Morgan Tsvangirai was here
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka Correspondent
THERE is one thing that is common in all prisons the world over and no, it is not the fact that they all have prisoners, though that is a given. Instead, it is the fact that prisoners, for some reason or other, like to write on the prison walls that ‘So and So was here’. For people incarcerated in a place that is meant to rehabilitate someone, to ensure that one is made to learn that the path which led them thither must never again be followed, it is odd that prisoners want to advertise the fact that they were there. Quite why this is so has always eluded me, until now.
This week however, I find I can guess as to one possible explanation: some sojourns are so pointless, so much of a useless detour in one’s life that the most that can be said about them is just that one epitaph: “so and so was here”.
Alas, I find that this applies to our former Prime Minister’s recent trip to the United Kingdom. Morgan Tsvangirai was here. End of story.
In two speeches, one in London to an elite audience that will never vote in Zimbabwe, and the other billed as a Star Rally in Birmingham (though the reported attendance of well north of 80 but south of 90 — of which half were either relatives or foreign-based girlfriends — would call that billing to question), Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai made it known to the international community that the election on July 31 2013 was stolen, (we have heard this story before), that the Zimbabwe economy was bad, real bad (yawn! we have heard this one again), that Zanu-PF was blaming sanctions for our economic problems (we know this), which the MDC did not agree with (we have heard this many times, yawn! yawn!) and that although according to him the sanctions were apparently innocuous and hurting no-one, the MDC did not encourage a mere removal of sanctions without a framework that plods and entices the nation towards the respect of full democratic values (we have heard this before) and that the international community must rally together against Zanu-PF (we hear this daily). There was apparently this need for internationally brokered dialogue, not because the MDC wanted to get back into another GNU, mind you, but out of the national interest. It is of course the same national interest that keeps Dr Tsvangirai in his Highlands Home, instead of having it sold to build a clinic or two, but that was not in the speech.
From his wife, who was only unleashed in Birmingham, safe to talk to relatives and confirm to any foreign based girlfriends that she was in situ, there was an attempt to ‘reiterate’ what the husband had said, but given her previous disaster with that word, she wisely chose to speak in Shona, asking ‘handiti tese tinoziva kuti takarhigwa?’ The audience gave feeble nods; seems the message had not gone home that those in the Diaspora do not truly buy the Nikuv nonsense. More than half the hall was empty, and given that food and drinks were being offered for free, you get the idea why it is Zanu-PF UK members and not the MDC that is talking about a Diaspora vote. The Star Rally was flat as a trowel, and even Mai Tsvangirai’s bright face failed to raise spirits. About the only smiles you saw where when people queued to have their pictures taken with . . . , not the good doctor, but her!
Anyway, to the point. That the above is the sum total of what Tsvangirai (Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, if you please!) had to share with the international community and his members in the UK, the question is, why did he come here? We have heard these claims before. We know that he claims, without reason or foundation, that the elections in July 2013, were rigged. They were not. We already know that he claims, without justification, that sanctions do not hurt our economy. They do. We already know, without his help, that the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and Germany issued statements just after our elections calling into question their legitimacy. But they were merely quoting him. Quoting them in return to prove that the elections were in fact rigged is the best case of manufacturing evidence this side of kingdom come. We already know that he claims, without proof given the last five years, that it was the MDC that rescued the Zimbabwe economy. It was not. So, if he had nothing new to say, why did he come?
There was not a single statement from the good doctor about what an MDC government would do to reverse the claimed economic slide. Nothing by way of policy to inform us on what an MDC government would do different. Besides a plea to join another GNU, there was no plan for the future. So, again, why did he come here?
It is now clear that Dr Tsvangirai (as we must call him), despite well over 15 years on the job, does not appreciate the job of the leader of the opposition. It is not to dumb down the country. It is not to seize each and every opportunity to denigrate your country’s leadership and the prospects for future economic growth. It is not to seize whatever microphone in thrust in your face and think of what bad things to say about your country.
