WHAT a dramatic political week it was in Zimbabwe and South Africa. On Valentine’s Day two momentous events happened on either side of the Limpopo River with huge implications on the politics of the two countries: MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai died and President Jacob Zuma resigned under threat of impeachment (that is how former president Robert Mugabe went out after a military coup last November).
Let us focus on Tsvangirai.
That Tsvangirai contributed immensely to fighting Mugabe’s authoritarian regime is beyond reasonable doubt. He was brave and determined to confront an entrenched and fierce despotic system at a time many would choose to keep quiet, collaborate with or be co-opted to preserve their personal or business interests.
Tsvangirai, together with his late colleague Gibson Sibanda, did not choose the easy way out. He chose to take the bull by the horns to struggle for democracy and change, mainly using mass mobilisation and peaceful means tactics, more like retired Polish politician and labour activist Lech Walesa who co-founded and led Solidarity, the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union.
Walesa went on win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.
Although Tsvangirai won the first round of the 2008 presidential election (results were withheld for six weeks amid claims his outright victory was fraudulently manipulated), he was forced to drop out of the run-off through a sustained campaign of intimidation, violence and brutality. He was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice.
As Mugabe’s regime became more repressive after the emergence of the MDC in 1999, Tsvangirai’s star rose among discontented Zimbabweans amid an unprecedented economic meltdown and hyperinflation. In the process, he also became a darling of the west.
Resultantly, Mugabe hysterically accused Tsvangirai of being a puppet of Western imperial powers, a runner for former British prime minister Tony Blair, and fought his electoral campaigns on that hate-mongering platform.
But people defied Mugabe’s messages and propaganda and voted for Tsvangirai in millions in 2002 and 2008. Rigging of the 2002 and 2008 presidential elections denied Tsvangirai victory. Eventually in 2009 a unity government was formed with Tsvangirai as prime minister before the 2013 elections which the MDC-T lost, again amid protests of manipulation and rigging.
Against this background, Tsvangirai is a people’s hero; whether President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government decides to bury him at the National Heroes’ Acre or not.
Thoughtful Zimbabweans and opinion leaders have suggested in the interests of reconciliation, unity and cohesion government must declare him a hero, but authorities seem uninterested even if they will give him a state-assisted funeral.
But then who really cares? Let us get this straight from the beginning. Tsvangirai’s hero status is not in dispute. It is not a product of Zanu PF benevolence. He earned his stripes. Nobody can take that away from him.
That is why even Zanu PF leaders and supporters acknowledged his heroics. There may very well be some who are genuine admirers of Tsvangirai in the system, but quite clearly there are also hypocrites in the mix; those shedding crocodile tears.
Muckraker is not impressed by the charade of Zanu PF leaders who want to extract cheap political capital out of Tsvangirai’s death. You cannot try to kill a man today and tomorrow you jostle to lead mourners at his funeral. Political opportunists must chill and stop exposing themselves.
Zanu PF leaders cannot pontificate on Tsvangirai being a hero without sounding insincere or hypocritical.
Tsvangirai’s relatives, supporters and analysts cannot miss the obvious irony that the same regime still in power without Mugabe launched a fierce campaign of vilification, intimidation, arrests, detentions, brutality and several charges of treason against the late MDC-T leader. They also killed hundreds of his supporters.
If you vilify someone as a “puppet”, “running dog of imperialism” and “sellout”, you cannot overnight suddenly change and say oh well, he was a hero after all. That does not sound serious or sincere.
For all his legacy of bravery and fighting for democracy, Tsvangirai left a chaotic situation behind him in his party. He had for a long time presided over MDC infighting and a series of internal splits, displaying one of his main limitations.
Tsvangirai had many weaknesses as a leader; one of them was his inability to provide firm and disciplined leadership rooted in democratic principles and constitutionalism. This does not mean he was not a genuine advocate for democracy, it just points to his flaws.
The turmoil in the MDC-T is a sad indictment on his leadership as it amplifies lack of internal democracy in the party.
Remember Tsvangirai amended the party’s constitution to stay beyond his constitutional two terms and even ended up removing terms limits altogether! He also made a bad situation worse by appointing outside congress and arguably unconstitutionally Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa as additional vice-presidents, over and above the elected Thokozani Khupe.
Whether that was legal or not, the upshot of the decision was that it unleashed a succession battle which escalated yesterday soon after his death. Even before he is buried, the three leaders are fiercely at each other’s throats far worse than what has been happening in recent months.
Chamisa yesterday seized control of the party, as he was installed as acting leader. He is now in control of Harvest House, the MDC-T headquarters, while Mudzuri is charge at Highlands House, the family residence, where he has their support.
Khupe is charging that her rivals’ tussles for power are illegal as the constitution clearly states that she automatically becomes the acting party leader until an extraordinary congress is convened to elect a new substantive president.
Although this problem is partly of Tsvangirai’s own making, the best farewell Mudzuri, Chamisa and Khupe can give their founding leader is to amicably resolve their fight and unite behind one leader to ensure a serious showing at the elections.
The incredible decision by the government to order a rewrite of the 2017 Ordinary level English Language Paper 2 signifies the deep-seated rot in the messy Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec).
The bungling of the exam is not new as there have been countless embarrassing incidents over the years in which the examinations council has been caught napping. The directive by Education minister Paul Mavima for students to re-sit the exam was not only preposterous given the short timeframe given to prepare, but also grossly unfair.
Thankfully, the High Court has quashed the minister’s ill-advised directive.
It is baffling that the government saw it fit to punish more than 260 000 students who sat for the paper as a result of a few criminal elements who cheated probably with the assistance of crooked officials at Zimsec. That those responsible for this debacle at Zimsec are still coming to work and enjoying numerous perks is a travesty.
Mnangagwa’s declaration that it will not be business as usual will be put to the test as the nation anxiously waits to see how he deals with the incompetent lot at Zimsec who have compromised the country’s education system.
The clumsy incident has even irked the judiciary which this week called for an overhaul of the Zimsec systems and for heads to roll. Government must surely act against this to show the claimed new dispensation is real and not more of the same.
The First Lady’s Hollywood-style performance
Just when we thought former president Robert Mugabe’s removal had spared us his wife Grace’s antics and clowning; giving us a break from her free comedy shows, new First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa emerged as the new comedian in town with a Hollywood-like performance.
She made Zimbabweans’ last Saturday sweet with a powerful and flavourful mix of clowning which would have left seasoned veteran comedians of all genres green with envy.
If you have seen big comedy performers on America’s Def Comedy Jam, The Late Show, Conan, Comedy Central, HBO and Showtime, you would have been left breathless with Auxillia’s show.
Auxillia burst into tears in front of multitudes of Zanu PF supporters at the rally as her husband, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced her immediate stepping down as Chirumanzu-Zibagwe MP.
What should have been a non-event was turned into a dramatic scene by the First Lady who seemed to be looking for cheap publicity which some media outlets duly offered.
There was deafening silence as the people appeared shocked — surely it was shocking (who would not be shocked by this spectacle?) — not by the routine announcement but the subsequent hilarious weeping by Auxillia and her supporters.
If it is true that laughter is the best medicine, surely it provided some comic relief last weekend to many suffering Zimbabweans. Keep it Auxillia, you are the pride of all brilliant stand-up comedians!