If we could forgive Ian Smith, why can we not work with Mujuru?

A week ago I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, who in my eyes seemed to be doing quite well for himself. I was shocked to learn that he was planning to relocate to some foreign country in the near future. Even though his business was relatively successful, putting food on the table, he could not imagine the economy recovering any time soon in the hands of Zanu PF. He bemoaned that it was becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet. With the current cash shortages and the re-introduction of a Zimbabwean currency under some dubious name, rest assured that many people share my friend’s gloomy economic outlook. It does not require a highly imaginative or intellectual mind to see where Zimbabwe is heading. I foresee the country plunging into an economic crisis, an economic crisis even deeper than the one we experienced in the year 2008.

Dear reader, I do not say these things lightly nor do I intend to frighten you. But I say these things to make you realize and appreciate the fact that we have no choice but to continue having these honest and frank discussions. Discussions centred around removing Zanu PF from power and turning around the fortunes of our country.
In the spirit of dialogue, this short article is devoted to respond to some of the comments and reservations people expressed on various platforms in reaction to the article I wrote two weeks ago, which can be found here. The article was so bold to declare that the opposition will lose in 2018 unless if it unites and fights Zanu PF from one front.

As a result of the article, I received both compliments and insults in equal measure. Compliments from those who share the view that we must unite for us to have a realistic chance of winning the 2018 elections. Insults from those who found the idea of a coalition with people from Zimbabwe People First repugnant. Insults came even from friends I regard as family. I was called all sorts of names, given labels; labels I thought were reserved exclusively for Zanu PF thugs. I would be a liar, if I were to say I do not understand why people reacted in such a manner. For surely I know that this topic brings with it vile emotions. Some, in the years gone by, have lost loved ones, relatives, friends, property and livelihoods, all at the hands of Zanu PF.

It is the least of my intentions to wake up and stir these emotions. I am a victim of Zanu PF too. I was arrested and detained on numerous occasions, expelled from university for challenging and confronting the university authorities and the government. To cut a long story short, I do appreciate where people are coming from. I understand their feelings, feelings of bitterness, anger, revulsion, betrayal even. I can only but hope that members of Zimbabwe People First understand where these feelings and emotions come from. They have a lot of apologising to do, unfortunately even that will not be enough for some.

Due to time constraints I am unable to respond to all the criticisms and reservations people have expressed, but beneath are some of the reservations that I found most important to react to.

We cannot forgive these people from Zimbabwe People First.
Many people hold strong feelings against members of Zimbabwe People First, and rightfully so. They are jointly responsible for the violence we experienced from Zanu PF. They have been part and parcel of the system that reduced our country to a basket case. That being said, it would be catastrophic to yield to these emotions. It would be no different to throwing the baby out with the bath water. We surely cannot burn the house down because a snake has entered. We must find the courage to forgive them. If we were able to collectively forgive the racist settler regime and the British empire who murdered our ancestors, stole our land, our precious minerals and made us second class citizens in our own land, we can forgive Mujuru and her party. But even if we cannot forgive them, because the wounds they inflicted on us are still too fresh and painful, we must be pragmatic. If not forgiveness then at least let us be able to work with them to remove Zanu PF, the greater force of evil, from power.

Why should we do these smaller parties a favour by forming a coalition with them?
This is one of the main questions that keeps popping up from many MDC-T supporters. Some feel that there is no need to help resuscitate the careers of these politicians. Careers which have failed to blossom outside their original parties. It is important to dispel this misguided notion. Coalitions, by nature, are formed out of selfish interest and guided by mutual benefit. Therefore, Tsvangirai is not being asked to enter into any coalition out of the goodness of his heart, but for the selfish purpose of obtaining power. Without each other’s help the opposition will remain but the opposition. More importantly, uniting to remove Robert Mugabe and his thieving regime has the potential to usher in a new culture in our political discourse. A culture where we are able to put aside our personal differences in pursuit of the national interest. A culture which encourages consensus building in policy formulation. A culture where we realise that we are Zimbabweans first before we are members of our respective political parties. It is my humble submission that we must unite and bring this much needed change. We have wandered in the wilderness for too long.

Tsvangirai has questionable leadership and should not lead the coalition.
In the spirit of openness, I must admit that I too have my reservations when it comes to Tsvangirai. His tenure as the leader of the opposition has been marred by various scandals. At times his judgement has been questionable, not to mention the flip flopping. He has shown autocratic tendencies and failed to resolve internal disagreements amicably. However, I also agree with the party loyalists, who say that at this present moment in time Tsvangirai is our best foot forward. By no means does this imply that people do not recognise his flaws and weaknesses. They do, but they are preoccupied with the big picture of removing Zanu PF from power.

