THE death of MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai — a hero of the new struggle for democracy — triggered a succession war in the main opposition MDC-T party (one wonders why the party should maintain the name MDC-T when Tsvangirai is now gone).
What started as a fierce battle for the party leadership and power eventually degenerated into a Rwandan or Burundi scenario where political violence and ethnicity — a dangerous cocktail — exploded at the burial of the heroic but flawed democratic crusader in his Humanikwa village in Buhera.
Misguided rascals descended on the village and cornered MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe, whom constitutional experts say should be the legal interim party leader of the party, and other senior officials like Douglas Mwonzora and Abednico Bhebhe over the succession wrangle. They threatened to attack them until some mourners intervened.
As if that was not bad enough, the wild thugs flew into a tribal rage, highlighting the latent dangers of Zimbabwean politics. The hoodlums chanted vulgarities and insults, declaring: “Khupe go back to Matabeleland. We will not be led by a woman”, among other imponderables, including allegedly calling her a “dissident” and other such crude slurs.
Of course, calling people “dissidents” for having a different opinion started with former president Robert Mugabe and his ancien Zanu PF regime, which elevated tribalism into a sort of shameful national policy and institutionalised it. The war veterans were also described as “dissidents” by Mugabe at the height of his succession fight.
While tribalism has been there for ages as primitive societies somehow practised it and was particularly accentuated by colonial administrators, Mugabe did nothing to fight it. If anything, he heightened the problem and taught his brainwashed supporters the bad habit of thinking that only certain people from certain ethnic groups and regions, in fact from a certain sub-ethnic group, are entitled to rule Zimbabwe.
That is why Mugabe told Joshua Nkomo in 1980 that he must only campaign in his “country” Matabeleland and he would do so in his own “country” Mashonaland. It is there in the Struggle for Zimbabwe book. A national leader must never think and act like that.
Mugabe, for his own power calculations and self-serving agenda, had clearly decided to reduce the historic election into an ethnic census, which is what it eventually boiled down to. The results of that mentality and dangerous opportunism were predictably disastrous as we later came to witness over 37 years.
Making elections an ethnic census inevitably yields disaster. Tribalism in Zimbabwe, which the political elites are mainly to blame for, is partly responsible for election disputes, conflict, corruption, cronyism and underdevelopment.
Naturally, no one is a saint; many people and leaders from different tribes and regions of this country are also responsible for perpetuating this problem. It is a national plague and must be tackled as such.
Yet the truth is ethnicity, a primitive mindset that many denounce openly but clearly still harbour deep down, is some form of backward false consciousness. Anyone in this country should and can rule if they have the popular support, good policy agenda and the requisite competence. That is how progressive nations are run.
The good thing, though, is that dynamic people have already moved ahead of society and political elements in that regard through individual, professional and social integration, among other things such as personal friendships, inter-tribal marriages and business arrangements that make ethnocentric misfits look hopelessly backward and frozen in time.
We do not want to be like Rwanda or Burundi in terms of ethnic conflict. Zimbabwe must move beyond ethnocentrism and tribalism to progress as a nation. We need progressive leaders who unite the people and take the country forward on a path of development, inclusivity and opportunities for all.
The situation within the MDC-T is defiling the legacy of Tsvangirai. MDC-T de facto leader Nelson Chamisa—who did well to seize the political moment and position himself for the party leadership, although he should go back to the constitutional path — he has his work cut out for him.
He has already moved quickly to condemn the Humanikwa violence by some hooligans purporting to be his supporters, but he must go further to distance himself from tribal slurs. The MDC was never founded to further those primitive notions and activities, but democracy, inclusivity and good governance, among other good ideals.
As to who should succeed Tsvangirai, it is none of Muckraker’s business. It is the mandate of the MDC-T leaders and members, although it is clear Chamisa has moved fast to seize the moment to lay a strong claim to the party leadership.
Even if Khupe might be right in saying she must be the interim leader of the party in terms of the constitution until an extraordinary congress is held within 12 months to elect a new leader, the truth is that politics is far more complicated than that. She must have known that in a cut-throat competitive political environment like this she has to fight for it, not just sit and wring hands while whining that it is my “right” to come in.
Politics does not work like that. You may have the constitution on your side, but get outmanoeuvred in the end. So Khupe must fight to grab control of the party leadership like Chamiusa did if she really wants to have it. The same applies to Elias Mudzuri. This must all be done in terms of the constitution and legitimate political activities.
Otherwise the solution is for Chamisa, Khupe and Mudzuri to sit down like mature people and talk about this issue guided by the constitution, the strategic objective of the party and the agenda of the next elections. Failure to do that would weaken the MDC-T and ultimately the MDC Alliance. In fact, they should be thinking not only of uniting themselves, but talking to Joice Mujuru and others to form a broad coalition and united front for the elections. That is their best chance to win.
Dividing votes will inevitably yield the same result: defeat amid an acrimonious dispute of the outcome. That would be tantamount to going round in circles. So someone must think and act big on this issue. Maturity, strategic thinking and vision are needed here.
Harare City Council, notorious for shoddy performance in terms of water provision and general service delivery, has come up with yet another harebrained idea typical of its incompetence.
The latest brain fade from Town House is the ban on commuter omnibuses from the Harare central business district (CBD). This will force thousands of commuters to walk long distances to work each day across the city or to pay two fares in each direction to get to work and go home.
The city council has said there will be shuttle buses to transport commuters from the ranks outside town into the CBD, for a fee of course. It begs the question: who owns these shuttle buses to fleece commuters who are already struggling to make ends meet? The introduction of these shuttle buses appears like a sinister attempt by someone to enrich someone at the expense of the already struggling commuting public.
By the way, this has been tried before and it failed. In other words, what council is doing is the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Mugabe’s Siberian birthday celebration
Former president Robert Mugabe turned 94 on Wednesday. This was his first birthday celebration since being ousted from power through a military coup last November.
For the first time we were not subjected to televised celebrations which were often characterised by extravagant razzmatazz and festivities in a sea of poverty and suffering.
It was good Mugabe was confined to his “Blue Roof” mansion to celebrate, Siberian-style, with his wife Grace, family and whatever friends they still have as this spared us the usual noise and bootlicking which had come to dominate the public sphere for decades.
It was refreshing to be spared the dross that Mugabe is a national hero, peerless patriot, ever-victorious iron-willed commander (who gets booted out in the easiest military coup in history) and Widaehan suryong (Supreme Leader) with a “Mandate of Heaven” to rule forever.
Like Kim Jong Il, Mugabe’s delusional thinking was: “To expect victory in a revolution without a leader is as good as wishing for a flower where there is no sun!” In other words, victory in a revolution depends entirely on the unique leadership qualities of an outstanding leader.
By the way, where are all those mobs, sycophants and analysts who used to fall over each other to hero-worship and sing praises of Mugabe? Can they please come out of the woods and tell us what happened to the Dear Leader? How is he doing these days? Have they been to “Blue Roof” to visit him of late or they abandoned him during the coup?