Why is the Prime Minister sounding irritable these days, hardly a fortnight into his latest engagement? One would have thought with a coolant right in the home, our foremost minister would approach life sedately, approach it with coolness, calmness. Not this week. He used the World Press Freedom Day to detonate fresh farts of anger and frustration, wholly aiming it at Webster Shamu, the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity. He did much more. He doled out threats, empty threats against a minister towards whose appointment he has zero say. He admitted to as much, in the process revealing his own effeteness in the inclusive Government. He did much worse. He divided the inclusive Government, thereby abjuring the little symbolic authority he could have invoked for some modicum of control, for some modicum of empathy.
No worse insult
“I cannot fire a Zanu-PF minister, but if Shamu was an MDC minister, I would have fired him . . . I am saying to President Mugabe, Shamu should be fired.” Well, Shamu will not be fired, certainly not at the bidding of Tsvangirai. Shamu cannot be an “MDC minister” either, whatever that means. With the history Minister Shamu has, the rich history of struggle, measured against the sparse history of our man from Buhera, measured against the quisling politics of his party, it is a bit of an insult to wish such a ghastly prospect for Shamu. A bit of cruelty to wish Shamu, a war veteran, to answer to a man with such a dour of a history that our Prime Minister has. Indeed a history pockmarked by so many questions.
Tsvangirai spoke about “MDC minister” and I wondered what that meant. I still wonder, to this hour, what that phrase means. Was the man abrogating the inclusive Government, in the process implying the imminence of elections? That would be good, very good, as it would suggest he is now at one with his boss, the President. Until now, Tsvangirai appeared to have been in denial, busy blowing insipid life into a thoroughly moribund political structure we call the inclusive Government. It is utterly dysfunctional, has been for quite a long while, too long a while for the goodness of this country.
If there are “MDC ministers”, that means there is no inclusive Government. That also means there is no Prime Minister. Only a president of some made-in-Britain quisling party called the MDC. By that nomenclature, that appellation, Minister Shamu has been discharged from any obligations, including ever responding to Tsvangirai in any of his pretences as the Prime Minister of this country.
I hope this is not an unintended consequence of Tsvangirai’s reading of bald speeches he least grasps, least understands before delivering them. If it is, too bad for him. As the Nigerians say, it is the first word that gets to Chukwu!
Ignorance with a loud mouth
But his diatribe had amusing moments. “There is no law in Zimbabwe,” opined our Prime Minister, “that obliges public officials to supply relevant information when requested to do so by the media or to respond to questions put to them. It is necessary to come up with a national information policy that deals with these issues.”
A man who has been prime minister of this country for three solid years, a man who has pontificated about Aippa from sunrise to sunset, from beginning of year to its end, such a man who promises us a new beginning, a new day, but who does not know that the country has such a law in place already, has had such a law since 2000? And that clauses covering his concerns are in fact hard behind the sleeves of Aippa? And that it is that portion of Aippa which his party wants re-christianed Freedom of Information Act? Does this man read? Do his speechwriters read? How does such ignorance supervise Government?
So many clues
Could that provide a clue to why the man does not know that the Standing Rules and Orders Committee, SROC for short, of which he is a part, actually participated in the setting up of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board which he claims Minister Shamu is refusing to reconstitute? Could that explain why he wants the ZBC board reconstituted outside parameters set in the law, parameters founded on political ambitions, never on the wishes of the Zimbabwean people. Where in the laws of this country is it a requirement that Shamu shall dissolve the ZBC board all to staff it in a manner that represents and pleases Zanu-PF and the MDC formations?
Which law is he deriving his so-called instructions from? Or he wants the ministry to run like Harvest House? And if elections have to wait for the constitution to finish, why can’t the so-called FOIA which as subsidiary law must get its cue from the same constitution which triggers elections? Why can’t this man be coherent? For once? Or limit himself to things that do not require thinking? And what is the symbolism of his addressing an occasion convened by a chapter of a Namibia-based
NGO funded by a Hungarian-turned-American capitalist? And doing so in some township called Kuwadzana which is under an MDC MP who happens to be “an MDC minister” and Shamu’s opposite number in party affairs?
Wasn’t the governmental ZMC sponsoring a national event towards the same end? Why wouldn’t the Prime Minister come to a national platform to talk about goings-on in Government? Does not the Prime Minister have on his desk a copy of a request for money needed to fund the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust, a copy of a letter sent to another “MDC minister” called Tendai Biti?
