Monday, September 28, 2020

Tsvangirai needs to be with his followers in Zimbabwe

Rhetoric entices me. I love rhetoric because rhetoric graphically emphasizes a message.

Phandu Skelemani, Botswana’s now liberated Foreign Affairs Minister, has rhetoric, beautiful rhetoric.
Skelemani is enjoying himself because, on Zimbabwe, he appears to be talking about something he really believes in and I now wonder about his agony under Festus Mogae.

Rhetoric is enticing and more.
Raila Odinga has rhetoric, appropriate rhetoric, just like Skelemani’s.
But both Botswana and Kenya have moved away from their notoriously weak and biased organizations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.

Kenya and Botswana are espousing solutions and positions more to their liking than the usual half-baked decisions by consensus recommended by their organisations.

I do not like the agreement that Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai went into with Robert Mugabe and I have said it before.

I do not like the agreement that Odinga went into with Mwai Kibaki either.
Odinga did it because there was a crisis in Kenya.

Odinga did not go around hibernating in some foreign country while his people died at the hands of his political adversary.

Odinga recognized that, even having received the electoral fruits of his quest, there was an unnatural stumbling block and he went on to clip his own wings to save his people and his nation.
Odinga remained in Kenya with his supporters when the mayhem played itself around them and he, in his person, participated in attempts to find an answer, surrounded by grieving families and supporters.

He was there with the people.
Odinga sacrificed part of the mandate his own people gave him just so he could save his country and his fellow citizens.

To that extent, therefore, Mr Tsvangirai must, of necessity, go home. He is the leader for whom people are being killed. He is the leader people believe in.

He is the one person on whom Zimbabweans pin their hopes. Those nations outside our Zimbabwean borders who want to help will not do so unless Tsvangirai says so. But he is not in Zimbabwe suffering with the people who are suffering for supporting him.

Surely, Mr Tsvangirai, who has clearly suffered much more for Zimbabwe than Robert Mugabe did, does not think that it is a given that people should die for him?

MDC advisors better come up with a better strategy than sitting there and hoping that the ‘international community’ will do something.

Already, the MDC is showing bad signs of uncaring and does not seem able to utilize the help and hospitality from countries such as Botswana. In fact, the MDC is now abusing the hospitality extended to them by Botswana.
The MDC is not crying out for help for the afflicted in Zimbabwe, instead, it is busy booking flights for its leadership as they criss-cross the globe.

People are dying in Zimbabwe because they support Tsvangirai.
There is trouble in Zimbabwe and the people need leadership.

Tsvangirai should not make it look as if his own life is more important than those hundreds and hundreds of starving people who refuse to renounce their allegiance to his party.
There is something called ‘leading by example’.

Mr Tsvangirai’s trips are too many and last too long and yet, he, not Robert Mugabe, holds the key to any meaningful change or settlement in Zimbabwe.

Mr Tsvangirai must be careful not to polorise his own supporters. And he appears to be doing just that, in and outside Zimbabwe.

This, I must say, is not rhetoric. The MDC leadership even has to do better with people in the so-called Diaspora. It must desist from creating an elitist organization.

“MDC-Tsvangirai is not very good in keeping good relations with supporters in the Diaspora,” says an email I received today from a former office holder in the UK branch of the MDC. “They certainly killed MDC activism in the UK. I was one elected as the MDC UK …, a position I held for less than a year and I resigned because I was really disappointed.”┬á

But is it okay for supporters to die for the MDC leadership while the MDC leadership is safe and enjoying itself outside Zimbabwe while their own supporters are dying from Mugabe’s brutality and from Mugabe-induced cholera and other ills?
This means that other people’s children are being sacrificed on their behalf.

Tsvangirai’s sacrifices are slowly being eroded by bad judgments and bad company.

We heard about Thokozani Khupe chairing a very important meeting and wondered if it was okay when Mr Tsvangirai could easily have participated. We heard about Khupe breaking down at a clinic in front of ill people who had no medication while her boss was elsewhere outside Zimbabwe. Being with people in distress is a sign of caring leadership.

The number of the dying is going up while Tsvangirai is away.
Mr Tsvangirai would be justified to seek asylum elsewhere if he wishes and, given the circumstances, he should, instead of playing hide and seek with the very same people who are dying for him.

Seeking asylum will obviously exonerate him from people’s expectations of his presence in Zimbabwe but people will at least understand and not expect him, as they do now.

Decidedly, Mr Tsvangirai has suffered and has come a long way. But he must, however, be home with the very people who, on a daily basis, are being killed because they believe in his ideals.
As for Odinga, his rhetoric has suddenly taken a radical twist like the one Mugabe and ZANU-PF espoused in their earlier hard-line-posture in defense of an ellusive African Renaissance, much like the hogwash renaissance that the disgraced Thabo Mbeki feebly announced to the world on his assumption of the South African Presidency.

Odinga’s utterings are no longer tinged with diplomacy. No need for that when dealing with Mugabe. Odinga wants the military to march into Zimbabwe. On Thursday, Mr Skelemani told me that Botswana does not support a military solution in Zimbabwe.
I am sure cool heads will prevail and the right options followed up. But we want emancipation by any means necessary.

In the meantime, it should occur to MDC leadership for them to be among the suffering people and avoid being elitist and detached from the people. Mr Tsvangirai’s prolonged unexplained absence from Zimbabwe is not doing him any good and I worry about comments that are being made by people in other countries about this.

Even here in Botswana accolades are hard to come by, especially in Gaborone and Dukwi.

If it is a question of security for Mr Tsvangirai, maybe a decision should be made for the leadership to seek sanctuary in a country of their choice and get on with filling the void they are creating with these long absences when people need leadership.

His presence among the people would illuminate the plight of the nation very brightly. Imagine, for once, the impact had Tsvangirai been touring with Khupe when she broke down. What would his reaction to his Vice-President’s surrender to emotions of pity been?
Mr Tsvangirai should not underestimate his responsibilities to the millions of Zimbabweans, whether or not they voted for him. Right now, he is the only hope and he holds the key to any possible meaningful settlement.


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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.