JANUARY 8 will go down as a historic day in Zimbabwean politics. For the first time in the history of our volatile politics, the sitting, able and living leader of a political party stood down and handed power to another member of the party.
No matter how much those people among us Zimbabweans who have chosen to be judges of the Zimbabwean political discourse and Zimbabwean politicians may seek to belittle or dismiss this monumental event as non-event, this is historic as much as it is important a development that puts a lot of things relating to Zimbabwean politics into perspective.
The subject of my writing is the MDC formation formerly led by Arthur Mutambara and what has happened in that smaller but definitely no-push-over party. It is a smaller party in terms of its size in membership, representation in both houses of parliament as well as seats in government. But the achievements of this party are by no means small at all. Indeed Mutambara in his parting address at the ended congress called it “….this great party!”
This is a party that has produced a Deputy Prime Minister and has ministers heading key ministries such as education, industry and commerce among other portfolios.
These two are ministries of paramount importance in the development of our country especially from the point of view of the supposed peacetime we must be enjoying. However, in the era of Zanu PF’s tyrannical rule where force and brutality has become the hallmark of being in power, the ministries of Home Affairs, State Security and Defence have been catapulted ahead of these and the result has been the collapse of education and the economy.
This supposedly miniature party now called the MDC-M has been leading from the front in every respect but very little credit has been given to the leadership of the party thanks to what I think is largely the judgemental, opinionated and somewhat unforgiving nature of Zimbabwean public opinion.
It is this kind of vengeful, vitriolic and condemnatory attitude to our politics and the politicians plying that trade that has in a way prolonged our political quagmire under which Zanu PF has thrived.
We the Zimbabwean public are our public enemy number one. We hate each other with a vengeance and sometimes for no substantial reason instead of sincerely thriving to work together for the good of our country.
Another virtue that seems to have fast deserted us is that of the memory to appreciate the efforts of those that have done certain things to contribute especially to our national politics.
There is a very conservatively used expression that says “history is not built by trashing the contributions of your forbearers”, meaning that for us to be part of, and to make history, we have to appreciate the contributions of those before us, or simply those who are doing what “we” might simply be watching from a distance.
The leadership of this smaller MDC-M has courted the ire of Zimbabweans but quite unjustifiably in some, or rather most, of the cases and this has resulted in the people of Zimbabwe failing to fully appreciate what the leadership of this smaller but “great party” has done.
Ncube, an academic and constitutional lawyer and businessman, is the founding secretary-general of the party. Ncube was a compromise candidate for that position and he has lived up to that role of being a compromise politician in the rapturous terrain of Zimbabwean opposition politics.
Ncube entered politics for the very first time when the MDC was formed in 1999 and the role of secretary-general is one that he went on to grow into and filled adequately in the process. He went on to become one of the most respected MDC leaders at home and abroad but very little notice has been paid to the pivotal role he played almost singlehandedly in taking the MDC beyond Africa.
I was privy especially to that process of taking the MDC to the international community because of my involvement with the party in those initial years and by virtue of happening to be abroad quite early on in the party’s existence.
As secretary-general of the party Ncube was more or less the point person of the MDC management committee and was also among the so-called Top Six of that committee comprising himself, Morgan Tsvangirai, the late Gibson Sibanda, Isaac Matongo, Paul Themba-Nyathi and Fletcher Dulini.
The softly spoken, carefully worded Ncube quickly won over the hearts of many international governments and world leaders as the roving ambassador of the party, taking the MDC agenda to all parts of the world as the Zimbabwean situation became global as much as it was national, if Pan-African.
At home Ncube did not get consumed in the rabid megaphone and highly charged politics of the MDC in which punctuated insults towards Zanu PF and their leader Robert Mugabe became the norm. He remained largely restrained and calculatedly cautious at a time when visibly dangerous but seemingly popular politics of “taking the regime on” became the order of the day.
This was a dangerous course that would lead the MDC to a full blown confrontational course with Zanu PF that would lead to the violence that I dare say needlessly claimed hundreds of lives. It was a miscalculated and dangerous way of politicking because the MDC leadership proved to lack both the capacity and the will to substantiate their rooftop threats to Zanu PF.
Like any profession, politics also calls for risk assessment, judgment, analysis, and most importantly, restraint and caution on the part of those who lead from the front.
Ncube made his own individual assessment of the Zimbabwean political terrain quite early and he made up his mind to pursue cautious but effective politics.
This is the kind of politics that enabled him bridge the ever widening gap between Tsvangirai and Mugabe making it possible to have the two erstwhile enemies serving in the same government. Without Ncube that would very certainly have never been able to be achieved realistically.
The very inaccurate and rather patronising assertions by the recalled American ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell that Ncube is a divisive figure in Zimbabwean politics must never go unchallenged. However Ncube may indeed cause divided opinion among Zimbabweans from a political perspective, but he should not be held responsible for the porousness that is simmering in Zimbabwean public opinion at the moment.
Because that is without doubt the result of Zanu PF and Mugabe’s divide and rule tactics that he inherited very impressively from Ian Smith at Independence. If anything, Ncube has been a unifier and I will once again revisit his unifying role later on, but this again has never been fully appreciated because of this bizarre fixation with Ncube’s sparse weaknesses rather than his visible strengths and virtues as a politician.
The dilemma of course with Zimbabwean politics at the moment is one of suitability versus capability and acceptability. There are certain politicians who are perceived to be more acceptable (yet not necessarily suitable/capable) to the Zimbabwean populace without necessarily giving due diligence to their preconceived (suitability/capability) role as the torchbearers of the Zimbabwean national agenda.
This nonsense that Ncube has manipulated the entire MDC-M provincial establishment around the country to ensure he is catapulted to the presidency of that party is to me extremely bigoted and tinkers on the equally bankrupt notion that has also been peddled by some warped analysts that, being a Ndebele from the Matabeleland part of the country, there was no way Ncube could mobilise predominantly Shona provincial councils to nominate him and eventually getting him voted for the presidency of the party.
The development in the MDC-M party must send a very clear message that political influence is in those who are in politics and not those sitting in the comfort of their armchairs and analysing from their distant homes.
Continued next week.
Silence Chihuri writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on -email@example.com.