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Friday, September 28, 2007

Tsvangirai, you owe the people an explanation!

Friday 28 September 2007

By Tanonoka Joseph Whande

GABORONE - Circus maestros, Barnum and Bailey, couldn’t have dished out better entertainment. The greatest show on earth runs in Zimbabwe’s politics and parliament.

Go ahead; count the skeletons. It’s all part of the grotesque act because, you see, Zimbabwe’s parliamentary circus plays with skulls not balloons.

And these our parliamentarians, supposed custodians of our democracy, are the authors of the current tragicomedy. They appease a dictatorship instead of clipping his despotic wings.

Parliamentarians from both sides of the political divide are on the Zimbabwean stage and are the ones cheering the audience. They are mistaking activity for accomplishments.

Our parliamentarians were elected to represent the people’s views yet, as has become clear, they just attend parliament to assure their salary.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s mission, as leader of the opposition, was to topple Robert Mugabe, albeit constitutionally, to restore democracy. And the people gave him the necessary support.

Several times, Tsvangirai was physically battered for his efforts. The so-called ‘war veterans’ were the first to have a go at him. With the intensity of swarming bees, they beat him to a pulp, as he sat helplessly behind his desk.

But Zimbabweans were soon to discover that Tsvangirai had more guts than one can find on an abattoir’s floor. People almost thanked God.

A lot then happened and some of his supporters and assistants died horrific deaths, like being burnt alive inside locked vehicles.

We remember all too well the farmers who were killed for their farms and for showing an interest in the possibility of a change of government.

We remember much too well the hundreds of citizens who were beaten up, abused and killed because of supporting Tsvangirai. Thousands, both black and white, lost their homes, their property and lives.

Dogs were set on our children at colleges, with some disappearing and others dying mysteriously. Just about everyone wished for a change of government. Tsvangirai soldiered on, making some questionable decisions along the way.

Although it is now obvious that there were some traitors waiting for a chance to rock the party, he must take the blame because he could have handled the issue better. Earlier this year, Mugabe’s people had another go at him again.

Tsvangirai’s puffed-up face was plastered on television screens across the world. The leader of the opposition was paraded in front of the world in a torn shirt and with bleeding scars on his head.

We were shown the blooded face of Nelson Chamisa, one of our legally elected Members of Parliament. He could hardly talk and almost died.

A Mack truck could not have caused such damage; these were Mugabe’s self-confessed ‘degrees in violence’ on display. Then a veteran cameraman was abducted and murdered for allegedly filming these victims.

Very shameful, indeed.

People continue to be abused. Expensive mediation talks continue to be hosted outside Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, the country is gearing up for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Whichever way one looks at it, it is all an effort to give people a chance to change or renew their government’s mandate. Yet people are still being abused and starved or killed for supporting not only an opposition party but a rival faction within ZANU-PF itself.

The mediation talks are being held ostensibly to level the political playing field. But, truly, it is Tsvangirai, who, more than anyone else, stands to benefit from all these efforts.

He is even the peripheral beneficiary of all this mayhem. Last week I learned that Tsvangirai had instructed his party’s Members of Parliament to vote for a constitutional amendment that allows Mugabe to anoint his own successor.

To me, it was like reading a book with the last chapter removed. Tsvangirai now instructs members of parliament, whom people voted into parliament, to acquiesce to a bill that denies the people of Zimbabwe the right to choose their own candidate.

Many people were beaten up, starved and killed for supporting the MDC parliamentarians from both factions but managed to support them well enough to get them into parliament.

Because I have a curious oppression of spirit, I have questions that arise from feelings. To me now, the MDC behaves like a dog chasing a car and, as soon as it catches it, does not know what to do with it.

I am honestly burdened with frank curiosity. Given the current scenario, can Mr Tsvangirai please tell me what the split within your party was all about? May you enlighten me on why you let many Zimbabweans who supported both factions get killed?

Survivors bear physical testimony as to how far people can go to fetch democracy. Now the MDC tells the people it is fine to give Mugabe parliamentary approval to short circuit democracy and to let him choose his own successor.

But the circus is not being staged in only one part of the city. Across town, Emerson Mnangagwa’s supporters must be wondering what is going on.

Mnangagwa, a seemingly stronger choice among the drivel on offer, confuses his own effort and chances. He clearly has a better inter-provincial network than Joice Mujuru, Simba Makoni and all other hopefuls.

Most of Mnangagwa’s supporters have always believed and were geared up to campaign and win a presidential election for him. He has strong, passionate and deceptively quiet supporters.

But alas, Mnangagwa is, once again, prepared to retreat into a corner until Mugabe finishes gnawing at the weather-beaten bone that is Zimbabwe.

As Mnangagwa was stepping aside to let Mugabe continue with his murderous rule, Tsvangirai was telling supporters that he had just given Mugabe a parliamentary OK to choose a successor of his own choice, thus effectively robbing Zimbabweans of the right to choose.

Take a little time and think, Mr Tsvangirai; you are about to become guiltier than sin. But meanwhile, as these ringmasters monkey around the circus-ring, the ‘owner’ of the circus is doing his funny bit too.

Mugabe is reported to have demanded, from, of all idiotic quarters, SADC, immunity from prosecution, should he choose to retire. Not only that, he wants a guarantee that the monetary wealth and personal assets that he accumulated not be taken away.

ZANU-PF took over and ruined the country by stealing from the people but now Mugabe says, in order for him to leave, he wants more perks from the very same people he has been stealing from.

From economic and political survivors, Mugabe wants immunity from prosecution for crimes committed but whose responsibility he does not acknowledge. It is very easy to give Mugabe what he is asking for.

All we need to do is calculate how much he earned during his entire term as head of state. Then we look at how much cash he has on hand, and how many farms and houses he has.

Should the value of the farms, houses and cash-on-hand exceed the earlier calculation, of course, we will obviously want to know where the money came from. That spells big trouble in any language!

In other words, no chance of such guarantees. Anyone who says ‘yes’ they can guarantee him this, even if it is his own hand-picked successor, will be lying, unless, of course, Mugabe chooses Mbeki to succeed him!

And immunity from prosecution is not possible either. Who is in a position to offer Mugabe a guarantee of immunity from prosecution? Only the people who were wronged. Not Gordon Brown. Not the EU. Not Mbeki. Not even the MDC.

It is only the Zimbabwean people. Mugabe, Tsvangirai and company. The future is in clay since it can be molded to our intentions.

The past, our history, is cast in iron and that is why Mugabe is having trouble with the phony ‘history’ he has been trying to feed to our school children.

As for Mr Tsvangirai, misunderstanding breeds distrust; you owe people an explanation and pronto.

As a leader, you are accountable to the people.

*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Botswana-based Zimbabwean writer.

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