IN Greek tragedy, Antigone is chronologically the third part of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex Trilogy (series of plays) which tells the story of Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, after her father’s death.
Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya
The story opens at the end of a battle between Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, for control of Thebes, a city in central Greece important in Greek mythology.
Both brothers die in battle, but Creon, the new king of Thebes, declares that while Eteocles should be buried with honours Polyneices should be left to rot unburied — a severe punishment since the Greeks believed one could not go to the spirit world unless their body was properly interred.
Since she loves both of her brothers, Antigone decides to bury Polyneices despite Creon’s order not to and tries to enlist her sister, Ismene’s support.
Ismene refuses fearing Creon’s wrath, but Antigone says the law of the gods is more important than a mere mortal’s diktat. Just as Antigone is burying her brother, Creon suddenly appears on stage warning anyone caught doing so will be put to death.
However, Antigone makes no apology, insisting she is only doing what is right. But Creon will have none of it.
The plot thickens as it emerges Creon’s son Haemon is engaged to marry Antigone. He tries to convince his father killing his fiancé for burying her brother will make him unpopular and destroy his rule. Creon accuses him of disloyalty and sends his fiancé to die in the caves.
Teiresias, the blind prophet who foretold the tragedy of Oedipus, manages to convince Creon to change his mind by warning of bloodshed, but it is too late. When they get to the cave, Antigone is already dead; a suicide.
When Creon arrives for burial, Haemon threatens to kill him but ends up taking his own life. Creon’s wife Eurydice, informed of his son’s death, also commits suicide.
So Creon is left with nothing but his forsaken kingship. He had put his pride and power ahead of his family and angered the gods. Although he kept his throne, he had lost his family.
The moral of this fratricidal story is extreme pride or arrogance, particularly when it borders on hubris — which often indicates detachment from reality and an overestimation of one’s own utility or capabilities, especially for a person in a position of power — can be disastrous. Pride goes before a fall.
The current MDC-T internal strife has elements of a Greek tragedy and political fratricide triggered by various factors, including party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s hubristic approach and the party’s fragile structure and weak social base.
While sensational details of the MDC-T drama are interesting, they actually add little value as the conflict is symptomatic of major underlying problems.
Although Tsvangirai — a wounded brave warrior now fast deteriorating into a tragic hero — is not entirely to blame, he has presided over the destruction of the party, showing his leadership is divisive or he is simply a toxic leader, or both.
But the underlying issue is the MDC-T, in which the “T” stands for his surname, is a personalistic opposition party, which relies on his fading charismatic appeal for traction. The party lacks institutionalised structures extending beyond Harvest House and Tsvangirai’s waning popularity.
Tendai Biti, despite his brainpower and competence, and others are mere appendages in the MDC-T which also does not have a mass base beyond protest support.
Being ideologically vague and brittle, it is thus susceptible to fragmentation, which is greatly damaging its image and frustrating the hopes of millions of people who have been voting for it through thick and thin.
The MDC-T has failed to evolve into a viable alternative and remains a protest movement without a useful policy option and programme, hence fratricidal splits whenever it fails to win elections as happened in 2005 and is inevitably going to happen soon.