Hildegarde The Arena
TRUTH can be ruthless and hurtful. There is no substitute to truth for to substitute it would be to give dignity to fabrications.
We all wanted to see former prime minister in the inclusive Government Mr Morgan Tsvangirai who died on Valentine’s Day accorded a befitting burial, with the whole nation holding hands in unity to give him that decent send-off. That is part of our hunhu/ubuntu.
When we say “May his dearly departed soul rest in eternal peace”, we should do so with the conviction that we lived up to the letter and spirit of giving the deceased a celebratory send-off.
After fighting the cancer monster that has claimed thousands of lives, the man deserved to be put to rest by family, party members and the nation in peace.
When the Government of Zimbabwe accorded him a State-assisted funeral, this was a show of unity and recognition of Tsvangirai’s contributions in trade unionism and opposition politics over the past three decades.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his predecessor Cde R.G Mugabe mourned him. The whole nation and the international community mourned the opposition leader. This showed that despite the internal contestations on the geopolitical landscape, the democratic processes remained vibrant in Zimbabwe.
However, while Mr Tsvangirai was laid to rest in his rural home in Humanikwa, Buhera district, on Tuesday, we were all left with unanswered questions about some of the unfortunate events that unfolded before the burial.
Political violence reared its ugly head at the funeral. The events that people witnessed or are reading about have been points of debate and cross analysis, since Tuesday.
When the first images about the violence being perpetrated against former deputy prime minister Dr Thokozani Khupe, Mr Douglas Mwonzora, Ms Lwazi Sibanda (MP), Abednico Bhebhe and others, by some unruly MDC-T youths started circulating, we could not believe that the succession wrangles that engulfed the MDC-T since Mr Tsvangirai was in hospital could manifest in such an ugly manner moments before he was laid to rest.
After all, this is the MDC-T that always claims to be non-violent, despite historical incidents in the public domain. It was initially confusing to interpret the first pictures that were circulating, since Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora were under police escort. With social media driving the agenda, we kept on getting conflicting reports until our reporters on the ground gave a realistic narrative of events.
It now turns out that there were shocking scenes that could have claimed more lives and ignited serious conflict not just for the MDC-T members, but for all mourners attending the burial. It could have also compromised Mr Tsvangirai’s burial.
The shocking events were also witnessed by dignitaries attending the burial, including some members of the diplomatic corps. The affected personalities – Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora – also gave their side of the story.
According to reports, rowdy party youths threatened to burn down a thatch-roof rondavel where Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora “had sought refuge after being assaulted”. The ugly situation was saved by police who moved them to a nearby school.
In an interview with the Voice of America, Dr Khupe said: “One man asked us to go into his hut. Those thugs threatened to burn the hut but we were lucky that it was raining and so, the thatch could not catch the fire. They threw a burning log into the hamlet. If it was not rain, we were going to die. But I went back to attend the funeral to make sure that he (Mr Tsvangirai) was laid to rest.
“This happened in full view of the police. The police tried to stop them (youths) but they were too vicious. Everybody saw what happened. I don’t know what they will do to them. They (police) saw the criminals,” she told VOA.
Newzimbabwe.com, a news website, cited an MDC-T official who gave another side to the story: “When they (youths) were charging at her (Dr Khupe), they were singing the song, ‘Into oyenzayo, siyayizonda’ (We hate your bad habits).”
The website claims that, “the song was popularised by Highlanders Football Club fans who often chant it in protest over some controversial refereeing decisions against their team”.
In a Twitter message, Mr Mwonzora condemned the violent behaviour by the youths: “The politics of hate and violence should not have any place in our society. Really sad developments at Dr Tsvangirai’s funeral. The physical attack on @DrThoko_Khupe was cowardly and sadistic. It was tribal, sexist and totally unacceptable.”
The toxic atmosphere was further poisoned by the alleged assault of a University of Zimbabwe student Nyaradzo Mutize by the deceased’s uncle, Mr Innocent Zvaipa, when she took pictures of Gogo Lydia Tsvangirai at the graveside, and was asked to delete the pictures.
According to reports by a Herald reporter, Mutize was “detained for close to 40 minutes under intense interrogation by Mr Tsvangirai’s family members”.
Democracy is a costly commodity, but as the saying goes, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at other people’s glass houses.”
The violence witnessed at Tsvangirai’s burial is being roundly condemned, and among those who denounced it is the United States of America which tweeted: “The US Gov strongly condemns the violence that occurred today @ the funeral for Morgan Tsvangirai. He stood in opposition of such violence & there exists no place for these types of actions today in Zimbabwe, as the country moves forward.”
Ms Jessie Majome came under fire from other women, when she was evasive in her criticism of the violence against Dr Khupe, Mr Mwonzora and others. She claimed in her tweet: “I didn’t witness it myself but I understand @DrThoko_Khupe was attacked …”
However, Ms Caroline Matengu came out guns blazing: “As women in the party it’s time for you to speak up and denounce all forms of violence against women especially the way she is being ostracised. It’s very bad and we all (know) that her contributions were equally important.”
Lawyer Fadzai Mahere also condemned the attack saying: “Violence in any form by whomsoever must be condemned in the strongest terms. We can’t take violence with us into the future. That’s not who we are,” as MDC politician David Coltart also condemned the clashes: “Turning a blind eye to violence & intolerance was a root cause of the split in the MDC in 2005.”
All fingers are pointing at MDC-T co-vice president Nelson Chamisa, the self-anointed Tsvangirai successor.
This is the same Chamisa who together with other MDC-Alliance members Mr Tendai Biti, Mr Dewa Mavhinga and Mr Peter Godwin appeared before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last December, barely a fortnight after President Mnangagwa took over from Cde Mugabe.
They urged Washington to maintain the ruinous sanctions regime on the new Government, something that the MDC did soon after Zimbabwe embarked on the land reform programme in 2000.
The writer says self-anointed because Mr Chamisa made that claim in his graveside address: “He (Tsvangirai) planned his succession. He was always moving with me – nzou yaifamba nemhuru yayo. We are going to make sure that his wishes are observed.”
He indirectly told mourners that he will be the MDC-T’s presidential candidate, despite welcoming NPP’s Dr Joice Mujuru’s remarks that her party would now join the Alliance. Mr Chamisa vowed to quit politics if he loses the forthcoming elections to President Mnangagwa.
The million-dollar question is how will he contain youths in his party to ensure a non-violent election, if they bayed for Dr Khupe and Mr Mwonzora’s blood before Mr Tsvangirai’s burial?
His responses and apology to the violence in Buhera are not convincing as he tries to apportion blame.
In an interview with VOA, Mr Chamisa said: “Whoever did it is trying to have an agenda that is foreign. She (Dr Khupe) has been the longest serving vice president and has been loyal to the MDC. We need to be vigilant. This apology goes to (Dr)Khupe, secretary-general (Mr) Mwonzora.”
If this was done by provocateurs how come the footage captured shows his security guy failing to contain the rowdy crowd?
We hope that Dr Khupe and company filed the violence complaint with the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and that it will be fully investigated, and the perpetrators brought to book.
This is a national issue, and should not be confined to the MDC-T’s internal processes. It threatens to derail the peaceful, free, fair and credible elections that President Mnangagwa promised to deliver.
As Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Rtd Maj-Gen Sibusiso B. Moyo warned on December 13, 2017, it is “incumbent upon every Zimbabwean to contribute towards the elimination of any threats to the peace and stability of our motherland”.