By Denford Magora
A FEW months ago, as the Kenyans celebrated the Rainbow Coalition’s election victory and the defeat of former president Daniel arap Moi’s handpicked successor, I wrote in this paper that th
e east Africans had done themselves a disservice.
I argued that they had failed to objectively examine the coalition, which included some extremely corrupt elements from Kanu who had fled that party to join Mwai Kibaki when Moi had sacrificed them out of embarrassment at the scale of their gluttony. A Kenyan wrote back to this paper accusing me of belittling their hopes, among many other sins.
Well, I can only say that I told you so. Recently, this new government of Kibaki actually shot and killed unarmed protesters who were calling for a new constitution – already agreed to by everyone, it seems – to be adopted. But the new constitution will make it harder for the thieves to steal, so it has been put on the backburner.
Only a few days back, the British High Commissioner to Kenya felt compelled to tell the Kibaki government that they “have the arrogance, greed and perhaps desperate sense of panic to lead them to eat like gluttons . . . their gluttony causes them to vomit over our shoes”.
The foreign office at Whitehall said it had approved this speech. Clearly, far from belittling the hopes of Kenyans, I knew where I was coming from. The same applies to Zimbabwe.
Today we have a Morgan Tsvangirai and an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who, when it suited them, threw their lot in with those fighting for a new constitution in Zimbabwe.
After they had won seats in parliamentary elections and could see themselves getting into power without the broader civil movement, they then told the National Constitutional Assembly and others that the priority was to ensure that President Robert Mugabe goes – only after that could they talk about a new constitution, because we are in a crisis.
Still I reject this hogwash from the MDC and urge all Zimbabweans to do the same. I do not trust any party to level the playing field after it is in power – especially in Africa. This rush to get its hands on the levers of power and then sort everything else out afterwards raises serious questions about the MDC.
Mugabe came to power and kept the Law and Order Maintenance Act and other repressive laws in place. Nobody said a word as they all supported him then. Nobody questioned why these laws were still in our book when we were now a free nation where everybody was free to speak and congregate.
The same thing is going to happen without fail if we allow the MDC to get into power on faith alone. Zimbabwe needs cast-iron guarantees if we are to trust the MDC to be different from Zanu PF.
We know that the MDC also has people who joined it only because they could see no opportunity to eat at the national feeding trough through Zanu PF, where people had already positioned themselves. This does not in itself make the MDC a sure-fire bet for corruption and repression of civil rights, but it presents the risk.
For that reason, I refuse to accept that faith alone should drive people to put the MDC into power. I, for one, am not ready to experiment. Guarantees are what Zimbabweans deserve and what they should get.
I have always said that the MDC tactic of concentrating attention on Mugabe and his departure is deeply disturbing. In fact, we see that the MDC itself always squirms with discomfort when the spotlight is turned on it. Anyone putting the spotlight on the MDC is silenced by being labelled Zanu PF.
The departure of Mugabe and Zanu PF presents this nation with an unequalled opportunity to leapfrog into the 23rd century.
We have the resources and the talent to build first world infrastructure, to instil once and for all respect for other people’s opinions and ideas and, more importantly, to ensure that each person who wants a house can afford one. We also have the capacity and the resources to ensure that no Zimbabwean in any city waits more than five minutes for transport to and from work.
Our electricity bills come with a surcharge for rural electrification, yet that money is doing virtually nothing. I calculate that the money given to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority so far would only have needed a token top-up from the government to achieve total electrification of the country’s rural areas, not the piecemeal approach we have now.
Development funds, including our tax money, are finding their way into the coffers of a select few while growth points such as Juru are so tattered that they can never attract investment.
The failure to make grandiose plans by our leaders on both sides of the political divide is also the fault of Zimbabweans, who for generations now have refused to think beyond their stomachs, yet are ready to flee to South Africa and enjoy the benefits of a passionate and dedicated political executive without demanding the same back home.
* Denford Magora is a Harare-based advertising executive.