Saturday, 3 November 2007

Tsvangirai: When home is harder than away

Tsvangirai: When home is harder than away

Things cannot get any worse for the fractious MDC. Presently Morgan Tsvangirai finds leading his faction of the MDC much harder than tackling his political opponent, Zanu-PF. And we are talking of a mere five months away from the March elections! The faction is boiling, its leader incessantly pinched and gnawed by a breathing boil, still too hard to ripen.

Back in 1999, Tsvangirai was launched on credentials of democracy and good governance. These are credentials which no-one outside Zanu-PF examined or tested, much as Tsvangirai made repeated statements that showed when it came to democracy, he was the colour black on the rainbow. He got a fame he did not need to validate, the way the proverbial cavern that once housed a big snake acquires lasting awesome terribleness. The world, it would seem, was too eager for a sweet lie to ask. Easier still, he was constructed as an antipode, with Zanu-PF as the "pode". He did not need to be anything, except to be a faithful opposite.

The West had its own image of Zanu-PF, quite foreign to the party that governed Zimbabwe. That did not matter, did it? And each time the West invented another ugly attribute for this made-up creature, Tsvangirai became prettier by the easy law of opposites. All Tsvangirai needed to do was to keep his real nature in strict check, wonderfully unobtrusive beneath this patina of ascribed political virtue.

Surreal persona, real foibles

I do not know whether many still recall. In his early career as leader of MDC, Tsvangirai had white aides — one Danish, another British. Yet another American and much later towards 2000 and 2002 elections, a South African, to ensure the vulgar and natural Tsvangirai would not break the leash, leap out and strangle the ideal but synthetic one born out of the easy law of Manichean opposites. He tried very hard to become the thing the West proclaimed he was, indeed to be the dummy Britain created to enkindle, crystallise and tantalise an anti-Mugabe sentiment in the Republic.

Arguably, while MDC membership expected a Moses to lead and inspire them, Blair dropped them a vaporous holy spirit which was more believed than known and felt. For a while, the MDC membership loved and revered it, forgetting that synthetic creature the MDC got from Blair could never be the Morgan of flesh and blood, the Morgan of humanising foibles and proclivities set to play a political role in real Zimbabwe. Not even beget him. Or anyone else for that matter.

That creature was flat and inanimate. That creature was an idea made out of British hatred of Zanu-PF, a creature, which has now come back to chastise the real Morgan, for falling short. The dry and dusty bowels of Buhera, the entombing, sweltering underworld of white mines, could never have yielded this pre-lapsarian ideal which Europe invented as an enticing foil to Robert Mugabe, the hated leader of Zanu-PF.

The worst mistake for MDC membership was ever to mistake Blair’s dummy for a human; to ever believe this ideal could ever take the character of real life, pop into the work-a-day-world, to tackle Zanu-PF, to lead them and to govern this beloved country along the tenets of democracy. MDC’s present agony and disappointment stems from this tendency to place Morgan on a surreal pedestal the British invented for him.

Oh messiah, thou art man!

You visit MDC’s uxorious websites, you feel the agonising pulse of deep hurt and disappointment with this failed prophecy of a messiah from the British machine. One indefatigable MDC supporter — a man called Dr. Alexio Magaisa — is so vexed to a point of losing intellectual sense and logic. In a lame defence of Tsvangirai, he writes: "This (the sacking of Lucia Matibenga) is not a simple argument over democracy. This is about power". You fumble to fathom the man’s reasoning.

Is not democracy about the question of power distribution in the equation of governance? What is this learned doctor trying to say? Surely this is basic to doctoral levels? Which leaves one with only one explanation: Magaisa is so stupefied, so befuddled and buffeted by disappointment to a point of being unhinged. Well ishauri yake iyo kwaari ikoko!

Romancing Zanu-PF

Then you have another sample: that of one Obert Madondo who confesses to being an MDC functionary. He is hot that his furious fumes reaches you and scalds those quite afar. He thinks Tsvangirai has become another Mugabe, adding Lucia Matibenga, apparently his idol, is another Margaret Dongo. And he remonstrates: "Hasn’t our painful history with Robert Mugabe taught us anything?" It is a reckless comparison which only one Morgan Tsvangirai can only relish. I mean the man cannot ever hope to be an undergraduate Mugabe in the early forties, let alone a detainee for a grand cause. But that is not my point.

