Lest we forget

Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party are currently in turmoil, no doubt, but we need not be so fickle about their contributions to the socio-political fight they have put up since 1999. Some critics have already written their epitaph, some wait to see whether the party will disintegrate, while others are calling for the rebirth of the movement.

It is abundantly telling that among those now persuaded that the party and its captain are about to slip over the precipice are erstwhile fervent admirers of both the man and the movement. It remains to be seen whether the MDC will crumble like ZUM, survive as a weakened version or emerge strong enough to pose a solid contest at the next general elections in 2018.

Childish and naïve fights

It has always been a human frailty to forget the good and focus on the bad. I am not here to bury Caesar (Tsvangirai and MDC), so to speak, but I am reminded of Mark Antony’s famous words in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”.

Yes, Tsvangirai has made a lot of miscalculations at both the political and personal level. He has also allowed the strength of coffee shared with President Robert Mugabe to numb his judgment when he should have been wiser.

Indeed, he has displayed dictatorial tendencies and, yes, the MDC factions have disappointed many faithful supporters with their childish and naïve fights.

It may make sense for those who are disillusioned and frustrated to call for Tsvangirai’s head. In fact he might even need to step aside and let others steer the ship, as long as proper procedures are followed. It may also be natural to sympathise with those who are shocked by the intra-party violence and the seemingly perennial incapacity to remove President Mugabe and Zanu (PF) from power.

But we should pause to appreciate the goods that MDC, unlike any other major political party before, mobilised for this country, for they are there aplenty. The thousands of resettled farmers who can now afford to buy a tractor or truck after selling their tobacco, as an example, are indirect beneficiaries of the MDC’s political fight. They ought to salute that party.

Zapu & ZUM

Forget the empowerment gobbledygook; these farmers got the opportunity to farm tobacco because Zanu (PF) was faced with a real threat to its power, for the first time since independence in 1980. Zapu and the Zimbabwe Unity Movement had shaken Zanu (PF), but not as far as the roots like MDC did. Empowering the peasants was the last thing on the Zanu (PF) mind, seeing as it had taken that party close to two decades to resettle people on land the size of a rural homestead.

The point here is, like it or not, MDC brought about many desirable transformations. Last year’s new constitution is another example. I strongly doubt that, left alone in the political field, Zanu (PF) would have awakened to the essential need to overhaul the Lancaster House Constitution. On 19 occasions, they patched and papered over the 1979 charter, instead of coming up with a home-grown one. They never recognised the importance of improving on the Bill of Rights, presidential provisions and devolved government, to mention but a few. Now we have a much better constitution than the Lancaster House document, despite the numerous compromises that Zanu (PF) managed to force through.

It is worthwhile to mention that the new constitution was not a stroll in the park. Just last week, I shared the podium with Jessie Majome at a social accountability talk shop where she revealed that several lives were lost as people bickered about what to include or leave out of the charter during the outreach phase.

Checks and balances

We now have a cap on the number of terms that a president can serve. There are greater checks and balances where political and public governance are concerned and, thank God, citizens can sue political persecutors who use state resources and institutions to torment perceived enemies. Journalists can demand, with the option of going to court for redress, information from public institutions. Of course, the new constitution is the icing on the cake that started to be baked in the post-2008 electoral contest sham. The MDC put up a brave fight to ensure that the will of the people who voted was acknowledged. With regional pressure, this took the form of the Global Political Agreement of late 2008 and then the Government of National Unity in 2009. This at last brought sanity to the economy that Zanu (PF) had made good job of butchering.

Again, I have no doubt that, if Zanu (PF) had been left alone, we would still be queuing and stampeding for boxes of matches, packets of salt and jars of paraffin. All the money note counters would have lost memory by now due to spiralling inflation and all our teachers would be jostling with primary school kids to sell cigarettes on every street-corner. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis
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  1. Ken Girtz

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