Tsvangirai: Achievements and limitations

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THE death of the leader for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), Morgan Tsvangirai, on February 14 2018, brings to an end one of the most controversial political careers in Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai rose to prominence initially as an executive member of the Associated Mine Worker’s Union and later on as the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) from 1987 to 1999.
During that period, when his reputation as a trade unionist was on the rise, he not only cut his personal membership ties with ZANU PF but also led the ZCTU away from the ruling Party.
As his political ambitions grew, he forged more ties with a whole host of social and professional groups.
These included women and youth groups, human rights activists, student movements, churches and various civic organisations as well as most of the labour movements right across the country.
His political agenda becomes more explicit in 1997 when he becomes one of the chairmen of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
He forms his MDC in 1999 and subsequently plays a crucial role in the defeat of the February 2000 Constitutional Referendum.
To appreciate the phenomenal achievement of Tsvangirai as a national figure, one has to recall that he rose from very humble beginnings and negotiated his way onto a top leadership role backed by a very modest educational background and limited exposure to the larger world.
Like him or hate him, we cannot take away the fact that he had the resolve and determination to pursue his political dreams, come what may!
Now that God has taken him away, the question is: What do we as Zimbabweans make of his achievements as a historical figure?
What role has he played in our lives and in our institutions?
Although it is too early to make an overall assessment of Tsvangirai’s achievements and failures as a national figure, it is possible to sketch out the key issues around which his reputation, or lack of it, will be ultimately based.
First: While we remember that it is the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) led by Edgar Tekere which vehemently opposed a one party state; there is no doubt it is Tsvangirai’s movement which consolidates the pluralistic political landscape which Zimbabwe enjoys today.
It took us long to accept that strong opposition parties are an aspect of normal democratic processes.
Since its formation, the MDC-T has kept ZANU PF on its toes and in 2008 gave it a serious run for its money.
The ZANU PF of today is alive to the reality that it has to justify why it is in power by addressing the aspirations of the majority; that if it sleeps on the job, as was the case before Operation Restore Legacy, there are other parties waiting in the wings, always auditing its sins of omission and commission and ready to step in and replace it.
Part of the credit for the multi-party system which our body politic is hosting today has to be given to Tsvangirai.
Second: One of the key lessons which Tsvangirai bestows upon us is how not to misread and misunderstand our interests and those of the West.
The fundamental interests of the British in particular, and the West in general, have always been about cheap natural resources and about cheap African labour from our continent.
These two explain why Britain played a leading role not only in the enslavement of Africans for over four centuries, but also in the subsequent colonisation of Africa.
Tsvangirai failed to grasp a simple truth that Britain has never been interested in African human rights per se, in African democracy and freedom of expression, although it has found it both strategic and tactical to shout long and loud about all these in order to camouflage its real intentions and interests.
Otherwise how do we explain why, up to today, Britain has not bothered to apologise to Africa as a whole and to pay compensation for the genocide and the many other sins it has committed all over our continent?
Tsvangirai made the fundamental error of accepting sponsorship of the formation and sustenance of his political party by the West Minster Foundation of the British.
One can argue, by accepting that foundation as the funding agency of this party and the Rhodies as the foremen and supervisors of his party on the ground, Tsvangirai forfeited his right to run Zimbabwe.
Put differently, Tsvangirai seriously misread the history of his country and ended up embracing those who, throughout our history, have never failed to act as our enemies right from the slavery era up to the present.
This historical-cum-ideological confusion can be likened to European Jews waking up one day and suddenly deciding, without any qualms about it, that Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Movement are their friends and therefore official sponsors of their political movement.
This more or less suicidal dilemma continues to face the MDC-T up to the present.
Third: Linked to the issue of funding of the MDC-T party is the ideological control of it exercised by the same West.
The West, led by the British, manufactured a crisis about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe when in fact what it meant to address was the property rights of its kith and kin who stood to lose land as our Land Reform Programme gathered pace, more so after 2002.
By mimicking and regurgitating the Western mantra about lack of human rights and freedom of expression as the key missing ingredients in the Zimbabwean political scenario, the MDC-T sounded and acted like an organic extension of the West and, as such, puppets of the same West.
Automatically, the party, both in its programmes of action and political rhetoric looked and sounded less African and more Western, and therefore an imposition of some sort.
It is not surprising that the ideological and financial control exercised by the West over MDC-T had a direct impact on its land policy.
The MDC-T committed its biggest political blunder by taking the side of its funders who opposed land reform.
In his infamous description of African settlers, Tsvangirai singled them out as mushrooms sprouting all over the land in a haphazard manner.
In doing so, he sealed his fate as one never destined to run Zimbabwe.
This anti-land reform posture of the MDC-T was a strategic blunder of epic proportions which conflated white settler-interests with those of his people, a mistake which pleased his Western handlers while negating the long-term interests of his own people.
Tsvangirai lost it on this one in a big way.
Any politician who pretends that a radical land distribution in Zimbabwe was never an issue betrays his or her ignorance about what all major wars fought in Zimbabwe have been about!
Fourth: When the West, spurred on by Britain, imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, ostensibly for human rights violations, this heinous move was supported and defended by the MDC-T with Tsvangirai playing a leading role in that defence!
The suffering caused by economic sanctions is a phenomenon which will never be forgotten for generations to come.
The Zimbabwe dollar collapsed, the economy shrank by more than 50 percent, thousands of companies closed and jobs were lost in their hundreds of thousands.
The value for savings, for pension and insurance policies for most people vanished into thin air!
Millions emigrated from their homeland in search of ‘greener pastures’ elsewhere; family ties broke down and thousands died of cholera and other disease outbreaks.
The only good to come out of this tragedy is: We never gave up on our land!
It is a story never to be forgotten; how some of our own kith and kin went out of their way to invite disaster to befall their own kind in exchange for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver.
There is nothing to forget here and nothing to forgive.
The poverty that has become the norm in our country says it all.
In a sense, therefore, Tsvangirai’s political career is a paradoxical achievement of some sort; a career which, unwittingly, maps out in bold form all the red lines which our politicians should never cross.

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