MDC is so enamoured of Zanu-PF and its personalities that it has no vocabulary outside Zanu’s experiential lexicon. When they want to name goodness, they look for examples in Zanu-PF. When they want a name for their own misdeeds, still they expect Zanu-PF to provide epithets, whether abstract or personified. They cannot break the spell. They do not wish for themselves any new ground. So yes, they have not learned anything, including understanding Zanu-PF they think they are fighting. Instead they strive to reproduce, making a poor show of it. Today they are caught between two stools: battling not to be Blair’s Zanu-PF, while aspiring to be Blair’s never-never MDC! I will not refer to Kwinjeh and her dramatic dive — head and thigh — into Zanu-PF lingo. Maimbodei has so aptly dealt with that.

A political graft

There is abundant evidence to show Tsvangirai is loosing it. Even the Independent, MDC’s staunch and unconditional backer, accepts this ineluctable fate. The challenge is to interpret this dramatic fall-out, and to draw lessons from it. I have always maintained MDC has never been a Zimbabwean idea of opposition, which is why everything about it reeks so foreign and instigated.

MDC is a graft on burnt skin, and like all dead tissue, it soon shrinks and shrivels, stretched by both time and growth, leaving the original skin open to cancerous wrinkles. MDC was never founded on a big idea; only a big but borrowed hate, well-funded British hate.

Unlike an idea that lasts and beats time, hate is an evanescent impulse, which is why time has always been MDC’s biggest enemy. Morgan the British idea was supposed to capture State power quickly before becoming human. That should have been in 2000 when the fascination was bright and filling. But that did not happen. Nor did it in 2002. Beyond that shelf life, Morgan ceased to be an ideal. With greater political familiarity, he bred political contempt, indeed became a man of warts like all of us, only against great expectations and a cultivated image of a saint.

When charm and charisma exhaust

Equally, the MDC could not draw from the Big Bang of 2000. After 2000 and like all human political parties, it had to found a manifesto, found a leader, found men and women to drive its membership, indeed found structures to underpin its movement. All of this in addition to a binding idea, equivalent to Zanu-PF’s notion of Land and Sovereignty.

I argue that MDC’s present crisis is about all these missing essential ingredients that underpin human organisations. I argue that it is not about Tsvangirai; rather it is about what Tsvangirai’s assumed charisma was supposed to suppress, or make his infatuated members take for granted. That phenomenon was that of a big idea around which to knead a human following, all oppositional political ardour.

As already indicated, that idea could not have been democracy which the MDC itself was never constructed to exemplify, let alone fulfil. Given the dominance of minority white farmers from its very beginning, MDC could never have been of the people, by the people and for the people, itself a core tenet of democracy. It was of whites, by white interests and for minority whites. And in spite of a preponderant but subaltern black elite, the MDC failed to evolve politically, failed dismally to find this vital big idea.

Rhodie, Blair, NGO medley

Where it was not Rhodesian or Blairite, it was anything that was in vogue, with its NGO base making sure it was always well supplied by way of the latest fads from the neo-liberal dictionary of governance. You despair to discover how empty the whole formation is on core matters of governance. You are elated to realise how close they are to Zanu-PF, beneath the superficies of perfunctory opposition. Welshman and Biti are that, beneath their oppositional tags.

Which takes me to a point few in MDC want to acknowledge: until inter-party dialogue (both first and second round), the MDC has never had to develop a position on the national question. Now it is having to do so using Zanu-PF’s Chinamasa and Goche as whetstones. And because it has to graduate from a protean Rhodesian/Blairite alloy on which it has traditionally founded and mobilised its entire membership, it faces prospects of a further split. Those in the MDC who wish for the first time to become a genuine party, have to find a way around those who wish to remain well-funded servants of Rhodesian and British interests.

It is not fortuitous that the split started in the United Kingdom cell of the MDC. It is not accidental that the most furious objection to Tsvangirai has come from its supporters in the Diaspora who badly need a pro-British MDC, in order to buy their stay in the UK and beyond. These have no difficulties in reducing MDC to mere runners of M-16 who snoop and inform the British, Australian and American authorities on who in the Diaspora is linked to the Zanu-PF leadership. No thought is put to the fact that this cannot be MDC’s reason for existence.

A nubile but unmarried constituency

I come back to MDC’s NGO base. Definitionally, Zimbabwe’s governance NGO industry is a honeycomb of women — single women — who cannot marry. The industry gives them a sense of imagined liberated community, away from values of patriarchy that harshly fails and faults them. In the main, it is a well-educated, mobile, cosmopolitan and even nubile but unmarried community which is quite fecund both in terms of donor lexicon and donor dollars.

