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Why democrats should defend Moyo

Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo is under siege from the state. Indeed, judging by the fact that last week he finally handed himself over to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and was questioned for several hours before being ordered to appear in court to answer to the charges of alleged corruption, one gets the sense that perhaps this time, Zanu PF’s constantly under-attack bookish ranter has taken a blow that could sink him for good.

Simukai Tinhu,Political analyst

It is the gifted Irish polemicist George Bernard Shaw who tells us that Coriolanus might have been “Shakespeare’s greatest comedy”, simply on the grounds that we do not sympathise with any of its characters. When one reads about Moyo in the media these days, there have been moments when one feels the same.

Moyo, described by scribes and media commentators as a bald headed, compulsively vituperative and intellectually misguided nutter, is currently seen as a figure of purest hate in Zimbabwe. Yet, there also has been something disconcerting about the moral indignation that has gone into the criticism of Moyo.

The purity of his enemies’ schadenfreude is one that is on the outer reaches of troubling behaviour. Some, including professionals in the legal fraternity who should know better, have taken to social media to declare that he is guilty. Others have given legal opinions to newspapers, making the notion of the presumption of innocence a mockery.

We are taught, even in primary school, that the presumption of innocence is the single most important distinction between a free society and a tyranny, between a safe world and a place where people cower in fear of arbitrary arrests or disappearances. It is tyrants, actual, or would-be, who do not value the presumption of innocence.
So, let us be clear, Moyo is presumptively innocent.

The politics behind the allegations

But, if the courts decide that Moyo’s actions are a prosecutable offence, what would remain of Zanu PF if Zacc applies the same principle to the ruling party elite? A lot of Zanu PF government ministers, serving, and those who have served, including seating vice presidents, might be guilty of the offence. A genuine trial will, therefore, lead to the trial of the whole system.

In other words, Moyo’s alleged corruption does not make him an aberrational addition to the system or a localised barnacle that can be scrapped off an otherwise imaginary pure and incorruptible Zanu PF hull, as the state media and Zacc would have the public believe. The truth is precisely the opposite. Moyo is the system’s quintessence, its public exemplar or its inheritor from retired and late Zanu PF politicians and its continuer. By arresting Moyo, Zacc is guilty of dereliction of duty for it should be arresting a lot of Zanu PF ministers.

Therefore, any trial of the professor is nothing, but a show trial.

What is a show trial? It is a trial in which the guilt or innocence of the defendant is of least concern to those dispensing justice. The primary objective is not answering the question of guilt or innocence in a strictly legal sense, but political in nature. The major value of a show trial to the state — ruling elite — is its usefulness as propaganda or, in the case of Moyo, its utility as a tool in Zanu PF factional fights. A genuine trial is irrelevant to those who seek to consolidate and expand their power within Zanu PF and the state.

We have read in papers that powerful politicians, security men and bureaucrats have allegedly committed the same crime, but they belong to the “right” faction. If these men are not arrested, imprisoning the professor will be a classic example of selective prosecution. Indeed, it would be nothing less than the criminalisation of political differences.

Turning point in factional battles?

Since there is no doubt that there is likely to be evidence out there against other politicians and senior bureaucrats, why is it that Zacc is so determined to put only Moyo, and a few of his younger cabinet colleagues, behind bars?

Indeed, Zacc has already declared that it will stop at nothing to put him behind bars.

Zacc’s stance, rather than being a cause for celebration, should be a cause for worry, particularly for the opposition, and pro-democracy forces in general.

Let me summarise what is happening on Zimbabwe’s political landscape right now. There are two factions within Zanu PF, one that favours continuity and is led by President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe uses Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, Moyo, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and First Lady Grace Mugabe as his main political surrogates. Some call this group G40 (Generation 40), and erroneously take the view that this political grouping is attempting to push for a younger candidate to take over as leader of the party in the event of Mugabe’s departure. The reality is that each of its members have presidential ambitions of their own. These men are in constant communication with the president, mostly through his wife and are bidding for the president to continue beyond 2018.

