Welshman Ncube a casualty rather than divisive figure

By Silence Chihuri

In this article continued from last week Silence Chihuri argues that Zimbabweans are judging MDC-M leader Welshman Ncube harshly as he has shown outstanding political maturity. Last week he applauded the historic transition of power within the MDC-M. Here Chihuri showcases Ncube’s political credentials and rebuts charges that he was responsible for the MDC split because he is anti-Morgan Tsvangirai.

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.

It tinkers with 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 get 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 or rather discomfiture of their armchairs and analysing from their distant homes.

IT is only a shame that this is not happening at government level and I am sure most people would have wished it was Mugabe passing the button not Mutambara. As Zimbabweans if we fail to appreciate this very significant development in the history of our politics in which the sitting, able bodied and very young leader of a political party has realised the need to pass on the torch we will be doing ourselves and our politics a great disservice.

It is not the MDC-M party that has been creating “safe positions” in its party. The entire Zimbabwe knows which part has been doing that. We have seen how contagious clinging on to power can get because Zanu PF is now very well being replicated in the MDC-T formation where that party’s forthcoming congress has been predetermined.

Mugabe has been saying that he cannot even contemplate stepping down and risk compromising his party’s Chimurengas we have lost count of and he apparently intends to die in power. Now Tsvangirai in his 10 years or so in politics has already taken his lessons on clinging on to power so well that even he can’t step down and risk compromising the “democratic struggle”.

What democratic struggle is this? Surely a party that has such a narrowly defined agenda as the now hugely diluted MDC-T party should be more than capable of replacing its leader from within its ranks. Does this really mean that if Tsvangirai were to drop dead today he would be buried together with his dear party as no one after him would be able to carry on from wherever he would have tragically left?

Yes, Mutambara has not done or achieved anything spectacular as MDC-M leader. He has taken the political establishment by storm by safely and, without any pandemonium save for  a few disgruntled delegates who were too sad to see him go, passed on the baton in a democratic way by African political standards. Neither has Tsvangirai achieved anything spectacular as MDC-T leader other than a few near victories at the ballot and he should surely seriously also ponder stepping aside.

Obviously Ncube’s calculated and cautious approach to national politics might not have earned him a lot of admirers over the years and this is against a time when vocalism and confrontation was deemed heroic and the most MDC way of dealing with Zanu PF.

In some circles Ncube started to be viewed as a sympathiser of Zanu PF and his background as a University of Zimbabwe lecturer did not help matters as the institution’s administration remained firmly loyal to Zanu PF, in stark contrast to the student population that has had constant running battles with the authorities.

 

But Ncube was and remained MDC through and through and the main reason why he was chosen as party secretary-general was purely on the basis that he was an up and coming academic-turned-politician with no trace whatsoever to Zanu PF activities.

When the MDC party split in 2005 Ncube took much unjustified and at times bizarre criticism that he was responsible for the break-up of the party.

One wondered how one man could singled-handily split a party that he had secretary-generalled for six years, especially given that the MDC had become something of a mega party by the time of the split. To his credit Ncube never came out frothing like we saw some MDC politicians –– some of whom were actually more responsible for the split than Ncube –– doing.

There was a lot of tribal vitriol that was directed towards most of the MDC leaders from Matabeleland and yet there was nothing tribal at all about the split of the MDC. The insults that were directed towards Ncube and his colleagues, especially Themba-Nyathi and Sibanda, prompted Tsvangirai into a belated if terse apology at Sibanda’s funeral, but why did it take so long to realise that an apology was an appropriate way of making up with disaffected colleague?

There is no way now that Tsvangirai can tell if Sibanda got and accepted his belated apology. As Zimbabweans if we are really serious about working together for the good of the nation then there is an opportunity here.

Ncube is now the most senior politician from Matabeleland because he is the person from that region leading not just some briefcase party, but a party that is actually in government. And if he was to assume the deputy premiership (I am not suggesting that he should or he will), he will be the second most senior person in government from Matabeleland behind only John Nkomo, the Vice President, and this is only thanks to Zanu PF paranoia that has sought to belittle the role of the prime minister and deputy prime ministers, the structure and composition of this unity government.

There are critics who have cited Ncube’s perceived detestation of Tsvangirai as a possible hindrance should the former become deputy premier, thereby causing friction in government. Again this is unfounded because these people conveniently forget that it was Ncube’s crafty negotiating skills that played a key role in the process that brought the three parties to form a unity government. Ncube does not hate Tsvangirai personally, but has very consistently, whenever prompted, cited his personal disquiet with some of Tsvangirai’s decisions and stances.

As for the great party that is the MDC-M, I think the biggest miss of the ended congress was the suggestion to change the name of the party to Congress of the Movement for Democratic Change that was reportedly shot down by some delegates who obviously still have very strong nostalgic connections to the original MDC 1999.

That was a missed opportunity to cement the party’s credentials as a serious contributor to our national political and democratic discourse and I think that is a subject the party may need to revisit as a matter of urgency because reality should dawn to any sections of that party that the original MDC party is no more.

As the MDC-M seeks the way forward it needs to brand itself in a manner that will strike a chord with its target support in 21st century Zimbabwean politics. I don’t think the suffix M that gives the party some extended relative (of Mutambara) status will inspire and attract a lot of serious support going forward.

It is a phenomenon that its typical of African politics where political leaders seek to own political parties and run them as their own prized personal properties. I am not necessarily suggesting that this is what Mutambara is doing in this case.

Lastly, I have not been inspired to write on this subject because of any particular agenda to make Ncube more or less acceptable; he already is. Everyone who is in the political trenches deserves to be supported for what they are doing if there is a genuine desire on their part to improve the lives of the Zimbabwean lot.

The MDC as a party did not live up to all our expectations and it never delivered what Zimbabweans thought the party would deliver. Nobody knows who shall take our country to the Promised Land.

Silence Chihuri writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on silencechihuri@googlemail.com.

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