Sunday, 10 February 2008

Itayi Garande fuming: Tsvangirai MDC shaken by Simba Makoni

Its refreshing to see Garande 'trying' to be objective. If he had adopted this analytical stance regarding the Tsvangirai MDC, he would have spared us his pro-Tsvangirai propaganda that we serious thinkers have now come to associate him with. he would have condemned begging for sanctions, power cuts, and begging for more pressure on our country.

Garande's attempts at rationality are motivated solely by his realisation that by and large, makoni's entrance has swayed political affliation in the urban vote, Tsvangirai's piece of electoral cake. With his other piece threatened by Mtambara, its perfectly understandable why Garande would respond to Magorimbo's mediocre email with a thesis size anti-makoni propaganda.

Garande has long stopped being a journalist. he is now a political activist for Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwe Guardian is judgmental of Makoni, says a reader
A READER expressed their concern over the editorials and opinion pieces published last week by the editor of The Zimbabwe Guardian over the announcement by ex finance minister and Politburo member, Dr Simba Makoni that he wished to run for the position of President of Zimbabwe. Today we publish the email sent by the reader and the editor's response in the interest of all Zimbabweans who would like a stake in determing their country's future.

Dear Editor,

I have been following your ill-advised commentary on Simba Makoni and your judgements of the man who, some of believe will take Zimbabwe out of its current quagmire. I am concerned that as an increasingly influential character, through your publication, and nothing else, you are beginning to shape Zimbabwean politics in one way or the other. Hence you should proceed with cautious optimism. Zimbabweans have suffered enough and do not need new players like yourself to confuse the agenda.

Don't judge Makoni on his character; but what he lays on the table. Makoni should be allowed to lead the country if he wants to and involve himself in Zimbabwean politics.

You have made vital contributions in the past; but this one is a bit too heavy for you and you should, in the interests, of all Zimbabweans, who seek change, reserve your comments. They are not needed, and they are regressive. You have rallied people against Makoni; yet he is our own saviour. The man is intelligent and has an unquestionable record. Do not defeat the course that has been defined by this illustrous son of the soil; and reserve your comments to yourself.

We are tired of people criticising Makoni. We need responsible criticism not the vitriol that you spit everytime by your exaggerated gift of the garb.


Editor responds:

Dear Magorimbo

I hope this email finds you well.

In response to your rather preposterous attack on my recent contributions regarding Makoni's entry into the presidential race, please find my response below.

I have been extremely concerned about some of the arguments that you have advanced, which are tantamount to advising some sort of cautious optimism, about Makoni's entry onto the current political fray; viz, that Zimbabweans should judge him on the basis of what he lays on the table (which he didn't do, and hasn't done yet), etc, rather than on his personality.

Much of what your argument rests on has some utility in as far as allowing Makoni to contribute to a country, which after all he has dedicated a third of his natural life to. But, as a key policy-maker for the last 27 years (for which he has been Politburo member), Makoni cannot be solely judged on what he brings to the table, but what he has already brought to the table, through the highest decision-making body for the ruling party, the Politburo.

Looks like we are all quick to exonerate him from the ill-fated decisions of the Politburo at a whim, because we need change. But does he represent the change we need? We do not know this yet. We are encouraged to wait until he unveils his manifesto in due course. In the meantime, Zimbabweans should remain in limbo, and castigate those who have put their lives on the line thus far - the likes of Morgan, Biti, Ncube, Madhuku and others.

If we exonerate Makoni from Zimbabwe's problems, who then should be accountable in the Politburo? Who exactly does Makoni refer to when he says, "these hardships are a result of failure of national leadership." We might as well exonerate everyone in the Politburo and start afresh, including Mugabe himself; if he makes the same speech as Simba Makoni and tells us that he shares "the agony and anguish of all citizens, over the extreme hardships that we have all endured for nearly ten years now."

Surely, Mugabe could not have made all those decisions each week (that the Politburo has met) for the last 27 years, by himself. And surely, Makoni could not have disagreed with all Politburo members each week for the last 27 years. It takes a system to destroy a nation; and Makoni is, and has always been, part of that system.

I have my reservations, though, like any other concerned citizen, about Makoni, which I'm sure you might have come across in different fora. And I hope you realise that as an eligible voter, I have the right to take a position on the future of my country.

Firstly, many of those people who are calling on Zimbabweans to judge Makoni on substance are not recognising that he has not yet presented his manifesto to the people of Zimbabwe. Surely, we cannot be expected to vote on an assumed manifesto, or assumed substance; or on the basis that he's an alternative. Makoni is not an alternative, if we do not yet know his alternative. Until such a time as he presents his alternative ideas, we will judge him on the basis of what we have in the public arena.

Makoni had the opportunity to present his vision and ideas about Zimbabwe at the time of his debut press conference last week when he announced his desire to run as a presidential candidate. What prompted the press conference, if not the desire to present an alternative strategy to Zanu PF?

