Opportunism in the Zimbabwean struggle

By Tendai Biti

WHEN a struggle becomes long, and the end becomes as illusionary as a mirage, opportunism, hypocrisy and mendacity creep in.

In all these situations, principles are sacrificed on the altar of self-interest. The struggle, already arrested by exhaustion, becomes commodified and bastardized.

History also shows that those struggles that have survived have only done so because a few have stayed the course and have refused to be seduced by myopic soft-landings.

It is this sort of mentality that has given rise to a new school of thought that seeks to revise our recent history and has peddled myths about the limited options available to the people of Zimbabwe and has, therefore, sought to compromise the one thing that can never be compromised. This is the sacrosanct principle that it is only the people that have an inalienable right to decide their course and their destiny.

The revisionist school of thought and its disciples constitute a bunch of tireless, airport lounge activists and a beehive of "people representatives"
who are nothing but a cocoon of neo-liberal, elitist mafia.

Oftentimes, their ideology is betrayed by a series of pseudo-intellectual, high-sounding superfluous blur and the sepulchral mucus oozing from this camp. It is a pure distillation of anger and frustration masquerading as political strategy.

Let us begin with the fiction and contention that there was no winner in the 29th of March election.

But indeed there was a winner! We contested this election without resources, without access to the media, without access to vital electoral information and data.

Contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act, we were not availed the voters’ roll, neither did we know the number of polling stations. The law kept being changed in the course of the game and it was more like playing tennis with a continuously moving base line.

For instance, the law made it clear that every candidate in the four-in-one harmonized election would be entitled to an agent inside the ballot booth but this was ignored. On the 20th of December Mugabe himself signed a law that kept policemen outside polling booths but by the 10th January he had reversed that law through a presidential decree.

Furthermore, as we exposed at the time, all State agents manning the polls were carefully handpicked to exclude anyone thought to be sympathetic to us.
Indeed, over 5000 teachers were excluded as a result of this. What monstrous fraud!

Beyond legal shenanigans was the massive vote buying spree authored and executed by the insufferable onyx, Gideon Gono. In March, trillions of dollars were splashed in the so called Phase Two of the farm mechanization program.

On the ground, hundreds of our meetings were denied. Indeed we went to court on this and other issues and not once did this fantastically marinated judiciary pronounce judgment in our favour. At the same time, Zanu-PF gallivanted freely across the countryside. Mugabe roamed the thirsty countryside in three state of the art helicopters whilst Tsvangirai and the rest of us drove like maniacs in dilapidated jalopies in the dusty and cracked cheekbones of Zimbabwe’s countryside.

In short, the political, legal and contextual frame-work could and did not justify an incontestable election. The fact that the election was run by a totally partial body, that there was no access to the media, that there was proscription of free movement, the abuse of state resources and the denial of access to information is evident of the fact this was a limping election whose ethos fell below international standards.

The achievements of the MDC and indeed of the people of Zimbabwe were Herculean. That the opposition in all its forms won this election under these circumstances was hardly surprising. The result would certainly have been more emphatic was it not for the gerrymandering of constituencies by deliberately creating more rural constituencies and indeed the absence of an even and equal playing field. Moreover, Zanu-PF narrowed the gap in two constituencies i.e. Red cliff and Gwanda South which it won in the violent 27th June event.

To suggest that the MDC did not win the election on the 29th March is intended to obfuscate the Zanu-PF decline while inflating the over-inflated egos of some who were severely defeated in that election! Their self-proclaimed mantra as kingmakers is a by product of this myopic venery.
More importantly, it underlies a deep and inveterate contempt and disrespect for the people .It is the people that decide their fate and not some overfed Google-addict sitting on a table. Politics is not a chess game of fluent gambits or over elaborate flip-charts.

A second fraud is to try and equate Tsvangirai with Mugabe. This, with all due respect, is sick populism intended not to defile Mugabe for he has done that on his own, but to ridicule and demonise Tsvangirai and the MDC.

The attack is personal and is no different from the daily diatribe of defamatory vituperations churned in the Herald. In short, to both Mugabe and others, Tsvangirai is the red flag that has generated anger and hatred of satanic proportions.

Is it an accident that a rocket scientist can be so ahistorical and so revisionist as to equate the sins of this regime with any other person?  Can the failure of this agreement be visited upon our shoulders?

One thing has to be emphasized for the benefit of those conducting the symphony of hatred and discord at Herald House. Tsvangirai is the undisputed and uncontestable leader of the MDC. Not only that, he is the leader of this struggle. Every struggle has a face and a leader.

Thus, Vladimir Lenin was the face of the Bolshevik Revolution despite the array of luminaries in the Bolshevik party. Equally, Nelson Mandela is the face and leader of the struggle against apartheid despite giants like Albert Luthuli, Govan Mbeki, Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and others.

For the record, it is Mugabe alone and his acolytes who have been responsible for the castration of Zimbabwe’s manhood. It is not land reform or so-called sanctions that have created the phenomenal decline of this economy to levels unheard of in modern economics. Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina, the post 2000 violence and the post 29th March violence are a progeny of this violent "thugocratic" state run by a securocracy or, as I described recently in Parliament, a "juntacratised" State.

Now where does Tsvangirai fit into all this?

The answer is simple. It is not Tsvangirai who is frustrating the consummation of this deal but rather Mugabe himself. In this regard let’s put into perspective the MDC position on the dying dialogue.

It is that there must be a satisfactory legal framework to underpin the agreement. Secondly, that there must be an equitable distribution of ministerial portfolios – in short, responsibility with authority.

