Opposition must show leadership

IN the past few weeks, some opposition figures have berated Zimbabweans for being docile in the face of prolonged authoritarian rule and poverty.

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BY Conrad Nyamutata

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renewal

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First it was Tendai Biti of the renewal team who said Zimbabweans were simply cowards.

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Addressing journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club last week, the Welshman Ncube-led MDC spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube said President Robert Mugabe’s tyranny was an “indictment” on the people of Zimbabwe.

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“The indictment is on Zimbabweans themselves; you can’t blame him (Mugabe) for wanting to stay in power. We must blame ourselves for allowing him to stay in power if we feel he is no longer capable of being in power.”

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As I said recently, any of us who has been confronted by a curious foreigner has been asked why Mugabe has remained in power for so long despite chronically adverse conditions that would trigger revolt elsewhere.

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The answer is, no-one is prepared to put his or her neck on the block.

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Just over a week ago was the anniversary of the execution of Sophie Scholl for her role in the anti-Nazi White Rose resistance movement. Sophie was a young girl who confronted the might of Hitler’s Third Reich. She was executed for it.

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But before her neck was placed under the guillotine, she intoned: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause?”

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“Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go,” she continued, “but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?

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How many of us would want to face the fate of Sophie or even walloping on the streets, even the accusing opposition elite?

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It is well and good for the opposition to criticise the people.

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But where is the leadership?

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Since some of them were pummelled at a prayer meeting some years ago, the opposition withdrew into their shells in dread.

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Now, all the opposition does is speak at these various forums or issue one ireful press statement after another from the comfort of their offices.

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Obert Gutu, spokesperson for Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, has been prolific in churning them or speaking out, urging Mugabe to resign. Gutu is not wrong in enjoining a ruler now clearly incapacitated by advanced age to step down.

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But are we seriously expecting that Mugabe will one day wake up and say: “OK, Mr Gutu I have listened to you, I am packing my bags from State House heading for Zvimba?”

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Fat chance.

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Mugabe will stay put; eat another sumptuous cake, some more elephants feasted upon on February 21 next year.

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Distressingly, the opposition, in its silly fragments, has descended into retrogressive personality politics, frequently opposing each other unnecessarily.

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One group proposes a conference to discuss the national crisis. Another says no.

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And the objection is not necessarily motivated by the badness of an idea. Rather, it is because the perceived “badness” of the personality behind it.

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Biti and Dube can accuse the generality of Zimbabweans of pusillanimity. Last year, Tsvangirai said he was planning to lead nationwide peaceful demonstrations.

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None of these two other factions rallied behind him or the idea. And the reason? Because the proposition had been made by Tsvangirai. The idea died.

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And yet a pertinent question has been posed: if you were prepared to negotiate with Mugabe, why can’t you talk amongst yourselves?

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Is it because negotiating with Mugabe came with the promise of public office and material rewards?

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And it is you, the opposition, who failed to dismantle the pauperising, repressive system and biased electoral machinery that sustains Mugabe — all you now accuse people of not protesting against — while you were in the cosy lap of the coalition.

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If the opposition has the support it claims to have, let them show their courageous leadership and ability to mobilise.

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Unless they are prepared to take the lead, the opposition elite are cowards too.