They believe that patience is a virtue.
I have always noticed that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has patience to spare.
From the days of its formation up to this very day, the MDC has shown a lot of restraint.
Robert Mugabe wasted no time in taking advantage of this trait, which had evolved from being a positive to one of utter spinelessness.
The MDC’s problems with their trademark patience became clearer after the formation of the unity government, just a little over a year ago.
Mugabe’s populist rhetoric encouraged the MDC to believe that there was a possibility of actually working well with Mugabe.
The MDC, at first, said they were giving Mugabe space and did not want to crowd him. They hoped that “sooner or later” the man would come around and honour his part of the deal within the government of national unity.
At the formation of the unity government, a few issues stuck out as very contentious issues.
These included Mugabe’s unilateral appointment of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the appointment of the Attorney General.
In terms of the Unity Agreement, these high profile positions had to be agreed to by both Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC, on one hand, and Mugabe and his ZANU-PF, on the other.
But Mugabe went ahead and made the unilateral appointments without bothering to consult the MDC.
For over a year now, the MDC has been screaming itself hoarse, demanding that the appointments were illegal and, therefore, ought to be rescinded. The issue of these appointments became what is now referred to as “outstanding issues”, which neither former South African President Thabo Mbeki nor his successor, Jacob Zuma, cared to solve.
But the MDC, with its trademark tolerance, to this day persists that the two should be recalled and new appointments made after proper consultations.
Mugabe, of course, looks to the side and laughs like the famed kookaburra.
He won’t badge and he continues to stand by his men up to this very day.
Meanwhile, Mugabe created yet another bone of contention and it ended up being outrageously insulting to the MDC.
Roy Bennett, the popular Shona-speaking white farmer (he is Zimbabwean) won a parliamentary seat just before his farm was forcibly taken by Mugabe. In parliament, he bumped Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa after losing his temper during a debate; Chinamasa had taunted him, saying his farm would be taken over for resettlement, which did happen.
Bennett held Chinamasa by the collar and pushed him to the floor but was restrained before pummeling Chinamasa. Later, ZANU-PF parliamentarians managed to get him arrested and sent to jail where he served eight months of his one year sentence.
After living in South Africa as a refugee, Bennett returned to Zimbabwe after the MDC won the elections and was one of the specially nominated ministers in Tsvangirai’s cabinet.
He was, however, arrested again, on treason charges of trying to overthrow the government.
The Attorney General, Johannes Tomana, whose appointment the MDC has been fighting for over a year, decided to prosecute Bennett himself and just last week, the court acquitted Bennett of all charges.
The MDC had given Bennett the cabinet post of Deputy Minister of Agriculture and his acquittal raised hopes that Bennett would now finally be sworn in but Tomana announced that he was going to appeal against Bennett’s acquittal.
The MDC does not want Tomana as Attorney General and ZANU-PF does not want Bennett as Agriculture minister so Bennett unwittingly becomes another “outstanding issue” between the MDC and ZANU-PF.
Sometime last year, Tsvangirai declared that there was to be no more farm invasions and said that police would be arresting anyone who tried to grab farms illegally.
No one has ever been arrested for invading a farm and the police simply do not pay attention to Tsvangirai’s directives. Today, farm invasions continue.
On Tuesday night, Ernest Nyoni, a black farmer in the Inyathi area, was arrested and charged with ‘contravening’ the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act by not leaving the farm he co-owns with white farmer Glen James.
”He was only released after his lawyer argued that the farm is not wholly owned by Nyoni, who was being charged in his personal capacity.”
Farm invasions are yet another outstanding issue between the two political parties. It is an issue that the MDC has failed to contain.
Today, just like more than a year ago, outstanding issues remain as the swearing-in of Bennett, the appointments of the Reserve Bank Governor, the Attorney General, provincial governors, chairing of cabinet, alteration of ministerial mandates, declaration of national hero status and the role of Mugabe’s mouth piece, George Charamba, “who doubles up as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Publicity and Mugabe’s spokesman”.
As if these serious outstanding issues were not enough, Mugabe on Thursday moved High Court Judge President Rita Makarau to Supreme Court justice, replacing her as top High Court justice with the infamous George Chiweshe, former chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Chiweshe was the man in charge of counting ballots and compiling results in the controversial 2008 elections, the results of which Chiweshe kept under wraps for more than a month, giving time to Mugabe and his army generals to overturn electoral defeat.
These two appointments were supposed to be done in consultation with the MDC but Mugabe went ahead and swore in five new judges, in addition to Chiweshe and Makarau.
Bennett’s issue and the swearing in of seven judges, all in one week, have now turned the MDC’s patience into cowardice and impotence.
Now even Tsvangirai’s own people want something to be done.
Tsvangirai is now under growing pressure from his party members “to confront Robert Mugabe and get the ZANU-PF leader to honour his obligations under the power sharing deal”.
Obviously, the anxiety among party members grew to unbearable levels after Attorney General Tomana, a key self-confessed ZANU PF loyalist and blue-eyed boy, appealed the acquittal on terrorism charges of MDC treasurer Roy Bennett.
Observers see the move as a deliberate attempt to sustain Mugabe’s excuse for not swearing Bennett in as Deputy Agriculture Minister.
But, in the meantime, Mugabe goes ahead and swears in seven judges without consulting the MDC, as per dictates of the Global Political Agreement, which gave birth to the unity government.
It is now very clear to all and sundry that Mugabe never intended to be part of a long lasting solution to the problems he created for the nation.
The MDC has been offered enough opportunities to ditch this nonsensical government of national unity.
Whether the MDC is in this government or not, Mugabe is in charge of the government and of the nation yet, ironically, it is the MDC’s presence in this government that is not only legitimizing Mugabe but that is also shielding him.
It is simply time for the MDC to wake up.
But, apparently, the best they can do is to go to complain to SADC and Jacob Zuma. Now the MDC wants the SADC summit to “clearly discuss the roadmap to an election and the guarantees to the legitimacy of this election”.
The MDC wants more talks but they cannot arm-twist Mugabe, Zuma or SADC yet they have plenty of opportunities to do so.
Why they cling to the belief that somehow Mugabe will “let” them rule Zimbabwe, I do not know.
The MDC was conned and they are being made fools of as people continue to die. It is time that they did something. Patience is no longer a virtue; their patience now borders on cowardice.
Unfortunately, Tsvangirai no longer has advisers. He appointed them to cabinet posts and they now have their own battles to fight against ZANU-PF underlings in their ministries.