Candid Comment

Divisions stress might of vision


By Joram Nyathi

DEBATE on The Zimbabwe We Want document is likely to suffer (God forbid) a serious miscarriage. This is not because the document is fatally or

even inherently defective. We have either lost the capacity to debate issues objectively or Zimbabwe’s crisis has itself become a lucrative industry that there are people who wouldn’t want it to end soon.


Either way, I believe Zimbabwe shall live.


The fact the National Vision document has caused divisions on both sides of the political divide is part of its strength, that it was not designed to pander to any political party or sectional interest. It sought to be as balanced as possible and all-inclusive. It has therefore blurred the usual clear-cut political polarisation between Zanu PF and MDC sympathies.


I will deal briefly first with the historicism of the church’s role in liberation politics that government spin doctors are so obsessed with.


This is typified by Tafataona Mahoso and Nathaniel Manheru. The limitation of this approach to the document is that history itself becomes the measure of one’s behaviour in future, it doesn’t matter that the leadership and vision of the church have changed. They pretend that the Sunday Mail and the Herald never represented the official policies of the settler regimes as they do the current one. Theirs is a history of revenge.


This explains why they are comfortable with the late Chenjerai Hunzvi and Border Gezi as appropriate substitutes for Ndabaningi Sithole and James Chikerema at the Heroes Acre. It is part of the “post-Independence regression” that has created the “ambiguity” about who qualifies to be a national hero. It is part of the “bad history we have lived” that has given us Posa in place of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act.


The National Vision document points out the “bad history we must overcome” before we can get the Zimbabwe we want. It makes no apology for whether the authors of that bad history are blacks or whites. The pain to the victims is the same.


By the time you get to the end of Mahoso’s thesis you heave a sigh and ask what the way forward is. There is none. It is as if they have decided that so long as we can quote copiously from historical records, all will be well. But history can only be salutary as a warning, not as an end in itself or as an excuse for blame-shifting.


The other extreme consists of well-meaning people, those for whom there is no room for compromise with the regime. For them it’s all or nothing, something you can only do from an impregnable fortress. Archbishop Pius Ncube was quoted as saying the document given to President Mugabe had been “toned down”. Trudy Stevenson claimed they had not been consulted but dwelt largely on trivialities. Archbishop Ncube didn’t say what fundamental propositions had been expunged to vitiate the impact of the vision. Let’s focus at the root and spirit of the document, what it seeks.


At the risk of sounding frivolous, Stevenson scoffed at concepts such as “unity”, “consensus” or “sovereignty” as reflective of Zanu PF thinking. But how do we contemplate a global village without consensus on concepts like human rights, rule of law or democracy?


Outright demands in any struggle depend on which end of the gun you are holding. In Zimbabwe, democratic forces are under the muzzle, fatally wounded by division. Their belligerence against Mugabe is confined to hotel rooms where sometimes one senses that the attacks seek to appeal more to the pocket of the donor than the conscience of the nation. It is a kind of militancy that can only end up in self-combustion through frustration without achieving anything for the intended constituency of the poor and oppressed who have no access to donor money. Donors are bound to get tired.


My point is not that National Vision is perfect and should not be attacked. It is the finality in some of the analyses that so long as Mugabe lives there is no dialogue or that if someone is not attacking Zanu PF and Mugabe then they are for the Establishment that worries me. This is so wrong it won’t get us far as a nation.


The mistake the hawkish militants make is to imitate the myth often peddled of Mugabe himself as an uncompromising freedom fighter and negotiator. Evidence amply shows that at the critical juncture when history had to be made he compromised on very fundamental aspects of the liberation war. I will briefly illustrate.


The Lancaster House conference in 1979 didn’t produce outright military victors or total losers. The constitution was a compromise for the good of the nation. The talks didn’t immediately yield to the majority the factors or the means of production, they did not gives us land beyond the new state called Zimbabwe. Yet land was at the core of the war.


Mugabe capitulated on the “promise” of a willing seller, willing buyer model backed by British financial support. Once a one man one vote clause was secured the Patriotic Front realised it was not possible to get everything all at once. The Third Chimurenga bears testimony to that whether people choose to believe the land reform was a gimmick by Mugabe to remain in power or something else. Amendment No 17 accomplished what Lancaster negotiators failed to achieve.


The constitution was even more blatantly flawed. It came with entrenched privileges for whites, the 20 reserved seats which Mugabe must have resented with his life. It could not be amended for the first 10 years to forcibly seize land from whites despite Mugabe’s latest casuistry about a homegrown Lancaster constitution.


But all this did not stop Zimbabwe gaining majority rule in 1980. All the gains and losses since then have largely been of our own making. Now we have “politicians” who say we cannot have a national vision because “a clause on media freedom is missing”. It’s called fiddling while Rome burns. The document seeks a meeting of minds on core issues. It’s not about speaking with one voice in the selfish political sense.


What I find to be the weakest part of the Zimbabwe We Want document is its silence on how to attain it. Is it via the electoral route, negotiations, a government of national unity or jambanja and stayaways? But then that can still be debated as people discuss the document. Instead of which our analysts appear to discuss it from the wrong end altogether.

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