Sunday, September 01, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Tsvangirai: selling grief on expired victimhood
03/08/2013 00:00:00
by Nathaniel Manheru I Herald

MORGAN Tsvangirai, the defeated MDC-T leader, has one more chance to redeem himself. He has trashed the 2013 polls he and his party have lost. That was to be expected. He carries the DNA of opposition parties on the continent. Definitionally, they are never defeated, only cheated. He is too ordinary to rebel against this opposition instinct.

But beyond this stock behaviour of all repudiated African oppositional aspirations, we must grant that Tsvangirai, like all politicians, must manage the defeat, indeed manage his wounded constituency.

As a leader, part of his responsibility is to manufacture excuses for his membership, excuses that become a mollifying illusion, a saving lie as Joseph Conrad would call it, to which his membership can cling as they wade through a bad blizzard. Tsvangirai tried hard to supply this illusion, what with such a sharp demand for it.

The defeat has been a very bad one, a real whitewash reminiscent of Abel Muzorewa and his UANC in 1980. After all, he it was who had given his supporters an illusion of victory. Naturally, it would be to bring them gently down a hard surface, well below vapours of cloudy triumphalism.

So we must grant Tsvangirai this simulated anger, this dissembling dissatisfaction with the electoral process he knows to be just and blind, and the hard result it has yielded for him.
When selling grief is not enough

The key thing is for him and his followers not to start believing those time-bound instruments — all of them miasmic — which they are deploying for the sake of managing a painful defeat psychology, turning them into a real political grievance or creed around which to pursue post-defeat politics which should be long-term and therefore founded on real alternative principles. That would be a grave mistake, yet another one after a series of them.

After all, is it not an almost congenital weakness of the MDC-T to be a creature shaped by grievances, by criticism of Zanu PF, but still hoping to curry favour with an electorate looking for an alternative vision beyond a critique of Zanu PF? Did not the failure to come up with a decent manifesto arise from this propensity to grieve, and from an abiding wish to sell that grief?
The one grim habit we have kicked off

Very soon there will be victory celebrations, something Zanu PF is entitled to do. Read against 2008, Zanu PF worked hard, won deservedly. But more fundamentally, and well beyond partisan politics, this will be a party for the victory of the country, our Zimbabwe. We have jumped past a key hurdle in our politics. For far too long violence had stalked our elective politics, threatening to create a ritualistic tradition of a bloody rite every five years.

For a nation that bled to wrestle its own Independence, a nation ushered in through a bloody poll in 1980, this looked like a grim habit, looked like we had grown so used to hurting, maiming, killing and dying that we could hardly do without all of these, nay, craved for more gore while resting ourselves for a good five years soon after one more such gory harvest. Now we appear to have put that bizarre predisposition behind us, hopefully put it behind us for good.

Even if the media might want, for narrow political ends, to pooh-pooh this remarkable achievement of a violence-free election all to invoke new tests, more exacting standards, for us, we all know this not to be a small breakthrough, we all know that the shift to new criteria and benchmarks bespeak of a nation that scaled a rung up, moved to higher order needs. Congratulations Zimbabwe and the party is for you!
The one wound that helped

Is Tsvangirai able to see this key point, all amidst the engulfing gloom of defeat which easily jaundices his vision, easily distorting all before him? Smarting under defeat, it is very easy to go for broke, too easy to throw away the baby together with the bath water.

He must see, or must be helped to see this key result, this key achievement of the nation. After all, it is partly his result for which he bears scars. The 2008 MDC-T political breakthrough owed to a wound, to lacerations he suffered after his encounter with the authorities.

The image of a dazed Tsvangirai walking so unsteadily out of a police camp, that cost Zanu PF an election. Much worse, it cost Zanu PF its moral stature. If Mugabe was a victim of a bullying West, why was he himself bullying the underdog at home? That was the indicting question asked by all, friends and foes. It cost him friends; much worse, it cost him Africa and her shielding sympathies.

Zimbabwe is no Israel whose founding status as a timeless victim of the world — thanks to Nazi Germany — makes it immune to all wrong. That is why Palestinians, themselves victims of a victim, have never been able to merit victim-hood, all of it hogged by this strange victim called Israel, armed with nuclear capacity!