He wants Shamu to fund ZMMT from his wallet? Or wants him to launch another institution which will wither on the vine? Is this a strategy of attacking Zimpapers which, as a subsidiary, will bear the burden of funding its own “mother”. Give Zimpapers needless cost centres so you weigh it down for its competition to take full advantage of? Let someone tell the man he is stealing on a quarry that has seen, that is wide awake.
The issue though is not only to raise all these questions, important though they may be. The issue is to explain Tsvangirai’s unhinged conduct, to explain the pressures around him which are making him so irritable, so irrational, so irascible in the season of supposedly tempering love passion. It is in exploring such dimensions to his personality than one begins to wade into the larger politics of the country.
Towards the end of last month, Tsvangirai used Lovemore Madhuku to manage the compound tension between him and his colleagues in the MDC, between him and his party’s makers or donors from the West, indeed between him and his affiliates, principally the ZCTU. He is a man under tremendous pressure, a man unsure of his political future. And since all of the above factors are unanimously anti-Zanu-PF, he seeks rallying them behind him through a lifting altercation with Zanu-PF, their collective hate pet. We are sure to see more such provocations in the intervening weeks and months. But let me, dear reader, situate the whole matter for you.
Banking on metaphysics
Out of desperation, the MDC strategy for elections is principally partly providential, partly resting on Zanu-PF’s own foibles and blunders. The party is in daily prayer, literally, praying for a bad omen. It hopes the hand of God or the arm of the clock may remove or rest the Zanu-PF presidential candidate for it. Its daily prayer is that the President gets smote by the hand of God. Hence this hysteria in the MDC-linked media. Hence this resort to phony bishops from afar in the hope of dire prophecies.
In that regard, the party functions in the realm of, and is banking on metaphysics, on the divine or the occult. Coupled by hopes in the hand of time. The party’s hope is that time and illness incapacitates the President, which is why it has been playing a delaying game. Keep stretching the constitutional process until 2013; keep wailing inconclusively about outstanding issues until 2013. Let time bring its own infirmities into the whole electoral equation so the way is cleared for Tsvangirai.
That is the MDC hope, a hope so worrisome to Americans who see this as evidence of the absence of a winning strategy.
But the President recently whispered something into the ears of the Prime Minister who now knows the game may not be delayed much longer. Soon we are going for elections and there is little the Prime Minister can and will do. And he knows it. Indeed he is acknowledging this through his increasingly partisan pronouncements, his jittery conduct, his mounting irritability such as we saw at World Press Freedom Day.
Impolitic professorial disclosures
But all this is inter-party pressure. What is wearing down the Prime Minister is what is happening around him, within his own party, between him and his sponsors who have other ideas for his future and that of the MDC party. He is desperately trying to manage that most fluid situation, and part of that management was subcontracted to Professor Madhuku.
Madhuku was spot on in his disclosure last week, disclosure which was only news to those who are not in the know. What I had not budgeted for was the level and degree of candor in the professor’s disclosure. He went impolitic, went too far in his disclosures. For that you cannot help but admire him. Crises are diffused by extraordinary disclosures, or so he thinks: “There is a mentality throughout Western embassies that MDC-T must be led by an academic . . . They have confided in and consulted me on the best candidate to lead the party instead of Prime Minister Tsvangirai . . . We know that they are sponsoring a lot of programmes at Harvest House in a bid to have an academic lead the party.”
Succession is foreign issue
What Madhuku does not know is that these Westerners have consulted wider than him alone. They have been flying the kite and many saw it as it lamely sought to take off, lamely sought to defy the gravity of Zimbabwe’s peculiarly heavy and damp politics.
Madhuku only needs to remember that before Western eyes, we are all in the same basket of buffoons, political infants who can be played one against the rest. And it is not fortuitous that the succession game is playing out in all political parties in the country. Succession is not a Zimbabwean issue. Rather, it is an issue raised on behalf of Zimbabweans by outsiders who seek to patch up their political experimental constructs which have failed to oust Mugabe for a decade and two. Mugabe must make way, they demand.
But Morgan Tsvangirai does not measure up, they opine. Their latest bid, again desperate, is for cross-party alliances, which is why they need to create a pool of unwanted or rejected politicians across parties, so they build raw material for new, amalgamated politics.