Surely, announcing that one intends to run; and then not back the announcement with a strategy, is Makoni's first failure as a presidential hopeful. The series of secrets around his backing and whether or not he was forming a party, spell his second failure. It's those secrets and that arrogance in leadership, that got us where we are as a nation in the first place.

I remember when Barack Obama announced that he was putting himself up for leader of the Democrats and presidential hopeful; he unveiled a website full of policies and his vision of America. Even our very own Two-Boy did not make that grievous mistake when he formed the Zimbabwe Unity Movement with the likes of Tendai Biti and Douglas Mwonzora. They had a set of policies and strategies to back their decision. The successes of the MDC, at its inception, nine months before the general election, were in part, due to their vision for Zimbabwe; not some assumed vision, or secret association.

Makoni would have dispelled people's reservations and avoided the speculation over his leadership, by announcing his visin and his team. Instead, by not unveiling his manifesto, he has encouraged people to doubt his intentions and judge his personality and his intentions.

If he was consulting widely as he said, then I'm sure the timing of the announcement was not an accident. So why the wait and the procrastination?

I am worried that he might be soliciting his vision, from other progressives; that is, 'He did not have his own vision at the press conference, he was pushed onto the race by those people who did not have the nerve to come out themselves'. If we believe this, then we are running the risk of mortgaging the struggle on an individual who is not sure of why he is in the presidential race, in the first instance.

Secondly, I think the so-called backers of Makoni should put themselves forward and stand by their man, so to speak. Afterall the country is in intensive care, so why wait? This is very important in bringing some weight to Makoni's presidential bid and also in giving the image that Makoni would like us to see; that this is a decision arrived at by extensive consultation within the ruling party; which will legitimise his move, hopefully.

If he consulted widely, with the same Politburo that ran our country for the last 27 years, Makoni might not be the change that Zimbabweans seek; and the Makoni factor, might not be the common denominator needed in Zimbabwe.

It is important that Makoni is not viewed as a bitter man who failed to make it within Zanu PF; and, unfortunately, this is beginning to happen as each day passes without him espousing his agenda; or his manifesto, at least.

Thirdly, Makoni should start talking new policy, forthwith, rather than expend energy on convincing people that he is not a liar and that he is genuine, if he is going to stand a chance on March 29, 2008.

How genuine can he be? Widely viewed as a technocrat, many people would warm up to him if he started espousing his agenda for Zimbabwe; rather than concentrate on proving his legitimacy by exaggerated speeches and his invincibility in challenging President Mugabe.

If challenging Mugabe is the pre-requisite for Presidency, then Morgan Tsvangirai, surely, should be the next President of Zimbabwe. In fact, if challenging Mugabe from within your own party was the pre-requisite then, Two-Boy should have been the president, or Prime Minister, before Makoni; or Daniel Shumba or many others who came before Makoni. Why should his challenge, and only his challenge, be considered the only credible challenge to Mugabe, and not his predecessors'?

He definitely is not made of sterner stuff!

In any case, many people have challenged President Mugabe and fell short; including widely respected international statesmen; like Tony Blair, George Bush, Merkel, etc. We know Makoni will have to fight tooth-and-nail to outshine the Zanu PF propaganda machinery which could easily paralyse him, if not handled carefully. The demise of Pius Ncube is still fresh in our memory. For Zimbabwean people to back him up, in fighting this power, they need first of all to be convinced that he is genuine - that his desire to change and serve the people of Zimbabwe is altruistic.

Therefore, I feel that before we call on Zimbabweans to judge the man on his policies, we should also recognise that, thus far, the man has not given us his policies: his vision of a future Zimbabwe, nor presented his manifesto for scrutiny by all stakeholders. Until such a time, unfortunately, Makoni will be judged solely on his character, his previous achievements (or lack of), his illustrous service in the Politburo and anything else in the public domain; and this is a dangerous precedence for Makoni and unfair to the people of Zimbabwe, at this very crucial juncture.

Also, those who purport to support him, should do so now. As we countdown to the elections, the suffering people of Zimbabwe have every right not to be confused by those who might not even live up to the hype they have created. For Zimbabweans to make informed choices at the next election; they will need that crucial document from Makoni, that doorstep campaign visit from their future leader, possibly, and those crucial names of his associates. And they need these three things now.

There are progressives in the country right now, whose years of hard work, have been trivialised, and/or diluted by Makoni's entry, fortunately or unfortunately. It seems those who say Makoni is intelligent and is the man to lead Zimbabwe, only say so on the basis of his youthful energy, purported guts and the fact that he entered politics quite early in his adult life. I have been hard-pressed to find arguments based on his achievements in the civil service; or his desire to see a propering Zimbabwe. Trevor Ncube's defence of Makoni was less convincing; and full of self-contradictions.

We are yet to find out about his achievements and his ability to lead a successful political enterprise, other than Zanu PF. Contrasted with people like Chidzero, Mtumbuka and others, Makoni's successes and abilities seem over-exaggerated. Maybe Magorimbo in his next contribution, or anyone else for that matter, could help the people of Zimbabwe by pinpointing some of Makoni's achievements in politics and in business.