The second political grouping is led by Mnangagwa. It is this group which has captured and now controls most of the state apparatus, notably large sections of the security sector, the bureaucracy, the judiciary and other important individuals and groups within the state such as Zacc, for example. The efforts to arrest Moyo by Zacc are part of a scorched earth policy by the Mnangagwa faction as it attempts to capture the only arm of the state which is outside its control: the presidium.

Indeed, what we are witnessing is a direct and concerted challenge of Mugabe’s authority. Mnangagwa’s strategy is to completely isolate Mugabe.

Moyo is one of the last intellectual strategists fighting in the corner of an isolated Mugabe. The utility of an arrest and court proceedings against the professor by Mnangagwa’s faction is not only meant to demonise the professor, but also to dislodge him from the political stage, further weakening the nonagenarian’s hand in the game of power.

Also, Moyo’s politics has been a source of eternal discomfort to hardliners in the party who see him as a destabilising force that is difficult to trammel in the Zanu PF scheme of things. The professor has always been an independent mind, with attachment to aberrational politics. Indeed, at one time he sided with the opposition, at other times with civil society and, today, for the second time, he is in bed with Zanu PF.

Indeed, for someone who used to be seen as a lifelong critic of Zanu PF, and who claims that his father was murdered during the Gukurahundi atrocities, there is always a lingering question in the minds of many Zanu PF elites. What made Moyo join Zanu PF? No one seems to know, but we can only surmise the professor’s mind, as revealed in one of his critical pieces in which he seems to espouse what he considers the ultimate strategy to destroy Zanu PF. “In order to destroy Zanu PF, you have to do it from inside”. Indeed, these utterances constitute the ultimate political crime that he has committed against the ruling party.

Why the opposition needs him

As Moyo professed, there are better chances of Zanu PF collapsing as a result of internal contradictions, than through economic implosion or “revolution” by utopian citizens’ movements.

No one is better positioned to expose those contradictions than an insider such as Moyo. The professor has already caused much damage within the ruling party – some fissures within Zanu PF can be traced right back to the professor’s political manoeuvres. By helping to prolong Mugabe’s stay in power in recent years, Moyo has even deepened fissures within the party, an important ingredient for a weakened Zanu PF as the nation approaches the 2018 election.

More importantly, it is hard to imagine an individual in Zanu PF who is more determined to derail the ambitions of Mnangagwa than Moyo. And, surely for those who dread the continuation of the Zanu PF regime, especially under the leadership of a man who allegedly was responsible for the brutality in the 2008 elections, and also for maintaining Zanu PF in power, Moyo is a useful tool, but only outside prison.

Having been Mnangagwa’s strategist in the Tsholotsho debacle, and also his close ally when the duo hounded Mujuru out of Zanu PF, Moyo is one of a few politicians who understand, and are brave or foolish enough to share the vice-president’s politics, strategies and secrets with the public and opposition strategists.

The folly of moralists and idealists

Then, there are those idealists and self-appointed democrats who espouse morality, a feeble sentiment that should have no space on the landscape of Zimbabwe’s brutal politics where political survival is supreme to law, economics and even life itself. These moralists and idealists will tell you that the professor committed an offence, and should be tried in a court of law and then imprisoned if found guilty. His complex utility in the wider democratic movement is simply lost.

My contention is not that Moyo should not be arrested. It is the misguided timing. Time to arrest him will come, but it is not now. In a circuitous, complex and his usual aberrational way, he has a role to play in the democratic fight for Zimbabwe.

Indeed, as The Walter Meyer professor at New York University, Stephen Holmes, reminds us, brutal regimes are rarely toppled by good Samaritans, such as our very own dreamy citizens’ movement or our unrealistic opposition parties.

They are dislodged by fellow vicious comrades and Moyo is one such.

Tinhu is a political analyst based in London.

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