Madhuku must know that, surely? He used to be in the same game, which is why he believed NCA had embedded its membership in opposition parties, principally the MDC-T, for the duration of its time-honored stay in the quasi-civic chrysalis. It is this project which has foundered, forcing him to cast his lot with MDC-T, on whose ticket he must now run. But succession politics do not belong to the native. Was it Fanon who said the mind of the oppressed native is not his own; rather it is an artifact of the oppressor?
Saving Tsvangirai to save himself
What Madhuku did not disclose is that apart from the fact of his own bankruptcy as the NCA, he is having to jump into the political fray now or never. His prospects as a quasi-political outfit are as good as extinct. And he has no financial wherewithal for the NCA, or for anything else outside of established political parties which are also struggling for foreign patronage. But his entry into formal politics is fraught, very fraught. He is jumping in to save Tsvangirai in order to save himself. That is as complex as the matter is.
He has made it known that he is not ready to pit himself against Robert Mugabe, never will be. To do so, he says, is to pit oneself against history and its icon. It is to swim against the tide. Mugabe is a founder president and only fools run against beginnings of a people, against symbols of nationhood. His real wish is that Mugabe’s reign comes to a speedy end, so his own time may come soon enough. To that end, he wants an instrument which is not himself, with which to set aside one Robert Mugabe, possibly with zero collateral damage on himself. “It will be difficult for us to have support to take Mugabe out of power, Tsvangirai still has that. There are also ambitious people in MDC-T. There is a mentality in politics that to replace Mugabe is how polished you are and how well you can argue and anyone who talks well, but it’s the popular factor that counts. That’s what I want the Western colleagues to know.”
A win for whichever outcome
Cleverly, Madhuku is vouching for Tsvangirai’s candidacy for two reasons. He is blocking the ascendancy of a more youthful leader from within the MDC, a more youthful leader who may be a lawyer like himself, but who unlike him, may have the extra edge of a relatively more solid political grounding than his own, a grounding built while he himself was busy masturbating in the NCA.
And he took too long in self-excitement, not knowing when to stop. Today he walks away with the taint of running an organ of the MDC aground, running it dead. That smacks of failure, the more so given that NCA was a part hatchery for the MDC. But the rise of a youthful leader now to displace Tsvangirai would prejudice
Madhuku’s own chances, his generational chances. After all, African politics are notorious for granting extended longevity to incumbents who could easily run for the life of a generation.
Secondly, he is motivating Tsvangirai to be that instrument for facing Mugabe, with whatever outcome. A Tsvangirai who wins the elections will then mentor him for eventual successions, or battles towards it. He is courting goodwill in case of a happy outcome, which is why he is fighting in the corner of the Prime Minister against the Prime Minister’s internal enemies, real or imagined. A Tsvangirai who loses — as is most likely — will have denied Madhuku’s peers a headstart all the same. That, too, is good enough.
Disembodying the politician
What all aspirants in MDC are clear about is that a Tsvangirai who is badly mauled by Robert Mugabe in the next poll will inevitably bow out of the leadership of the MDC. Forever. And Tsvangirai himself seems to believe it too, if his recent prayer in Masvingo is anything to go by. Time, he said, was running out for him, he said, asking pastors to pray hard for him to become the country’s next president, lest he misses it for life.
Equally, Biti’s recent comments are very instructive: “In Morgan Tsvangirai we have a leader who is essentially the face of the struggle, the face of change in Zimbabwe. He is clearly the undisputed — un-disputable leader (sic) of the change struggle in Zimbabwe.”
I do not need to tell you, gentle reader, that both youthful leaders are echoing each other; that both are reading from the same script, indeed that both seek to pamper the villager towards his total defeat hoping to pick up the pieces, hoping for rich openings for their futures. And you notice both are touting Tsvangirai the person, neither speaking of Tsvangirai the electable programme. By extolling Tsvangirai the person, Madhuku is killing Tsvangirai the politician with possible constitutional agenda which Madhuku thinks shall raise his own presidential prospects.
The wily Biti is more far-flung, something which the local media missed completely from his address in America. Or could be the local media never got a transcript of all he said. Biti pitched and situated himself within clear policy initiatives. He was expansive in his address, continental in fact. That he failed to speak for the continent, or to interpret the continent’s history whose dates he repeatedly messed up, is another matter. But his efforts were clear, as also were his cross-references, his multi-disciplinary thrust, however poor it was. He was angling for statesmanship, courting accolades for it. He wanted to sound knowledgeable, clever, witty and neo-liberal. If he failed, it was not for lack of trying.
