More questions than answers

Discussing the recent disturbances within the MDC with someone who was there led me to some reflections. My contact complained that Tsvangirai had conceded points in negotiations under the GPA which the party had decided were not negotiable.

Morgan apparently accepted the party’s decision, but let himself be persuaded when he met the other side face-to-face, reportedly to save people from getting killed.

I said non-violence is not passive; the MDC man said “I agree; if we are attacked, we’ll fight back.” That is not Gandhi’s teaching. His satyagraha (“power of truth”) forbids hitting those who hit you.

Active non-violent resistance means doing right even if they forbid it, taking any “punishment” they give you (but not co-operating by e.g paying a fine) and being ready to repeat the “offence” for as long as is needed. You might die, but there are causes worth dying for; there are none worth killing for.

Of course that means that if you want to organise non-violent action of any kind, you have to lead by example. Anyone who asks others to suffer must, to be credible, show that s/he is ready to be the first to suffer.

Life gets more complicated if your opponent threatens to kill innocent people if you disobey him. “We’ll shoot your supporters, but leave you to watch us” faces a leader with a difficult decision, but perhaps a man who has suffered brutal beatings and attempts on his life – one of which cost the life of his wife – has that man not got the moral authority to make a call and let his followers make their own decision, knowing the risks he and they are taking? If we are never ready to die resisting oppression, we are saying we would rather live as slaves than die as free people. We can’t complain about the results of that choice.

Any decision over life and death is difficult, but here are a few guiding questions:

Consider the scale of the oppression and the likely outcome of your suffering. The murder of Benigno Aquino Jr, presidential candidate in the Philippines, was enough to spark off mass demonstrations that brought down the Marcos dictatorship with little or no further loss of blood. In South Africa, the Soweto massacres of 1976 strengthened resistance to apartheid but the struggle lasted another 15 years.

Consider the power of outside influences. This is not Egypt, where the people’s will collided with the American military-industrial complex and the Israeli tail that wags the American dog. There were big business interests behind Ian Smith, but they would not let him fight on until their investments would be destroyed. Their change in 1979 may have been hypocrisy, but it counted. Those interests are still among those to whom our oppressors want to sell diamonds, gold and platinum. Will they tolerate from ZANU what they didn’t tolerate from Smith?

And a final word on our situation as it gets more confused:

Who are the police looking for after the recent violent confrontation in the MDC? We know they are not impartial. Will we see a repeat of the detention of the Glen View 29? It may be on a smaller scale, but watch whether they are targeting people who might genuinely be suspected of committing a crime, or just locking up those who they see as a political threat. Remember that Ian Smith brought Abel Muzorewa to his side after carefully buying some of the plucky little bishop’s advisers and removing those he could not buy.

No man is an island. We can’t trust anyone to remain true for ever who either won’t listen to advice or is deprived of it. If we are silent now, the people we like to criticise and analyse, and even those we claim to support, could make bad mistakes.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *