|Tsvangirai’s perennial puberty violates public trust|
|Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:00|
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's public denunciation of Lorcadia Tembo and the imputation that somehow she is a pawn used by state security agents to tarnish his image was a predictable follow-up to what appears to be a morality vacuum created by this story.
Most heartbreaking is that it is not a vacuum at all, but the unfortunate status quo due to the prime minister's leadership. The pain inflicted by cowardice, self-service and moral bankruptcy cannot be assuaged.
Yet Tsvangirai - through the MDC and the government machinery - preaches somewhat diligently about morality.
The paradox is that to speak of "moral leadership" in today's world is not interesting enough, especially in the Zimbabwean context, where people are concerned about which diamond deals we are advancing, which company has been awarded a radio license and which bank is on the brink of collapse. Yet the marriage between morality and leadership is an extricable one.
Sometimes we simply watch, while political parties and political offices become buckets of moral litter. They are used for various indiscretions and as centres of immoral indulgences and compulsive behaviours, making the issue of morality in leadership a palliative one.
Leaders, sometimes believe that the led are ignorant or incapable of seeing the truth - sweeping actions under the rug - like promiscuity and other forms of cheating, lying, stealing, and similar indiscretions. Hiding inappropriate behaviour benefits morally bankrupt scalawags who engage in immoral activities for a season. But bubbles burst, and the truth outs. Yet sometimes, it is true that those who are led sometimes become tolerant to the point of moral numbness and illiteracy - because the same immoral propaganda is repeated often enough.
This is the context within which prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai's unfortunate story - that has dominated the headlines for the last two weeks - is placed. Tsvangirai's story is as pathetic as it is disastrous. He starts by blaming state agents for the unfolding drama, yet apologises for having let the people of Zimbabwe down.
Tsvangirai has always pushed the moral agenda since he became leader of the MDC - a good twelve years ago. Besides preaching change, Tsvangirai has carved himself as a new type of leader, a "moral" leader - chiefly concerned with giving service to the community. His idea in a sense, has always been to present himself as a moral leader who serves the community most, rather than one who dominates the community most.
He has also presented himself as someone who is committed to seeking the truth of a situation, rather than working from pre-established or partisan positions. In May this year, at Sapes, while launching the Pan African Policy Dialogue Forum, he expressed the importance of a healthy nation, calling for a "change in culture of governance".
In April this year, he addressed an MDC-T women's conference, acknowledging that "it is women of this nation that bear the brunt of . . . suffering" and who are "the true heroes of our struggle" and who "have refused to be cowed". At that conference his speech ended: "I equally hope that . . . leadership . . . will be able to take the struggle forward and to ensure that women have an important role to play in shaping the country's future."
Contrasted with a letter he penned yesterday in response to his now "failed marriage", one would think that there were two different people looking at women's issues and women's rights.
The prime minister is now speaking from both sides of his mouth at the same time, trying to convince people that private immorality does not matter publicly and that what happened was some sexual peccadillo that can be summarily dismissed by a letter on his website. While his politics is seemingly concerned about gender mainstreaming, Tsvangirai's private life has somewhat been different with allegations of out-of-court settlements for impregnating young, vulnerable women, and a string of other women whom he allegedly abandoned after sleeping with them.
He seems to be crafting his life on what zoologist EO Wilson identified as, "moderately polygamous" behaviour (that men like more than one sex partner) and that, from a purely reproductive standpoint, "it pays males to be aggressive, hasty, fickle, and undiscriminating . . . (and) for females to be coy, to hold back until they can identify the males with the best genes . . . "
This notion that biology excuses villainy - including sexual harassment, betrayal, or lying through our leadership teeth - is ridiculous and insulting to both men and women.
The most recent issue of Lorcadia Tembo is a very disturbing one - and strikes right at the heart of the issue of morality and exemplary leadership, militating against the Prime Minister's very own public posturing.
The irony is that it comes on the backdrop of the World Aids Day - calling for political and business leaders to shun behaviours that fuel the spread of HIV, but spearhead programmes that give people the impetus to seek counselling and get tested and know their status.
