"We do not owe Tsvangirai and his MDC any favour" – ZAPU

Our party, ZAPU has at all costs always avoided antagonising or interfering with the media, but the conduct and opinions of some of the editors and their columnists has compelled us to write in response to two articles in The Standard newspaper of September 21 to 27, 2010 issue

The articles were penned by the editor of the paper, Nevanji Madanhire under the From the Editor’s Desk column, while the other one was by one Sibusiso Dlodlo, who we were told is a “political commentator based in Bulawayo”. Madanhire’s opinion piece was headlined “Take seriously call for united front next year”, while Dlodlo’s was titled “ZAPU is a party of retrogressive reactionaries”. The two pieces occupied all of page 11, presumably to give weight to the “serious” issue of blackmailing ZAPU into supporting Morgan Tsvangirai in next year’s elections.
 
Dlodlo’s piece also made its way into the pages of the government-controlled Chronicle newspaper, which as a matter of policy always tries to exclude the name ZAPU from its pages, but cannot.

After reading the two articles, I was left convinced that they were written by one person, or by two people who think alike, and rehearsed their pieces to drive their “point” home. I doubt if there is a political commentator by the name Sibusiso Dlodlo anywhere in the world, let alone in Bulawayo. There is a growing tendency in Zimbabwe whereby one adopts a Ndebele name (and Sibusiso Dlodlo is very Ndebele) if they want to put across a negative comment about ZAPU (and also about Highlanders Football Club) to escape being dismissed by Ndebeles as being Shona and therefore biased “against us”. I believe the pen name “Sibusiso Dlodlo” was used to give an impression that the anti-ZAPU comment was written by “one of them”, and therefore ZAPU has no support even among Ndebeles.

It reminds me of fake “dissidents” during Gukurahundi. Initially, a lot of people would confide to the fake dissidents that they supported them, only for the dissidents to pass on their names to the army and they would be dead the following morning. In the end, the people ended up knowing the real and fake dissidents and what to say to each one of them. My senses tell me “Sibusiso Ddlodlo” is a “fake dissident”. I would be more than happy to meet this Sibusiso Dlodlo if ever he or she exists.

The essence of the two Standard articles was that ZAPU must agree to support Tsvangirai so as to ensure that he defeats President Mugabe straight away in next year’s elections. The argument is that “small parties” would divide the vote and prevent Tsvangirai from winning. The articles become self-contradictory because they say the so-called small parties are not serious at all, while at the same time admitting that their preferred candidate, Tsvangirai, can only do it with the support of the small parties.

By the way, ZAPU was never a small party, and will never be. ZAPU is the founder and authentic liberation movement of Zimbabwe, a party which contested and won seats in the 1980 and 1985 elections, and kept its supporters together even during genocide, until Mugabe realized he could not crush it and called for unity. If ZAPU could be effective in a two-party system, how about now in a three-party system, if we were to discount the other MDC, as per Madanhire and Dlodlo’s wishes? ZAPU can only be more effective now than in 1980, because ZANU no longer has monopoly of support where it used to have it.
Madanhire and Dlodlo need to know that ZAPU is ZAPU, and does not owe any party or any politician, including Tsvangirai and his MDC, any favour. We have our own objectives, mission, policies and mandate from our own supporters to fulfill, and are not prepared to give way to Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Mutambara or Simba Makoni and their parties. As for Tsvangirai, he is just a little Robert Mugabe as far as we are concerned. Like Mugabe and others split from ZAPU in 1963, Tsvangirai and others split from the original MDC in 2005. In both instances, seemingly logical explanations were given for the split, but it was obvious the splits were tribally motivated.
 
The ZANU gang did not want to be lead by “zimuNdewere” (Joshua Nkomo), while the MDC-T gang could not imagine the prospect of Ndebeles (Welshman Ncube and the late Gibson Sibanda) takeover if Tsvangirai was convicted of the treason charges he was facing. As for the MDC split, those who differ with me should kindly ask the leadership of the two MDCs to furnish them with a copy of the report on the reasons for the split. The report was produced by an internal panel, and therefore has to be believed. Until and unless Tsvangirai can convince us that he is indeed a true nationalist and is not possessed by Mugabe’s demon of hegemony, then we can start taking his calls for unity seriously. Tsvangirai failed to unite with fellow MDC cadres and we do not expect him to be able to unite with ZAPU, or any other political formation for that matter. He suffers from the winner-take-all-mentality. He wants to replace Mugabe and continue with Mugabe’s tendencies. That is not the change we want.
 
The two gentlemen’s (or Sibusiso Dlodlo is a she) tribal agenda is exposed when they single out MDC’s Welshman Ncube together with our president and icon, Dr Dumiso Dabengwa for lampooning for daring declare that they want to run for the presidency in the next election. The tone of their articles is that Dabengwa and Ncube, and indeed any other person who is Ndebele, “does not stand a chance in heaven” of winning, and must therefore choose which candidate from Mashonaland their parties must support. Madanhire and Dlodlo go further to dictate that they must choose Tsvangirai.