The international community does not vote in Zimbabwe. No matter how many times they are told lies about mutating ballots and ‘debilitating economic problems symptomatic of a deep-rooted political crisis stemming from a disputed election’, the international community will not and cannot replace the Zimbabwe voter. There are hard core MDC supporters in Zimbabwe who will continue to buy these lies, but they are not the majority. And, sadly for this trip, a speech that plays well to a handful of zealots at Makoni Business Centre does not translate well to the ‘international community’. All it does is paint the country in a bad light, frightening away investment and tourists, and exacerbating the very same economic ills that the Doctor wants to talk about.
More than a year after the elections, Dr Tsvangirai went to London to point out that 5, yes, 5 people and two entities from abroad have made speeches to the effect that they did not believe that the elections in Zimbabwe were free and fair. Never mind that these 5 people were quoting him when they said that. Never mind the fact that all five were not in Zimbabwe to observe the elections. Never mind that they are all from the very same countries that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in order to effect regime change, for Dr Tsvangirai it is important to hop on a plane to go to London and point out that yes, John Kerry, and some guy called William Hague, plus another one called John Baird, and another one called Bob Carr and also a certain Guido Somethingwelle from Germany, all thought our elections were irregular. Not sure whether these old men have been to Zimbabwe lately, but I know seven people in Mazvihwa that think the election was free and fair because they voted. Does the opinion of my seven fail against that of these five white men who have never been to Zimbabwe? On what criterion? Truth: it helps no-one to go around litigating a loss that is now part of history, lost fairly and squarely to a better candidate, and one that Dr Tsvangirai, for good reason, decided not to fight in Court.
What we need from the opposition is maturity and national service. We need for them to do their job. That job, with respect, is not go on useless foreign trips and then to highlight their ‘success’; pose for pictures with the ineffectual Mayor of the City of Birmingham, and claim that you have been discussing areas of cooperation. What, if we are to ask, can Birmingham offer to our country to address the problems that Dr Tsvangirai talks about? And on what basis is Dr Tsvangirai empowered to enter into cooperation agreements with foreign entities for our country?
From which page of JUICE do we find that an MDC government will look for cooperation with cities like Birmingham?
Talking of JUICE, is it not telling that since the election, the MDC has never once tried to tell us which aspects of this blueprint would be applicable where? And while we are at it, the Mayor of Birmingham? Not directly elected by the people, his powers largely symbolic, who is he in the scheme of things. I guess Boris Johnson or David Cameron were not available. Something about pressing summer holidays prevented them to meet with our Doctor no doubt.
Dr Tsvangirai went to the UK and spent his time at Chatham House rehashing old talking points. Then he went to Birmingham and met with his relatives and their friends (the figure of 89 is being mentioned quite a lot), and having done that, his publicity department is busy releasing pictures of him with the Mayor of Birmingham and some Trade Union deputy secretary whose name escapes me but whose connection to Zimbabwe is zilch, and all this as evidence that his visit was a ‘huge success’. Before we laugh, we must not forget that this is the same lot that had a party to celebrate losing the July 2013 elections, only they called it a Victory Celebration.
Clearly, Dr Tsvangirai does not know what his job is: so he spends his time doing what he knows best: being inconsequential.
The job of the opposition leader is to try and show the people an alternative. To say that yes, you chose the other guy, but had you chosen me, look what you would be getting. An opposition leader with nothing good to say about the country that they mean to rule is not appealing to Mr and Mrs John Q Public. Voters like to know that the leader of the opposition has a plan to win the next election, not an explanation for why he lost the last one. Voters like to know that the leader of the opposition has a plan to make the economy and their lives better if given a chance to rule, not a speech about how the other guy is messing things up and I told you so. Voters like to know what you will do for them, not excuses about what you did not do when you had the chance. Voters actually love their country, which is why they choose to vote, and going around claiming that their country is like a boxer knocked down to the canvas risks the view that you do not know how to administer first aid, otherwise why are you gloating about it instead of offering solutions.
So, like the prisoner who has nothing else to report about his stint in jail than the fact that he was there; having spent a good sum of his party funds, having taken his wife shopping in London before going to meet his 40 relatives and their 49 friends in Birmingham, Tsvangirai can return to Zimbabwe safe in the knowledge that posterity will record that ‘Dr Morgan Richard Tsvangirai was here’.
What a shame.
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is former UZ Students Union president, member, Zanu-PF UK.