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Editor’s Memo: A Party of Excellence

THE editor has this week allowed me the privilege to occupy his hallowed space in the paper.

I accepted the honour with a huge sigh. In my Candid Comment column I have over the past months trodden where angels fear to tread.

I have been badly mauled. It has been terrible, but it has also been educative and informative. I have no regrets in restating the definitive principles which I have supported, summed up in one Ndebele word: simunye, we are one. We may have political differences, but as a nation simunye.

I am dismayed by those who like to accentuate the differences between Zanu PF and the MDC-T. The favourite expression is that the two, in particular, their leaders, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, are like chalk and cheese. This is said with pride as if it’s a badge of honour.

I can never imagine Americans using such a caustic and divisive metaphor to express the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats despite the marked differences between former president George W Bush and Barak Obama.

On the streets I have never been able to tell a Zanu PF person from an MDC-T supporter, who are said to be worlds apart. That is until a politician calls a rally when people put on their party regalia.

Today I feel a sense of ubuntu in our leaders from indications that they may just subsume their personal ambitions to the desires and aspirations of the people.

Despite strenuous media efforts to carve a chasm out of the Sadc summit in Pretoria last week that Tsvangirai and Mugabe are incompatible, those claims are not supported by latest political manouvres towards an inclusive government.

It is too fast and too bitter a prospect for a number of constituencies.

I feel proud because I have always made the point that it is only Zimbabweans who can resolve their economic and political problems. Foreigners can only facilitate. They can never go beyond what the parties to the dispute are prepared to go.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has been vilified as biased in favour of Mugabe. This may well be true, depending on what you thought was practicable outside of wishful thinking. Sadc has been reviled in equally undignified language. Fortunately, the constitutive Act of Sadc speaks of a “shared future”, which means they cannot abandon even a wayward member. Simunye.

The result is that today, even as we continue to revile Mbeki for his failure to mediate in the dispute between Zanu PF and the MDC-T, it cannot be denied that it was due to his diligence that Mugabe and Tsvangirai can meet and talk face to face. It was through his mediation that prime minister-designate Tsvangirai can now be received by any head of state in the region.

If this is failure, it was not for lack of trying. The really question is whether the positions of the rival parties were amenable to a simplistic resolution like apportioning blame. My hope is that in the interim we have had time to grow as a nation and for the political parties to realise their limitations.

My view is that our differences are not as wide as they are often made out to be. But they say what you focus on ultimately becomes your reality. So we are repeatedly told of an ideological chasm between Zanu PF and the MDC-T. Unbridgeable? Don’t they say where there is a will there is a way?

I have received a lot of feedback to my column, a lot of it abusive, much of it from the democracy lobby. It is as intolerant of different perspectives as the system it claims to loath.

Most insulting is the accusation that I hate Tsvangirai. Attached to it is tribal tag, and threats of dire consequences for me and my family once democracy comes. Fortunately most of them don’t come from those in senior leadership positions.

The charge is contemptible. None of those raising it has come up with evidence. There is none because I have only raised reservations about Tsvangirai’s sense of judgement, from the Ari Ben-Menashe saga, the split of the MDC in 2005 to the debacle over the MDC-T Women’s League just before last year’s elections.

Equally absurd is the accusation that I hate Tsvangirai for refusing to join the inclusive government after the September 15 agreement because “You are Muagbe this, Zanu that.”

But to join or not to join is up to the MDC-T. My point is simply that the reasons raised for not doing so, such as “key” ministries, sharing governors and ambassadors, and now consultation over the appointments of Reserve Bank governor and Attorney-General, are too weak to merit the deaths of so many people in the interim.

How much food aid could we have gotten if our political leaders had spoken with one voice from September last year? How many lives could have been saved from the cholera outbreak if politicians had focused on saving lives rather using humanistic rhetoric for political ends? How many thousands of school children have had their lives ruined while politicians bicker over personal power? Can that harm be reversed once politicians finally get what they want?

So something hit me this week as I was reading an MDC-T statement dismissing as fiction reports that the party might be part to the inclusive government. This despite party policy coordinator Eddie Cross almost confirming it.

The statement describes the MDC-T as “a party of excellence”. I hear you.


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