This is the first in a two part article by Durban University of Technology lecturer, Rodwell Makombe, on the just ended elections and the way forward for Zimbabwe.
I HAVE been following the election debate in Zimbabwe, particularly the opinion pieces that have been published and the utterances that have been made by some prominent figures in response to President Robert Mugabe’s landslide “victory”. What seems evident to me is that most people, including those who have been die-hard advocates of change and supporters of the MDC-T, have strategically aligned themselves with the winners and dumped the losers.
MDC Welshman Ncube’s Paul Themba Nyathi has publicly accepted defeat in Gwanda while NCA’s Lovemore Madhuku has also urged out-going Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to accept defeat. The timing for this political turn is very suspicious or should I say pragmatic. We know that Lovemore Madhuku and Munyaradzi Gwisai are long-time opponents of Mugabe’s rule. But following the latter’s victory; they have suddenly turned their backs on Tsvangirai and started lavishing praises on Mugabe.
I really wonder if Mugabe needs such praises given that he already has many praise singers – professional and otherwise – within his ranks. I have also learnt that Raymond Majongwe, the leader of the Progressive Teachers’ Union has gone an extra mile to send congratulatory messages to Mugabe. In his own words, Majongwe describes Mugabe’s win as “a sign of confidence in your leadership by the people of Zimbabwe who have given you the sole mandate to form the next government until the next national plebiscite in 2018”. This, indeed, is a man who has learnt something in the struggle for change. Or, has he?
This sudden change of heart is obviously not accidental. They say a hyena does not whine in the night for nothing. Is it that the trio have suddenly realised that Mugabe is not the demon that they thought he was? Is it that they were wrong all these years, and they have come to their senses? Or is it despondency? What could have inspired this 180 degrees turn? If these people have been backing the wrong horse for all these years, what it says to me is that their credibility as leaders is questionable.
How could they lead teachers (Majongwe), law-makers (Madhuku) and egalitarianists (Gwisai) the wrong way for all these years? What exactly is behind this sudden change of heart which ironically coincides with Mugabe’s landslide victory? I suspect the three have simply realised that unseating Mugabe is a dream that will never come true, hence the self-contempt which is designed to buy a route back to Zanu PF.Advertisement
Politics of the stomach
A win for Mugabe or Tsvangirai would not have come as a surprise to me. What defeats logic, for me, is this idea of a landslide victory. I have read a number of opinion articles that attempt to explain why Tsvangirai lost. Surprisingly, not many convincing reasons have been put forward to explain Mugabe’s overwhelming popularity; I mean tangible positive attributes.
It seems, looking at the reasons that Zimbabweans voted in the negative. They voted for Mugabe, not because of what he did, but because of what Tsvangirai did not do. Some say Tsvangirai took the electorate for granted. Others say he got so preoccupied with the GNU he forgot to rejuvenate his party. Some also claim that he wallowed in the trappings of power and neglected the workers who started the struggle with him. The reasons are plenty. In Matebeleland, I have heard that Tsvangirai did not realise that he was winning on the Gukurahundi ticket.
What I see in all these articles is an attempt to support Zanu PF’s landslide victory by blaming the MDC-T. I suspect such criticisms can only come from those who expected the MDC-T to win. Such people are eager to distance themselves from the crime scene and point their fingers at Tsvangirai.
I think it’s time Zimbabweans took responsibility for their own destinies. I have always heard people, including Zanu PF and the ANC of South Africa, saying that the crisis in Zimbabwe can only be addressed by Zimbabweans and I have asked myself ‘who are Zimbabweans”. Do they exist?
First and foremost, the people who are reflecting on the election do not seem to consider themselves as Zimbabweans with as much responsibility for the future of Zimbabwe as Tsvangirai and Mugabe. It seems they have reduced the debate to a discussion of personalities while neglecting the fundamental question of the destiny of the country to which we are collectively responsible.
As long as we continue to think in terms of political camps, with reasoning tainted by the cult of blame, we will do very little to address the monumental challenges facing Zimbabwe. We cannot continue to blame and praise as if this will bring a solution to the crisis in our backyards. For all his black spots, I think that Tsvangirai has received a lot of unfair criticism so far. He is only a human being, and he has done what he can, under the most difficult of circumstances.
