Open letter to Brian Mangwende

Dear Brian – Allow me to congratulate you for a well deserved promotion as Editor of your very popular publication, Newsday. Those of us who have followed your regular thought provoking instalments were not surprised when you were rewarded for your hard work.

I would like to also congratulate you for launching a brand spanking new column, titled “From the Editor’s bottom drawer”. Well done Brian, and all the best. 

Brian, your first instalment titled "Politics only dirty game played by people in suits" made interesting reading. Your bottom drawer delivered the usual thought provoking and well researched analysis of politics in our beloved Zimbabwe. But this time, Brian, you let me down in a big way. I will explain the source of my disappointment later, but first, let me tell you, and your readers, that I belong to an organisation that respects different views and opinions, and would defend the right of even my fierce opponent to enjoy that right without let or hindrance. This ZAPU policy applies to individuals and organisations like the one you represent Brian. Our policy is informed by the fact that both our organisations have important roles in advancing democracy and development our country. My organisation fought a bitter war for you, and indeed me to enjoy the right to freely express ourselves. But my organisation does not; in any way believe that having fought to win that right gives us immunity from criticism, far from it. In fact, those that fought to liberate us and are deviating from the same values that inspired them to take up arms deserve the most criticism, and that applies to ZAPU as well. While we should complement each other’s efforts, we are well aware that our paths will inevitable cross very oftenly. We sincerely hope that it is only our paths that will cross and not our swords.

In that regard, ZAPU welcomes criticism from any quarters, especially and particularly from the media, for you can only make us a better institution. But we hope that you will accept the same when we return the favour. Brian, your article in question was way below the standards that you have set for yourself over the years. I hope it was nothing to do with the well deserved excitement of your promotion. You see, if I didn’t belong to a great institution called ZAPU, I would be tempted to think that your paper has an agenda against ZAPU. But my party is bigger than that, and will treat some of your excesses as the hazards of our profession. But recent editorials in your paper leave a lot to be desired. Let me refresh your mind Brian, your Southern Edition covered the late Thenjiwe Lesabe’s memorial service in Bulawayo’s Large City Hall which was attended by over 1000 mourners. The next day, your paper, of course with a different management which you don’t control, surprised everyone when its headline was about a ZANU-PF MP advocating for the legalisation of marijuana and nothing about the well attended funeral, attended even by top government officials, including the Prime Minister of the Republic. Of course, you guys have a right to choose what is newsy and what is not, as well as what deserves front page space and what doesn’t, but to say that mbanje was worth that space, we leave the judgement to your readers.

As if that was not enough, Conway Tutani, of Newsday, went to town accusing ZAPU of being a tribal project, based on a letter to you, Brian, from one Roy Magwaza Sithole who objected to the way Morgan Tsvangirai was "treated" at the funeral by ZAPU members. Conway Tutani reproduced that letter almost word for word the next day, as if to give currency to it and give a chance to those who missed the original letter. All this besides the fact that Roy, and by extension, Conway, fed their readers with total lies about what transpired in Bulawayo. To begin with, a funeral is an occasion where people are simply grieving the loss of their loved one, and are normally not interested in who is doing what. Those who were there watched in horror when the Mayor of Bulawayo stormed out of the Hall because he was not given a front row seat. Roy then accuses ZAPU of tribalism because some speakers did not acknowledge the presence of Tsvangirai, except Dabengwa. Was Tsvangirai in Bulawayo to mourn with us or to seek publicity the same way ZANU-PF uses funerals to seek political mileage? If the Mayor of Bulawayo, a Ndebele man, could be denied a front row seat and leave as a result of that, why would the same treatment on Tsvangirai suddenly amount to tribalism? You see, Brian, there is no way I can believe that you don’t understand the dynamics at play here. Roy Magwaza Sithole is either a Tsvangirai fan masquerading as a supporter, writing in a disguised pseudo name at Harvest House, or a journalist deeply imbedded at Newsday. It is even possible that Roy is actually Conway Tutani himself. This is a cheap Selous Scout tactic only comparable to the Dzakutsaku escapades. Notwithstanding all that, I sent you a letter thanking everyone, including the Prime Minister, for joining us in mourning our heroine, but you found it not worthy a space in your paper, a fate I don’t wish for this one.

