THERE are hopeful signs that, following Robert Mugabe’s ouster in 2017, Zimbabwe is salvagable as a nation.
By CONWAY TUTANI
Why should I say that? It’s because Zimbabweans, in their political maturity and wisdom, have broadened their perspective from the narrow narrative of defending whatever their favoured political party says and does, and dismissing whatever the other side says and does, to having a go at both sides.
There is general consensus that we must, at the very least, redefine ourselves as a nation following the departure of Mugabe, whose rule was most divisive in too many ways. There is growing belief that without the shadow of Mugabe looming over the new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, polarisation will be vastly reduced since Mugabe had become the system and the system had become synonymous with Mugabe as he had personalised his rule so much. Who does not know that Mugabe was on the verge of creating dynastic rule with his over-ambitious but not gifted wife, Grace, next in line?
So far, Mnangagwa has been making the right noises and, significantly, right moves — such as visiting his biggest political rival, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, at the latter’s home in the past week. Of course, politics being politics, this raised a lot of speculation, some of it totally wild and grossly irresponsible.
Those inclined to hear what they want to hear said Mnangagwa had gone to discuss with Tsvangirai the hand-over of power on Tsvangirai’s terms. Such people are unwitting political clowns who are, at the most, harmless dreamers who can be humoured.
However, we cannot humour the brigade which went into overdrive that Mnangagwa had gone to see Tsvangirai with the ulterior motive of showing the whole nation that the MDC-T leader had become so incapacitated by illness so as to take him out of the presidential election equation, making it a one-horse race for Mnangagwa.
They went on the denial mode, blaming Mnangagwa for “exposing” the true condition of their leader like a person who would rather not know his HIV status. But there is no shame in being ill. We should, instead, de-stigmatise illness. Cancer of the colon does not define Tsvangirai. And, worse, denying his illness — as some of his misguided supporters are doing — does not change the reality of his condition.
And transferring blame to Mnangagwa is futile because it has been very clear for a very long time that Tsvangirai cannot or could no longer lead the main opposition party effectively for health reasons with his public appearances now few and far between or having disappeared altogether. Tsvangirai himself said that Mnangagwa “made an impromptu, but welcome gesture to check on me following my public disclosure that I had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon”.
So who are these people to rage at Mnangagwa when the host welcomed him?
One of the over-the-top reactions on Facebook went thus: “I hold no brief for the MDC-T. What occurred today (Mnangagwa’s publicised visit) was callous and politically calculated. No matter any reference to the relatively abstract term of ‘ubuntu’ (humaneness).”
One, only someone far removed from African culture and/or with a cynical attitude would refer to ubuntu as a “relatively abstract term” because there is unpublicised practical, tangible demonstration of ubuntu daily among ordinary people if you care to notice. This shows that people can be ignorantly intellectual; that people can intellectualise their ignorance.
Two, if we follow this cynic’s warped logic, we might as well say Highlanders legend Peter Ndlovu took a “calculated” and “callous” move in visiting ailing Dynamos great George Shaya and handing over to him groceries and money before rolling TV cameras because he wanted to expose Dynamos since Highlanders and Dynamos are the bitterest football rivals in Zimbabwe with a history of violence between them like that between Zanu PF and MDC-T.
Zanu PF and MDC-T, despite being naturally the biggest rivals by virtue of being the largest political parties in Zimbabwe, need not be implacable enemies. It’s not in the national interest in the same way it is not in the interests of domestic football for Highlanders and Dynamos to always cross swords.
Fortunately, cynics — those people whose outlook is scornfully negative, those persons who believe that all people are motivated by selfishness — are in the tiny minority. The vast majority of people are not cynics as shown by the following reactions:
Chakanyuka Bosha: “I think ED (Mnangagwa) was sincere especially if reports are true that he has granted MT (Morgan Tsvangirai) his outstanding (retirement) package. What is inescapable though is, the visit had some unintended outcome, that of casting serious doubts on MT’s 2018 candidature due to ill health as shown by pictures. But to blame this on ED is unfair because MT had the option not to allow the Press in.”
Norman Mhere: “And here is myself thinking that these two folks are human beings first before being presidents of their respective organisations!”
Nhamo Anthony Mhiripiri: “Whatever the political motive, the visit has a larger significance that teaches ordinary citizens who are often used for political violence that it is meaningless to hate or hurt anyone. This ultimately is a unifying and sobering gesture from which the politically naive and gullible can learn.”
We don’t necessarily need unity between Zanu PF and MDC-T, but rapprochement, establishment of harmonious working relations.
Frankly, I don’t care who wins between the two as there are growing signs of rapprochement between them.
Said Tsvangirai himself: “For me, the visit to my residence by the new President . . . signalled what must be . . . the new politics of our time that an opposition party, especially one represented in our national Parliament, does not in any way constitute an enemy of the State
. . . The visit can be built upon by truly well-meaning Zimbabweans to herald a new politics of engagement in our country.”
Well, the ranks of truly well-meaning Zimbabweans who believe that Zanu PF and MDC-T need not be implacable enemies are swelling — much to the chagrin of cynics who have tried and failed to rubbish ED’s visit to Tsvangirai.
And the disproportionate anger of these cynics over the visit shows something good can come out of it.
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org