But like the shrewd politician he is, Mugabe quickly counted his lessons, and made peace his watchword. He pleaded for it, preached it all the way into the ballot box. Today he stands shining: victory in hand, a beatific collar around his neck. He has been able to stampede for, to chase victory without trampling on anyone, on anything. No one dares touch him. What a second coming!

When victim-hood expires

Morgan forgot that even deep wounds heal. Morgan forgot that while the world condemns bad behaviour, pities victims, the world soon moves on, flipping new pages, forgetting old ones. In 2013, he no longer spotted a weeping wound, could never have recreated them in their freshness, hoping for fresher sympathies.

In 2013, he has since transfigured from a victim to a lead actor who made mistakes, many at that. No longer was there anything behind to parade for sympathies; so much was around him and ahead of him, to discredit and discount him as a prospective leader of this country.

And unlike the emaciated, ill-clad trade unionist of yore, Tsvangirai has grown rotund, spotting two cheeks on either side, wafting from place to place in a glistening maroon Mercedes. And maroon is no colour of indigence. Now he eats well, or more accurately has been eating well, up to now.

Nothing about him connects with victim-hood, links him any longer to the struggling demos and their bad tooth, links him to that fickle yet massive power base that had catapulted him near to the zenith.

And as always, opulence repels, triggers resentment, more so if it lifts the one who was one of us only yesterday to a new alienating level. Time has been cathartic to all of us of this nation.

Simply by a moved heart, simply by sentiment, we could have granted leadership to a man much less than what pity gave him. It was a close shave that this did not happen. A good four years later, we were able to look at him with a sober eye, or re-look at the villain of the time with less emotion.

We regained our sober judgment and the result was July 31.

The end of ignominy

Soon Mugabe will go through the rituals of enthronement. We call it inauguration. It shall be a big event, what given that this may be his last such. Even more, I see him wanting to mark his second coming in a special, lasting way.

He has put up with humiliation for a long time, with mortifying councils convening around him and his country. Even midgets were beginning to feel taller, even attempting to govern for him this great country. Much worse some in the neighbourhood had grown big; disproportionately big, even thinking their size depended on the size of powers seeking to influence them on Zimbabwe.

Most of the initiatives on Zimbabwe, more accurately against Zimbabwe, had little to do with African sensibility, with the search for African solutions. They had a lot to do with interests quite foreign to our region, our continent, finding tools in our own brethren. But Mugabe was the accused and thus a man claiming no rights. This election has ended that ignominy; that imputed pariah status.

Terminal advice, advisors

So there will be a big party and Morgan will be invited. Morgan may come. Morgan may not come. Much depends on how well he handles his fawned bitterness, how well he sifts words, ideas and adulations for real, quality advice.

As we saw in the last few days, he still has around him many who would want to push him to the brink so he is easier to replace. Those “advisers” whose faraway face is Roy Bennett are pushing him to do the precipitous they know will not succeed. And the common denominator among these human vectors of such destructive advice is illness — terminal illness again exemplified by Bennett’s cancer. They seek to burn the village, knowing too well soon they will be making their way to a more permanent home in the cemetery.

Will Morgan succumb to such terminal thinking, terminal advice? He could, to his peril. Or he could repudiate it, the same way he disavowed Solomon Madzore and his violent ways, to place himself above ordinary propensities.

Appeasing Rhodes’ spirit

There need not be a dilemma for him. The advisers are asking him to do the impossible even when you ignore their real, sinister motives. Asking him to do the suicidal when you factor in “the firstlings of their mind”, to borrow from Shakespeare.

They want him to bring the people into the streets, to do an Arab Spring here. They want to get him to bring Zimbabwe to a standstill. Well, in the first place Morgan has no “people” to bring into the street. If he had, they would have brought him a decisive vote to carry the day.

Secondly, we have a real spring, are into it now. We don’t need an Arab one, or a synthetic Rhodesian one sold to us by Bennett and those of his ilk. When Rhodesia dies, it seeks sympathy death in a people. Are we ready for such, all to please and appease Rhodes at Matopos?

Thirdly, even in North Africa, itself the home of the so-called Spring, the citizens of that forsaken part of Africa now know that it was not a Spring, but another winter bringing no bloom, or the promise of it. The flower continues to wilt before the hiss of a dreadful bullet. Look at Egypt, a great country!