The whole saga reveals some disturbing male chauvinistic tendencies and exposes the twin evils of patriarchy - chauvinism in men and submissiveness in women. The prime minister is at liberty to express his moralistic views, on different occasions, in various ways for political expediency, while Locardia is cowed and presented as a bait only there to destroy Tsvangirai's political ambitions.
The unconscionable manner in which Tsvangirai summarily tied up the Lorcadia issue with the idea of ‘fighting for democracy' in Zimbabwe was unsettling and diversionary. The manner in which he evoked emotions from the death of his late wife to justify his incomprehensible, inexcusable immoral behaviour and lack of moral judgement, points to an even more disturbing reality.
What comes first in his life is not the lives of the women involved, or the feelings of the families of the vulnerable young women or the communities they come from, but his testosterone levels and his ambitions for president.
The trouble is that testosterone is king. Some men are trained to worship its virile endowments - aggression, stamina, strength, bravado, clarity of mind and purpose - while excusing its pathological side effects of promiscuity, violence, hyper-competitiveness and female subjugation. When this contradiction is slapped in our face, we react in an irrational manner as did Tsvangirai - proving that physiology will never exempt us from guilt.
He wrote, while proclaiming his termination of the 14 day customary marriage, that "My original intention was to make this thing work." He views his marriage as a thing, not a solemn union. He further comments," . . . when you are searching for a partner especially after losing your wife, there are many stakeholders in the process some of whom have their own ulterior intentions". Tsvangirai views these young women as "stakeholders", not the powerful women that he talks about while at Sapes, or at an MDC-T women's conference.
For Tsvangirai, Lorcadia is just one individual on which he will use his "marriage yardstick" (or magic wand) - to judge her and make her forget about him in a whim - not a respectable woman who, as he said at the MDC women's conference, bears the brunt of suffering, the true hero of our struggle, who cannot be cowed by men. How the prime minister can use the marriage yardstick to distinguish these two characterisations of women defies all logic, and points to serious flaws in the individual we are about to bestow with the office of the president.
Tsvangirai writes: "Having been married for 31 years, the tendency is to want to use your experience as a yardstick for future relationships. Regrettably, the individuals, like the one in question, may not meet the same standards." Which ‘individual' is the prime minister referring to, and how many are they?
It is also disturbing that one partner in a relationship that had led to marriage (Tsvangirai) can declare that because of media reports and alleged "state security involvement" the "relationship has been irretrievably damaged to a point where marriage is now inconceivable". Such opportunism and escapism is mind-blogging and infantile, to say the least.
It is a tragedy when the prime minister of a country brings his indiscretions into the realm of the country's security apparatus. This is the apex of irresponsibility. By whipping up that line, he is diverting attention to the real issue here, of Locardia Tembo. Tsvangirai could have told this story in one line: "I married Lorcadia Tembo, please respect our marriage," but no, he decided to embellish it for reasons best known to himself.
Locardia has become the prime minister's "fall guy" and Tsvangirai imputes that she does not live up to the late Mrs Susan Tsvangirai. Why should she? In listing the people who have been affected by this fiasco, Tsvangirai writes, "I want to admit that the last two weeks have been particularly bad for me, my children, my family and even ordinary Zimbabweans who have sought to find meaning to this sordid saga."
Lorcadia is nowhere on this list of people who have been affected by this "sordid saga". And why is it a sordid saga? Is it not just a customary marriage? The prime minister should explain why it has become such a "dark patch" and dreary episode in his life overnight. He could have avoided the media frenzy by declaring his love for Lorcadia, and all will have ended well.
In fact, it is a sordid saga because of the prime minister's and his lieutenants' ignoble actions and motives. Statements by the likes of Luke Tamborinyoka create that sordidness and arouse moral distaste and contempt. The prime minister's spokesman declared, in response to The Herald newspaper's questions on the prime minister's marriage: "If you can believe that my brother, it is the same as believing that former South African President Nelson Mandela is now 12-years-old" only to admit a day later, " . . . he will inform the nation at the appropriate time". This is public diplomacy in tatters, and this one event might just irrevocably destroy his integrity.