Candid Comment – 14 Mar

Why Makoni’s project won’t fly

ON March 29 Zimbabweans will vote in the first ever joint presidential, senatorial, house of assembly and local council elections since Independence. Of the four polls it is the presidential race that has generated the remarkable excitement. Zimbabweans are acutely aware of the fact that the future of this country will effectively be shaped by the result of the presidential plebiscite and not the parliamentary or local government poll.

Four aspirants have indicated they want to be elected as president this March. Three of the protagonists, President Robert Mugabe, the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai, and independent candidate Langton Towungana are not the reason for the current excitement among the salaried middle class and their intellectual cousins. The reason has been the dramatic entrance onto the political scene of Simba Makoni. But something has been amiss in the apparently confused frenzy by those who have welcomed Makoni as an electable option.

The majority of those who have embraced the former Finance minister as their future president have confessed that they know very little about their candidate of choice. Many who have written columns, letters and opinion pieces in newspapers and websites have done very little to explain their excitement beyond stating the obvious fact that Makoni is an option emerging to challenge Mugabe from the same stable that has presided over the collapse of our once vibrant economy, inadvertently rendering him culpable by association in the process.

There is certainly something wrong with a country when grown men and women publicly declare their support for a presidential candidate on the basis of ignorance. The most telling demonstration of this ignorant excitement over Makoni has been the call by others for Tsvangirai to leave his MDC and join Makoni who neither has a political party nor any demonstrable support let alone a people-driven agenda. It is imperative that Makoni answers a few urgent questions before he can be trusted to be the purveyor of the change that people want. Makoni has been a member of the ruling party for the past three decades, first as its representative in Europe in the late 70s before becoming a deputy minister in 1980 and a full cabinet minister in the Ministry of Agriculture in 1982. The man sat in the same cabinet that presided over the Matabeleland massacres during the Gukurahundi era without raising a finger or resigning. Among the coordinators of his project today is retired Major Kudzai Mbudzi, a former operative of the Fifth Brigade which spearheaded the military incursion into Matabeleland during the early 80s.

One question is; what is Makoni’s explanation to the surviving victims of Gukurahundi today as he courts their vote? Makoni has been a member of the Zanu PF politburo until his expulsion last month. On Februray 5 this year he declared his loyalty to the ruling party and even expressed his wish to have stood as its official candidate. From this pedestal, it is clear Makoni is not the third way that his supporters want him to be and he has said so. He has stated it very categorically that he is a factional candidate buoyed by his huge support from within the ruling Zanu PF more than any other constituency. Those campaining for him military-style are embedded in Mugabe’s Zanu PF so he says.

Listening to Dumiso Dabengwa speaking to journalists at the Quill Club on Wednesday, it became apparent that the agenda of Makoni and his cabal of handlers is not to change the status quo but to change the presiding officer of the blundering regime before it sinks.

This unusual challenge has to be understood in its proper context. The timid political gladiators in Zanu PF were outflanked by a wily Mugabe in the succession battle but refused to accept defeat hence their giving the battle a new lease of life through Makoni’s independent presidential candidature. That is why this unusual challenge to Mugabe came in February 2008, well after the Zanu PF extraordinary congress and after the ruling party primary elections (from which Makoni was barred) and not 1999 or before. The agenda has nothing to do with the people of Zimbabwe who have made it clear that they want a change of governance not the change of leadership. The Makoni movement mistakenly emphasises Mugabe as the problem when the people know that the current mess is a direct result of the collective incompetence, corruption and patronage of the Zanu PF regime whose leader happens to be Mugabe. The masses are aware that the ageing Mugabe is only the symbol not the sum total of our problems.

It is critical to understand that Makoni and his conclave of feudal potentates are exclusively interested in securing the future of the younger generation of the Zanu PF oligarchy and protecting economic concerns mostly acquired illegally during 28 years of pillaging the economy. The Zanu PF stalwarts — and they are many — supporting Makoni today are doing so with a clear understanding that he is their Trojan horse out to give a beautiful face to an ugly cause. The agenda is to replace Mugabe not Zanu PF despite the uncountable and shared failures of its government since 1980.

Those in the Arthur Mutambara faction of the MDC who rushed to lend support to the Makoni facade did so without a clear appreciation of the undercurrents driving the factional project. It was therefore unsurprising that when Mutambara made his infantile overture to Makoni he was snubbed. The game is “strictly Zanu PF members only”, which is also why Makoni’s project will not appeal to the masses.