Fourth, repudiating a result which no one else but yourself believes fudged gives you a forlorn war. There has to be a broad sense of injury, a sense of national outrage, such as we saw in Tunisia, Egypt; such as we did not see in Libya and Syria, which is why the West had to impose outrage on behalf of citizens of those last two countries. By any stretch of imagination, that sense is not here, cannot be here given the poll we went through.

Fifth and decisively, repudiating the result, let alone seeking to mount any unconstitutional action on such a repudiation, amounts to rejecting what SADC and the AU — our mother bodies — have endorsed. And that rejection will need an alternative authority and bundle of principles. If both are not SADC, or AU, what would they be? Europe? America? Ahaaa! Morgan would have been driven back into the deadly fold of the white man, his original habitat from 1999.

When you repudiate Africa and her wisdom, you repudiate your own; seek to play a foreign drum. I am sure Zanu PF would see this as a political boon. Will he want to grant them that?
Hanging the boots?

The real risk is not just one of losing the poll, a fate already suffered and sealed. It is to be dismissed as a bad politician, a bad loser, for all time. Such a verdict does not allow for reconstruction, for a second political coming such as has been enjoyed by Robert Mugabe after fastening onto Africa, whatever indignities.

Much more, Morgan needs to ponder his future. If it is still political, what politics? Partisan? National? International? He is a man who has peered into the summit. He has been our Prime Minister, a position that entitles him to some stature, some regard, however grudgingly given.

Today he stands at crossroads: to reinvent himself away from the obloquy of post-colonial treachery of a collaborator to an ex-Prime Minister of this great country. Or to reinforce that execrable image he has picked from his past politics as Britain’s cat paw, getting hanged by it politically.

With so many attempts at Presidency, all of them coming to grief, would he want another go? Or time to hang boots, as he promised he would?

With Zanu PF showing such stupendous capacity to mobilise around its main candidate, will the final retirement of Mugabe necessarily change the fortunes of the party against which he has to be pitted? More personally, has he not gone far enough, farther than he merits given what he is intrinsically, educationally?

In bed with media pimps

I notice the once adulatory media is already beginning to flay him, alive and so soon. Exactly! To the chattering class it is all about gaming, about selling paper.

Nothing moors the class, which is why enduring politics need not rely on headlines for traction. The media are pimps who go where the money is, tenacious predators who smell where the money isn’t.

Between reality and Morgan stood a lying media. That was his bane. It cooked false glory, false popularity for him, thereby leading him to the slaughter house singing holalala. The referendum should have been enough warning, if only the media had not invented a saving lie for him, and if only he did not develop an appetite for that lie.

If only he had advisers sincere enough to getting him to feel the chill of the day. He lacked all these, which is why when the inevitable happened, he found himself in a state of shock.

I cannot understand why even after repeated rallies of poor turnout Morgan continued to feed so voraciously on the deadly media staple of a triumphing politician. I cannot understand why so much was drawn out of a fake “crossover” crowd of Monday, Morgan’s day for the last supper. It was a massive deception, one so ornately decorated by his leading coxcombs like Nelson Chamisa and Jameson Timba. And he crossed over!
The one hint that shall save him

I hope his people followed Mugabe’s press conference on the eve of the elections. First, the event itself. The MDC-T foil to that event was their leader’s article in the Washington Post. Why they chose to parade Tsvangirai in the Washington Post, a little read paper in Southern Africa, no one will ever know. What nationality were they giving him? What audiences?

Second, he was still Prime Minister of this country and could have, as such, created a media event in which he spoke above partisan positions, spoke as a national figure. They did not help him do that, choosing instead to exile him to America mudzvanyiriri!

Third — that is my real point — Mugabe gave ample hints at conciliation. He was jocular about personal attacks during the campaign, lauded the inclusive phase of our politics, even sounding nostalgic about it. Then, he underlined, the ethic of working together had to be upheld by whoever emerged as the winner of the polls.

Did they get that hint? How did they interpret it? Why didn’t their man use it when Olusegun Obasanjo smuggled him to State House in the evening of the eve of elections? Surely defeat was already staring him in the face?

It’s not too late to redeem the situation. All he needs to do is to raise himself above bad advice from some of his people who have never loved him anyway. Need he fall on his own sword?

Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald. E-mail him:

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