Opposition and the blame syndrome

Tendai Biti

Tendai Biti

The Arena With Hildegarde

If Prophet Makandiwa, the ZRP and Zanu-PF are responsible for the cancellation of the holding of the congress, can we also conclude that the Renewal Team wanted to undermine or sabotage the 105th edition of the prime agricultural event, one of the most important on the national calendar?

THE genesis of the blame game is well-illustrated after the fall of man in the biblical story in Genesis 3:11-13. Since then, many have used it as a scapegoat for their refusal to take responsibility for their actions, opting instead to needlessly blame other people.

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, God wanted to know why, and the following discourse has since become part of our human nature: “He (God) said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”

The MDC-Renewal Team, which will soon be renamed the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has been crying foul, saying that ‘they was robbed’.

We hope that after the change of name, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan will not turn on the Tendai Biti-led outfit and accuse it of robbing them of their name since Jonathan’s party, which was the party on whose ticket Nigeria’s first civilian head of state, General Obasanjo, contested in May 1999. What irony that five months after Nigeria returned to civilian rule, the Movement for Democratic Change was formed in Zimbabwe, with Biti, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo etc as part of it.

The caveat: why has the MDC-Renewal Team decided to call itself PDP, considering the role that Gen Obasanjo played in Zimbabwe’s body politic in the early years of the MDC’s formation? Obasanjo must be smiling at this seeming coincidence.

Prophet Makandiwa

Prophet Makandiwa

However, Biti and company claim that they were forced to reschedule the holding of their inaugural congress meant for August 21 to 23 because the responsible authorities allegedly said that the venue — the City Sports Centre — was already booked by the United Family International Church led by Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa.

Going by the news reports, it was as if this was the first time that UFIC was holding its services at the City Sports Centre when it is common knowledge that every week they have three services where more than 15 000 congregates attend.

The August 20 headline on the online news website, newzimbabwe.com was quite alarmist: “Makandiwa embroiled in Renewal congress cancellation.”

First time readers would not have been blamed for thinking that Prophet Makandiwa was now into party politics and/or that he is a member of the MDC-Renewal Team.

Reading the first few paragraphs in the newzimbabwe.com report, you realise that we were back to the Adamic malady of apportioning blame in order to attract attention and the eyes and ears of the donor community.

As is the norm, if they could not initially blame President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, then it was quite convenient to blame Prophet Makandiwa and his church, since they use the Sports Centre.

Reads the report: “Popular televangelist and United Family International church founder Emmanuel Makandiwa has been sucked into a row between authorities and opposition political outfit, MDC-Renewal. The MDC-Renewal Team, fronted by former Finance Minister Tendai Biti, is locked in a bitter wrangle with the police over the holding of its inaugural congress. The opposition party, which was formed after an acrimonious split in the MDC-T, had notified police that it would like to hold its indaba between the 21st and 23rd of August at Harare’s City Sports Centre. The notice, as confirmed by a letter from police, was made as early as the third of August. However, police waited until this week to advise Biti and his colleagues of the ‘unavailability of the venue’. . . ”

Even if you would want to give the Renewal Team the benefit of doubt, you start wondering why police clearance for the venue for the three-day maiden congress, which they claim was supposed to be attended by about 7 000 delegates, should have been booked on August 3. This means that the time frame given was less than 20 days.

The privately-owned NewsDay also carried a follow-up story on August 21, but this time it was the Zimbabwe Republic Police being hammered: “Police bar MDC-Renewal Team’s inaugural congress.” The report said that police had allegedly “barred” the congress because the venue had already been booked by Prophet Makandiwa’s UFIC.

It says that according to a statement by Officer Commanding Harare Central, Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, they “did not approve the event due to the fact that another event by United Family International was already booked at the same venue (City Sports Centre) and same dates.”

According to another claim by the Renewal Team, the ZRP was acting on orders from the ruling Zanu-PF party, because the ruling party is running scared of the MDC/MDC-T splinter party: “It is clear that Zanu-PF sees the institutionalisation of our party and its existence thereof, as a major threat.”

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride! The confusion in the village-level politics is made more confusing when the party demonstrates that it probably has several centres of power.

Newzimbabwe.com talks of a senior party official “who requested anonymity” claiming that the action to bar Renewal from holding its inaugural congress “could have been a plot by authorities to scupper their congress. ‘The whole thing smacks of a sinister agenda because we notified the police on August 3rd and, at that time, Makandiwa had not booked. It is farcical that the police have waited until the last day to tell us; they know we would not have enough time to challenge such an obnoxious decision in court. We checked with Harare City Council, but suddenly they claim he booked before us. We smell a rat but that will not dissuade us. We are ready to wait for our chance,’” the anonymous senior official claimed.

Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, the chairperson also had his conspiracy theory of “a third force”: “If it was a simple matter of just banning the convention, why take our people to JOC (Joint Operations Command)? It shows that there is a third hand to this. Members of the CIO were aware of the convention and I believe someone somewhere felt threatened by our party,” Nkomo maintained.

Fortune Mlalazi, the Bulawayo provincial spokesperson also contributed his two cents worth, and even suggested that they were rescheduling the congress to September 4. You start to wonder whether they have a spokesperson or it is a free for all. How did Mlalazi arrive at September 4?

The accused: Prophet Makandiwa or UFIC and Zanu-PF are not given a right of reply to the allegations. You only get to see the story behind the story after the announcements of the new dates since the congress was rescheduled from September 9 to 11. How could Biti and company hold their congress outside the dates when the MDC was formed in September 11 1999?

When you consider how many MDC splinters have been formed since then, you realise that everyone wants to lay a claim to the original MDC, MDC- Renewal Team or is it People’s Democratic Party included. Thus the Makandiwa, Zanu-PF and CIO were nothing, but sideshows as they build-up to the 16th anniversary commemorations. What has also puzzled this writer is that the August dates fell on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, while the new dates are between Wednesday and Friday. What happened? Did Prophet Makandiwa ‘interfere’ again because Sunday is a day of worship?

The disconnection from reality is that the MDC-Renewal Team wanted to hold its congress adjacent to the Exhibition Park where exhibitors to the on-going Zimbabwe Agricultural Show were putting finishing touches on their stands.

If Prophet Makandiwa, the ZRP and Zanu-PF are responsible for the cancellation of the holding of the congress, can we also conclude that the Renewal Team wanted to undermine or sabotage the 105th edition of the prime agricultural event, one of the most important on the national calendar?

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