Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Regime change ship running aground

Regime change ship running aground
By Caesar Zvayi

IT is said a desperate man is a really dangerous customer, particularly if his despondency stems from failure to fulfil contractual obligations entered into with a hard taskmaster. Taskmasters do not come any rugged than rightwing Western governments eager to depose individuals, or governments they accuse of posing ‘‘extraordinary and unusual threats’’ to their interests, particularly after committing copious resources to that end.

Zimbabwe plays host to one such desperate individual, one Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, who is apparently running out of time as the just-ended 27th Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government showed last week.

Despite being party to the ongoing Sadc initiative at dialogue spearheaded by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was to report the opposition’s concerns to Sadc, Tsvangirai still despatched a ‘‘high-powered’’ delegation to Lusaka in an attempt to lobby Sadc leaders who were supposed to be briefed by President Mbeki.

How parsimonious can one get?

Not surprisingly, the rival Mutambara camp saw the stupidity of Tsvangirai’s actions and slammed him for his naivety, describing his actions as undiplomatic and contemptuous of African processes.

That statement summed up the whole thrust of Tsvangirai’s politics, which is rooted in the mistaken notion that everything Western is superior and everything African is inferior.

This explains why Tsvangirai sees the ‘‘relevance’’ of the European Union and American Independence Days and not his own country’s Independence Day.

This is why he will go with anything the West says about Zimbabwe, and not what Sadc, Africa or the rest of the developing world say.

A case in point being the illegal Western sanctions that have been condemned by the United Nations, Comesa, Sadc and the Non-Aligned Movement, but which Tsvangirai refuses to denounce simply because London and Washington have not yet done so.

Tsvangirai’s desperation that took him to the AU General Assembly meeting in Accra, Ghana, in July and recently Lusaka, Zambia, stems from the fact that Election 2008 places him between a rock and a hard place because unless he wins, then he faces his Waterloo.

Next year’s election gives Tsvangirai his last dance and chance to contest for high office on an MDC faction ticket as he is serving his second and final term as faction president.

Article 6, subsection 6.1.3 of the constitution of the original MDC stipulated: ‘‘The president shall serve for a maximum of two terms.’’

Tsvangirai was elected MDC president at the party’s inaugural congress at the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex in late January 2000, and his first term expired in January 2005 ahead of the MDC split in October the same year.

He was re-elected for a second and final term at his faction’s congress at the City Sports Centre on March 19 last year and though that congress made several amendments to the original constitution, it still retained the two-term limit.

What this means is Tsvangirai is in his last five-year tenure as party president, and if he loses out next year, the next elections will be in 2013, two years after his term expires in 2011.

This scenario accounts for the desperation that led Tsvangirai to the ill-advised March 11 adventures in Highfield and the orgies of barbarism that followed even though it was evident that, after the flopped "final push" of June 2003, he did not have the capacity to mobilise for a colour revolution.

This also explains Tsvangirai’s opposition to the price freeze and, by extension, his blessing for the extortionate pricing madness that had reduced almost all consumers to virtual paupers.

This, he hoped, would drive Zimbabwe towards his backers’ long-desired but hitherto elusive tipping point.

What has baffled many, however, is why a man who faces his Waterloo would diminish his chances at the polls by refusing to unite with the rival faction, and in the process ditching the proposed one opposition candidate principle?

A man in Tsvangirai’s position, facing the unenviable task of trying to beat Zanu-PF on a divided vote, would surely have been a stickler for the single candidate proposal.

Not that the unity of the factions would have made much difference since the united MDC was soundly beaten in three separate national elections, a number of by-elections, and local government polls by Zanu-PF.

It seems, Tsvangirai believes, and rightly so, that whether Mutambara, Chawaona Kanoti, Egypt Dzinemunenzva or Isabel Madangure throw their hats into the ring, they will not seriously dent his share of the vote.

Some, however, believe it is fear of failure, and an apparent need for an excuse to atone for the failure that saw Tsvangirai sabotage the MDC unity project. What better excuse to atone for certain failure than the prospect of a divided vote?