Madanhire correctly says that Dr Dabengwa has not won a constituency election since 2000, but omits to add that Tsvangirai also lost a constituency to the late Kenneth Manyonda in his rural home in Buhera in 2 000. In the case of Dabengwa, he lost simply because he stood for the wrong party (ZANU-PF) in Nkulumane Constituency. As he aptly put after his loss, even a donkey standing on an MDC ticket against ZANU-PF would have won. Dabengwa’s statement dramatized the amount of hatred of ZANU-PF in Matabeleland. Madanhire also omits mentioning that Tsvangirai lost in the 2002 presidential to President Mugabe. Madanhire declares that Tsvangirai won the last presidential election. Why is he not president then? What guarantee do we have that if he wins the next one, as Madanhirie wishes, Tsvangirai would be able to assume power? What sort of politician wins elections and fails to assume power? If ZAPU won elections and Dr Dabengwa failed to assume power our party would look for a candidate who would assume power after winning elections in future. We need an indoda sibili to do it, and Tsvangirai is not an indoda sibili.

Madanhire also refers to imaginary squabbles “threatening to tear ZAPU apart”. May be he is referring to the tired fiction in the Financial Gazette about “problems” in ZAPU. None of the stories have ever been attributed to any member of ZAPU, dead or alive. It is sad when editors reduce themselves to political commissars of parties to this level. While it is not debatable that state news media is rabidly pro-ZANU-PF, some sections of the privately-owned press continue to behave no better either by persistently being MDC-Tsvangirai zealots, even when it is no longer fashionable to do so.

The media must help us to transcend beyond the Mugabe-versus-Tsvangirai era, to the next stage, which is multiparty democracy. We have been independent for 30 years and have learnt from experience what happens when you have one strong, unchallenged, political party. We do not want to make the same mistake with Tsvangirai and his MDC. Whether Madanhire, Dlodlo and other writers caught up in the Mugabe-versus-Tsvangirai warp like it or not, the time for multiparty politics is upon us, thanks to ZANU-PF and MDC-T’s hegemonic tendencies that made us wake up and smell the coffee.

Tsvangirai, Madanhire and Dlodldo-the-fake-dissident can continue to imagine that ZAPU is a small party at their own peril. Madanhire strangely acknowledges that Tsvangirai failed to garner the requisite 50 percent-plus-one-vote in March 2008 because Makoni and his MKD had taken away 8 percent of the vote. They must brace themselves for a worse scenario in the next election because ZAPU will certainly do better than Makoni and MKD, meaning both Mugabe and Tsvangirai would be very far from the 50 percent-plus-one-vote next time around. If it so happens, as Madanhire imagines, that the ZAPU candidate is not part of the top two, and therefore not part of the run-off, whoever between the top two candidates is serious about becoming the next president of Zimbabwe will have to give ZAPU a fair deal in exchange for our support. It is Tsvangirai, and not ZAPU, who needs to be serious about his proposed united front in next year’s elections.

Madanhire and Dlodlo must also know that Makoni beat Tsvangirai in most constituencies in Matabeleland and should brace themselves for a thorough drubbing of the MDC-T in ZAPU’s traditional strongholds. The people of Matabeleland spoke very loudly in 2008 that they are not fascinated by either Mugabe and Tsvangirai by voting for Makoni, even when he had no party or parliamentary candidates.

To my “tribesman” Dlodlo, ZAPU is not an old people’s party. I am 36 years-old myself. Our party has a growing youth league, which we call the ZAPU Youth Front, whose congress is scheduled for the next few months. Dr Dabengwa and Mama Thenjiwe Lesabe, whom you seem to hold with contempt, are our liberators and icons who bring wisdom and experience into the game, which is in short supply in Tsvangirai and his MDC. If Dabengwa and Lesabe were old and spent forces as you allege, then why are you so worried about them and ZAPU? Your language suggests you are a keen follower of the ZANU-PF doctrine, using words like “retrogressive reactionaries, tribalist”, among other negative terminologies.

ZAPU would like to alley “Dlodlo”’s fears that our party is composed of angry and vengeful people. Those of us affected by Gukurahundi, including Dr Dabengwa, have forgiven and all we ask for is truth and proper reconciliation to close the sad chapter. If for sure Dlodlo was a real Dlodlo, he would know better himself and not begrudge anyone for being hurt about what happened during Gukurahundi. If the perpetrators have not apologized why should the victims forgive them?

Finally, ZAPU wishes to make it clear to editors and columnists who abuse their privileges not only to support their preferred political formations and candidates, but to attack our dear party in the manner Madanhire and Dlodlo conspired to do, that we will now answer fire with fire, and blood with blood. Be warned comrades.

In the meantime, ZAPU is organizing to hit the campaign trail soon, starting with Bulawayo, and we are happy to announce that several incumbent councillors from MDC-Tsvangirai in the city tell us that their hearts are “written ZAPU” and they will say “I do” when the right time comes. As for rural districts in Matabeleland, it is game over.

Methuseli Moyo is the Director of Communication and Marketing for ZAPU. He writes from Nkayi North.