Monday, June 23, 2008

Tsvangirai should not have quit

Just hours after debating with my lovely friend Khadijja whether Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean opposition leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would pull out of the presidential run-off, the bolt hit us. I got home only to turn on the telly and see him make the decision. He could not continue exposing his supporters to “lethal violence” perpetuated by Robert Mugabe’s thugs.
In my earlier talk with Khadijja, I had said whereas Tsvangirai had all the justification to pull out, it was my utmost hope that he would not. Now he has and from the word go---I want to show that this could be the biggest miscalculation of Tsvangirai’s political career.
First, let us get this straight. The political terrain in Africa has never been smooth. You do not expect a level playing field if you are an opposition candidate in Africa. Before the 2006 elections in Uganda, the main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, was arrested on trumped up charges of rape. So, as incumbent President Museveni was going about campaigning freely, his opponent was shackled, making occasional appearances in court. Besigye’s wife, Winnie, took to parading their young son, Anselm at what should have been Besigye rallies. Only when the President had covered enough ground was Besigye released—a few weeks to the poll.
In Rwanda, Vice-President Kagame, who had set up a pseudo-democracy by letting Pasteur Bizimungu run the country for a while, shed off his coat and got Bizimungu arrested. He claimed the mantle and as we know today, Rwanda is a Police state. Dissent is harshly treated. I even believe that Mbeki was up to some games when he (albeit indirectly) orchestrated Zuma’s rape trail. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has had it rough as Mubarak plots to have his son take over. The list, in brief, is endless.
It should therefore have dawned on Tsvangirai, the day he took to politics that the faint-hearted do not thrive in this field. Success in politics does not come on a silver platter. You sweat for it, at times die for it. Look at Kenya; it took the deaths of close to 300 people before Kibaki could accept to share power with Raila Odinga—even when it was clear even to the blind that Kibaki had rigged. And we know that revolutions elsewhere have claimed lives in thousands and millions. So, Tsvangirai says 70 supporters have been killed in the run up to the elections and he calls it quits? That is a joke!!
And what did Tsvangirai think he would achieve by walking away from the polls? International condemnation that would yield nothing? For the past decade Britain and the US have taken to condemning Mugabe---imposing sanctions etc. But the megalomaniac has not moved even an inch. The US says it is going to raise the issue with the UN Security Council. But of what effect will that be? We know that the UN has provisions that allow for forceful intervention. But after the debacle in Somalia in 1994, I don’t think the US is ready to risk their marines on African soil. And with the Iraq invasion going haywire, a possible change in Washington in November, I don’t think that line (forceful removal) will work.
The regional bloc SADC had also proved to be a paper tiger. Apart from Levy Mwanawasa, the other presidents in the region are still revering their “liberator”. Mbeki, the regional mediator, is known to be the biggest coward in the region. He chooses to see things from a different perspective. He mooted the idea of a government of national unity, which Mugabe threw back to his face. Look at the nonsense he told Reuters after hearing of Tsvangirai’s decision:
"From our point of view it is still necessary that the political leadership of Zimbabwe should get together and find a solution to the challenges that face Zimbabwe."

So, it all comes back to one thing. Tsvangirai and Zimbabweans have the duty to uproot the cancer that is Mugabe. This will not be achieved by cowardice. The very reason Mugabe has unleashed thugs on people is because he is scared of defeat. His rumbles that only God can get him off the throne are an empty echo of a coward. The MDC should not have relented at this point. You do not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory just like that. The first round of voting was held in similar conditions but Tsvangirai came up on top. He has underestimated the will of Zimbabweans to change events. I was convinced that come Election Day, Mugabe was going to get a thrashing of his life. But see what Tsvangirai does—walks straight into the bastard’s net. Mugabe can now have more seven years of madness!!! And Zimbabwe will look on as they slope further into the doldrums.

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