Tuesday, September 25, 2007

(HERALD) Political maturity or voice of Africa?

Political maturity or voice of Africa?
By Reason Wafawarova

When the MDC was launched on September 9, 1999, Zimbabwe, like the United States two days later, was marking the beginning of a menacing historical phase as the Southern African state woke up to threats of "violent removal" of President Mugabe by one Morgan Tsvangirai while the United States woke up to a real violent attack on the Twin Towers by a gang of terrorists masterminded by one Osama bin Laden.

There is no doubt that the shallow and rushed ranting about the two concepts of freedom and democracy by a series of overzealous speakers at Harare’s Rufaro Stadium had a worrisome effect on both the emerging leadership of the MDC and its newly found support base on that fateful day — an effect Zimbabwe will now leave long to regret.

To the emerging political leadership in the opposition MDC and to its equally emerging support base the rhetoric about a promised new era of freedom and democracy through change created a wayward kind of zeal as would be found in a rich kid just discovering the Church of Scientology.

The zeal marked the beginning of an evangelical road to discovering the wonders of democratic liberties as espoused in the synoptic gospel of international law in general and human rights law in particular; that notwithstanding the fact that not more than a handful of lawyers and a few individuals in the new party had the vaguest idea of what international law or human rights law is all about. To many in the MDC, right to this day, international law and human rights law is limited to permission to hold a political rally and to run up and down the streets vilifying and deriding political opponents when one is not stoning those who are not participating or even attacking the police.

The above average member of the opposition would have a bit of extra knowledge about the existence of a free media, a concept that to them means no more than a media that peddles anything terrible against the ruling party and its incumbent government, literally anything — founded or unfounded.

This is the kind of development you would expect when a party chooses to associate itself with the likes of the British; whose laws in relation to indigenous Zimbabweans during the colonial era were racist in content, pro-domination in application and typically British in origin.

This is the kind of opposition politics one expects to find when an opposition party like the MDC boastfully says it is at home with the sabre-rattling US foreign policy and the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (2001); policies that are clearly supremacist in content, imperialist in application and typically American in origin.

It’s now eight years since the fateful September day and Zimbabwe has had its worst economic and social decline ever. The MDC has been more than happy to celebrate the decline, as an indicator of bad governance, even openly campaigning for more sanctions against the country in what they have all along believed is part of applying pressure on the regime. The EU, the Commonwealth, the World Bank, the IMF and the United States have resultantly isolated Zimbabwe, much to the delight of the MDC leadership and part of its membership, mainly those stationed in the Diaspora.

While Zimbabwe has been stuck with the menace its foreign-sponsored opposition has been causing the US has equally had a fruitless eight years solving the mystery of Osama bin Laden and the terrorism menace he has thrown right in the face of the US ruling elite. They are still stuck in Afghanistan with reports of a resurgent Taliban giving the battle-weary US troops a new wave of challenge. Their second adventure in Iraq has proved to be more than disastrous with the US admitting that they are "not winning the war".

Can we, Zimbabweans claim more progress and success than the Americans, given the developments of Tuesday the 18th of September, 2007 right in the House of Assembly where the MDC uncharacteristically embraced new legislation together with the ruling party? September, September, what do you have in store for us this time around?

The move by the MDC to allow Constitutional Amendment No 18 to pass through the House’s first reading without opposition has been described as a bargain deal by the BBC, as political maturity by Zimbabwean parliamentarians, as a great betrayal by the NCA and some in the rabble-rousing civic society, and as the beginning of the end of the Zimbabwe crisis by Thokozani Khupe.

This writer will try to assess each of the assertions given but will quickly say whatever description or assertion finds favour with the MDC, the fact of the matter is that Africa has made the first meaningful step towards taming and rehabilitating the wayward opposition from being the alien Western political project they have been since 1999 to a more home-grown African party.

It has taken Africa just five months to speak so eloquently and clearly to the MDC, without giving them a single cent as would the West whenever they want to spur the opposition into some form of action. For Africa, Dar was the beginning of a good lesson in March 2007 as Sadc introduced the African perspective, Accra was the body and content of the script as the AU spoke on Africa’s position on Zimbabwe in July and September brought the conclusion as Sadc stood resolute with Zimbabwe at the Lusaka summit. The shunning, public reprimand and negative publicity received by the MDC, especially in Accra Ghana and Lusaka Zambia brought the insidious opposition to a sobering landing and bit by bit they have been a little more than careful in their vilification of the African leadership.

This is the political environment in which we find the MDC behaving like a home-grown political party for the first time. When the rest of us spoke in the past they dismissed all advice as propaganda or the fight of people bent on delaying the coming of change.

They can’t stand and accuse Africa of propaganda and neither can they accuse the continent of being bent on delaying or preventing change in Zimbabwe. They simply find themselves cornered and as this writer has written before that the MDC just finds themselves staring at the African writing on the wall. It’s a clear message where Africa says to the MDC; it is the African way or the highway — the shape up or ship out kind of scenario.

