17 February 2018

Zimbabwe: Morgan Was a Sinner and Saint - Like All of Us

Photo: Benedikt von Loebell/World Economic Forum
Morgan Tsvangirai.

Morgan Richard Tsvangirai is no more. In life he was a forceful and controversial figure. He was as a polarising figure -- polarising in life as he is in death. Observers will note that Tsvangirai was as forceful and polarising as his longtime nemesis -- former President Robert Mugabe.

The two men held the country in a political thrall between themselves, a battle of strong characters and personalities; a battle of minds and ideas; a battle of ideologies and philosophies.

A battle of egos.

They locked us in all.

It was, in the final analysis, a generational fight.

The Tsvangirai-Mugabe generational battle is now behind us.

Mugabe left office in November 2017, in the culmination of political processes that were helped by Operation Restore Legacy, a military intervention that was meant to separate the veteran leader from criminal elements around him.

It is small comfort that he was not removed by Tsvangirai.

Equally, it is comforting that Mugabe did not succumb to the morbid wishes of his enemies who wanted to see him dead on an annual basis.

That was years before our knowledge of "fake news" as we understand the term now as a bigger industrial malpractice.

We were, then, beginning to get used to that diet of stories announcing the death of Mugabe during his holidays in the Far East.

Mugabe himself grew to take it in his stride.

He joked that he was the only man who had died and risen more than once.

He had actually beaten Jesus, the Son of Man, to the practice of dying and resurrecting.

He even outlived the five years that he was supposedly told by doctors for having been stricken by cancer of the prostate, which an American ambassador has been told by one Gideon Gono.

But Mugabe lives.

He is safe somewhere.

That is how mysteriously God works.

But at 65, Tsvangirai did not deserve to die.

That is a young age for a politician.

Much worse a politician who had not arrived yet.

A newspaper has just called him a "nearly man" of Zimbabwean politics.

"A powerful orator from humble beginnings, Morgan Tsvangirai was arguably Zimbabwe's most popular politician and came within a whisker of unseating Robert Mugabe only to be outmanoeuvred and ultimately outlived by his long-time nemesis," NewsDay told us in an obituary yesterday.

Hard to swallow for Tsvangirai's supporters and admirers.

Yet it is the sad reality.

He was Mugabe's perpetual groomsman.

Even after that lucky 2008 result in the first round of presidential elections.

In the power-sharing agreement that followed, thanks to the protracted negotiations of the Global Political Agreement (2008) and inclusive Government (2009-13).

Tsvangirai was trounced in elections of 2013.

Comprehensively.

He had budgeted for nature to fight for him against a nonagenarian Mugabe sometimes battling frailties occasioned by age.

Mugabe's age and health became electoral issues.

On many occasions Tsvangirai would vow that Zimbabweans would not vote for his ripened opponent.

That is how low the politics could sink in Zimbabwe.

But not exactly in a straight line.

At any rate, there were many instances when Tsvangirai, his supporters and sympathisers would complain that they had lost through foul means. Perhaps correctly so.

However, politics sometimes divests of values and the winners take all.

Like Mugabe did, always.

Poor Tsvangirai tried and tried and still came short.

***

Spare a thought for one Happymore Chidziva. He is mourning.

Spare a thought for Luke Tamborinyoka, who is inconsolable.

Yvonne Musarurwa, Last Maingehama, Tungamirai Madzokere who are in prison right now, who believed in Tsvangirai, the iconic political leader.

These are genuine supporters of Tsvangirai.

There are many other people who believed in Morgan Tsvangirai.

They saw a lot of good in the opposition leader and would not be swayed and were prepared to kill, literally for him.

They represent purest of passions.

They may have seen what many of us see; felt what we would never feel.

That is how complex human relations are.

In the intensity of feeling and loyalty, reason, ideology and common sense would cease to matter.

It never does in matters of the heart.

And Tsvangirai deserves all the love and respect that he got from his supporters and admirers.

You may never understand how they felt unless you walked in their shoes and caught onto their passions.

Like in football: there are many good guys that would break your heart playing for or supporting a team.

A wrong team.

But Tsvangirai deserved every red drop of love in the hearts of his supporters. There were some people who genuinely believed in change without the encumbrances of bad politics.

Just the love for change and the love for Morgan Tsvangirai.

These are the people that hoped for the best for Tsvangirai and wished to see him lording over us as the President of the Republic.

Today these people are mourning.

We can see the tears they cry and feel their biting, sour wetness.

The tears of a Happymore Chidziva, who gave Tsvangirai his all.

***

Tsvangirai was a flawed character. You could tell it in his mien.

Perhaps less flawed than limited.

He was a man of humble beginnings, hailing from a village called Nerutanga in Buhera, Manicaland province.

He grew up in the village and went to the big towns and cities -- and the world -- later on in his life.

Like we all do.

Which means that there is always that lack of sophistication; that less of refinement and that rustic touch and roughness.

That humaneness.

Which could explain why Tsvangirai sometimes had that connection with his audiences who connected with him in ways that could not be explained scientifically.

Yet his flaws in choosing his advisors and those close to him were identified.

He was notorious for listening to the advice of the last person he spoke to.

It was US diplomat Christopher Dell who summed up when he remarked that Tsvangirai was "a flawed figure, not readily open to advice, indecisive and with questionable judgment" who required "massive hand-holding" once in power.

Dell also told us that Tsvangirai, for all his courage, could be "an albatross around their (opposition) necks once in power" and decried that in other places and times, the US would have achieved regime change through a Tsvangirai.

We remember Dell mournfully concluding that they had to play "the hand that has been dealt us".

That was Tsvangirai, the courageous, but inadequate leader.

The leader with a tragic flaw.

His lack of judgment and good disposition is no less underlined by his relations with various women, which had the effect of eroding his moral standing.

But again, it made him human.

One of us.

***

Today, Tsvangirai is walking slowly -- walking slowly to his Maker.

There is a song to that effect, mournfully. Today he walks slowly. Today he is walking slowly.

His loss is the loss of the nation.

He died fighting a deadly disease in the far away land of South Africa.

He had promised us that he was going to beat the cancer and predicated success politically on that battle.

He lost.

Today he comes home cold to a lot of grief and mourning, to flowing bitter tears.

He will be carted back to his village to rest with his ancestors, besides his wife.

It was a long and bitter struggle that he fought since those days in the late 1980s.

Thirty years ago, and that is about half of his adult life as a trade unionist and politician.

He had his flaws, like all of us, but he had his redeeming features as a human being, father, husband and a countryman so loved.

Today he is walking slowly to his village to meet his ancestors. They will bury him in the cold, wet earth where he will abide in darkness, alone.

Tsvangirai will be remembered for a long time, for better and for worse.

He was a human being and a sinner and saint like all of us.

Nhasi onanaira.

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