Unveiling own prospects
More significantly, while appearing to extoll Morgan the person, he moulded himself into a damning foil for the man whose leadership he professed to kowtow. It was so cleverly done that few read it. The Morgan he moulded in that presentation was a mere face, mere charisma, but whose intellectual powerhouse resided outside of his body. A disembodied politician bereft of programmes which he himself held galore. And he wasted no time in unveiling them: Vision 2040, ICTs, ECTs and more spectacularly JUIP, which he said stands for jobs, upliftment and investment for you, itself a countermand to Indigenisation working within the neo-liberal framework so lovely to American ears. Now, that is the first time DUPE, sorry JUIP, was being unveiled. And in America, not here. And by MDC’s secretary general, not by its president and presidential candidate. It is called stealing the thunder!
Never mind its baldness. That is not the issue. The issue is that Biti draped his own worth in programmes, something he wouldn’t grant Morgan. In his acknowledgment of the high and might of the event, he showed his wide tentacles in American politics and personages, making it clear he had a solid foothold that needed no face, that needed no president. All this he did before a critical, funding audience, the establishment’s proxy audience meant to probe leadership possibilities in Zimbabwean politics.
You get the sense of a party president who is being set up for failure, but who is also unsure of who will stand by him in a difficult future. He can only be irritable, against such uncertainties.
Running against illness
It is quite true the Western world is sponsoring many projects against Tsvangirai. This started a long time ago, peaking at the party’s Bulawayo Congress where Tsvangirai should have been disemboweled politically. All these investments have been fast-forwarded and there is a lot that menaces Morgan from within. A lot too, that menaces him from without.
The preferred young Turks will continue to weigh their chances for an instant jump, or for temporising. Of course one of them has receding health, itself an actuating factor which could drive him precipitously. But he, too, can do things while waiting. Measured by the scale of health, most of MDC’s candidates, current and aspiring, are in fact more mortal than President Mugabe. Most are ill, terminally ill. But that is a matter for a bolder day!
The genii of new rules for primaries
Without, the Prime Minister has to worry about a torrent which Zanu-PF has unleashed, the torrent of new rules for party primaries. The percipient in the MDC were quick to notice this when Zanu-PF tried out these new rules in Mashonaland West. Iconoclastic, these new rules are set to reverberate across parties, in the process rattling existing structures.
It is already happening in Zanu-PF which had already budgeted for such upsets as a formulae for its own renewal. It can only be worse for those who are force-marched towards these new rules by circumstances.
Already rattled by factionalism, these new rules can only wreak havoc in the Prime Minister’s party whose sitting MPs were already up in arms over constituency development fund investigations. Was this the Prime Minister’s way of eliminating unwanted MPs, using an outgoing minister-MP from his own home area?
MDC is too fragile, is not tensile enough for the strains and stresses which come with the new rules. The current media excitement over Zanu-PF primaries is set to hit MDC with fourfold ferocity. That raises deep anxieties in the party’s helmsman.
The dim prospects of a deadening era
I will not talk much about MDC’s failure to evolve a matching or countermanding Programme to Indigenisation. Nor talk about how unhelpful it is to deploy Eddie Cross to respond to Indigenisation. I will not talk about ZCTU, MDCs civic face and how distraught it is presently. The Prime Minister is quite aware and appears to have accentuated ZCTU’s divisive potential by preferring one faction to another. Clearly, labour will not be a helpful plank for his party, something that frustrated him at the Misa event.
And since he has sounded a requiem to the inclusive Government through his attack on Zanu-PF ministers, even his hold in Government will grow more and more tenuous. His threats of a Rwanda-like legal pogrom is childish and deters no one.
Few if any in Zanu-PF relish the prospects of serving under him. Real professionals cannot brook the deadening contrast of serving under a dead-man-come-to-life by way of literacy, after such a cerebral era such as they have enjoyed under Mugabe. His would be a tepid era, and few with real gray matter upstairs envy it, look forward to it.
And he has a lot more to answer by way of betraying people’s wishes than any politician can ever garner in a long political career. Besides, he is making the mistake of visualising himself as Zimbabwe’s Kagame. He is not. He cannot be. For he is only a poor Morgan, the flotsam and jetsam of Zimbabwe’s treacherous politics. Icho!