Tsvangirayi Rattles Sabre

Monday, September 21, 2009

By Rejoice Ngwenya, Harare

Robert Mugabe(L), Morgan Tsvangirayi Our regular columnist, Rejoice Ngwenya rages on.  He opines that "There is an argument that of all the arms of national governance, Tsvangirayi can only exercise influence over the Legislature, seeing that MDC has a slight parliamentary majority.  But by right, if he should be the one to have invited Mugabe into the coalition, can he can toss him out?"  Let your readers draw their own  conclusions.

More often than not, we commentators are desperate to bring good tidings to our fellowmen, because it is the right thing to do; political correctness even in the face of adversity.  But that is only if there is time, when the sand is at the top end of the glass and the pendulum is still on an upward swing.  It is African to be nice, especially in unified collective solidarity with those, like Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirayi of Zimbabwe, who are on the proverbial side of truth and justice. We Zimbabweans can no longer afford this luxury.

On this side of the continent, when things are bad, we say ‘it could be better’.  If one is not satisfied, we say ‘not really’, but for Mr Tsvangirayi, the reality of dissatisfaction calls more for superlatives than adjectives.  At one time, he called president Robert Mugabe a ‘good’ person to work with, since the Global Political Agreement [GPA] was, in his words, ‘going the right direction’.  Now, Gunilla Carlsson, the international development minister of Sweden, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, has spit political acid on Mugabe and told him restrictions remain intact until the ageing dictator understands the word ‘agreement’.

The view from popular terraces is that if indeed politics is a dirty game, Mugabe is at the wrong side of the football pitch.  Instead of scoring own goals, the Old Man must restrict himself outside the touchline, picking and throwing stray balls with the rest of the ‘harmless’ ball boys.  Yet he has surrounded himself with unrepentant cheer leaders who hide behind a smokescreen of legalism to portray him as a kingmaker in this union of monumental compromise.  The man has no morsel of moral high ground to define the destiny of our country.  He lost the elections in March 2008.  I just wish the pseudo-intellectuals who sing his praises could evoke a semblance of commonsense.  African scholar George B. N. Ayittey, comments on the blog ZimOnline: “Many of these African scholars and professors acted like intellectual prostitutes, selling off their integrity, conscience and principles to hop into bed with barbarous regimes.  Then after being used and defiled, they were tossed aside or worse.”

Good start, then he takes a wrong turn, like Mr Tsvangirayi: “The other option for the MDC is to level with the Zimbabwean people and pull out of the GNU.  It is not working,” cries Ayittey.  Tsvangirayi himself rattles the sabre for good measure: "I have done my part to promote reconciliation in this country.  Even after winning the election, I have compromised for the sake of Zimbabwe.  But don’t misjudge me.  You misjudge me at your peril." The sword is gleaming with provocative resolve in the simmering African sun, or is it?

Assuming Mugabe calls the bluff, it is a case of dejavu for the embattled Prime Minister.  You see, there is an argument that of all the arms of national governance, Tsvangirayi can only exercise influence over the Legislature, seeing that MDC has a slight parliamentary majority.  But by right, if he should be the one to have invited Mugabe into the coalition, can he can toss him out? The   irony of ‘pulling out’ is further complicated by the fact that most MDC ministers who have sunk their political fangs in ZANU-PF style patronage-induced largesse may scoff at the idea of abandoning their new-found wealth.

So what choice does MDC really have? Other than the dotted line, the GPA has no legal backing, so SADC’s Joseph Kabila cannot enforce anything.  Jacob Zuma is well aware that Tsvangirayi once came within a whisker of imprisonment for threatening to remove Mugabe ‘violently’, so the South African can dismiss Tsvangirayi’s threat as an act of sabre rattling.  More importantly, if Mugabe is confronted with several empty seats in Cabinet, he may convince his fellow SADC under-achievers that the pre-29 March constitution bestows authority upon him to nominate and appoint additional ministers, in which case all MDC operatives with no electoral constituencies may find themselves in the wilderness.  For a man who ‘lost’ in the free and fair version of elections, this option to work would require a massive display of reckless self-abandon matched with an equally passive civil society to match.  As it is, Mugabe conducts ‘presidential business’ with a touch of defiant confidence, proving to all and sundry that his post-GPA choice of central bank governor and attorney general were ‘legal’.  Therefore it is only incessant condemnation that can act as a deterrent against insolence.

Moreover, how dangerous it is to threaten Mugabe and fail to follow up on the threats.  Whilst Tsvangirayi can struggle to summon the unreliable and unpredictable critical mass of citizens that voted him into power, Mugabe’s trigger-happy police and army activists are a phone call away to suppress any dissent.  Yet if Tsvangirayi is only interested in causing a constitutional crisis, he might just strike bull’s eye.  Mugabe at one time contemplated or threatened to form a cabinet in the absence of MDC but climbed down the ego tree possibly after considering the inevitable loss of legitimacy.  Thus in this repertoire of confusing options, there is only one constant element – that ZANU-PF’s violation of the provision of GPA calls for a drastic response.  However, moving out of the union may sound a high value populist proposition for Tsvangirayi, but he has a mountain to climb in persuading his colleagues that good political judgement has better long term gains than short term comfort.
So, call me a prophet of doom, purveyor of pessimism and merchant of shame.  I have few regrets for such labels that tickle my imagination!

Rejoice Ngwenya is an affiliate of  www.AfricanLiberty.org and founding director of Coalition for Liberal Market Solutions, a think tank based in Harare.