“We all saw the pictures of Tsvangirai and his beautiful wife lovingly shoveling cake into Save’s mouth and other delicacies that were abound . . . No one will begrudge him that little treat because there is little for him to be cheerful about these days.”
LAST week, on March 10, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai turned 64.
We all wished him a happy birthday and so many happy returns.
In fact, begrudging Tsvangirai a happy birthday is as unAfrican as wishing him dead.
And, lucky him, staff at his party office threw a surprise party for him to celebrate another year of their leader who is most distinguished for his cat’s paw 17-year struggle against President Mugabe for the heart and soul of Zimbabwe, albeit on a perpetually losing streak.
Tsvangirai, being generally a good fellow despite his many limitations, has taken the defeats with the necessary grace.
He could have done worse things and in wishing him well, it will not be fair to forget that fact.
Granted, Morgan Tsvangirai’s birthday passed without much notice especially as it came a fortnight after that one of his bête noire, President Mugabe who is a much superior and national figure.
We were, however, amused that Tsvangirai’s spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, felt compelled to pen a full page article in praise of his boss, which appeared in one of our local dailies in what on one side appeared to be an apology that Tsvangirai had actually had some sort of ceremony.
And if the limited ceremony for Tsvangirai’s birthday belied modesty, certainly this full-page eulogy which takes after the classic praise singers, or rather put them to shame, tells us the heights of ambition in him.
It will be useful to sample some of Tamborinyoka’s praise-singing gems.
We are told that the birthday was “a low-key event where the workers sought to show their appreciation to the humble leader of such a great political party who had braved it and represented the future”.
Forget about all those MDC-T workers and functionaries who have been thrown to the streets by their employer and have even approached the courts for relief, Tamborinyoka without a sense of irony told us of workers who “were blessed with a leader who inspires and who understands the value of workers because of his labour background”.
Tsvangirai, according to his mouthpiece, has “great qualities”, has a “competent hand” and will have “an undisputed legacy”. “As I sat in the windy sunset on his birthday, watching a leader so humble and so simple, I could not help but muse on the great qualities of this man,” wrote Tamborinyoka adding that his boss could “easily change from the revered international statesman he is (really?) to become an ordinary Zimbabwean…”
“Many have asked what makes Tsvangirai tick and so revered by ordinary Zimbabweans in all spheres,” said Tamborinyoka.
“It is simply that uncanny ability to outflank his political opponents with unparalleled dexterity at the same time exhibiting his natural leadership by being adept at fitting in very ordinary circumstance,” he added.
Among other bootlicking nuggets, Tamborinyoka says his boss is far removed from “the billiard tables associated with elitist conspirators who have so often, with dismal failure, plotted hostile takeovers of the party outside a congress and who have sought to bribe him outside of his elected mandate.”
He also extols Tsvangirai’s “dual competence of the boardroom (we had thought bedroom) and standing before a simple village audience”.
He goes on and on – and on, in the extended, full page peroration.
In the whole maze of puffery, it would seem that Luke Tamborinyoka was trying to apologise on behalf of Morgan Tsvangirai for having had a birthday in which he was treated generously – including having cake.
We all saw the pictures of Tsvangirai and his beautiful wife lovingly shoveling cake into Save’s mouth and other delicacies that were abound.
Well, Tsvangirai can have his cake!
That is, in the literal sense.
No one will begrudge him that little treat because there is little for him to be cheerful about these days.
On that account, and with the benefit of hindsight, you also wouldn’t begrudge him that little fling in the park in Gweru recently that gave him the new moniker as “The Legend of the Park”.
Politically, his career is stalled.
After 16 years of campaign, it appears that Morgan Tsvangirai has reached his ceiling.
He has been a good competitor and has scored a fluke victory once in 2008 which saw him being catapulted to the position of Prime Minister in 2009 in an arrangement called the inclusive Government.
According to opposition logic, he was supposed to “take power from within” but he blew the chance. He was outmaneuvered by a wilier opponent in President Mugabe – never mind Tamborinyoka’s mistaken belief that his boss is endowed with an “uncanny ability to outflank his political opponents with unparalled dexterity”.
Tsvangirai may be able to outflank internal opponents but at the big stage he fails and despite a lot of promise previously, he has reached his ceiling.
It is like, and we are sure Tamborinyoka will relate, a certain football team in England that has consistently played for number four and being near the top but never able to take the big prize in many a campaign.
It frustrates supporters and they are bound to thank the manager for good memories but bid, or wish to bid him, goodbye.
Morgan Tsvangirai is this specialist in failure.
It is understandable that some people within his ranks have urged him, albeit unsuccessfully, to step down and “become the Mandela of the party”.
It was Elias Mudzuri who introduced us to that scenario – one among five – seeking to see the back of Tsvangirai from the party’s helm.
With the changing dynamics in Zimbabwe over the years, Tsvangirai is bound to become less and less relevant in the game.
His frustrated supporters are joining the newly-formed Zimbabwe People First party in droves and challenging his dominance in some of his strongholds.
The recent People First rally at Glen View 3’s PaMunyarari was very instructive inasfar as it tells us about the opposition dynamics particularly the shifting sands out of Tsvangirai’s favour.
The unique geographic/demographic dynamics point to an indication that the entry of Joice Mujuru is more of a threat to the opposition than the ruling party.
Opposition that splintered from Tsvangirai since 2013, the likes of Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma, have also chewed into his base.
It is inconceivable that Tsvangirai will have a fresher appeal, or have newer ideas to propel him to leadership that has eluded him in the last one-and-half decades.
In 2018, he can only come second best – again – and even worse, at number three.
In this light, it only becomes prudent that Tsvangirai be let to enjoy whatever little he can now, including having cake which we saw him being fed by his wife, for the fortunes are heavily staked against him.