It is just as good that President Mbeki is no megaphone negotiator and he stuck to the African code like all who know him well expected. Now is it more and more confusion from the MDC or we are heading for better political maturity and better times? It is difficult to say as of now but a few observations can be made.

Clearly, the dual gamble of trying the politics of elections on one hand and street-based overthrowing adventures on the other has proved a futile exercise, as the MDC has been losing seats to Zanu- PF like there is no tomorrow in the last three elections, namely the 2005 general election, the Senate elections and the 2006 rural council elections. The street protests and the so-called mass action campaigns have all been but a massive failure mainly because of failure to attract any participants or decisive policing by law enforcement agents.

The only hope left for the MDC has been the declining economy that many observers had predicted to reach tipping point in 2007. The decision to tame the profiteering business people through a price blitz came as a rude surprise to the doomsayers and it derailed all predictions and forecasts right into the jungle.

The collapse of the so-called unity talks between the two feuding MDC factions did not make it any better for the MDC as election 2008 is fast approaching.

It is these puzzles coupled with the decisive African message on Zimbabwe that the MDC was sobered to the reality of politics. It is this sobering reality that has compelled the MDC to behave like good and well-intended Zimbabwean boys before Thabo Mbeki’s team. It is the same sobering reality that has made the MDC to look like real Zimbabweans in Parliament since the last time they agreed with the ruling party on benefits for Members of Parliament.

The good thing to be appreciated is that for once we have seen what looks like political maturity from the opposition and for that the MDC must be commended.

It would be naïve to assume that the move by the MDC was in any way a surprise to their Western backers. The BBC described it as such and called it a "constitutional deal" giving the impression that they view it as a compromise card pushing towards the grand Western interest of changing either the regime or the policies of Zimbabwe whichever is easier, as long as the means will justify the imperial interest of the West controlling the economic resources of Zimbabwe. If the MDC are of the opinion that they are in the business of securing political deals through the amendment of the Constitution then they are better advised that political deals are best done behind the scenes and not through the national Constitution.

The amendment in question is largely about the politics of representation as well as administrative issues of how the country is to be run and whatever the parties have adopted belongs to the people of Zimbabwe and the future leadership. It is not a piece-meal deal to suit Zanu-PF or MDC egos unless we are being taken for granted.

Parliamentarians from both sides of the House described the move by the MDC as a sign of political maturity and went to town about how Zimbabwe had suddenly come of age to shame its detractors by a solid show of maturity and a sense of common purpose. Of course, the glorification must be seen in its political sense as opposed to the literal sense that the MDC has all of a sudden mutated into a home-grown mature political party. Whichever way the MDC showed political maturity, be it of a momentary nature or of real character.

Thokozani Khupe, the MDC Tsvangirai faction leader of the House, said something to the effect that what the opposition did was the beginning of the end of the Zimbabwe crisis. If she is not a hopeless optimist, then we can only assume that she knows what she was talking about. She can only know what she was talking about if she knows how the problems can be solved and by alluding to the assertion that the MDC move could serve as a sign of the beginning of the end of our problems she was probably tacitly telling the nation that her party has a say in ending the crisis.

If the crisis is purely a matter of misgovernance and bad policies on the part of the Government it is then difficult to see how the behaviour of the MDC can fix any of those problems. It would appear like someone was trying to tell the country that if you treat us nice we could undo a few things that can make everyone happy. It does not take a rocket scientist to guess what the MDC think they can change. In all fairness all the MDC can do for the nation is to tell their Western backers to leave Zimbabwe alone and lift all forms of sanctions as Africa has already stated. That is the beginning and the end of their capacity in rebuilding what was destroyed in the last seven years.

Welshman Ncube said something to the effect that it is not necessary to keep playing politics for the sake of politics while the country is bleeding. That is how mature politicians should be conducting business and we hope this statement was not part of continuing playing politics for the sake of politics.

Now we get reports that the NCA and other civic organisations feel they have been short-changed by the MDC and that some among them are crying out that they have been greatly betrayed. If only this were true. No one deserves a greater betrayal than is due for Zimbabwe’s opposition civic society. They have been betraying the nation for meaningless silver without any remorse for a good eight years now and they deserve no mercy for their lot.

Anyway, how does one betray the betrayers? These are people who earn more money by each crisis. They love inflation, they love sickness, they love poverty, they love unemployment, they love conflict, they want violence and all that can make glossy reports for their financiers in Western capitals. Stability for them means dry coffers and they would rather we all keep suffering so that they can continue to posture as fighters for social justice.

It would be interesting to see how the West will react to the recent developments but chances are that they will pretend to harden their position a bit, just to give the MDC a semblance of independence before they begin to look for diplomatic ways of re-engagement. This is likely to take some time but election 2008 might give a good pretext to claim positive changes and a shift in policy.

Whichever way, the MDC are trying to live within the African perspective and if they keep at it they stand a good chance of gaining friends in Africa and possibly forming a government one day. This writer sincerely hopes that the era of a confused MDC is over and we are headed for better times. Zimbabweans are a hopeful people and as sure as the Lord lives we will overcome.

l Reason Wafawarova is a political writer and can be contacted on wafawarova@yahoo.co.uk

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