Let us face the facts and give credit where it is due. Tsvangirai is one man, since 1980, who has significantly challenged Zanu PF’s secret desire for a one party state. We all know how difficult it is to oppose the incumbent government in Africa in general and in Zimbabwe in particular. Tsvangirai has tried to unseat Mugabe three times without success and now he has reached a point where even his allies of yesterday have become tired of continuing with the struggle. I don’t blame them. Madhuku is human, he must eat and he must take care of his family. In a country such as Zimbabwe, littered with CIOs at every nook and corner, he must worry about his personal security too.
What I don’t agree with is this habit of abdicating responsibility and beginning to sing selfish praise songs for someone who is already deluded with praises of insincerity. In jumping ship, Madhuku has become so desperate to be accepted in the Zanu PF camp that he even borrows his erstwhile enemy’s vocabulary to discredit other “one man” organisations like his own NCA. This kind of behaviour can be forgiven if it comes from the likes of Chinotimba ( I gather he is now a parliamentarian!) but for an erudite mind like Madhuku’s to stoop so low, to succumb to the basic politics of the stomach, is the worst thing that can happen to a nation. This tells us, in simple terms, that the defeat of 31 July was total, and the win, absolute.
Raymond Majongwe, on the other hand, has decided to congratulate Mugabe and dump the MDC-T; his reason being that MDC-T failed to address the plight of teachers during their tenure in government. I don’t know how sincere this accusation is, but my view is that this is another desperate attempt to solicit a back seat in the winner’s camp. Jonathan Moyo is their role model, I suppose. The dictum is “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Having lost his seat in Tsholotsho, Jonathan Moyo has already started seeking the limelight by dismissing Botswana’s call for election auditing as “thoroughly stupid”.
Moyo succeeded in this game at another time, in a different political context, but I don’t think this is the right time for people whom we know to have been vocal supporters of the MDC-T to try and cleanse themselves by badmouthing Tsvangirai. I don’t think Majongwe is being serious. We all know that the MDC-T went into the GNU as junior partners with very little power to make any decisions. To forget this historical fact for the convenience of personal survival is really scandalous. We also know that the MDC-T went into government at a very difficult time. The economy had completely collapsed and there was no money for anything.
I will, however, not discount the fact that when they entered government they also needed a rest and they did take a little nap. In any case, who wouldn’t? A man of flesh and blood has his limits. The MDC-T had been in the trenches since 1999, and what is worse, they didn’t have much experience in government (supposing that experience is always a positive although some have not put it to good use) so they needed to learn the ropes.
We also know that it was not up to MDC-T to wake up one morning and announce a salary increment for civil servants. For Majongwe to claim that the MDC-T worsened the conditions of workers in Zimbabwe is not only blatantly untrue but also dangerously misleading. For whatever reason (and I hope this is not for the sake of his stomach) Majongwe has learnt the old trick of vilifying one man to gain the favour of another.
I wouldn’t want to say much about Gwisai’s utterances. I think it is now public knowledge that Gwisai is as unstable as a sea wave tossed by the wind. The point is that as long as Zimbabweans continue to think in terms of their personal projects, the problems in the country will never be contained. We cannot have a country that continues to be conceptualised around personalities. Yes, Robert Mugabe has “won” the election but winning is not an end in itself. We need not, especially given the state of our country at the moment, spend valuable time in celebratory mode. Neither can we afford to continue the bad habit of making enemies “away” so that we can win voters at “home”.
We must leave the British and the Americans alone and start to ask the right questions that can take our country forward: Honest questions that provoke progressive debates. Does Mugabe have a sustainable plan for the future of the Zimbabwe? What is the role of the losers in post-landslide Zimbabwe? We ought to sober-up and ask such questions. I know that some “emotionalist” demagogues have no time for such questions. All they know is that Zanu PF has won and Zanu PF will rule.
I know some will say, “yes we have a plan, we are going to take the banks and the mines, dump the us dollar and use the yen instead”. There is nothing wrong with that as long as we take enough time to think through whatever we decide to do. Remember, the decisions we make to hurt the British and the Americans will only affect us. Americans have al-Qaeda terrorists to worry about and the British also have a country to run. So we need not fool ourselves with the idea that our world revolves around our former masters.
