FOR a number of months I have desperately fought the compulsive desire to seek clarification on the nature and persona of one Denford Magora.
His foray into the c
omplex world of political commentary is as risky as an agrarian revolution in the grasslands of Angola – fraught with landmines.
It is critical to point out that the cost of free expression in Zimbabwe today is extremely high, at times life threatening. Therefore, all men and women worthy of their literary salt should devote their talent to constructive analyses and focus on the real enemy of the revolution – those who are responsible for poverty, unemployment, homelessness, a collapsed health infrastructure and declining quality of education.
The adversaries of civilisation are those who have turned millions of Zimbabweans into second-class citizens both at home and abroad, those whose policies have violated the very core of individual liberty – property – and sent our granaries into the abyss of nothingness.
They are the few who have plundered our national resources while the rest of us walk to work, who live in high places and shop at Rosebank while we scrape for a living at Siya-so.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is not the enemy, therefore Magora’s schizophrenic obsession with him is misplaced and a waste of intellectual property. Tsvangirai is like a proverbial super sub warrior sitting on the bench, watching in despair while Zimbabwe is wallopped by the Super Eagles. He knows he has the capacity to turn the game around but has to patiently await the decision of his coach – the citizens of this country.
I will attempt to use the language of advertising Magora may be familiar with. He should know that in a political product life cycle, there is an unpalatable stage when a brand becomes irreplaceable, no matter how bad it is performing in the market place.
This is because you have “Four P-ed” it so much that the overall investment in the brand is so high as to make it costly to discontinue its production.
This explains why President Robert Mugabe, as a political brand name, is in such a state. His “promoters” consider him so much of a cash cow that they see no other option that can sustain their frail political lives.
The cost of dropping him from the market place outweighs the benefits of keeping him on the shelf, hence they will package and re-package him until their copy runs out of promotional superlatives, which they have.
But the differentiating feature between the Mugabe and Tsvangirai brands is not just age and aesthetics – it is the way each of the brands was created.
If Magora gets this point correct, he will graduate from one who always finds it necessary to write to one who writes when it is necessary.
The Mugabe brand is a product of over 20 years of military coercion. It is a sum aggregate of populist guerilla resistance that combined persistent promotional tactics with a vast network of violent appeals to fear that left its “consumers” with very little choice but to conform to its dictates.
In rural areas, the Mugabe brand was not just a household name; it was the household, the head of family. The brand decided the diet, who went to school, to the fields and how spare time was used. Back then, you either bought the product or consumed a fire pie.
We now all know why nobody in the Zanu PF advertising department would dare insinuate that the brand be dropped from the production line – the punishment is swift and decisive. Retribution is by irrevocable decree – Chaldean, Nebuchadnezzar-style. This is the very reason why, if Magora wants his name to remain forever etched in the Advertising Hall of Fame, he could suggest how a powerful brand name with no utility can be dropped from the market without changing the production and promotional formula.
Perhaps one can go via the “new and improved” route, or better still, continue producing the brand but sell it at a discounted rate. The killer assumption being that the brand wants to be dropped – or at least it does not resist attempts to modify its characteristics!
The Tsvangirai brand is a product of peace time, when consumers were free to choose and there was no retribution for refusing to consume. It was built around the principle of persuasion, volunteerism and popular backlash against two decades of eccentric centralised control.
In urban areas, the brand was exchanged freely for political consideration, available and accessible while in rural areas the distribution network was restricted and at worst, closed off by a competitor obsessed with monopolistic euphoria. But because it had no capacity to indulge in an orgy of military coercion, its shelf life was always limited.
However, a brand name that is a product of free market creation is easier to replace than the one created in a protective monopolistic environment. Herein lies the value of enlightenment to Magora.
If one wants to analyse the nature of leadership that is averse to criticism and resistant to replacement, Tsvangirai is a wrong case study. A simple reference to nationalist political history shows just how it dealt with internal criticism. Today, we exalt the political exploits of “institutions” like Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo, Herbert Chitepo and Josiah Magama Tongogara.
We have been “educated” on how these erstwhile men of steel were eliminated by enemies of enlightenment. Over the years, we have seen, with our own eyes, men like Lookout Masuku, Major Grey, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Eddison Zvobgo, Dzikamai Mavhaire, Sydney Malunga and others fizzle into political oblivion. Thanks to the fear and hatred of criticism, Zimbabwe is what it is today – a state of economic and political despair.
The free press has almost been eliminated. Citizens can no longer meet freely to discuss their destiny without some Joe Bloggs snooping all over their room. Zimbabwe television and radio has become so tasteless and flat – repeating over and over again only one man’s opinion. Our judiciary system, once the pride of the sub-continent, has become so discredited and partisan that even those who benefit from it now question its decisions.
And Magora is still talking about Tsvangirai! Hey, in this whole cacophony of civic repression, all those who believe in true freedom are the victims. It is no longer a laughing matter.