Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
There have been mixed reactions to an opinion piece written by opposition MDC-T official, Eddie Cross. On his blog, dated October 7, Cross writes a rather mournful article decrying Fate and how “life (is) unfair”. According to him, life is unfair on people, including politicians. Within this treatise, Cross reveals the grave state of health that party leader Morgan Tsvangirai is in.
Tsvangirai revealed last year that he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and the condition appears to be taking a toll on him, whittling and paring down what little chances he had to become State president. Zimbabwe goes for polls next year. In the wake of the wide-circulating article, Cross, on one hand, has been accused of being disrespectful, insensitive and racist for painting a rather fatalistic picture of the ailing Tsvangirai. His suggestion that Tsvangirai may now need to leave office since he won’t be able to handle campaigning for next year’s elections, or serve thereafter, has led to feelings of anger and denial among party faithful.
On the other hand, some people in and sympathetic of the opposition have welcomed Cross’ sentiments and the idea of succession itself as they point not only to Tsvangirai’s depreciating health but also political value. He has led the party for the past 18 years. The opposition frontman was “airlifted” to South Africa a fortnight ago (a term that his spokesperson does not like) and has since taken an indefinite compassionate leave following his discharge from hospital.
However, each day that Tsvangirai spends away from his workstation and for that matter away from the public; and each day that brings us closer to next year’s election, the hotter the succession issue will become in his party. There are enough indications that a big war is brewing among rivals in the party. Very soon these undercurrents of competition and even hatred will shoot to the surface and succession will not be avoided. Forgive the pun, MDC-T is at a crossroads!
But let us analyse Cross’ offending piece a bit, for the sake of perspective. Cross begins with his personal life and tells us bits about his business growing up. It is neither a tidy nor comprehensive account, though. But these few lines of random thoughts appear to tell us that he is not a satisfied old man, for all his upbringing and once promising industry.
“Somehow life always manages to disappoint,” he says.
He goes on to reveal the hype at the turn of the century when MDC was formed and says “it was in great hope that we would sweep the board and take power in a matter of a few years”.
“The man who made it all possible was the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Morgan Tsvangirai. Dynamic and charismatic he caught the imagination of the people of this country in a way that we had not seen since the era of Joshua Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole. As we followed him into battle, he earned our respect and loyalty.”
Tsvangirai has gone on to record modest successes as party leader, although the big prize has eluded him in the elections intervening. Cross believes the opposition has been cheated out of, and denied, victory by the ruling Zanu-PF. Then the worst appears to have come. Says Cross: “Now, just as we expect a wave of support for our 2018 Chakachia (sic) programme, he is suffering from an aggressive form of colon cancer.
“He has been struggling with his treatment and the family is concerned that he might not handle the election and subsequently the responsibility of being President of a country in a deep crisis.
“After a life time of principled struggle, to have it all threatened by a disease in your body. Life can be a bastard at times.” A fair reading of this would tell us that Cross is actually very saddened at the state of affairs. He seems to view Tsvangirai as a victim of man’s (alleged) trickery and a malevolent Fate. Cross is actually frustrated and not mocking Tsvangirai over his condition, as some petty politicians across the floor would do. There is no need to be cross with him, which the likes of Douglas Mwonzora appear to be. We need to illustrate further. Cross had faith in Tsvangirai and a unified MDC, accessing power. However, the party has progressively weakened and is now facing fragmentation, including along ethnic lines. He wrote a piece to that effect a couple of weeks ago and he faced backlash, which again missed the whole component of his frustration and sorrow.
He demonstrated that “tribal roots have taken on a new dimension” (Are our Tribal Roots still relevant? September 24, 2017). He explains that when the MDC came up, it “was deliberately and consciously non-racial and non-tribal” and since then it has “refused to be aligned with any tribal or ethnic groups”.
“It has not been an easy road to walk, Ndebele interests always wanted special recognition and representation . . . Now suddenly the spectre of Ndebele Nationalism is raising its head again . . . Ndebele leaders in both Tendai Biti’s party and the MDC-T are demanding special treatment and threatening to coalesce around a new separatist Ndebele/Kalanga leadership.” This was in reference to the fissures that have been witnessed in the opposition, where MDC-T deputy president Thokozani Khupe has been leading what is seen as a regional clique resisting a coalition that will weaken their power. Secretary-general at People’s Democratic Party, Gorden Moyo, recently also attempted a pustch against party leader Tendai Biti.
“This is very dangerous and retrogressive and I hope the MDC Alliance will reject this initiative and maintain its historical stance; devolved power and control within a unitary State is the only way forward. Anything else can only take us backward,” wrote Cross. Predictably, he came under fire from some quarters, which accused him of fanning regionalism and behaving paternalistically, more like divisive and racist colonial whites. But Cross is seeing something that troubles him greatly: a failed party that will eventually — and sooner or later — break up and betray all the emotion, effort and money poured into the project.
It is like the proverbial message on the wall. Tsvangirai’s demise, which Cross fears, will be the beginning of the end. Those that are angry at Cross are doing so because they are in denial. They are also delusional. More substantively, some are resisting talk of succession because they are fearing that some people that they do not like will end up taking up Tsvangirai’s place.