By Wilbert Mukori
“THE Final Push!” was a failure: that is a historical fact. The heated public debate on why it failed was both useful and important so long as it helped the nation lear
n from our past mistakes.
However, we must not dwell too much on that and lose sight of our main goal of establishing a free, just, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. We lost a very important battle but we must not lose the war!
Some people have taken the failure of “the Final Push” as proof that the MDC is weak and should therefore accept whatever terms Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF demand during the much-awaited inter-party talks. The MDC’s plan was a simple enough call for a mass demonstration and march en masse to State House and force Mugabe out.
The plan failed for two reasons: it was dealing with a brutal and ruthless regime determined to stay in power whatever it takes. So instead of masses of ordinary citizens demonstrating, the regime deployed hundreds of police and party thugs armed to the teeth and with instructions to show no mercy. Not even those who had been taken to hospital for treatment were spared!
For anyone to grant Mugabe the upper hand in the inter-party talks will be to reward him for his brutality and ruthlessness. That will only serve to encourage him to be more brutal and ruthless.
Lest we forget, the root cause of Zimbabwe’s current political and economic mess is Mugabe’s stubborn refusal to accept the democratic will of the people. Many people in March 2002 sought to appease Mugabe by urging that he should be allowed to continue as president. And so for the last 16 months he has been the de facto president. The economic meltdown has accelerated in that period. The much-heralded land distribution programme was a non-event to the landless peasants who were supposed to be its main beneficiaries. To the rest of the nation, it is just another big mess to be sorted out.
Mugabe and his regime are nothing but a millstone around the nation’s neck. They are incompetent and corrupt and are beyond reforming. Zimbabwe, for its own good and well-being, must have the courage and resolve to tell Mugabe, as Cromwell told the rump of the Long Parliament: “Be gone! You have stayed too long for any good you ever did!”
I believe Mugabe and his thugs have a lot of explaining to do before we can move on as a people. Thousands of innocent Zimbabweans have lost their lives, victims of this regime’s brutal oppression. Soon after Independence Zimbabwe should have had its own version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to establish what happened during our liberation war. Because what happened during that critical time in our history defines who we are and therefore it is important to get the historical facts right.
Zimbabwe’s leaders back in 1980 did not have the vision to establish a TRC. Of course there is the obvious reasons why the Zanu PF leadership did not want a TRC digging into their past. That the commission would confirm the many stories of betrayal and murder of people like Herbert Chitepo and Josiah Tongogara and thousands tortured and murdered because they were accused then as now of belonging to different political parties. The other reason is they did not set a precedent of leaders having to account for what they did while in office.
The failure to set up a TRC was the biggest mistake Zimbabwe ever made. Mugabe had no problem recruiting thugs ready to kill at the drop of a hat because human life in Zimbabwe is cheap. The only demonstrative way the nation can show that we value human life is by demanding a full account of every unnatural death.
The MDC and Zanu PF can agree their own terms and conditions for power-sharing. The one demand the ordinary people must make on the two parties is that there should be a TRC or some full independent judicial inquiry into all political killings. That demand is not negotiable!
The second of people’s demands will be a full investigation into the conduct of Zimbabwe’s elections in the past. Years of vote-rigging and brutal abuse by Zanu PF have eroded people’s faith in the ballot box as a means of bringing about political change. We need an independent electoral system to restore that faith before people see the bullet as the only sure way to bring change.
The second reason why the MDC’s planned demonstration failed was because it was limited to MDC supporters. The issue at stake – vote rigging – is above party politics. It was not only Morgan Tsvangirai who was cheated by Mugabe but the whole nation. It is in the interests of even the most passionate Zanu PF supporters that Mugabe should not be allowed to rig elections. If the ruled cannot hold the rulers to account – and elections are the ultimate expression of democratic accountability – then those rulers are free to do as they please irrespective of the suffering and death their acts are causing on the ruled. The MDC should have sought the active participation of civic society, other political parties, those who voted for them as well as those who voted for Mugabe.
Is there anything the MDC, civic society, etc can do to maintain the pressure on Mugabe to accept that his time is up? Yes there is.
Next month the country will be celebrating Heroes Day. The MDC and civic society must join in the lamentation not of the Zanu PF-certified heroes but the unsung heroes and heroines murdered by Zanu PF thugs since Independence.
The gruesome details of all the political intimidation, torture and murder once denied by Zanu PF and whispered behind closed doors for fear of Zanu PF thugs must now be shouted from the hill tops, printed in every national paper and broadcast on every free radio and television channel.
One of the downsides of having been ruled by an autocratic and oppressive regime like Zanu PF for such a long time is that people believe that without a political party they are lost. For the last two decades Zanu PF has controlled everything the people have done. Anyone has tried to do anything without the party’s approval the latter has undermined and/or punished the individual(s) responsible. In Mugabe’s Zimbabwe it is the people who are accountable to him and his Zanu PF party.
But it is the politicians and the political party who should be accountable to the people. The real political power should be with the people, not the politicians. Yes Mugabe betrayed the nation but Tsvangirai has failed to live up to our high expectations. That does not mean the people themselves are now powerless. The people have the power to make and break any political party or government. The people of Zimbabwe have come a long way in the last two years in reclaiming that power and they are slowly but surely learning how to flex it.
Wilbert Mukori is a Zimbabwean based in London.