Slightly more than a decade ago, and in subsequent years, these messengers of democratic change, or so we regarded them, were clearly determined to fight the violence, corruption and widespread abuse of power and human rights that Zanu (PF) personifies.
They slept among wild animals in Gonarezhou, huddled together in safe houses and were not afraid to get into the streets to push for a better Zimbabwe. They were forced to drink their own urine at Harare Central Police Station and some of them, like Nelson Chamisa, escaped death by a whisker at the hands of political enemies.
Sadly, though, they have traded trench coats for office suits. They now recoil at the sight of a smudge on their hands and throw their feet onto the table for an office orderly to polish their shoes.
Not that there is need for that, because they now, invariably, glide from their carpeted offices to sparkling Mercedes Benz vehicles. The doors are opened for them by grovelling aides, making them feel really important.
You no longer see them in Chitungwiza or Mabvuku, just at the Meikles or Sheraton. They seem to be saying: “We have arrived!” All this, of course, courtesy of the Government of National Unity.
Even Tsvangirai agrees with my view on this but, unfortunately, does not appear to have a clue as to what should be done.
Last Thursday, I was coming from a meeting between editors and civil society that had been commissioned by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe when a colleague convinced me to pass through Charter House where the MDC-T President was addressing civil society.
He was forthright in the assessment of his lieutenants in the party: “We are now chasing the comfort zone. Even people like Chamisa are wearing suits everyday”.
Satirically, Tsvangirai was not wearing a suit and his voice sounded hoarse. He might have been casually attired and a busy schedule could have taken its toll on him, but I wonder if he is less guilty, because you hardly see him walking in the streets these days.
The GNU has become the change agents’ opium. They are now drunk with comfort and the mirage of power in which they are cocooned, to the extent that they run the real danger of missing the boat altogether.
In the pre-GNU era, it was very easy for journalists, for example, to access Chamisa, Douglas Mwonzora or Tendai Biti for a comment or information. Today, it is an uphill task.
This confuses me, because Zanu (PF)’s Rugare Gumbo is more forthcoming. You can call him after midnight and he will talk to you; he also responds to missed calls.
My conclusion is simple. The crumbs that Robert Mugabe is throwing to the MDC from the GNU table have lulled them into a slumber. It looks as though they are finding it too good to believe that they are now called cabinet ministers.
The pattern is all too familiar. At independence in 1980, there was so much euphoria around the liberation war fighters that they were almost deified. By 1985, that was changing. People could not see Mugabe any more and, some years later, he was to refer to some of them as totemless.
When he appears in public, it is either at a political rally or a business forum. When he visits an orphanage, it is only because he is wooing votes. Unlike Nelson Mandela, he cannot dance on the floor and his smile is forced, almost painfully so.
The difference between Zanu (PF) and MDC is that the former started alienating itself from the people after gaining power. The latter is doing so even prior to that. In the MDC, we are now seeing the pre-term WaBenzi of Zimbabwe.
The inevitable question is: Is this the change that MDC has been promising the people?
The MDC cabin crew, surely, cannot abandon ship before docking. We have seen too much of this in emerging democracies in Africa and elsewhere and our narrative should be different. As I said last week, the MDC ought to shape up or the passengers will ask them to go swim with the sharks.
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