It has pushed MDC towards fashionable ideas to give it an image of trendy modernity, as well as a helplessly wide appeal. To the extent that MDC needs many friends abroad, this has been very helpful. To the extent that the MDC needs a homely character and identity, this association has been most costly, most damaging. MDC has lived in the illusion of being a coherent movement enjoying cognate ideas. It is not; it has never been.

It has always been anything that chants chinja! Anything that hates Mugabe. It also pays to remember that historically, this dame NGO community politically congealed around Margaret Dongo’s dissent against Zanu-PF. Until the founding of MDC, this feminine dissent revolved around the lingo of women fraternity (or is it maternity?). The slogan was "sister".

MDC in the past tense

Now, this is the plank that Morgan Tsvangirai has now upset, in the process forcing it to refer to the MDC in the past tense. It is struggling to re-connect with Margaret Dongo whose leadership sense will be measured by her ability to discern real material for a viable women-led political movement from embittered dross spat by the male-dominated MDC. She also has to negotiate between the superficial politics of this angry rabble and her deep nationalistic mien, which has made her attack certain tendencies in Zanu-PF, but without challenging its core nationalist values.

She faces in invitation from a constituency of insufficient nationalism. Is she ready to rebuff it? Is she ready to disappoint the likes of Kwinjeh that expect her to remain the woman they deserted in 2000, many, many years later? Without Dongo, these bitter women have no connection with the vast mass of ordinary women they so sorely need to make a point against dominant MDC men.

In a way, their pushing of Lucy Matibenga to the fore is their wish for the ordinariness they cannot recapture to connect with feminine life in its ordinary and un-lip-sticked form. I mean, imagine the white-spoused Sekai Holland trying to rouse a village or even high-density woman! Or Kwinjeh! Or Mahlunge!

Gender? My foot!

What is worse, all those women who came to support Matibenga did so less out of gender-founded arguments and more out of loyalty to a political leader who happens to be a woman. After all, is Theresa not a woman, the same way Vivian was when pitted against Margaret? I mean the argument has to go deeper to be convincing, which is why I am less inclined to push the flimsy gender argument which the likes of Kwinjeh and Holland would want to spit onto our faces.

The divisions have been simmering for a long while, only waiting for a decent pretext to shoot out. Holland admits to this fact, revealing Tsvangirai faced a real ouster at the last Congress, only to be saved by these women he has now sacked. Many in the ranks of those sacked came much later than Theresa, and the issue of mafikizolos cannot be a determinant.

Equally, many on the Matibenga side are educated, and would find it much easier to suffer Theresa than the basic Matibenga we saw on television genuflecting to a male member of the police force in ways that would satisfy even the most fastidious patriarch. Which is why it is important to delve into the essence of the MDC itself for answers to its latest and arguably last convulsion before interment.

Letting sleeping dogs lie

What is Bornwell Chakaodza’s problem? I mean spending acres and acres of newsprint trying to convince us he is a splendid thing Zanu-PF lost! That is taking it too far. And why does the editor of the Financial Gazette allow him to abuse the column? Slowly he is sliding into very slippery territory in which his performance as Zimpapers’ very brief and uneventful editor will be up for discussion. I mean the fact that we have not spoken about it rested on his mature and un-provoking sense of self-restraint that he now seems to want to be reckless with. He will not like the backlash, given his overly sensitive personality.

Deketeke has not reacted to his provocations. Many, too, have not. There is a lot that is unsavoury, a lot he would not want the world to know. Why can’t he help us help him?

Muleya’s Sir Richard Branson!

And this Muleya boy and his strange stories. Does he not realise the desperate MDC will take his story on alleged postponement of elections too seriously? I mean they hungrily need any pretext to scrap the polls they are destined to lose. We know Muleya has always helped Zanu-PF, his undeclared party. But please, let us have clever propaganda which, anyway, should be left to those paid to give it. And this Richard Branson grotesquery which the Independent leads with? How does the president reject what has not been put to him? I mean does Muleya really think Mandela would ever put such a matter to R.G.?

On the strength that it came from Sir Richard of Virgin fame? And all that against Mandela’s own successor’s effort? What state is Mandela in to perform such a crazy mission? But then that is only to deal with the plausibility of the idea, well before even tackling its appropriateness when measured against the tenets of democracy. Why do we, scavenger like, pick such foul carrion meant for political idiots? Merely because it is on the veld, unclaimed? Are we not self-respecting? Don’t we take ourselves seriously? Is this the price for Soros’ patronage, the price for "free" newsprint?

Ndiyo nhamo yekuva mbato. Unobatiswa rupiza rweanonzwa mudumbu, if you get what I mean. Icho!

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