Thursday, December 18, 2008

TSVANGIRAI: Stop dithering while people are dying

Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal is stalled as Robert Mugabe’s wounded Zanu PF party convenes an annual conference to regroup. Morgan Tsvangirai whines about a passport and his party threatens to pull out of the power-sharing deal. On the other hand, people are dying of cholera, hunger and political abuses. The country’s economy has reached beyond the earthly definition of a crisis. When, will be the time to stop fiddling while Zimbabwe is burning.

A wounded Zanu PF regroups
Mugabe’s Zanu PF party is going into its annual conference limping from its severest political wounds yet. The once invincible “people’s party” suffered its first ever election loss in March and was forced into a power-sharing deal with bitter enemy, the Movement for Democratic Change.

Part of the reason Zanu PF lost the March 29 election is that one of its better loved leaders, Simba Makoni split to form a new movement called Mavambo/New Dawn. But perhaps more devastating will be last weekend’s withdrawal from a 20-year partnership by PF Zapu elements who revived the late Joshua Nkomo’s party under the leadership of Dumiso Dabengwa.

With the power-sharing deal tittering on the brink of collapse and calls for new elections are mounting, Mugabe’s campaign machinery has also been damaged somewhat.

Elliot Manyika, the leader of the Zanu PF Militia (the Green Bombers) died in a car accident; Joseph Chinotimba, leader of the pro-Zanu PF liberation war veterans is in hospital with back injuries sustained in another car accident and Air Marshall Perence Shiri, the notorious army leader responsible for the massacre of thousands of people since the early 1980s, was shot on the shoulder in an alleged attempt at his life.

So, if Tsvangirai and his MDC smell the blood of a dying behemoth that is Zanu PF, it is because they believe the wounds are deep. But this is Zanu PF, a party of zealots who never give up.

The MDC should never be fooled to believe Mugabe’s party is finished. This is a party with a vast array of human and material resources (mostly state-owned) at its disposal and it will use them to regain whatever ground it has lost.

Furthermore, nobody should ever underestimate the respect and support Mugabe and his party command from regional and continental movements; especially fellow liberation parties like Frelimo in Mozambique, ANC in South Africa, Chama Chama Pinduzi in Tanzania and MPLA in Angola, to name but a few closer to home.

It should not surprise anybody if Zanu PF emerges from this weekend’s conference with its fist raised high. This is a party that has been down before and rose from its own ashes.

During the liberation war it suffered a mutiny at its bases in Mozambique and a bombing campaign by the Rhodesian army. After independence, a series of opposition parties challenged it but were all swatted like flies until the MDC came along and forced it into this position of weakness.

MDC does not learn from mistakes
But the MDC does not seem to have learnt that Zanu PF is not the kind of enemy you dare endlessly (sometimes with unreasonable demands). Mugabe and his people use this time of inaction to recover from losses and regroup fast.

When the MDC won the March 29 elections, Tsvangirai and his executive literally got drunk with power they had not even assumed. For three straight days the MDC leadership failed to take control of a clearly leaderless country, enough time for Mugabe and his party to recover from the shock of their electoral losses and take charge.

Tsvangirai went into self-imposed exile and by the time he came back, Mugabe had regained enough impetus to force a run-off that ended with the veteran guerilla leader running his inexperienced opponent out of the race, resulting in the current power-sharing deal.

Instead of learning from that mistake Tsvangirai is once again in self-imposed exile, whining about a passport he knows is being used by Mugabe as a tool to wind him up while Zanu PF is rallying its demoralized troops.

How can a leader who has endured years of being beaten, detained, tortured and almost killed; condemn the people who chose him to continue suffering under the same regime he is supposed to deliver them from.

I mean, is a passport really so important to Tsvangirai that he can ignore the hundreds who are dying of cholera each week, the scores of his own supporters who are being abducted (some will not come back alive) and the continued economic meltdown.

It’s only a few months ago when Tsvangirai was holed up in Botswana and his own supporters started singing: “Tsvangirai where are you when we are being killed” at funerals of Zanu PF victims.

The killings have resumed and will increase if Mugabe calls for another election (which MDC seems to prefer) and people will start the song again.

Tsvangirai might take for granted the support he gets from the people of Zimbabwe and the international community, but it is fleeting. It can change in a flash.

Also, the MDC should not be fooled by what seems to be a disintegrating Zanu PF. In reality, nothing has changed in Mugabe’s party. In fact, the groups that are breaking away will hurt the MDC more than Zanu PF itself.

Both Makoni and Dabengwa are strong in MDC’s own strongholds. In the past election Makoni beat Tsvangirai and Mugabe in Matabeleland South province and he dented Tsvangirai’s chances in Manicaland province where both men come from.

If Dabengwa’s party reclaims its support base of Matebeleland and parts of Midlands, again, the loser will be the MDC because Zanu PF has not had support from that part of the country since 2000.

If an election is held in a few months as envisaged by many, Zanu PF stands a good chance of actually winning or at least forcing yet another stalemate that will result in another round of negotiations.

You made your bed, sleep in it
So, Tsvangirai should stop posturing and sleep in the bed they made with Mugabe and his party – the power-sharing deal.

Sure, it is not a perfect document but to blame its shortcomings on Mugabe alone is to be dishonest. This was a two-way affair. Each party gang pressed the other into it in one form or the other.

It is important not to forget the purpose of this deal: (which is) to offer immediate economic relief to the long suffering people of Zimbabwe, draw up an all inclusive and democratic constitution and prepare the ground for free and fair elections in at least 18 months.

The clock is ticking. Both sides should stop dithering and get on with the work people died for them to do.