Those who worked with Simba at Sadc have a different story to tell, for instance __ (names witheld for a developing story). They view him as a 'lukewarm' strategist - whatever that means, and not a very charismatic and shrewd character. I do not think charisma and shrewdness are the ultimate qualities for leadership; but they certainly help. His record at Sadc, to say the least, has not been well-documented, neither was his record as Energy Minister, or Minister of Finance.

Allegations of corruption and financial improprieties at the regional organisation will have to be investigated if Makoni is going to run for the top post; just like we would investigate anyone who wishes to lead the people of Zimbabwe, for that matter.

To suggest that Makoni is entering the political arena unscathed is rather preposterous. He is coming from Zanu PF, where he was a big-wig, a Politburo member, for as long as we can remember.

To then suggest that we should respect him because he is being backed by retired army generals, who are themselves scathed and highly fallible, is irresponsible. We have chastised and castigated Morgan Tsvangirai in the last six or seven years; and Mugabe for the last 27. Why not Makoni?

Many people argue that he was unable to push his policies because of Mugabe, but we do not know that for sure. These same people, also allege that reason alone explains why he was a mediocre minister. We could be making excuses for someone who does not possess those qualities in the first place. So his manifesto, to a very large extent, is a very important document in judging his vision and his capacity to think strategically, and devise credible alternatives.

Besides, other ministers have performed well despite Mugabe's control and influence; e.g. Bernard Chidzero (Finance), Dzingai Mtumbuka (Education), and Zvobgo (as Mines minister, not Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister), etc.

I think before we start singing praises, and encouraging the 'cautious optimism' that Magorimbo calls for, we should test Makoni's ability to lead a nation like Zimbabwe and have cross-sectoral appeal; and unless Makoni presents his manifesto and names his secret supporters (these are important in testing his ability to influence change, and form strategic and informed partnerships), many people will remain sceptical and suspicious of his intentions.

His associations will also help us judge his ability to influence decisions and his 'progressiveness'. Retired generals have seen their day, (they are retired) and their backing will not necessarily help Zimbabwe get on the recovery path. What motivates their desire to come out of retirement? Money, or the protection of it, perhaps? These generals would not risk their wealth, accumulated by hook and crook, by backing Mugabe again.

In any case, they do not trust Mugabe or Tsvangirai with their dubious assets. So why should they not back Makoni?

The idea is to extend the Zanu PF patronage system, through a more youthful and overzealous young man, who will guarantee protection of their wealth. That young man is certainly not Tsvangirai. He is not Zanu PF and he makes them cringe each time he speaks; nor Arthur Mutambara. Morgan has lost favour with these people. He shook the establishment. Morgan would not hesitate to push for an International Criminal Court indictment for Mugabe and these generals 'backing' Makoni, who presided over the atrocities alleged, if he assumes power. Morgan has absolutely nothing to lose.

In contrast, Makoni might have developed strategic business and political alliances with these characters; hence might wish to protect their interests, especially the ones that impact on his own business interests or other relationships. That could be the possible explanation why Makoni is adamant to remain in Zanu PF.

In stating, "Let me affirm here, my faith in, and loyalty to the Party," Simba Makoni makes the all-too-conspicuous blunder of speaking to the wrong crowd. He was addressing his Zanu PF backers, not the generality of the Zimbabwean people, or the cross-section of Zimbabweans. He was addressing his counterparts in Zanu PF, his business associates, and reassuring them that they won't lose everything, thus guaranteeing the continuance of the Zanu PF the patronage system beyond Mugabe.

The failure of the Zanu PF Congress to usher in a new leader, could not have prompted Makoni to run; notwithstanding the fact that he failed to put forward his name for nomination at the Extra Ordinary Congress.

Why should Makoni blame the Extra Ordinary Congress's decision to back Mugabe when he did not to put forward his own name for election? And why should this be a basis on which the Zimbabwean people vote him into power? This is an entirely party political issue and thus should be dealth with therein.

It makes sense for retired, or tired, generals, and note the word retired, to support somebody who's coming from within the Zanu PF establishment; who's part of that patronage system, its sustenance and its extension.

Mugabe has become a liability for them - a huge risk factor. Mugabe has become a liability for Makoni and his business and other interests.

Tsvangirai has absolutely nothing to lose by shaking the system; and changing the status quo. In fact, he has everything to gain, and maybe that explains his continued motivation.

If Makoni presents his manifesto too late; the 'initial spark' might disappear and he would have to start all over again, or disappear into oblivion.

So before Magorimbo judges my reservations; he should ask this 'illustorus son of the soil' - Simba Makoni - to spell out to the people of Zimbabwe his vision for a future Zimbabwe; and name his Zanu PF and civic society associates. He should also explain whose interests he really purports to serve.

Delaying to do so will only be counterproductive in future; as Zimbabweans begin to see through the political smoke-screen he has created thus far; and before Mugabe wises up from the temporary shock he caused.

Itayi Garande
Editor: The Zimbabwe Guardian

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