Comment: Morgan – Come Home

‘WE know what Zimbabweans are facing,” MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai wrote in anticipation of World Press Freedom Day tomorrow.

 

“Your new government has the solutions to move us from despair to destiny…Prepare for a new media generation.”

That is good news.

And we welcome his assurance the new government will give priority to repealing such pernicious laws as Aippa. That is our priority as well.

Democracy means a free media, Tsvangirai reminds us. “It means we shall never again celebrate lies as truth, and pretence as principle.”

This comes in a month that has witnessed a whole raft of lies aimed at discrediting the opposition ahead of a possible run-off in which President Mugabe will be fighting for his political life.

While MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti has denounced the lies, which carry all the hallmarks of a state-manufactured disinformation campaign, Tsvangirai has said very little on this or on other matters of policy.

He has for instance told us very little about the coalition he will be forming with the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC.

It is essential that the press has a full briefing on these issues.

A steady and reliable line of communication with the media is an essential component of any modern government’s best practice.

It is to be hoped an MDC government will quickly distance itself from the malevolent vituperations that have characterised the present government’s approach to press relations.

Government doesn’t have to like the newspapers it deals with. It just has to keep them accurately informed.

Hitherto the MDC has seen the independent media as duty-bound to support its cause.

It has sulked when we have not performed to expectations, excluding us from access to information. That in turn has rebounded on the party.

Meanwhile, Tsvangirai needs to return home. He is needed here.

His supporters are taking a beating from the thugs who have been unleashed across the country.

It is time for him to identify with their suffering and give a lead to his followers.

He has been the victim of some remarkably poor advice on staying outside the country. This is our next president.

He cannot be based in Johannesburg or Gaborone. He should be here with his people where he belongs.

Before the election Tsvangirai’s MDC failed to reconcile with Mutambara’s party because the hawks around Tsvangirai wanted a second vice-president in the form of Thokozani Khupe.

They also believed that the Bulawayo constituencies were ripe for the picking.

The result was a split vote in Matabeleland which enabled Zanu PF to sneak in through the back door in many seats.

A unified MDC could have picked up at least 10 more seats and valuable votes for Tsvangirai as president which instead went to Simba Makoni.

In the process the MDC lost some of its best talents such as Paul Themba Nyathi and Welshman Ncube.

This “triumph” has led to a run-off which nobody wants when it could, had more sober views prevailed, have handed Tsvangirai the presidency on a silver platter thus sparing us the current ordeal.

Will the MDC go on getting it wrong on decisions such as these where statesmanship is required over narrow partisan and exclusive interests?

Tsvangirai appears to be in two minds about the big issues of the day. At first he appeared to favour a run-off; now he has set his face against it even though all the evidence suggests that despite state intimidation he would win a crushing victory over an incumbent that the nation is heartily sick of.

We certainly hope he is not hiding from Patrick Chinamasa’s treason charges based on a document which the British Embassy has described as a patent forgery.

Any leader of the opposition worth his salt would have held that document up at a press conference and heaped contempt upon it. Not Tsvangirai. He didn’t say a thing! The same goes for all the other state-manufactured lies that have been doing the rounds.

It was left to Biti to deal with those.

Tsvangirai needs to be both visible and audible. The MDC arguably won the March election. But it behaves as if it lost.

It needs to deal firmly with partisan public statements from the police chief and other unreconstructed elements who think they can get away with threatening to abuse the law to deal with the winning party.

A weekly press conference would be a useful forum to deal with a number of contentious issues in line with Tsvangirai’s promise to open up media space. Has he thanked the people of Zimbabwe for their support yet?

What lead has he given to his people?

And what are the “solutions” that will lead us from “despair to destiny”?

Isn’t it about time that we had some idea of what a Tsvangirai government would do as its first steps to restoring sanity?