‘Attack on Tsvangirai personality misguided’

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HARARE – Ben Freeth has sought to  apportion blame on Morgan Tsvangirai for the grand electoral theft of our time which came to pass on July 31.

Freeth, who was the president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) at the height of the country’s chaotic land reform programme, had no kind words for the office and person of the MDC leader.

He sought, at every opportunity, to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Tsvangirai.

He ignores the glaring fact that the post-election narrative will not be enriched by an attack on the leadership of the democratisation agenda but should focus more on the direction the people’s struggle should take.

The glaring contradictions in his views are shocking, to say the least.

At one time he seems to agree that what happened on July 31, was a horror movie whose script can only have been authored in hell. 

By his own admission, Freeth writes, “why did Sadc not only allow the theft of the July 31 elections, but also applaud President Robert Mugabe and crown him the next leader of the regional body when his people are getting poorer, hungrier, and more desperate for jobs and leaving the country.”

He further admits in his own words that “there is something intrinsically sick; evil …what is wrong with our African leaders that they should endorse such a fraud, dishonest result in this election?” 

To this end, Freeth seems to be accepting the conclusion that Sadc did not do enough to shepherd the inclusive government to an election whose outcome would be a reflection of the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe.

Also by his own admission, the country finds itself neck deep in this predicament because of “leaders whose hunger for personal power trumps all other concerns”.

Where in this diatribe do you locate the person and leadership of Tsvangirai?

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Should he be persecuted for the weaknesses and shortcomings of the regional body and the insatiable appetite for power evident in the regime?

Or most critically is this the trajectory that the post-election narrative should take?

I beg to differ Freeth.

There is no winner and loser in a sham election.

The people of Zimbabwe emerged the greatest losers in this horror film.

They invested in a future which was tragically subverted by a capricious State with vampire tendencies.

For those of us who remain true to the founding principles of the democratisation agenda, we accept that what happened was a setback and also that people can fall and rise with the same leadership.

Thus, the narrative put forward by Freeth would seem to focus more on issues of power and personalities at the expense of the democratisation agenda.

Let it be stated here and now that at the centre of the founding of the MDC was the need to capture the state and make it more accountable and answerable to the people, in short, to complete the unfinished business of the liberation struggle.

Equally is the realisation that the nationalist rhetoric is tired and could not be expected to provide answers to challenges associated with the country.

Thus, what we have, following July 31, is an empty victory for Zanu PF.

No wonder it was devoid of the euphoria which swept across the country in 1980 for both the victor and the victim.

From Kazungula to Tamandai, the election result was received with gloom and despair.

The post-election narrative should cease this debate on leadership and personalities, which  smacks of an elitist agenda to capture the people’s project by some interested farmers and intellectuals sitting somewhere in the comfort and succour of air-conditioned boardrooms.

The trajectory should be on the way forward, which must critically focus on, among other issues, how should the democratisation movement respond to this betrayal of the people of Zimbabwe by Sadc and the AU and also Zec and the office of the Registrar General.

The new debate should be on how we can vaccinate the next election against these ills.

Before we even get to that election, we should ask ourselves what it is that needs to be done to strengthen governmental and non-governmental institutions and make them more responsive to the democratisation aspirations of the people.

What leverages can be obtained from the zones of autonomy which the democratisation movement occupies in parliament, local government and other areas where the democratic forces have presence and as the MDC resolved in its last National Council “…to maintain a mass line” and remain in and within the people, after all, this is their project and any attempt to hijack this movement by certain sections of our population for very selfish ends will not resonate with the people.

The elite capture will fail because this is a struggle of the people of Zimbabwe.

For Freeth to focus his attention on Tsvangirai is akin to saying that at a local level, Ian Kay who was robbed of his seat in Marondera, should also step down at that level.

It is also akin to saying that as the chair of the ZCFU during the tenure of the chaotic land reform era, he should have quit his position.

In my view, the focus on the leadership is unfortunate as it is self serving.

The MDC was never formed to represent sectional interests of certain classes of people and to suggest that Tsvangirai should call it quits at a time when the National Council has, on two occasions following the July 31 fraud, affirmed its unwavering support for his leadership.

This speaks volumes about the hidden intentions of Freeth and his kith or kin.

More than anything, this article has all but put paid to the tired discourse that the MDC is a front for white capital to rest.

The only positive thing arising from this debate is that, judging by the nature of its major proponents, it debunks the myth that Tsvangirai is a front and a puppet of the West.

You expect Tsvangirai to provide answers to questions that you cannot even answer yourself; you expect one particular type of problem to be more important than the other. For what reason?

The woman in Tsholotsho also wants answers about the shortage of medicine in hospitals just as much as you want answers about your seized farm and appropriated business.

We must not debate with selfish interests in mind. 

Lastly, Freeth’s debate is not in line with the expectations of the MDC family.

It is naïve, to say the least, to argue that Tsvangirai is the single human impediment to the attainment of democracy in the country. It is a simplistic view which is miles away from reality facing the country.

No single grouping; farmers, teachers, housewives, is more important than the other.

The struggle belongs everyone and no single grouping in our struggle should advocate for Tsvangirai to go, simply because selfish interests of that grouping were not addressed in the Constitution.

An impression is given that Tsvangirai was greater than the collective will and interests of the people of Zimbabwe.

The debate that Tsvangirai must go is not taking place in the villages, in mining towns, and in communities were the ordinary people live.

It is an elitist debate by power hungry mongers in the middle class who have no idea about the true feelings of Zimbabweans.

It is a misguided view that is a diversion from key issues that need to be addressed.

For my mother in rural Mrehwa, Tsvangirai is not the problem in our struggle.

In fact, there is abundant evidence that he is the solution.

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