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Editor’s Memo

Optimistic mode

Vincent Kahiya

THE times when optimism really pays off are when you are faced with a life problem, challenge or setback. An optimistic thinking mod

e at these times will increase your resilience, maintain hope and improve your chances of a successful or acceptable outcome.

In Zimbabwe’s current political environment, optimism has become a virtue not possessed by many. There are not enough positives around to spur positive thinking in a society tortured by imprudent political decisions.

The decision by the MDC last week to suspend participation in all elections created an interesting scenario for both the optimists and pessimists. The optimists believe President Mugabe will buckle under pressure and effect the requisite reforms envisaged by the opposition. The pessimists are despondent. They see the opposition playing into President Mugabe’s hands as the decision was bound to kill political momentum.

The argument here is that the face of the Zanu PF beast will not be revealed if the quarry recedes into its shell. For the world to see the election rigging machinery in play, the MDC has to participate in the poll. Only then can observers witness the opposition being denied access to the public media and opportunities to hold rallies. This would bring about greater pressure on the incumbent than watching from the sidelines.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in his Tuesday message this week struck a chord rich in optimism. I am not sure whether he was trying to be deceptive or genuinely forward looking. Tsvangirai spoke of a turnaround plan for Zimbabwe which he said “remains intact”.

“It is clear we shall, once again, get everything we envisage before the next parliamentary election,” he said. “We are very clear about the success of the route we have chosen to restore legitimacy to Zimbabwe.

“We know of attempts to confuse the people, push them further into despair and spawn a despondent and hopeless electorate,” he said. “We are finalising the selection of our candidates, consolidating our campaign teams and engaging various community leaders in their constituencies.

“In the spirit of Mauritius, you shall soon be hearing our voices on radio, on television and other public media. We shall share ideas openly at our workplaces and in our villages.

“The political electric fence that denied you access to the watermelon has rusted away. A new Zimbabwe is within sight. Together, we have managed to overcome a main barrier – a vital part of our struggle for freedom and choice,” he said.

To the uninitiated the party’s position sounds convoluted. The MDC is pulling out of all polls because it is sick and tired of Mugabe’s refusal to embrace electoral reforms that would ensure free and fair elections. At the same time the party sees a window of opportunity in which Sadc heads would chaperone President Mugabe into implementing the Sadc protocol which would open the way for free and fair polls next year.

This may be rich in optimism but it can be heavy going for an unsophisticated electorate, especially if the party leadership were to take the podium to explain this at a rally. At rallies the party’s stratagem and policies for the 2005 elections looks set to be superseded by the need to explain the decision to suspend participation in elections.

Tsvangirai’s message to the electorate is phrased thus: “Any election conducted without a new Zimbabwe in mind shall yield a flawed result and perpetuate our misery for a long time to come.

“It is far better to delay such an election until our national poll management structures are ready to take on such a watershed assignment. We are better off without participating in an election than to endorse a senseless orgy of violence and murder.”

The party has to mollify a section of its supporters who wanted to participate in the poll at all costs. The rest of the party has to be kept engaged and psyched up for the election in the hope that circumstances will change for the better. This will not be a walk in the park for the opposition as, in the meantime, the government propaganda machinery is being honed to “push them (voters) further into despair and spawn a despondent and hopeless electorate”.

Tsvangirai’s Tuesday message envisioned a Nirvana-like new Zimbabwe in which tyranny, repression, election manipulation and political intolerance would be replaced by “a haven of peace, a place where our diversity becomes our strength. A new Zimbabwe shall respect your rights, your divergent opinions, your freedoms and your creative initiatives”.

Does he know something we don’t?

Tsvangirai has said he is clear about the success of the route the party has chosen to restore legitimacy. Let’s hope he’s not taking us down the garden path!

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