A people united . . .

Why do our heroes have to die before they are recognised?

MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai

Sunday in Harare showed Morgan Tsvangirai was everyone’s hero; perhaps more, because of the warmth and depth of feeling he inspired.

Now the task for all of us, inside or outside the MDC, to ensure that his heritage doesn’t only survive; it must grow.

The challenge is great. Already on Sunday, along with the feeling of loss and yet of gratitude for his life, there was confusion. Confusion was caused by the army’s decision to take charge of Morgan’s body instead of letting it lie in state in a funeral parlour; certainly an action that angered many.

Who was responsible for the confusion about the time of the service in Mabelreign Methodist church? It had been announced as 2pm.Among the confused and distressed crowds in the city centre, I heard some say the service started as early as 10am, others said 12, some stuck to the original 2pm and in fact it didn’t start till 4pm.

This disrupted the original plan for a stop at Harvest House, but some 10,000 or more people gathered there, by my reckoning; I didn’t see how far the crowd stretched. A funeral without the body is bound to lose focus. This gathering didn’t have its main focus. We suffered 4 hours of unintelligible noise in which Chamisa’s name was occasionally audible; when it was, a group of youth who had arrived in an organised band cheered. Some older people remained quiet and disturbed. A couple of speeches from visiting dignitaries did something to restore the focus on the deceased. At about this stage a spy drone flew over the crowd back and forth, but nobody let that disturb them.

From what I heard, the night at his Newlands house went well.

The Monday morning gathering at Freedom Square started with an announcement that forestalled any factional agenda. People were celebrating Morgan’s life and more continued to arrive all morning.

One should question the motive of the junta in providing a helicopter to carry the body to Buhera; one may question the wisdom of whoever accepted the offer. My assessment is that the strength and solidarity of the mourners was obvious enough; accepting the offer of transport could not be interpreted as weakness. If that goes well, Morgan can rest in peace.

I have no axe to grind on the choice of a new MDC leader. There have been cases where the death of a leader united a people behind his cause. One case I recall was the assassination of Benigno Aquino in the Philippines, which provoked a peaceful revolt that brought down Marcos’ dictatorship. A similar sense of common purpose is there among our people. If those who claim to lead will listen to that, a figure who can lead us united will emerge. If Chamisa meant his words when he said the MDC does not belong to any individual, but to the people, he will recognise that the tactics which Mujuru used against Mnangagwa, then Mnangagwa used against Mujuru and Grace Mugabe used against him will only do more damage in the MDC than they did in ZANU-PF. In a democratic party, a properly elected Congress decides these issues, not the one who can shout loudest or assemble the biggest mob to enforce his will. The ordinary people know that, so if they don’t see that happen, no leader can rely on their votes. If they do see it, whoever wins will have solid support. The junta know that, so expect more tricks from them before, and maybe within, the MDC’s March congress.

In the meantime, we need to remember “A people united can never be defeated”; not the unity of an army, but of people who listen to each other. “MDC doesn’t belong to any individual” sounds like a good start, but so did the 1980 slogan “ZANU and the people are one” until we discovered that it did not mean ZANU existed to be the voice of the people, but considerd the people were merely sheep and those who didn’t conform became non-people.

We’ve been there and we don’t want another ZANU.

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