On reading Dell’s diplomatic notes for the first time, I was quite convinced they were not so much a blow to Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube, but a good public relations piece for both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. I was wrong.
In a classified document titled “The end is nigh”, Dell describes Tsvangirai thus: “Morgan Tsvangirai is a brave, committed man and, by and large, a democrat. He is also the only player on the scene right now with real star quality and the ability to rally the masses. But Tsvangirai is also a flawed figure, not readily open to advice, indecisive and with questionable judgment in selecting those around him. He is the indispensable element for opposition success, but possibly an albatross around their necks once in power. In short, he is a kind of Lech Walesa character. Zimbabwe needs him, but should not rely on his executive abilities to lead the country’s recovery.”
I hold no brief for Tsvangirai and the MDC, nor do I for Zanu PF and Mugabe. I write as an ordinary Zimbabwean. I have been compelled to give my views because of what I think is a fallacy among the many Zimbabwean “analysts” who have tackled this issue.
A flawed figure
Many Zimbabweans, including Petina Gappah writing in the UK Guardian, have gone to town with the usual “we had seen it all” opinion. I agree with most of Dell’s comments on Mugabe, Mutambara, Finance minister Tendai Biti and Ncube. Yes, Tsvangirai is flawed, but who is not? Are Mugabe, Ncube, Mutambara not flawed? Even Chief Chirau, James Chikerema and Edison Zvobgo were flawed.
Most analysts have chosen to go with this “flawed character” mantra as though that’s all there is to Tsvangirai from Dell’s notes. There are many educated and experienced Zimbabweans, both in the diaspora and at home, but they lack Tsvangirai’s bravery. Much newspaper space has been dedicated by the private and state-controlled media to the “flawed” character that is Tsvangirai, but very little about his bravery or his ability to rally masses like Mugabe used to.
It is actually a plus for Tsvangirai to be described by an American ambassador as one who is “not readily open to advice”. Yes, what advice Dell? Surely advice can be accepted or rejected! Tsvangirai is not a puppet of the US as much as the US may prefer him as the leader of Zimbabwe to Mugabe. The reasons can be a subject for another day.
I agree with commentators who have highlighted (including Dell) that Tsvangirai is not always spot-on in choosing those he listens to — Theresa Makone being one classic example.
The Churchill factor
Zimbabweans must not lose sight of their immediate problems. The problem at hand is to change the way Zimbabwe is (not) working. To do that we need a revolutionary, a leader who is brave and can take us to the “Promised Land”.
Yes, Tsvangirai can be “an albatross around their necks once in power”, but I am sure Tsvangirai is aware of his shortcomings. Standing up to Zanu PF and Mugabe the way he has done needs bravery. He will confound the US by appointing those who can govern once change has been achieved. This is a revolution and one brave individual has to lead the way.
Remember the great British leader Winston Churchill was a darling during World War II, but they got rid of him soon after because he had played his part. Julius Nyerere, too, who warned Mugabe about looking after the “jewel” he inherited in 1980, was a great liberator, but relinquished power when he realised macro-economics was not his turf.
It is disappointing to see some MDC spokespeople lambast Dell as if his analysis of Tsvangirai is wrong or not true. Dell is spot-on and surely Tsvangirai, not withstanding his weaknesses, is a good leader under the circumstances. Why not celebrate his strengths as well articulated by the same Dell?
“Educated” Zimbabweans will say Tsvangirai could have done better and so on, but what I don’t hear is what exactly he should have done or he must do. We are so good at complaining, are good analysts and commentators, but there is a dearth of men and women of action in Zimbabwe.
We have become a nation of professional whingers, moaning at every turn. We desperately want change and are taking out our frustrations on Tsvangirai and the MDC. We are the agents of the change we desire.
What will you say when your children ask: What did you do when Zimbabwe was burning? We expect the opposition to deliver change but we do not bother to register to vote let alone stand in a queue to vote. Have you explained to your father and mother in the rural areas that nobody can ever know whom they voted for? Leadership does not need a powerful position to be exercised, it demands self-respect.
Besides the flawed characters that we are, there is a general dearth of leadership and bravery in the country, making Tsvangirai the beacon of hope. We have nobody else to measure him against. We are cowards!
One only needs to look in the private sector in Zimbabwe to see the leadership crisis. A lot of people in the private sector only “lead” because of their patronage to the ruling party or because they are lackeys of white capital.
They make no efforts to improve their lot nor voice concerns to improve the business environment. They do not see the link between economics and politics.
Dell also talks of the alternatives: Mutambara — an immature and clueless “American” unrepresentative of the generality of Zimbabweans. Welshman Ncube — “divisive” and suspect.
The tragedy of Zimbabwe is we tend to think paper degrees are the be-all-and-end-all.
The mistake Tsvangirai made is not getting a degree in his earlier life.
Tsvangirai may be a “flawed figure”, but he is the best hope for Zimbabwe. He is the single biggest threat to Mugabe’s life presidency dream.
Eminos Manyawi is a Zimbabwean based in Johannesburg. He writes in his personal capacity. e-mail: email@example.com.