AFRICANGLOBE – The tendency of international statesmen to praise ‘the man of the moment’ through an awards system or complementary rhetoric is amongst one of the most endearing features of contemporary international politics.
But sometimes international leaders get it wrong. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe was the quintessential ‘man of the moment who was touted as a statesman whose administration was a model for other nations.
As it turned out later, his formula for running the country – including the latter-day seizing of white owned farms- proved to be too unconventional even for the ‘international community.’
International leaders now seem to be falling over each other to award Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai (head of the Movement for Democratic Change [MDC]) with undeserved accolades in admiration of his courage in the battle for political hegemony in Zimbabwe.
Though to some degree welcome (they might help intensify the recruitment of sympathy and support for his cause from the wretched local masses and the eager international community), such awards can also unwittingly give us an unrealistic sense of political certainty about what lies ahead.
The awarding of accolades would not be so contentious if they were attentively balanced with a deliberately active encouragement by international leaders of debate on Morgan Tsvangirai’s performance to date. Honest discussion of the immediate and current performance of the MDC leader whilst in opposition might help us develop a realistic imagination of a post-Mugabe era with Morgan Tsvangirai in power.
Taking the opportunity of the elections scheduled this year, let us examine Morgan Tsvangirai’s story as leader of the opposition, and try to understand the politician who might likely to occupy state house, come free and fair elections this June.
The understanding that I humbly propose here, departs from the view that Morgan Tsvangirai is Zimbabwe’s version of Nelson Mandela. The intention of adopting such a view, hopefully, is to inject a refreshingly problematic understanding of the MDC leader.
I will start by acknowledging the profundity of my admiration for Morgan Tsvangirai. In particular, I revere his decision to sign on for what many initially regarded as a suicidal political fight against Mugabe, and his persistence in that mortal combat. This he has waged for most of the time against all odds and in the face of adversity that threatened his immediate family and even his physical existence. Indeed, I rank this decision as one of the bravest ever made by a Zimbabwean.
It is such spirited courage, coupled with a sense of inadequacy in most of us towards Morgan Tsvangirai’s relentless struggle against Mugabe, which understandably make it hard to pen even the most restrained criticism of his leadership.
Not only does this entire business of being critical of the MDC leader induce uneasiness in the critic’s conscience, but talk of such kind often evokes, in some cases justifiably, biting remarks. The bearer of the critical mind can easily be accused of wittingly or unwittingly undermining the fight against democracy. Worse, he can be seen as a vulgar apologist for the existing regime.
I am not, however, confident that the removal of the authoritarian Mugabe regime necessarily means that democracy will have won. It may be a rejection of arbitrary rule, but then what follows might in some way resemble the existing political system.
I say so because to construct democracy requires genuine democratic efforts that must start from within the MDC whilst it is still in opposition, which judging from some of its current behaviour, appear not to be the case. Morgan Tsvangirai and his party have been gravitating towards undemocratic practices – this includes hostility towards criticism, the issue of Morgan Tsvangirai’s succession, and the MDC’s own political violence.
Morgan Tsvangirai Worst Than Mugabe
The MDC and its leader has developed an attitude redolent of ZANU-PF in its attitude towards criticism. In recent years, increasingly, we have seen how they have become intolerably hostile to those who criticise them.
For example, the response of its officials to a negative 2012 Report on MDC by Freedom House, a Washington based democracy research and advocacy organisation, indicates how irascible and unaccommodating the opposition party can be towards those whose views are contrary to what they want to hear.
This behaviour is also personified by the party’s leader who has been known to become apoplectic when criticised particularly by his MDC-N rival, Professor Welshman Ncube (leader of the smaller breakaway faction of the MDC). Such an attitude is totally incongruent with democratic imperatives.
Most serious, the issue of Morgan Tsvangirai’s succession has been stonewalled each time it is raised within the party or on the public forum, exposing the limitations of democratic processes within the MDC.
On this matter, the MDC leader reminds me of Dickens’s Mrs Jellyby in Bleak House, worrying about the democratic miseries of the nation, while ignoring the shrieks for change from under his window. Indeed, on this matter, Morgan Tsvangirai could do with a dose of humility before demanding of Mugabe at national level, what he is resisting within his party.