[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Fear, fatigue, seduction = MDC surrender (says Tendai Dumbutshena)
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Feb 3 13:44:04 GMT 2009
Surrender was the best form of defence
February 2, 2009
By Tendai Dumbutshena
AFTER the June 27 putsch by Robert Mugabe signs were always there that
the MDC were headed for surrender.
It officially happened on January 30, 2009 when the party hoisted a
white flag on top of its Harvest House headquarters. What followed was
a pathetic attempt by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to portray this
decision to join the unity government without any of their conditions
being met as some sort of victory.
Equally pathetic was a plea to Mugabe to be treated as an equal
partner. There is a fat chance of that happening. The old tyrant must
have chuckled when he heard this.
What the MDC has done goes beyond naiveté and lack of strategic nous.
It is an ineptitude breathless in its magnitude. Besides guaranteeing
an inevitable demise of the party as a political force, it has more
importantly set back for many years the struggle for the democratic
transformation of Zimbabwe. It threw a lifeline to a vile regime that
was on the verge of death.
Mugabe and SADC leaders were desperate for the MDC to join the unity
government to save the Zimbabwe leader from an ignominious downfall.
Tsvangirai had a big bargaining chip in his hand. He did not use it.
He could not even get Mugabe to concede on modest and reasonable
demands. On the basis of mere promises from a man who honours them
more in their breach than observance, he joined the unity government.
The damage, however, was not done on January 30, 2009. It was done on
11 September 2008 when the MDC signed an agreement that legitimized
Mugabe's coup d'etat. Before that the MDC had maintained that a unity
government had to reflect the wish of the people as expressed in the
March 29 election. The MDC won that election at all levels of
government. This meant the party and its leader had to be top dogs in
a unity government.
The reality is that they have been co-opted as junior partners on its
margins. Tsvangirai is not even second to Mugabe. He comes fourth
after Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru the two vice-presidents. Even more
critical, all executive power is vested in Mugabe as head of
government and state. Tsvangirai is a prime minister without any
executive power. He is a glorified cabinet minister. The only power he
will exercise is to give Mugabe names of MDC ministers.
Once the MDC conceded the presidency to Mugabe, ignoring the expressed
wishes of the electorate it was on a slippery slope to capitulation.
Now the party is at the mercy of Mugabe. All talk by Tsvangirai of
outstanding matters being resolved before he is sworn in on February
11 is deceitful. There will be no more concessions from Mugabe. All
that awaits him is further marginalization and humiliation. He has
made his bed and Mugabe will ensure that he lies in it.
All five conditions for joining government that the MDC spelt out in
official resolutions have not been met. As stated above Mugabe refused
to yield an inch when Tsvangirai was in a strong bargaining position.
What chance is there for him to make any concession when Tsvangirai
has no single card to play? A statement announcing the MDC's decision
claimed that this represented a transition to democracy.
"This inclusive government will serve as a transitional authority
leading to free and fair elections," it said.
A transition to free and fair elections in a government dominated by
Mugabe is a classic oxymoron. Who will guarantee that whenever
elections are held Mugabe will break with tradition and allow people
to choose their leaders freely? Where in the agreement does it say
elections will be held after a stipulated transitional period? It only
refers to a review of the agreement after the adoption of a new
constitution without committing to an election. It is up to Mugabe to
decide how long this government lasts. He will tolerate the MDC for as
long as he needs to. When they are surplus to requirements he will,
through an election that he controls, get rid of them.
The post March 29 and June 27 period was a crucial one. Sadly the MDC
leadership at this defining moment lacked focus and strategic
coherence. It was all over the place. It clearly had not anticipated a
victory in March and planned for Mugabe's predictable response to it.
Conflicting and contradictory statements emanated from an assortment
of spokespersons. The left hand did not know what the right one was
doing. It was not clear in which direction the party was headed.
Tsvangirai spent too long a time outside the country when his
followers were under violent siege from Mugabe's coercive apparatus.
There was a leadership vacuum in opposition ranks. It was bad politics
on Tsvangirai's part. A strong impression was created that he was more
concerned about his security and welfare than that of his supporters.
Meanwhile Mugabe, who had been thrown off balance by an unexpected
electoral defeat, regained his nerve and composure. He focused on the
job at hand – remaining in power. His focus was not distracted by any
concern for the welfare of the country and its inhabitants. He long
ago ceased to pretend that the welfare of Zimbabweans was a matter
that exercised his mind. That is the hallmark of the man soon to be
A conclusion to draw from all of this is that the MDC decided to join
the unity government for two reasons. First, they no longer have the
stomach to fight Mugabe. Fear and fatigue have taken their toll. There
is no more fuel in the tank. Refusal to join the unity government
would certainly have been followed by a massive crackdown against the
Surrender was the best form of defence.
Secondly, the MDC leadership was seduced by the material comforts of
office. Better a large air-conditioned office than a communal cell in
Chikurubi. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Let us just take
what is on offer.
It will be a busy time for Tsvangirai while Mugabe still needs him.
Armed with a diplomatic passport his first and most important task
will be to travel to Western capitals to get sanctions against Mugabe
and his cronies lifted. This is his most important duty so that visits
to London and other desirable destinations can resume. Much needed
economic relief has to be secured from the same Western countries.
Tsvangirai has to convince those who control international purse
strings that his association with Mugabe's regime has sufficiently
cleansed it to deserve a financial rescue package. Reserve Bank
governor Gideon Gono, who is going nowhere, and Zanu-PF will be
grateful beneficiaries of such largesse. Once this is achieved
Tsvangirai will become expendable, to be gotten rid off at a time that
In the months to come Tsvangirai must get used to life as Mugabe's
useful underling. He must learn quickly how to win his favour from the
craven pipsqueaks who have surrounded Mugabe for years. There will be
frequent visits to State House to pay homage to the boss. An
occasional gift to the First Lady will endear him to His Excellency.
At least he will have the satisfaction of seeing the inside of State
House, something the Mugabes vowed he would never do.
Even in defeat lie small comforts.
Tsvangirai had a good chance to ascend to the presidency of the
country and change Zimbabwe for the better. He threw that chance out
of the window on January 30. The seeds of that surrender were planted
after March 29 when a catalogue of appalling decisions was taken by
the party. They culminated in a decision that rescued a dying regime.
Even more tragic is the fact that a golden opportunity to transform
Zimbabwe, for the first time, into a free society was missed. Nine
years of struggle by the MDC came to nought. The buck stops with
In a most perverse way he became Mugabe's saviour at a moment of near
death for the despot.
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