Thirdly, there must be defined the constitution and composition of the National Security Council. In view of the "juntacritisation" of the State surely this overseeing body is essential to ensure the gradual weaning of State Institutions from the breast of Zanu-PF.

Fourthly, there must be an equitable and fair distribution of key public positions including governors, ambassadors and permanent secretaries.

Lastly, there must be a reversal and cessation of all breaches of the MOU and the GPA. This includes the unconditional release of Jestina Mukoko, Gandi Mudzingwa and all abductees and the reversal of all executive appointments unilaterally made after 21 July 2008.

Surely there is nothing extraterrestrial about these demands. The demands are not domiciled at Albus Dumbledore’s  Hogwarth School of Magic and Wizardry. There is nothing British or American in the same. In fact the demands are a logical platform if not precondition for any viable Government of National Unity.

That however is not the view of others. Just get in there and sort everything while you are inside! In short, put your eggs in the basket of hope and faith. More plaintively, trust Zanu- PF.

Trust is exactly what we did when we signed the GPA on the 11th September and attended the glittering ceremony of a doctored document of the 15th September when so many issues were outstanding. We genuinely assumed that Zanu-PF was ready and bona fide. Alas, we were naive. We ignored the fundamental construct that Zanu-PF sees itself as being endowed with a divine right and obligation to rule Zimbabwe . The sense of entitlement common in many nationalist parties is disproportionately overdeveloped in Zanu-PF, particularly when one considers the role of the peasant countryside in the war of liberation.

The sense of entitlement is the tumour at the epicenter of Zanu-PF’s power retention mantra which is the sole reason for its existence and not any other ground norm. Thus, engaging the MDC through the GNU is a strategic retreat in the power retention project. A retreat that is necessary for the party to regroup following what Mugabe has called the "lapse" of the 29th March.

The events of the last three months following the execution of the GPA have shown beyond reasonable doubt that no self respecting person can ever trust Zanu-PF. Daily have been episodes of the clear lack of paradigm shift on the part of Zanu-PF.

First has been the interference and frustration of food and humanitarian assistance in breach of agreements. Second has been the unleashing of a fresh wave of violence, this time characterised by an evil spate of extra legal abductions. The case of Mr and Mrs Chinanzvavana,  Gandi Mudzingwa, Chris Dhlamini,  Jestina Mukoko and others reflects beyond a shadow of doubt the mindset of this voodoo regime and its lack of bona fides.

The reappointment of Gideon Gono as Reserve Bank governor and the appointment of Johannes Tomana as Attorney General add to the body of incontrovertible evidence of this lack of paradigm shift. Quite clearly, these are the things that others will not talk about. But that we are expected to gloss over these issues and pretend they don’t exist eludes our wisdom.

One can understand the desperate shrill of some to make this agreement work despite the clearly foreseeable Golgotha . After all this is the one God-given  opportunity of holding public office to many of us who cannot in the immediate to short-term  win any election

What is clearly as hypocritical as it is obnoxious is the populist attack on the West. Two things are particularly appalling.

First, is the attempt to frame an anti-Mugabe position as being mothered and authored by the West. Therefore we in the MDC can’t think for ourselves but must wait for Condoleeza Rice and Jendayi Fraser.

What philistine madness!

Second, for some having cut our teeth in the West and some of its best universities to try and reinvent ourselves as latter-day Che Guevaras is a humourless banality. It does not fool any one. Not at all.

The struggle for democratisation in Zimbabwe has been a long and arduous one. Indeed the struggle for independence itself was a first step in this gravel road. This generation has a duty is to fulfil the unfinished business of that struggle. On this we stood with Joshua Nkomo, Edgar Tekere and Ndabaningi Sithole as they were persecuted by Mugabe.

We were there when thousands were violently displaced killed and maimed during Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina the post 2000 violence, the Final Push and other great demonstrations.

We were proudly there in Hillside at the National Working People’s Convention on 26 February 1999. We were also there on that sunny, lovely Saturday afternoon at Rufaro stadium on 11 September 1999 when Gibson Sibanda arrogantly told Mugabe that: "We have accepted your invitation to form our party. This is our party."

We were there inside Matapi police station as Isaac Maphosa told us the results of the Constitutional referendum on a smuggled mobile phone. And yes, we have buried comrades, from Tichaona Chiminya, Talent Mabika, Trymore Midzi, Nomore Sibanda and the irresistible Learnmore Jongwe.  Tonderai Ndira still looms large in our dreams,  the peerless Gertrude "Diesel" Mthombeni will not leave our hearts and the pillar of our struggle, Isaac Matongo, continues to lift us on his bulky shoulders.

That is our history. No one then can bastardize the same and seek to frame it on a template of a neo-liberal, British or American creation or construction. That is the greatest insult to the people of Zimbabwe and to our history as a social liberation movement completing the unfinished business of the liberation struggle.

Finally, a myth has been peddled that there is no other strategy or option other than that of a GNU. This can only be a Freudian dislocation. Dialogue and the GNU are the conscious by-product of a roadmap we crafted in May 2006. They are the baby and not the mother.

They are a means and not the end. They are an adjectival issue and not the substance. The substance is to achieve democratic change in Zimbabwe through peaceful, democratic, constitutional and non-violent means. To then suggest that this can only be achieved through a GNU chaired by Mugabe is somewhat cataleptic.

In short, we remain committed to the cause of change in Zimbabwe as we remain committed to the GPA, subject to the resolution of our demands.
However, we are not naïve to allow Zanu PF to trap us in the cul-de-sac of any sterile processes.

Our party might be 10 years old, but our experience is of gerontocratic proportions.

(Tendai Biti is the Secretary-General of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.)

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