Populism may win elections but it can’t run a country. The whole world has made it clear that Zimbabwe’s problems can only be solved by Zimbabweans. The kind of rhetoric we get from the winning camp is already sending the wrong signal. I believe the people of Zimbabwe did not vote “against” the British. They voted, I suppose, “for” someone whom they believe will transform their lives. Yet some voices in the winning camp are telling the West to “climb down” as if everything we do in Zimbabwe is meant to send some signal to the West. As Zimbabweans, we need to get over this hallucination with the British and the Americans. Those people have shown us very clearly that they don’t care whether we are dead or alive. I believe even Tsvangirai has learnt one or two lessons about the British and the Americans.
Zimbabwe will not be built by words of war, whether it is Tsvangirai running to the courts claiming that the election has been stolen or Mugabe railing at the British and the Americans for the sanctions they have imposed. Yes, we can go on and on dragging each other to the courts, but after all has been done, we will still have to “climb down” like the British and face the reality of potholed roads, hospitals without medicine, collapsed companies and unemployment.
We can’t continue with this fighting mode. It’s not good for anybody unless if those in power are thinking of turning Zimbabwe into a war economy like Afghanistan. We can’t afford to pass laws and formulate policies with the intention of hurting whites in London and Washington. We have to think rationally, to consult others (I mean Zimbabweans) and map the future of the country together in earnest. In my view, this is not the time for jumping ship for selfish gains or praising the wrong things for the same reason. We have reached a point where nobody really cares except ourselves and if we also embrace impunity as our national anthem, then we will certainly reap a bumper harvest of chaos and we will have only ourselves to blame.
It is not wise to steal and console yourself with the fact that you were not caught. These are the small nuggets of morality that should guide our national conscience. When you do something wrong and your neighbour praises you for it, you must think twice before beating your chest with pride.
When we had a violent election in 2008, the winners refused to accept that they had won through the arm of violence. They insisted that everything was normal in Zimbabwe. We all knew nothing was normal with teachers fleeing schools and war veterans taking over everything in the name of patriotism. But who dared speak the truth? Some even went to the point of claiming that no one was killed during the 2008 elections. This is the kind of insincerity that will only serve a few and keep our country in a state of war. We need to learn to speak the truth, or should I say to think before we speak. To spend valuable time hurling abusive language at each other will not change the reality of unemployed graduates in our streets. Unfortunately, some reputable professors have offered themselves degrees in this discipline.
It surprises me that following the landslide victory of 2013 everyone seems to agree that 2008 was a disaster. Even our “double-tongued” neighbours seem to see the just ended election as better than the previous one. Unfortunately, when violence was reigning in 2008, no one dared say it. Thabo Mbeki said everything was okay in Zimbabwe. The same Mbeki, who said Zimbabwe was okay in 2008, is telling the whole world in 2013 that Zimbabweans have a right to choose their own leaders. Surely, this right ought to be exercised in a legitimate manner. What about those Zimbabwean who were killed in 2008, Mr. Thabo Mbeki; do they really matter to you? In all this duplicity, I don’t see the difference between the Americans and our own neighbours.
Clearly, Zimbabwe has become a testing ground for suicidal economic policies that many are scared to implement in their own countries. If these policies produce positive results, as some researchers have shown, then we will have a cause to celebrate, but if they turn out to be disastrous, we will only have ourselves to blame. The lesson that I have learnt, which I hope our politicians have also learnt, is that one man’s trouble does not give another man a sleepless night.
The ball is in our courts; we are the ones with relatives dying of AIDS every day because they cannot access ARVS. We are the ones who wrestle with death everyday driving on dangerous roads. No one will sort this mess for us and populist rhetoric will not do much to solve these gigantic challenges. Climb down Zimbabweans; you also need to climb down. The time has come to help our politicians to think beyond the jingoism of electioneering. Intellectuals have a better role to play in society than jumping from one political camp to another, or sitting on TV shows promoting a partisan agenda. We need to talk about these things so that we can rid our country of this cancer of greed and self-aggrandizement.