But your recent attack on the leadership of ZAPU cannot go unchallenged. Brian, Thenjiwe Lesabe deserves to rest in peace. But no, you would have none of that; you choose to insult her conscience and legacy only a few days after her burial. Couldn’t you wait a few more weeks before performing a media autopsy on her political life? Thenjiwe was a very old woman when she died, Brian, who dedicated her entire life fighting for the liberation of you and me. And this is how we thank her?

That is only half the problem with your article. You hazarded your readers with the moral aptitude of Clement Muchachi and Edgar Tekere. While I agree with you on Muchachi (May his soul rest in peace) I am shocked at the accolades you give to Edgar Tekere. This man is the living example of the opposite of principled leadership, the antithesis if you like. Granted, he took a stand against corruption, most probably to advance his political ambitions, but barbarously led the slaughter of over 20,000 innocent Zimbabweans. It is Edgar Tekere and Enos Nkala who led the charge and became the face of the genocide in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces. In case you don’t know, Brian, it was Edgar Tekere who said "Nkomo and his supporters are like germs in a wound which must be cleaned with iodine. In the process, patient will have to scream a bit". And scream they did, and those lucky enough were buried alive. Tekere also "trophy hunted" an old white farmer and shot him at point blank range after independence. If in Gukurahundi he was the architect and willing accomplice, this time he was a cold blooded murderer who was convicted and only given a presidential pardon to escape the hangman’s noose. Today, Brian, you have the audacity to say "When the true story of Zimbabwe is finally written, Tekere’s name shall be among those who stood for principle and paid the price." Do you think the victims of Gukurahundi, their children and relatives, agree with you? It is such reckless talk that cause civil wars, Brian. Edgar Tekere and all those that participated in killing innocent people must be left to die and face their creator for the crimes they committed against humanity, without anyone using their bottom drawers to pamper murderers.

As if for good measure, you directed your arsenal at Dumiso Dabengwa, together with Thenjiwe Lesabe and Welshman Mabhena. Conveniently, all your subjects of ridicule that you accused of "peevish wining and dining associated with babies as they are weaned off the breast" are ex-ZAPU leaders from Matebeleland. Brian, this time you have indeed touched a very raw nerve. The same kind of nerve Ian Smith pressed when his forces bombed Nyadzonia and Mkushi with the help of deserters who today are claiming high moral ground. How dare anyone, especially an informed scribe like you, accuse Dabengwa of "frolicking and enjoying his days in the sun", when you and I know that he joined ZANU-PF to save lives, and did so reluctantly? You had the guts to even accuse Dabengwa of "losing his place in the sun" when we all know that Dabengwa is the only politician who turned down a cabinet position in 2000 when the Nkulumane electorate rejected him for associating with ZANU-PF. How many ministers do we have today who are enjoying those positions at the grace of Mugabe? Is that not an act of principled leadership Brian?

Do you still remember the ZANU-PF Goromonzi conference, Brian? This is where a number of senior ZANU-PF members agreed that Mugabe’s time was up, and they agreed to back an alternative candidate to his. Only Dumiso Dabengwa lived up to that position, publicly coming out in the open to back Simba Makoni. Again, is that not principled leadership? The problem is that you seem to suggest that a principled leader worth your sympathy is one that takes a big political risk, in the interest of the people, that leaves him poor and destitute, and eventually dies a pauper. Those that have taken painful decisions, in the interest of the people, and suffered as a result, but still managed to survive their ordeals with their dignity intact, are somehow referred to as traitors and therefore irrelevant in your radar. Really?

