Candid Comment: Power, Divine Kings And Tsvangirai

WE Zimbabweans have been so buffeted by President Mugabe’s economic policies that it is sometimes not clear to me whether we still know what it is we want.


Is it change for its own sake; simply a new president so long as it’s not Mugabe, or a new president and a new constitution as a first step towards a more democratic dispensation?

Currently the thinking seems to be “give us the president and everything shall follow”. This defective “thinking” is often followed by an unpolitical “reasoning” that anyone who comes into power after Mugabe should be easy to replace because he/she is unlikely to be as sophisticated.

The more daring ones name names, declaring with breathtaking arrogance that Morgan Tsvangirai will be easy “to deal with” because he is less “educated” or has no university degree. In other words there is no need for institutional safeguards against the abuse of power, and consequently, the issue of a new constitution has been pushed off the national radar screen. We are in grave danger when we allow national memory to lapse so badly.

Professor Ken Mufuka wrote an interesting article in the Financial Gazette this week which raises two very fundamental questions about the Zimbabwean national psyche. One was his attack on Zimbabwe’s “intelligentsia” for its failure to see the obvious in why Tsvangirai refused to sign the final of a series of documents at the inter-party talks between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations. The second was to expose Mugabe’s unlimited executive powers in the current constitution. The two are closely related.

The first point was a denigration of higher education in a way that would find resonance with today’s young foreign currency dealers. Why, often ask secondary and high school dropouts, should I waste my time going to school when I can make more money in one day selling foreign currency than a university professor earns in two months? One can’t doubt that there is idiotic logic in this reasoning, but is that how we want our children to perceive education?

I have no problem with people questioning the content of our syllabi and the quality of our debate. But to veer to the other extreme and declare that because those with degrees have messed up the economy therefore we don’t need university education is to expose our country to danger in a world facing furious competition for ideas and influences.

“Why is it that educated men cannot see what this brother (Tsvangirai) can see so clearly?” asks Mufuka in his article titled “It’s not about Tsvangirai”. “Kufunda kwakaipa chokwadi. Their (educated men’s) brains are messed up with too many books.”

This leads to the second issue. What did Tsvangirai see which the “intelligentsia” failed to see? It is Mugabe’s divine power. Mufuka sums it well without a hint of irony. He quotes from the constitution that the “president shall take precedence over all other persons in Zimbabwe”. (I guess this is a given in every country!) Further down it says: “A court of law shall not inquire into the following matters, or the manner in which the president exercised his discretion.”

Mufuka rightly observes that over the years, through constitutional amendments, Mugabe has “arrogated to himself the powers which were once held by divine kings”. “I was surprised,” confesses Mufuka, “to find that the more learned Zimbabweans did not appreciate what our undegreed brother (Tsvangirai) understood so easily.”

It was left to Tsvangirai’s genius to grasp these plain truths. Tsvangirai explained why he needed time to “reflect” on the final document which he is reluctant to sign. “We don’t want positions. We want power,” Tsvangirai is said to have told Raila Odinga in Nairobi.

Tsvangirai is right. You don’t risk your life in politics to get a ceremonial post. Mufuka is also right. The issue should not be about Tsvangirai signing himself into obscurity.

However, Mufuka appears to obfuscates matters here. He is full of praise for Tsvangirai’s “genius” in demanding real power, but doesn’t explain the nature of that power. The plain truth is that Tsvangirai craves the same “powers which were once held by divine kings” but are now wielded by Mugabe. He wants a complete transfer of the same powers.

I find that scary, but it does explain the current subterranean tension in the so-called pro-democracy movement about Lovemore Madhuku’s place — a new constitutional and presidential powers.

Shouldn’t the mere transfer of raw, undiluted power ring alarms bells among those fighting for democracy who have blamed Mugabe’s sweeping powers for the state we are in? We are coming almost full circle but nobody in this frenzied power dynamic seems to care about trimming executive powers, whether presidential or prime ministerial.

The supreme irony is that Mufuka wants us to believe that it is the “uneducated” or “undegreed” who should discover and expose these power games and lead us to democracy.

Neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai needs absolute power in a democracy. The Europeans and Americans we are trying to ape discovered these banal truths centuries back and have set up safeguards to protect themselves against “human nature”. Mufuka knows this much better than I do but chooses to prevaricate around “genius”. And he belongs to the intelligentsia which he denigrates. Is the truth that painful in this polarised land where the dollar has become a deity directing the fate of every politician?

I am baffled and horrified.

By Joram Nyathi