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Tsvangirai was courage personified

16 Feb 2018 at 06:00hrs | Views
"Some people are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them," wrote 16th Century English playwright William Shakespeare.

Many people will agree that MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who died this week, fitted into the second category - that "some achieve greatness".

Some people are born with the right attitude and perseverance. They have great passion, focus, resolve and determination. These people can be deemed as being born average, but achieve success beyond measure through steadfastness. They persist, keep growing and eventually do notable things. To me, Tsvangirai fell - or falls - into that category. Imagine in this day and age someone of Tsvangirai's modest education being accepted - some of it begrudgingly - by his intellectualistic colleagues - professors and all - as the real deal to lead them effectively. He was a natural politician. He had that common touch. Against all odds, he nearly made it all the way to State House, but for the daylight political robbery of 2008 when victory was grabbed from him.

The BBC, which is neither hagiographic nor propagandistic, wrote: ". . . he (Tsvangirai) continually found himself outmanoeuvred by Robert Mugabe who refused to cede any power.""

That is partly correct, but it should be taken into consideration that Tsvangirai did not have the coercive instruments of State power such as the army to protect his electoral gains, as happened in 2008. How could he have possibly outmanoeuvred the army except by establishing his own army? That the people stuck with him through thick and thin showed they had trust and confidence in him. They knew that it was not him who was failing, but that the repressive system was failing him.

Wrote the BBC in an obituary this week: "His (Tsvangirai's) greatest strength was his bravery. He risked his life to stand up to the authoritarian rule of Robert Mugabe and his allies in the security forces. He was twice severely beaten for his pains and three times charged with treason."
This is not to make a saint of Tsvangirai. Like everyone else, he had his own human failings, but these did not impinge on his politics. People are mature and discerning enough to separate tissues from issues. They saw Tsvangirai as a politician, not a priest.

On a personal note, I was privileged to be approached by Tsvangirai's former spokesperson, the late Tagwirei William Bango, to edit several chapters of the MDC-T leader's autobiography.

However, as often happens in life, some of Tsvangirai's closest lieutenants became his worst detractors using each and every opportunity to cast aspersions on him. They took out their frustrations on him. We should be wary of those people who have that unsavoury tendency of apportioning blame.

Sometimes, it is the enemy within that does the most harm. These supposed allies were disdainful of Tsvangirai, but this did not get purchase among the people on the ground who really matter in the political scheme of things. It is not coincidental that these erstwhile detractors had come back to Tsvangirai and accepted him as the MDC Alliance presidential candidate for the general election due in a few months' time.

Now infighting has arisen in the MDC-T with Tsvangirai's three deputies - Thokozani Khupe, Elias Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa - embroiled in a power struggle to succeed him, and party youths assaulting Khupe in Bulawayo last year and barring Mudzuri from entering the party headquarters in Harare this week. Besides that these misguided and brainless yobos will alienate and drive away voters, the last thing the nation needs are youths with a militia mentality as this will have nationwide ramifications.

We saw the ugly side of that when Zanu-PF youths like Kudzanayi Chipanga were given free rein by the former First Family to do as they wished. We must not allow a vociferous, raucuous and thuggish minority from any party - whether Zanu-PF or MDC-T - to take over and run our lives again. We don't need such ignorant, inflammatory, misguided, dangerous adversarial politics. We need political leaders like former South African President Jacob Zuma, who, in his resignation speech this week after being recalled by his party, categorically said: "I don't want anyone to commit violence in my name." The lasting memory of Tsvangirai's death should not be that it spawned violence. That would be the ultimate insult.

This raises the point that issues arising from his illness could have been better handled.

On October 13, 2017, my opinion piece was titled MDC-T has to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Had they faced that reality, there would not be the current mayhem in the MDC-T, which is threatening to take away dignified mourning that should be accorded such a giant. Said Zuma: "The ANC should never be divided in my name." I am sure Tsvangirai would have said so pertaining to his beloved MDC-T.

Tsvangirai had a national perspective. He had a sense of occasion. That is why he was there at President Emmerson Mnangagwa's inauguration on November 24, 2017, where Mnangagwa duly gave him pride of place by arranging for the MDC-T leader and other opposition figures to sit directly behind him. That behoves the government to reciprocate by keeping its promise of free, fair and credible elections. Even though the two parties - Zanu-PF and MDC-T - are in direct opposition, this binds them to work together.

A day before Tsvangirai died, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) rightly observed that an implosion in the MDC-T could signal the death knell for Zimbabwe's fledgling democracy. Said the ZCC: "As we made a statement before concerning the state of affairs in the ruling party, Zanu-PF, prior to and after the events of November 15, 2017 (military intervention leading to Mugabe's removal), so also have we deemed it necessary to exhort the opposition to handle their affairs in a more responsible manner."

Indeed, while we might not be members, we are all stakeholders in both Zanu-PF and MDC-T and we should not let both play Russian roulette with our lives.

All in all, Tsvangirai led from the front and did not use people as cannon fodder, like soldiers who are sent to the war front to die while their commanders remain behind in safety. This made Tsvangirai immensely popular nationwide.

Making bravery count - that is

Tsvangirai's lasting legacy.

Morgan Richard Tsvangirai: March 10, 1952 - February 14, 2018

lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email:

Source - newsday
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