21 October 2011

Zimbabwe: What Deep End, Mr Tsvangirai?


Reading the story of his life, one gets a picture of someone who all but avoids the deep end of Zimbabwe's national questions. Tsvangirai proves to be an opportunist who swims with the tide, which trait sometimes erodes the little credit he otherwise deserves at times.

Apart from the book being written for him by Bango, formerly at The Daily News, Tsvangirai's autobiography draws heavy influences from conservative and neo-liberal sources ranging from Ian Smith to western-sponsored anti-Zanu-PF websites.

As such the ordinary "village boy" he tries to portray in the first chapter, for example, is stilted and does not come to life when he is made to relate history through, and pout the words of, the likes of Ian Smith, whose book Tsvangirai uses profusely.

Despite claiming that, "My life was destined to be closely interwoven with political, economic and social changes in Zimbabwe," Tsvangirai failed in the first big test of his time. He did not join the liberation struggle against Rhodesian settler rule.

"Perhaps I would have become a political activist but my parents needed financial help to support the other children through school," rationalises Tsvangirai. He claims that his father, Dzingirai Chibwe, "as always, pressed me to finish my studies and enter working life." (page 25).

While working in Mutare (then Umtali) in 1972 for a company that made underwear elastic bands and curtain tapes, Tsvangirai says after being questioned by Rhodesian authorities over the use of the name Morgan instead of the christian Richard, "It was a warning to stay out of politics".

Later, while working in Bindura at a time when the liberation struggle became more intense, Tsvangirai states that he could not join the war because his wife, Susan was pregnant with his son, Edwin.

In fact, he revels in his opportunism as, following the "constant conscription of white managers into the police and army, I soon found myself with additional responsibilities at work which set the stage for professional growth." He was to stretch his opportunism at independence in 1980 when "suddenly" he "felt a surge of renewed interest to participate in politics."

He thus joined the local branch of Zanu-PF well in the safety of the independence which he could not sacrifice to bring. Trade unionism illustrates the best and worst of Tsvangirai. He started at Bindura when he joined the Allied Mineworkers Union of which he was later to become second vice president.

He then joined the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions as vice president and later become secretary general. On one hand, it must be admitted that Tsvangirai did exceptionally well as a worker representative in post-independent Zimbabwe.

He had a bit of luck, too, as Government ill-advisedly adopted the International Monetary Funds' Economic Structural Adjustment Programme in the early 1990s.

The austerity programme set Government apart from workers who bore the brunt of retrenchments and erosion of social services. ZCTU's "Beyond Esap" programmes led to the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change in May 1999, albeit with the manipulation of Tsvangirai who had over the years seen his profile rise and wanted the highest political office, although he pretends otherwise.

Admittedly, the 1990s had belonged to the trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai. But then if anybody had trusted that Tsvangirai would champion the cause of workers whose background he shared, they were wrong.

No sooner had Tsvangirai formed the MDC did he take up the cause of white commercial farmers.

He fought in the corner of white commercial farmers to block the passage of a new constitution that threatened their hold on colonially-gotten land.

A referendum on February 12, 2000 saw MDC and the whites succeed in the "NO" vote. He had drunk a poisoned chalice, moreso for workers he purported to represent. Tsvangirai became a hit with western capitals who saw an opportunity to make a go at President Mugabe who had angered Britain and its western allies over the question of land.

As if to sanitise his veering off the course of workers' struggle at the party they birthed, Tsvangirai claims MDC has "social democracy" as the guiding ideology of the party. Perhaps Tsvangirai could also have pointed out that his association with the white interests is what set him apart from the "false starts" of the likes of Edgar Tekere. But incredibly, Tsvangirai says he has not received any money from Britain except for "£12 000

sterling from the Westminster Foundation for the training of our election agents."

"Beyond that," declares Tsvangirai, "we received nothing from London, either in the form of cash or ideas. "To eliminate all doubt, as president of the MDC, I challenge any person in Harare, London or anywhere else to prove me wrong on this basic historical fact." (pp 318) This is despite the fact that the UK government officials have on numerous occasions said they were working with the MDC to effect regime change in Harare.

On the other hand, though, Tsvangirai is silent on the role of America and does not stand up and challenge anyone who questions MDC-US links, in the fashion of his challenge on Britain. Tsvangirai is also silent on a number of awards he has received in western capitals in which he is cited as a democratic player.

It is remarkable and disturbing but unsurprising that Tsvangirai who has claimed to be a victim of hate speech, uses his book to propagate hate against President Mugabe. While being self-indulgent and self-adulatory Tsvangirai is coarse and caustic against President Mugabe. He makes sure that he does not mention a single achievement by the Zanu-PF leader and tries to portray his rule as unmitigated failure from 1980.

Where he grudgingly accepts achievements of the Zanu-PF government, he makes sure that pins an underside of the achievement. For example, Tsvangirai seems to blame the country's education system for producing graduates, whom he says were soon to find no employment. He is unsparing when he comes to university education, which coincidentally he did not get.

He says: "The narrow technical traits our universities prize as higher learning can easily block our access to wisdom, deform our morals and deplete our intuitive gifts to a point where common sense ceases to be common." (pp467).

But it is against President Mugabe that he reserves his venom and contempt. He calls the President a "national disgrace" and "dictator" who had lost his legacy which he could salvage by associating with Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai patronisingly portrays himself as the more alert, intelligible, and generally the better politician. It is understandable. Only Tsvangirai exposes himself to be immature, base and compensatory.

This makes his book, which largely is bound to be of little value to any discerning reader, generally ashy-tasting.

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