Lessons from history for Tsvangirai, Dabengwa, Makoni and Mutambara
OPINION – It is known to the whole world that Zimbabwe is facing serious problems right now and the feeling amongst many people is that the beautiful country is headed for the worst come next year.
The ill fated marriage of convenience between sworn enemies MDC and ZANU (PF) is on the rocks and it is the general populace that is set to bear the brunt of their tug of war.
Just how the MDC found itself in this mess boggles the mind. What is clear though is that ZANU (PF) has been ‘smarter’ and shrewder than their foes.
The opposition team needs to regroup and perhaps to come to terms with the fact that they need reinforcement. It is disappointing that a trusted team with respected legal brains like Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube would sign a GPA with loopholes that ZANU (PF) would go on to manipulate.
The begging question is where were they?
That the opposition went on to expend so much energy and money on another ill fated exercise of the constitution making process is another clear sign that they have been inept and been caught napping. ZANU (PF) leaders must be looking back and going ‘phew’ in a celebratory mood, happy that they managed to diffuse the hot wind and air that the MDC had managed to create around them after the 2008 elections.
Now Lovemore Madhuku and the NCA are saying we told you so. The constitution has been a ZANU (PF) document again and the MDC is strangely saying they will vote for it and discard it later.
All this shows how ill prepared the opposition was entering this agreement and how lacking they were in shrewdness and cunning. ZANU (PF) managed to divert their energies and attention from the real issue of removing them to mundane issues of a constitution that would never be the will of the people as long as ZANU (PF) is still there and ruling.
How could they have thought that Mugabe would put his signature on a document he didn’t agree with? It was like writing a letter to end a relationship with a lover knowing full well that he will be the one to sign it in the end.
ZANU (PF) also managed to discredit their enemies by making them gibber and gibber about sanctions and positions. Now ZANU (PF) has a tramp card for elections in the form of claiming that even the MDC know that the sanctions or restrictive measures are hurting the economy of Zimbabwe. We know full well that that is just part of the problem and not the whole. The MDC has spent months trying to get Roy Bennert sworn in as Deputy Minister of Agriculture.
In the meantime ZANU (PF) has been secretly telling its allies in the SADC that the MDC is trying to reverse land redistribution exercise by making a white man part of the agriculture equation. Couldn’t the MDC have been wiser than fall for that trap so easily? Don’t they know that perception is critical in politics? That’s the MDC for you playing all their cards wrong and leaving the MDC smiling with gladness with their Jonathan Moyos taking the opportunity to reflect Morgan Tswangirai as a charlatan and a quack.
Well there is an element of truth in that because the MDC has made claims they have not been able fulfill. That is not fair to the people of Zimbabwe and we certainly don’t want to be told that by Jonathan coming from the camp that is are problem number one. Zimbabwe needs the opposition but not the way it is.
Tsvangirai still has a role to play to remove ZANU (PF) but he certainly needs to view things differently now and he needs to come to terms with the fact that he cannot do it alone.
What has been clear to most Zimbabweans and any other thinking person with interest in the Zimbabwe problem is that our problem does not lie with the constitution per se, at least for now
The constitution needs to be changed but that is not Zimbabwe’s priority number one because even with a good one ZANU (PF) will still violate its provisions. So why waste time and money and get people maimed and killed over a futile exercise that won’t change anything but only serves to help ZANU (PF) buy time and push their agenda of stay in power? Get me right here; I am not one of those who think that the constitution is not critical. It is so critical for Zimbabwe that we cannot do it under ZANU (PF). What is of priority for me now is to remove ZANU (PF) and Robert Mugabe and start on a fresh page and write a new constitution.
One can safely say that the opposition has failed to read ZANU (PF)’s game plan. It is clear now that as far as ZANU (PF) is concerned elections in Zimbabwe are not just about the ballot box. The 2008 elections made it clear that it is the case in Zimbabwe. Where then is ZANU (PF)’s secret in all this? I do not claim that my view is exhaustive. There could be other variable in all this but the military variable is at the top of all this.
It is a ZANU (PF) tramp card bought with passion by the SADC and in particular, South Africa. The MDC can cry, rant and rave but as long as they do not come up with a package that satisfies the SADC that their intentions are not to reverse the ‘gains’ of independence they might as well forget ever making a difference in Zimbabwe. As long as the opposition does not blend their desire for freedom with some military credentials, they have a lot of waiting to do. This is not to say the SADC is right.
No! All I am saying is that they are well positioned to stall any attempt by the opposition to liberate Zimbabweans from the tight hold of a corrupt regime whose interest is only cargo inspired. The country recently got a good case study in the form of Ignatius Chombo who owns a property literally in all corners of the country. What is clear though is that ZANU (PF) has quite an ally in the form of SADC and I am convinced that the opposition does not see that.
If they did, they would spend sleepless nights addressing that.
