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MDC leaders must accept open criticism

MDC secretary for Information Paul Themba Nyathi (Independent, June 20) missed the point of my article of June 13. And since he is a very senior MDC official, it is very worrying.

I am not questioning the fight for a just, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe we can all be proud of. I am not belittling the heroism of Morgan Tsvangirai “in leg irons and wearing a flimsy khaki prison garb”. Nor that of “hundreds of MDC supporters, including ordinary citizens … relating horrendous stories of personal abuse, torture and pain”.

What I am challenging is the confused and confusing MDC strategic plan or lack thereof. Without a well thought-out plan the struggle will be a protracted one with unnecessary suffering and waste of both material and human lives and, worst of all, another 10/15 years down the line the nation might well find itself fighting the same demons.

During the country’s struggle to end white oppression over 30 000 Zimbabweans lost their lives. All of these men, women and children were heroes and heroines in their own way. Their cause is the same we are fighting for today.

The fact that people like Tsvangirai should find themselves in leg irons, thousands brutalised and hundreds murdered in independent Zimbabwe is cause for thought. While it is important that we end the new oppression, it is even more important that we understand why the last struggle failed so dismally.

It was the lack of bold critical voices before and after Independence that allowed Zanu PF to be the monster it is. Open and critical debate would have encouraged close scrutiny of every aspect of the party’s policies, war strategy, etc. Here merit would not only be valued but thrive. Of course, the party would have made mistakes but the beauty of this open system is that it allows one to learn from one’s mistakes and put things right.

Zanu PF is a party led by men and women of little vision who the country has rightly judged as unfit to govern. MDC leaders and all those who aspire to lead, if they too are to avoid the same pitfalls that Zanu PF’s leaders fell into, must have the humility to accept that they do not have a monopoly of knowledge and thus welcome and encourage criticism. The nation’s search for justice and peace is assured only if the nation can harness the rich and varied intellectual tapestry of Zimbabweans and non-Zimbabweans alike.

Those nations who have done that have prospered while those who have not have suffered. The MDC must show its tolerance of criticism now.

“In 90 days a serious people desirous of arresting their country’s slide to total oblivion can fashion a transitional mechanism that gets rid of Posa and many other obnoxious, anti-democratic pieces of legislation,” the MDC claims. In other words it knows what is good for the nation and we should just trust them to get it all right just as we trusted Zanu PF!

The worst MDC performance justifying why the party rightly deserves to be called a “confused and confusing” lot was when the results of the presidential election were announced. The party and its leader, Tsvangirai, had world centre stage and he had nothing to say. He was asked what the party would want its supporters to do. He gave no answer. What did he want the international community to do? Again he had no answer. Despite all the evidence throughout the campaign period and Zanu PF’s past history of intimidation and vote rigging it was evident that the MDC was taken totally by surprise.

The party had the option of telling its supporters, many of who had been denied the right to vote, to stage a sit-in at polling stations. The country had the world attention then and Mugabe would have been forced to think twice before he deployed his thugs to beat people queuing to vote!

I am yet to be convinced that the June “final push” – when the international community’s attention was focused elsewhere and Mugabe had had a year to dig in – was more strategic than a sit-in in March 2002.

I do not know of any effort on the part of the MDC to educate Zanu PF thugs responsible for carrying out much of the political intimidation. They are as much victims of the economic mismanagement and corruption, the two evils behind Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown, as the rest of us. To win them over, however, the MDC must itself rise above the “them and us”

mentality that these thugs are locked into. The right to vote is above party politics. What has the MDC done to make Zanu PF thugs understand that?

The only reason the people of Zimbabwe have given the MDC their political support is because they are desperate. They have held back their whole-hearted support because they are not convinced the MDC will not be just as self-serving and oppressive as Zanu PF has proved to be.

The MDC can start winning the whole-hearted support of the people of Zimbabwe by admitting it did not have the vision to accept debate both inside and outside the party but will do so from now on. Out of this debate it can expect sound economic and political policies and strategies.

Wilbert Mukori,


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