HomeOpinionIs Tsvangirai Up to the Task?

Is Tsvangirai Up to the Task?

ZIMBABWE’S unity government  Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has in the narrowest sense of the word assumed political power. On February 10 he announced his share of 13 cabinet ministers. 

Two days later on Friday 13, President Robert Mugabe made them swear an oath of allegiance to seal their fate in the corridors of what can confidently be described as supreme bureaucracy.

In Western folklore, 13 is an unlucky number, and for a rookie prime minister to commence office with that reviled digital label is a bad omen. Not without justification.

The man hitting hardball from the opposite end of Tsvangirai’s political spectrum is perennial sore loser, Robert Mugabe. 

Even before the “13th Ink” is dry on ministerial appointment contracts, Mugabe has already abused the racquet twice by not only sending MDC fundraiser and minister-in-waiting, Roy Bennett, to the cells but also trying to “smuggle in” an unofficial addition of ministers onto the politically unbalanced team. 

However, the subject of my article is not Mugabe, but Tsvangirai.  Ever since his entry into big-time politics in 1998, analysts have tainted him with several incidences of reckless ineptitude, some of which resulted in Mugabe’s getting away with the crime of defiling the legitimacy of democratic elections, others which led to the split of his MDC. 

At one time, allegations were that Tsvangirai watched with bemused paralysis as Mugabe’s graders flattened homes in Operation Murambatsvina.  

In another incident of spontaneous verbal euphoria, he is said to have challenged Mugabe to leave office voluntarily or else face forceful eviction.

There are also records that he and Renson Gasela were once duped by Israeli Ari Ben–Menashe into discussing military options to rid Zimbabwe of dictatorship and tyranny. Not far back, analysts questioned his motive in replacing long-time ally and woman labour activist Lucia Matibenga with Teresa Makone in MDC’s influential women’s assembly.

Recently, armchair critics swore they heard Tsvangirai say that the government of National Unity (GNU) was a no-go area for him unless Mugabe met specific political demands. In short, Tsvangirai has been accused of being indecisive, unsure of the provenance of political advice, subject to the dangerous whim of appeasement and above all, suspiciously insecure.

This is why perhaps the restive civil society, especially National Constitutional Assembly allies led by maverick activist lawyer Lovemore Madhuku have on several occasions advanced the theory that without full civic society participation, Tsvangirai is too exposed in the GNU.

They do not understand why a man with such a rich history of spontaneous blundering can withstand the demands of national governance.  

Tsvangirai is up against forces of tectonic proportion, the kind of impact that is experienced at the bottom of the Devil’s Cataract at the world famous Victoria Falls gorge.

Consider his current adversaries in the GNU: Mugabe, Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces; General Constantine Chiwenga, Commander of the defence forces; Lieutenant-General Phillip Sibanda, head of the Army; Perrence Shiri, head of the Air Force; Happyton Bonyongwe, the director of the Central Intelligence Organisation; Augustine Chihuri, police Commissioner-General and Paradzai Zimondi, the prisons Commissioner.

Throw in a bunch of Zanu PF hardliners like Emmerson Mnangagwa, Kembo Mohadi, Gideon Gono, Patrick Chinamasa, Paul Mangwana and many more.

I have not even mentioned the widespread incremental culture of impunity, non-compliance, corruption and laziness inherited from Zanu PF’s 30 years of bad governance in the public service.
Of course Madhuku is wrong. 

Civil society is not part of government, but a crucial building block in governance. We play a watchdog role without begging the crumbs off our master’s table. 

For the first time, Zimbabweans have a section of government that can relate to the demands of civil society, thus our role is to keep the spotlight on them, guide and admonish them and at best, demand their resignation.

Politicians are a product of a political process, and as such, civil society has no role in building their capacity. Our interests are divergent. Such examples abound.

If municipal positions were based on progressive civic activism, 95% of MDC councillors and mayors currently in office would never have seen the light of day. 

Observations are that when it comes to elections, the critical forces at play have no epicentre in proficiency, professionalism and integrity, but populist rhetoric and busybody mania. In such an environment, it is near impossible to attract the “right human capital” to political office, especially in a polarised environment like we have in Zimbabwe.

And yet Tsvangirai’s team has certain pockets of brilliance; whether or not Zanu PF will allow them to exercise their full potential is another story.  Finance minister Tendai Biti has what it takes to rattle any establishment. 

His background in student activism, legal training and of course having stood toe-to-toe with Zanu PF since 1998 makes him just the right man to ride the GNU political thunderstorm.  

Advocate Eric Matinenga’s role in the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs is a perfect fit. He understands the psyche behind Zanu PF’s contamination of the judiciary, thus faced with people like Chinamasa, Matinenga is likely to secure his fair pound of flesh.

While Engineer Elias Mudzuri would have been better placed in local government, he is a fast learner, thus Energy and Power Development will demand that he draws on the experience garnered as Mayor of Harare.

Intellectual whiz kids Professors Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube will be no pushovers. Although many MDC blind faithful are still obsessed with the illusion of Mutambara’s “illegitimacy”, the former University of Zimbabwe firebrand student leader will give Mugabe a run for his money.

Mutambara might pass as an eccentric demagogue, but underneath that veil of careless fanaticism is a thick layer of strategic acumen.

Many analysts claim that Welshman Ncube is the one who coined Zimbabwe’s French–style GNU. Mugabe might find him hard to swallow.

Priscilla Misihairabwi’s jovial feminist overtones disguise a wealth of activist experience. When HIV and Aids were still Holy Grail words in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s, the woman was already attracting a whirlpool of advocacy around the epidemic.

Therefore the bigger political picture is that in dealing with Zanu PF, it will be extremely critical for Tsvangirai to, proverbially speaking, sleep with one eye open and one finger on the trigger.

The culture of cronyism, favouritism, spasms of political blundering and departing from the script as practised at Harvest House (MDC party headquarters) must be erased.  

While politics in developed countries attracts citizens who have everything in life except power, ours is dominated by poverty-stricken activists. I can understand why MDC leaders are struggling to fend for their families.

Ten years of violent, corrosive and destructive political duelling with Zanu PF have impoverished many cadres. But the warning is clearly marked in red: this is not the time for self-enrichment and gluttony. Zanu PF will employ KGB-style temptations to lure gullible MDC ministers into corruption traps.

As for us in civil society, we will keep the spotlight on Tsvangirai and if he begins to show signs of professional fatigue, we will be the first to fire the proverbial accountability bullet.

If the MDC think because they are in the GNU civil society must put more padding on their gloves, they have another think coming.

Rejoice Ngwenya is director of Coalition for Liberal Market Solutions in Harare and an affiliate of www.AfricanLiberty.org.



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