Joshua Nkomo got it too late that Britain had sent Lord Soames to hand over Zimbabwe to Robert Mugabe in 1980. The late larger than life hero of Zimbabwe was bitten left, right and centre in that game. He did not read the game plan. He even went to Lord Soames to complain about violence and intimidation during the 1980 elections not realizing that Lord Soames’ mandate was to ensure that ZANU (PF) won elections. At least the late liberation hero admits in his book that he was not prepared for that shift. In his autobiography he admits ‘Nothing in my life had prepared me for a fight against my own brother.’ One could add a rejoinder to his admission and say ‘And I had not realized that at that time ZANU (PF) was not alone in the ring but was supported by Britain and of course America.’
Now will the fact that ZANU (PF) is not playing alone in the ring become clear for the opposition. Is what happened to Joshua Nkomo not enough to help them read ZANU (PF)’s game plan? Is it not clear that the SADC is Lord Soames reincarnate? And the SADC is as strong as Lord Soames right now.
Let me dampen their spirits even more and say even if Tsvangirai wins by 75% there will still be collation and recounting of election results for a long time if not forever. Am I saying therefore that we are stuck and doomed and cannot get ourselves out of this quagmire? By no means. What I am saying is that we need to understand that that is the case and move from there. We cannot wish away this reality but can only scheme against it and fight it. The battle is not just about ZANU (PF) but the SADC as well. It is about a generation of military veterans who are scared of coming to terms with the fact that Zimbabwe will one day have non of them as natural attrition begins to do duty.
Those who cared to observe the 2008 elections must have seen how ZANU (PF) made sure that Simba Makoni did not get any media coverage for his campaign. Why that? Was it because Morgan Tswangirai had suddenly become a loved one and Makoni the hated one? Remember Morgan’s famous adverts about ‘Morgan is More….? All I remember of Makoni’s efforts was his interview by the not so intelligent Happison Muchechetere.
That interview was an insult to Simba? Why did ZANU (PF) give more room to Tsvangirai? My considered view is that it was going to be difficult for ZANU (PF) to rig elections and refuse to hand over power to Simba and Dumiso Dabengwa. There was no sale out tag on these two and there were serious military credentials in this camp. There was no plan B after elections if Simba and Dumiso had won. ZANU (PF) would have had no choice but to hand over power to Simba who had come out of ZANU (PF) and had the backing of the former ZAPU intelligence supremo. ZANU (PF) knew and feared that.
Right now ZANU (PF)’s biggest fear is a proper coalition that dispels the perception that the opposition will reverse the gains of independence. The opposition has a good chance of ousting ZANU (PF) through that coalition. The challenge is coming up with terms that favor all parties involved.
The opposition needs to put the interests of the people of Zimbabwe first. South Africa and the SADC will not support ZANU (PF) against a balanced opposition. I am not a prophet I can strongly predict that if they don’t swallow their pride and come together they will continue in that vicious cycle of politics. And there will certainly be casualties in their camps. This time around there will be deaths and arrests and prosecutions. ZANU (PF) knows that they have overstayed their welcome and that opposition will try their level best to remove them from power. They won’t take that lying down. They will fight tooth and nail and their teeth and nails will sink into some people’s skins. Mark my words.
The stakes are higher for ZANU (PF) and they now come with some much confidence having diffused one of the most difficult pressure moments in 2008.
The 1975 situation has a few lessons for the opposition. This was the time when Ian Smith released Joshua Nkomo and Msika from prison and unwittingly asked them to stop the war which he called terrorism much to the chagrin of both Joshua and Msika.
Ian Smith agreed to hand over power to Nkomo and support that act also. It was Nkomo who rightfully raised the issue of Robert Mugabe and ZANU (PF) saying that they had a part to play. Smith left it in their hands to talk amongst themselves and come back to him with a stance. It was then that Nkomo called all opposition leaders through Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere to discuss the possibility of a unity accord in order to stop the war and take over power from Smith.
Sadly they failed to agree with people like Robert Mugabe and the late Hebert Chitepo strongly opposing the unity for self aggrandizement. And sadly too that missed chance to stop the war and carry on with life claimed many lives including that of Hebert Chitepo who was instrumental in refusing to work with Joshua Nkomo.
Nkomo actually describes him in his autobiography as ‘that intelligent advocate who later became my adversary.’ If Tsvangirai continues with his arrogant attitude of saying that other opposition parties should join him, I will not be surprised if history repeats itself and makes him pay for letting a good chance pass. Makoni, Dabengwa, Mutambara and Tswangirai can do something about this with the backing of the people of Zimbabwe. They can enter into a temporary emergency landing agreement and part ways as soon as they land. We don’t want to prescribe a solution to them but we are crazy enough to think that a coalition that gives equal powers to Morgan Tswangirai and Dabengwa can work as a temporary measure.
A dual presidency is not a far fetched idea. Simba Makoni can play a critical role of putting the economy back on course while Mutambara negotiates better international relations in the capacity of Minister of foreign affairs. These parties can then work on the constitution and hold proper elections without ZANU (PF) say after two or three years. I am sure a lot of other possibilities can be explored. What is certain is that Zimbabwe needs a coalition.
I am a University of the Witwatersrand Master of Arts in Dramatic Art Graduate based in South Africa with interest in human rights.