But who doesn’t know, Brian, that you were a presenter/DJ at ZBC before swapping the microphone for the mighty pen (and the bottom drawer)? We all know that, and are equally aware that you obediently churned ZANU-PF propaganda and jingles. Show us a public record where you demonstrated your dislike for what you were doing at ZBC. But who is blaming you for "wining and dining" with ZANU-PF? Absolutely no one. If it is right for you to serve ZANU-PF as a propaganda functionary and end up a celebrated Editor of Newsday, what is wrong with Dabengwa leaving ZANU-PF, which he joined under duress, and reviving the only party he believes in? After all, is Theresa Makone not the co-Home Affairs minister? Why are you not asking why she is not resigning when her supporters and ordinary people are harassed, arrested and even killed everyday under her watch? Morgan Tsvangirai is the Prime Minister when Douglas Mwonzora and others are being harassed every day. We don’t hear you asking them to resign the same way you are accusing Dabengwa of complicity in all ZANU-PF chicanery. The answer is simple, Brian, governance is more complex than playing records. Theresa Makone, Morgan Tsvangirai and Dumiso Dabengwa all have their eyes firmly on the big picture. They have to endure the daily humiliation in order to achieve the ultimate goal and yet you want to throw bunches of roses at others while favouring us with truckloads of bricks! Please be advised, Brian, that we reserve the right return the favour, and we are well stocked in that department.

ZAPU is not dependent on individuals like other parties. Joshua Nkomo came and Dumiso Dabengwa will follow suit, but ZAPU stood the test of time. ZAPU has an incorruptible set of value systems that will outlive all of us. If Dabengwa is complicit to the "feeding trough" label, as you suggested, don’t you think that some criminal charges would have been preferred on him already? To all those close to him, Dumiso Dabengwa is a hero and patriot whose love for Zimbabwe is beyond question. Dabengwa is a very quiet man, but his actions are loud enough for anyone with ears. That he is misunderstood is beyond doubt, just like people fail to appreciate his wise intervention in 2008. The POVO (People of various opinions) among us do not know that a clear victory for either ZANU-PF or MDC-T in the 2008 elections had equally devastating consequences for the country. There is no need to explain the dangers of a ZANU-PF victory, but mechanisms and resources were put on standby to block a peaceful transfer of power in the event of an MDC-T victory. Resources were even deployed to eliminate one or two people, which led to someone skipping the border to Botswana. All this was going to lead to a blood bath and loss of lives. Only Dabengwa saw this and came up with a plan. His Simba Makoni plan led to a negotiated settlement which gave birth to the GNU. It is through this GNU that sworn enemies have managed to work together. Above all, lives were saved, including the lives of those who are now finding comfort in criticizing Dabengwa today. Again, he has kept quiet because he is not one to beg for credit.

Dabengwa’s last mission is to position ZAPU to occupy its rightful place in the body politik of Zimbabwe. Those that are dismissing ZAPU, like you Brian, are giving us a lot of comfort because that is a sure sign of our effective rebranding of ZAPU. ZAPU and Dabengwa has become your prime target of derision and ridicule. All credit goes to Dabengwa, for quietly rebuilding this fiery institution. They don’t call him the Black Russian for nothing. General Peter Walls knew that, Kenneth Flower knew it, Jacob Zuma Knows it and Robert Mugabe knows it too. Only Brian Mangwende, Conway Tutani and Roy Magwaza Sithole don’t understand this. Lastly, we don’t want to believe the rumours doing the rounds that some media houses are not so independent after all, but heavily dependent on the generosity of individuals at 5th floor of Harvest House. We refuse to believe these rumours, because we know that you would not sink that low. But please do everyone a big favour by being objective the next time you open your bottom drawer and stop heralding the same values we have all grown to hate by one government controlled, above mentioned paper. If our advice is not good enough, then we will accept that you are trying very hard to fill the shoes of one Geoff Nyarota who played a star role as editor of the Chronicle during Gukurahundi.

Once again, congratulations and good luck.

Yours sincerely

Msongelwa Ndlovu

Director of Information, Publicity and Marketing (ZAPU Northern Region)