It, however, remains to be seen whether Tsvangirai will step down as party president or whether he will go into his dictatorial mode, the one that saw him disregard his party’s constitution leading to the split of October 12 2005 as he dubbed himself ‘‘the Godfather of the MDC’’.

This time around, Tsvangirai may not get away with it as there is a strong anti-Tsvangirai lobby in the opposition that feels, after three straight defeats, the man has outlived his usefulness and should make way for a competent leader who can chart a different path for the party. Already Tapiwa Mashakada and Tendai Biti’s names are reportedly being bandied around as possible successors.

This lobby believes it was Tsvangirai’s history as a trade unionist that rallied people around the MDC, but his leadership deficiencies have failed to take the party forward but have, instead, irretrievably broken it down. This, they say, makes Tsvangirai an albatross around the opposition neck, which is why discerning supporters are slowly moving away.

There is evidence galore to support this lobby as the MDC’s share of the vote has been going down steadily since the gains the party made in Election 2000.

From the 57 seats the party won in 2000, which translated to 47 percent of the total ballots cast, in 2005 the MDC only managed 41 seats, 39,5 percent of the votes cast.

Zanu-PF, on the other hand, rose from 62 seats in 2000, 48,6 percent of the votes cast, to 78 seats in 2005, 59,59 percent of the ballot.

In the 2002 presidential poll, Tsvangirai’s share of the vote was 42 percent to President Mugabe’s 56,2 percent. So beginning 2000, the MDC share of the vote has declined as follows: 47 percent in 2000, 42 percent in 2002 and 39,5 percent in 2005. During the same period, Zanu-PF’s share rose from 48,6 percent in 2000, 56,2 percent in 2002, to 59,59 percent in 2005.

The picture gets glimmer if the Senate elections are factored in as a divided MDC managed a paltry 20,26 percent of the vote to Zanu-PF’s 73,71 percent.

This trend is unlikely to change as a divided MDC goes into a crucial harmonised election against a unified Zanu-PF that continues to outflank the opposition at every turn.

Then there are also those who believe Tsvangirai can no longer be packaged as a national leader following his disastrous actions prior to and after October 12 2005 that exposed him as an enemy of everything he claimed to stand for.

His colleagues in the Mutambara faction have given detailed exposes on Tsvangirai’s character and leadership capabilities that indicate the only leadership he should be trusted with should be at household level.

A few quotations will suffice here.

Gibson Sibanda, Tsvangirai’s long-time ally in the ZCTU and the party’s founding deputy president, said if Tsvangirai ever became president of Zimbabwe, he would be a serious dictator.

Job Sikhala, a founding member of the MDC and its first secretary of defence and security, concurred, saying Tsvangirai has the potential to decapitate opponents and stuff their heads into refrigerators.

Welshman Ncube, then secretary general, had this to say: ‘‘If you are a president of an opposition party who sets up a militia now, I shudder to think what would happen if you get into power when the police, the army, the Central Intelligence Organisation officers are all under your control.’’

But it is not only Tsvangirai who faces his Waterloo. George W. Bush, one of Tsvangirai’s benefactors, is on his way out as he winds up his last year in office in November next year.

Tony Blair, Christopher Dell and many other friends of the MDC are already out.

With the support Zimbabwe continues getting from the AU, Comesa, Sadc and other parts of the developing world, the regime change ship is running aground and its crew is growing desperate, very desperate indeed.

In such a situation, the Government needs to be careful, and vigilant.

What is this we hear about some Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom enlisting with the British army, in droves, ostensibly to serve in Iraq?

Was it a coincidence that disgraced Roman Catholic Archbishop for Bulawayo Diocese, one Pius Ncube, called for a British invasion of Zimbabwe, a refrain that has been repeated by several rightwing pundits?

As they say, the last kicks of a dying horse can be fatal; this is why it has to be watched with an eagle eye.

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