It is quite sad that 35 years after independence we are still stuck with this big man syndrome, which has been a common characteristic of countries that have discarded the shackles of colonialism. Hence it is quite admirable that we have a great number of people who want to move away from this kind of politics to a more ideas oriented politics. But like in any struggle, we have to set our priorities straight and understand the terrain in which we want to achieve those objectives. For the past two decades Tsvangirai has been seen as the face of the struggle against government impunity. Whether we like it or not, Tsvangirai has a huge following in the country, more than any other politician if I may add. Therefore, there cannot be any serious talk of wanting to remove Zanu PF from power without his participation at the helm of the coalition.

Let’s go to the polls as separate parties and then form a coalition thereafter.
This sounds like an interesting strategy, but people forget that our Parliamentary elections run concurrently with Presidential elections. The wise say, once beaten twice shy. Have we not learned anything from either the referendum in year 2000 or the elections in 2008? Cicero, the illustrious Roman politician, said that when you attack a dangerous animal knife it so deep that it does not live to fight another day. We must go to the elections united and destroy Zanu PF once and for all.

Going to elections divided will simply give Zanu PF the tools to manipulate results and ensure they live to fight another day. When Zanu PF was defeated in the 2000 referendum it unleashed violence, intimidation and all tricks in the book to manipulate the election that followed. In 2008 Mugabe was beaten, but thanks to the three-man horse race, he was able to tweak and rig the election results to afford him a run-off election. Zanu PF once again resorted to violence and intimidation towards this June run-off election. For those with their eyes open, Zanu PF’s pattern is clear as crystal. I consider going to the polls first and thereafter forming a coalition suicidal. In any case how is it any different to the strategy we have used in the past with so little success?

Having a pre-election coalition has an added advantage of being able to induce the donor community to pour financial resources into our democratisation struggle. It is common knowledge that the opposition is financially weak. Many of the opposition parties are struggling to pay their salaried workers, even to raise enough money to hold rallies. You do not need a degree in finance to know that if things remain as they are, the opposition will struggle to raise substantial campaign financing. Whereas Zanu PF’s campaign war chest is full with our stolen loot. As the opposition we must be bold to try something radically new and re-energise the impetus for change.

Zanu PF is disintegrating. Even if we lose the 2018 elections, the regime will die with Mugabe.
The Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, formerly known as the Cameroon National Union has been in power since 1966. Closer to home, Frelimo in Mozambique has been in power since 1975. There are numerous regimes across the globe that have managed to survive past the death of their charismatic founding leader. It is at best erroneous, and at worst lazy, to expect Zanu PF to die with Mugabe. Zanu PF survived in the absence of the charismatic Ndabaningi Sithole, survived the death of Chitepo and the death of Tongogara. I am more than sure it will survive the death of Mugabe. We have to understand that what unifies the Zanu PF elites is not a shared ideology or a shared past, but self-enrichment opportunities. Robert Mugabe’s power is anchored in patronage, which thrives in corruption. Unfortunately, this fact is known and practised by those who are likely to take over from Mugabe, which makes it folly for us to expect the regime to die with Mugabe.

Zanu PF can only die when it is pushed out of power and its members are denied the opportunities to benefit from their corrupt network or access to state resources. If we are serious in reviving the fortunes of Zimbabwe, then we must unite and make sure we remove Zanu PF from power.

Even though the last elections were peaceful, our country has not been at peace. Peace is not merely the absence of violence. Galtung and his friends say peace is the absence of all forms of social inequality. Under the stewardship of Zanu PF the gap between those who have and those who lack has continued to widen. While the majority struggle to make ends meet, people with strong Zanu PF connections continue to thrive. They are not ashamed of the contradictions of the lives they live and the lives of those they lead. They are heartless but to properly understand them, one must venture back into Zanu PF history. During the liberation struggle they murdered suspected traitors in cold blood. They summarily executed political opponents within their own party such as during the Nhari rebellion. Opponents from Zapu during the days of ZIPA were killed with what they regarded as friendly fire. When they say “Zanu ndeye ropa” they literally mean it. People who are not afraid to kill their political opponents certainly cannot be ashamed to steal elections. Dear reader, we have no other option but to put our heads together, join hands and take this regime head on. It is left up to us and no one else to bring sanity to our ailing economy.

Only an idiot continues in his error. We must learn from our past experiences. If not for our sake, then for the sake of the beautiful ones not yet born. Zanu PF weakened itself when it fired Mujuru and company. We must seize this moment and take full advantage of their folly. We must not allow them space to regroup and reorganise. Let us take the initiative and force them to react to our moves.

A new Zimbabwe is possible in Mugabe’s lifetime.