Relevance won’t be that easy, madam VP


By Tanonoka Joseph Whande

THE $20-billion congress is passé now. If Moses had foreseen Zanu PF’s extravagances, there would have been an eleventh commandment.


My compatriots, I need not apologise for not being as optimistic, enthusiastic and as confident as some of my fellow Zimbabweans because, simply, I am just not as optimistic, enthusiastic and as confident as some of my fellow Zimbabweans.


I am not a prophet of doom; I am just a discontented and demoralised Zimbabwean who sees us continuing to frolic hopelessly in the very same pool of mud in which Zanu PF has got us stuck for 25 years.


We now have a brand new vice-president gleaned from the same under-achieving crop of pedestrian, uninspiring and docile politicians, yet for the last 20 years or so Zanu PF failed to offer this nation any notable new ideas, laudable leadership, alternatives or originality. All we got was mediocrity if not retrogression.


While I am aware that Zimbabweans deserve much more than Joyce Mujuru, I am really not concerned about what Mujuru deserves or does not deserve. I only care about my Zimbabwean constituency. To that end, therefore, Zanu PF must stop fooling people about democracy.


There are many intelligent, far-sighted, and judicious women in Zanu PF. Why did the party not allow these women’s names to be put forward for a fair contest in popularity and preference? It would have been to Zanu PF and the nation’s advantage if the ruling party had paraded several of its eminent women candidates for people to choose from.


Who did Mujuru run against, if she ran at all? Mujuru was not a people’s choice but Mugabe’s pick. She was handpicked, elected and sworn in by President Robert Mugabe while the Zanu PF party faithful, who could have put forth or suggested better candidates, were cowed into ululating for no more than just Mugabe’s fancied candidate much as Emmerson Mnangagwa once was. Oh, how political winds not only flow but change course!


Neither Zanu PF nor the nation was given an opportunity to choose their preferred leader. Yet Mujuru’s ascension also exposed heavy subterranean tribal loyalties and preferences shamefully resulting in some of those who did not support her being suspended from the party. How then can Zanu PF talk about democracy in the nation when it cannot practise the same within its own ranks?


But Mujuru has already taken the oath of office. And to her I say: congratulations, Cde Joyce. Your military feats were well-publicised. So I was not surprised when you were part of that highly, internationally acclaimed BA, MA, MD and PhD-infested first cabinet in 1980. You have remained in cabinet since then and I honestly would like to credit you with something original, something substantial, important and innovative but I cannot find anything extraordinary or of particular mention in your more than 20 years as a cabinet minister.


You will be the first to admit that you did not get that post through democratic practices in the party or even through your own brilliance. Far from it. It was through the president’s political vivisection.


We have witnessed how, over the years, mindless patronage destroyed this nation; but today patronage has elevated you. Congratulations! Your resilience not withstanding, you did not have much of a choice but to accept the position thrust upon you.


But please do remember that you are in that position to placate the neglected but hopeful Zimbabwean women. Hear me, please: you are not Mugabe’s representative before the people; you are the people’s representative before Mugabe and his government.


Since you were not elected, in real terms, you owe that position to the bungling of Zanu PF just as much as the struggling new farmers owe their newly acquired farms to the very same man who appointed you. Both are acts of convenience and expediency not of substance.


Admittedly, since your appointment was stimulated by patronage and was not the result of any evident, justifiable or simmering ambition on your part, the thrust of your duties and responsibilities must have more to do with the people to justify your presence. New farmers are failing to serve the nation with some of them rather clearly serving themselves. Please avoid that. You owe us.


Madam Vice-President, please think of the people for a change. You have a perfect opportunity to show that you are a woman of substance and to confirm the decades of propaganda and unproven myth attributed to your person. I, for one, do not want any excuses. You fought a war for the people and we must now see why you were such a military rabble-rouser and firebrand.


Cde Vice-President, you have been given both an opportunity and a platform that elude many women around the world. While you are the people’s emissary in general, you are the women’s representative in particular. Show a difference. There is no middle ground; you just have to perform to avoid destroying your own legend.


Beware though! Mugabe’s jocular statements that you should not intend to stop with the vice-presidency should not be taken seriously. Your former colleague, the late Eddison Zvobgo, was honest about it and his openness offended Mugabe.


Meanwhile, Mnangagwa, with Mugabe’s tacit encouragement, showed a deliberately subdued but nevertheless strong interest in the presidency but then, again with Mugabe’s help and prodding, you leapfrogged over Mnangagwa yourself. So you see, disaster and opportunity derive from the same symbol.


It is Zimbabweans who delivered you into the lap of destiny. I therefore cannot doubt that the people will support you if you show them a radical and positive, progressive, pro-people difference. You owe us.


Shall we, therefore, dare to celebrate that our time has come because you have arrived? Madam Vice-President, I really and sincerely wish you the very best. But please ask yourself how and why you have now successfully reached the pinnacle of Zimbabwean politics. Success is much easier than relevance.


*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Zvishavane-based writer.