LAST Friday the Zimbabwe Independent came under siege from a small but vociferous group of self-styled thought police over our article on the opposition headlined MDC in shambles: what is to be done?
The group of readers, some choking
with emotion and others in a state of self-righteous anger, charged the newspaper and author of the article with thought-crime.
They claimed that the article had tribal connotations and was part of a plot to undermine the democratic struggle.
Others gave informed criticism which persuaded us to factor in a number of considerations when looking at the MDC crisis.
One of our critics even produced a statistical document to illustrate the MDC’s regional representation for both factions.
While it debunked some of the myths, especially to do with where individual MDC leaders hail from, it also confirmed the villagisation of politics in both camps, a point we tried to make last week.
We also maintain our view that the MDC, even at the height of its popularity, was unpopular in Mashonaland and Masvingo for various reasons. This remains the case and one of its major weaknesses.
We were better informed after reading the MDC document and appreciative of it. We acknowledge we could have been a little off target in some cases.
A prominent MDC lawyer, for instance, was adamant that he came from Shurugwi, not Masvingo but we were not referring to him!
There were however a few readers who insisted the author of the article was not Zimbabwean but South African.
This had something to do with Mzilikazi making arbitrary boundary adjustments in the 1840s, we gather!
The Harare lawyer said he was shocked by the “tribal tone” of our article. He claimed it was critical of only one of the MDC factions and insisted we should have noted the fundamental problem in the opposition: that there was a “Ndebele rebellion” against the founding MDC leader.
The lawyer — along with many others — was plainly unhappy with our claim that Morgan Tsvangirai’s faction was dominated by the Karanga ethnic group, but we pointed out to him that we also recently took to task Arthur Mutambara over claims that his faction was Ndebele-dominated.
We asked Mutambara if he was a token leader. He gave us his response without much ado. So why should we not ask Tsvangirai the same question if some political observers make similar claims?
We wanted to put this question to Tsvangirai in the past two weeks but he declined an interview claiming he was not yet ready to speak to the press.
Indeed, his press advisors have repeatedly declined to take up the Independent’s offer of op/ed space to pitch their views and vision to the public.
Instead, William Bango apparently believes the Independent must be punished for not giving his faction uncritical coverage. It must be said, the Tsvangirai camp is not well served by this adolescent attitude.
The idea is not to fan ethnic hatred, as the young hotheads would like to think, but to make leaders accountable for their decisions and expose the flaws of their command structures which might create problems if they ascend to power unchallenged.
We have always exercised professional caution over these issues because we understand our responsibilities to readers and society.
That is why we do not publish hate speeches, abuse or defamatory allegations which some readers send to us regarding the political struggle.
We appreciate that in such a politically volatile environment a flutter of a butterfly’s wing may cause a thunderstorm but we are also not inclined to slide into whitewash journalism out of fear of being emotionally blackmailed by a few holier-than-thou Harvest House adherents.
There were other readers who sent messages by SMS and e-mail expressing mixed views.
We simply welcomed their opinions and took most of them in good faith.
Although we respect the views of our readers, the main issue remains that the MDC’s internecine conflict has taken the struggle for democracy five years backwards.
It is plainly unhelpful to pretend that this was a necessary cleansing process, as with Zapu and Zanu in 1963.
That episode was followed by petrol bombings, bitterness and violence in the nationalist ranks that lasted until 1987.
The only cleansing dimension to it was Gukurahundi!
As it is, the MDC has let the country down.
At just the moment when democrats are crying out for leadership, it has chosen to pretend that unity is unimportant; that the one camp is the only authentic voice of the party and the other will be whipped into line by the force of public opinion.
This is arrant nonsense.
The opposition forces are fractured and fragmented and as a result Zanu PF continues to rule by default when it hasn’t got a clue how to rescue the country from the current crisis.
The opposition as it stands is performing a signal disservice to the nation with its self-indulgent divisive politics.
Our article asked: What is to be done?
Many in the MDC appear unable or unwilling to answer that question.
Our columns remain open to them. They should stop sulking and assist their cause by engaging in open discourse.