Tsvangirai and the real legitimacy crisis

By IAfrica
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Aug 25th, 2014
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Tsvangirai’s leadership credentials have been openly questioned by Roy Bennett, Elias Mudzuri, Elton Mangoma and former secretary-general Tendai Biti seen here (left) engrossed in the zanu-pf Election Manifesto in the run-up to the July 31 2013 harmonised electionsTsvangirai’s leadership credentials have been openly questioned by Roy Bennett, Elias Mudzuri, Elton Mangoma and former secretary-general Tendai Biti seen here (left) engrossed in the zanu-pf Election Manifesto in the run-up to the July 31 2013 harmonised elections

Tichaona Zindoga Snr Political Writer

And Tsvangirai even had the temerity of writing to Sadc, where President Mugabe is chair, with the same monotone!

For the better part of the past year, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been all over town and globe essentially trying to put a brave face after his defeat in last year’s elections.

He has also been seeking to hold on to what shreds of relevance he is left with after the massive reversal.
His approach has been first to question the outcome of the polls – he lost 34 to President Mugabe’s 62 percent in the presidential race – while his party surrendered its slim parliamentary majority and handed Zanu-PF more than two-thirds.

Never mind that the election was given a nod by the observing missions and that secretary-general of the party Tendai Biti, after initial denial, conceded that the MDC-T had lost the election because of lack of a message and failure to read political dynamics.

But Tsvangirai seems to believe in the magic, mutational power of a repeated lie.
Connected to the above, Tsvangirai continuously alleges that there is a “multi-layered crisis” in Zimbabwe, chief of which he says is the “crisis of legitimacy”.
By which, he means that the leader and party elected overwhelmingly on July 31, 2013, are not legitimate.

For the past eight months alone, beginning with his so-called State of the Nation Address, Tsvangirai has made reference to this “legitimacy crisis” at various public forums, including at the Chatham House in the UK.

He had a whole newspaper interview with one pliant daily paper on March 19 in which he unpacked this concept.
Then he got to his real point.

His interviewer asked him: “Are you saying Zanu-PF is not justified to rule?”
Tsvangirai: “They are not justified. That is why the question of legitimacy becomes a critical issue.”
His solution?

“If there is a political crisis you need national dialogue. You need national dialogue to resolve that national crisis.”
That, of course, is his not-so-clever way for calling for a negotiated government to replace an elected one.

And Tsvangirai even had the temerity of writing to Sadc, where President Mugabe is chair, with the same monotone!

Multi-layered illegitimacy
Then there is something that Tsvangirai pulled on Friday last week.
At a Press conference, he announced that he was withdrawing the offer extended to President Mugabe and Zanu-PF!

Tsvangirai went on to extend an olive branch to MDC members that have ditched him over his leadership failure since the party was formed 15 years ago.
He said: “In light of our big tent mentality, and consistent with our traditional magnanimity as a democratic party, we have offered an olive branch to all members, without exception, who feel they wish to come back and renew their commitment by rejoining the party.”

Of course, the olive branch was rejected off-hand, save by an unknown called Felix Mafa Sibanda, with MDC-T Renewal spokesperson sharply reminding Tsvangirai that he was not “a high priest where he would be issuing forgiveness here on earth”.

All this tells a critical eye on where a multi-layered crisis resides.
It reposes with Tsvangirai, first as a man of personal crises and dysfunctional relationships.

More critically, he is a leader whose very claim to the title is in serious doubt and contestation – and Tsvangirai knows it.
This doubt and contestation was first felt in 2005, which led to the split of October 12 that year.

Almost all of the top officials who went to form a splinter party under Prof Welshman Ncube have since rejected overtures for any reconciliation with Tsvangirai.
They say they have serious reservations with Tsvangirai’s autocratic leadership style, which includes setting party thugs on internal dissenters.

Even just ahead of elections last year, it was rumoured that there was a plot to oust Tsvangirai in 2016.
It was dubbed “Project 2016”.

The schism that saw the formation of MDC Renewal stems from leadership crisis centering on Tsvangirai himself.
His leadership had been openly questioned by Roy Bennett, Elias Mudzuri and Elton Mangoma.

That is, discounting that Nelson Chamisa and Obert Gutu had been exposed by WikiLeaks allegedly telling US envoys of the crisis of Tsvangirai’s leadership.
By the way, the US, Tsvangirai’s main benefactors, were also complaining about Tsvangirai’s ineffectual leadership vis-a-vis the regime change project.

Christopher Dell, the former US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, went on to tell the world that with a different leader, much would have been achieved.
If one were to analyse Tsvangirai’s situation now, he is the very picture of crisis.

He has been snubbed, duly, by Zanu-PF which has not heeded the call for illegitimate negotiations to form an illegitimate unity government to undermine the legitimate vote of July 31.

Zanu-PF, the party and Government, made Tsvangirai look like a dog barking at passing coaches.
Tsvangirai has climbed down from that illegitimate call and tells us that he now has to pursue other undisclosed means.

When the acerbic Mafume says Tsvangirai is no high priest, he is essentially telling the world that this man of personal weakness does not carry the last word in politics – party politics.

It is also clear that Tsvangirai himself is feeling exposed.
He is seeking safety in numbers, which are not coming.

He projects magnanimity, which no one needs.
He wishes he had a political tent to shield him from the elements; he doesn’t.

Political youngsters like Mafume are poking fun at Tsvangirai.
They even call him names.

They point at his glaring weaknesses.
That is how far down Tsvangirai has fallen, and it may only get worse.

Tsvangirai should be reflecting on these things when he tells the world about a crisis of legitimacy.
The world is not stupid.

Zimbabweans are not stupid, that is why they have not favoured his party with votes in by-elections that have been held since July 31.
They are likely not to any time soon, which Tsvangirai has, to his credit, read correctly hence his announced decision to take no part in future by-elections.
Tsvangirai seeks to avert further embarrassments.

He may soon do himself well to halt rallies that he has been holding since last year’s defeat, for the attendance is ever dwindling.
Besides, he needs to save the little money he still has and budget for lean times to come as Western donor funds have been drying up in response to the crisis in his party.

He knows this, and that is why he has been encouraging members to contribute to party coffers, even if it means selling their goats and chickens.
However, the latter call has not been heeded, not least because the very people he now expects to fund his party are the very same people that have been victims of economic sanctions imposed on the country by the West at his behest.

Besides, who in their right minds would want to invest in a project whose principals in the West are jittery about?
And can people afford to sell their precious livestock to give money to a man who is wont to spend that money on legendary high seas and marrying women?

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