the adage that the more things change, the more they remain the same! The old cannot and should not masquerade as the new. As president Advocate Nelson Chamisa often says in his rally speeches, an aged woman in a mini-skirt cannot masquerade as a girl. And just like the old woman in Chamisa’s imagery, the wrinkles adorning the (in)actions of this dispensation are too visible to be concealed by any girlish pretence.   

Just like the Bourbon monarchy in France, Mnangagwa’s dispensation has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. He is hewn from the same stone as Mugabe and the army’s callous shooting of innocent Zimbabweans on August 1 is a case in point. For in 2018, Mnangagwa was exposed for what he truly is — a political cheat and a hypocrite. He told the world he did not sanction the deployment of the army as commander-in-chief yet even the duplicitous Commission he appointed concluded he had sanctioned the deployment.  

The economy is in a tailspin and, as we have often told our colleagues in Zanu PF, you can fudge election figures but you can never fiddle with the economy and its sacred rules of supply and demand! By their very nature, economies are allergic to fudging.

The rhetoric aside, we have sunk so low under this dispensation that our doctors are now using condoms as disposable gloves, as widely reported in our local media. Indeed, Zimbabwe’s enterprising and creative male lot, upon having condoms discovered in their pockets by their wives, continue to plead their innocence, insisting that they keep these gloves as medical security, in case they have to use them in emergency situations on our fatal roads!

As this regime’s panic sinks deep after their loss in the last election, the broad democratic movement has been infiltrated, with Zanu PF largesse being doled out to some in the MDC leadership in a bid to influence the upcoming party Congress by foisting a pliable and subservient leadership that will endorse Mnangagwa and do Zanu PF’s bidding.

Turncoats and cheque-book politicians that have been bought over by this regime are threatening to tear apart the people’s movement. Some are even sponsoring dubious pressure groups in a bid to effect leadership change at the forthcoming Congress. One such pressure group claims its agenda is to “restore” Tsvangirai’s Legacy. I posit without equivocation that one cannot purport to be fighting for the restoration of Tsvangirai’s legacy while at the same time fighting the MDC Alliance. You can’t!

Because the MDC Alliance and the attendant convergence emanating therefrom were not only resolutions of the MDC’s 4th Congress held in October 2014 but are an integral part of  Tsvangirai’s rich legacy that he sought to bequeath to the nation as a parting shot. It is Morgan Tsvangirai, in his wisdom, who spearheaded the Alliance and signed MOUs with other opposition leaders as he sought to re-sculpt the country’s politics and to give the people of Zimbabwe a fighting chance.

Those of us who served Tsvangirai for many years know what he truly wanted, particularly myself as his spokesperson and trusted lieutenant. As turncoats, pretenders and mercenaries move around the country seeking to profit from the towering Tsvangirai brand and spreading lies in his name, especially ahead of the MDC Congress slated for 2019, I will soon be setting the record straight.

As I promised some months ago, I shall at the appropriate time be releasing audios containing Tsvangirai’s succession preferences, in his own words and in his own voice. I promised him I would do that as a valediction to my service as his spokesman upon his demise when he told me he felt it within himself that his ailment would take him to his grave.

I have been agonising over the timing of the release of this material because I did not wish to be seen as swaying or tilting a democratic process in anyone’s favour but I am being forced by the falsehoods now being peddled by uninformed charlatans hell-bent on lying about Tsvangirai in order to foist themselves into power at the forthcoming Congress.

There is nothing wrong in democracy and competition and I personally would want Nelson Chamisa to be contested at the forthcoming Congress. It is in his interest and in the interest of democracy for that to happen. What some of us find unfathomable is for charlatans to abuse Tsvangirai’s name for their own selfish ends. Let us allow Morgan Tsvangirai to rest in peace.

On another note, I am also tying up Tsvangirai’s book that we spent many months, weeks and days working on together, sometimes late into the night. Had it not been for the gruelling election campaign and my studies, his work—Service and Sacrifice—would have long hit the book stands. 

My only word of caution to the MDC leadership—and I have a constitutional right to do so—is that as we justifiably celebrate prodigalism and arrivism in our confirmation of Tsvangirai’s legacy of the Alliance, let us spare a thought for the committed cadres who have unstintingly served in this movement for no payment and for no benefit.

Amid this current euphoria—and in this melee characterised by the cuddling of long-lost sons and daughters who have now come back home—let us remember those loyal cadres who stayed the course. As we justifiably revel in our slaughter of the fattest bulls for these prodigal sons and daughters, let us spare a thought for those who stoically and consistently defended this movement—those who stood tall, paid a huge prize, braved jail, vilification and humiliation as they sought to ensure the MDC remains a political behemoth; indeed, a respectable and dignified institution worth returning to. 

Indeed, as we behold the new and justifiably celebrate this newness that is now creeping into every facet of the party including the party secretariat now on the verge of being supplanted, let us preserve as our skills base some of the antique elements of this movement that are in themselves the true embodiment of value, loyalty and institutional memory. Let us blend returnism with stayism so that the party benefits from both freshness and institutional memory as we go forward.

Elsewhere, Mnangagwa continues to struggle in proving that he is a truly new dispensation. He has only been adept at perfecting Mugabe’s art of duplicity, lies and callous murders. His regime is teetering and tottering on the brink, with the same old incompetence, policy contradictions and internal fights as key elements in the very cockpit of both party and government.

Lastly, fellow Zimbabweans, I wish I could say merry Christmas but I can’t!

I can only wish you well as you slug it out in the fuel and bread queues this festive season.

Judging by the ignominy with which we are ending the year 2018, the prospects for the coming year can only be dim.

God save Zimbabwe!

Luke Tamborinyoka is the Director of Communications in the MDC led by advocate Nelson Chamisa. He writes here in his personal capacity. You can interact with him on his facebook page and on the twitter handle @luke_tambo.