For some, South African struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who sadly passed away on April 2, 2018 (may her dear revolutionary soul rest in peace!) is a controversial figure, what with the perceived length she was prepared to go in the fight against apartheid.
The “saint or sinner” dichotomy largely dominates how she is framed in the post-apartheid narrative.
Her fellow comrades, particularly Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had to subpoena her to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) — formed in 1996 to suture the weeping wounds of apartheid — for ordering the murder of Stompie Sepei, or Stompie Moeketsi, who was murdered on January 1,1989, at the age of 14, by Madikizela-Mandela’s bodyguards for purportedly selling out the struggle, or being a police informer.
But Archbishop Tutu, who chaired the TRC, went further; he tried to force an apology out of the struggle veteran. This episode haunted her greatly.
Always the one to speak her mind, she later on controversially railed against her husband, Nelson Mandela, and Archbishop Tutu, describing the man of the cloth as a “cretin” (foolish).
“Look at this Truth and Reconciliation charade. He [Mandela] should never have agreed to it.
“What good does the truth do? How does it help anyone to know where and how their loved ones were killed or buried? That Bishop Tutu who turned it all into a religious circus came here.
“He had the cheek to tell me to appear. I told him a few home truths. I told him that he and his other like-minded cretins were only sitting here because of our struggle and me. Because of the things I and people like me had done to get freedom,” she told Nadira Naipaul in a March 2010 interview for the London Evening Standard.
Perhaps, her last line was the most powerful: “sitting here because of our struggle and me” and “because of things I and people like me had done to get freedom”.
Likewise, the liberation movement(s) in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, had to make the painful decision to resort to a very violent war to upend an entrenched colonial system, not because they wanted to, but because it was the only way.
But after the effort, especially after Independence, they had to beat their swords into ploughshares.
This did not last long though.
At the turn of the millennium, the movement again became combative in order to reclaim the land, itself the primary means of production and the main reason why the liberation war was fought.
At the time, it also had to fend off the MDC, formed just about the same time, and this naturally yielded two conflicting forces. However, the two conflicting political forces became entrenched in their positions, but most notably, the opposition developed reflexes to resist everything that Zanu-PF did.
It is still happening to this day.
And then came the political transition in November 2017, which morphed Zanu-PF into business-minded organisation. The opposition was caught flat-footed.
Their campaign tool — “Mugabe must go!” — retired. They are now seemingly caught up in a time warp and imprisoned by the knee-jerk reaction of opposing anything Zanu-PF.
What are we driving at here?
Well, roles seem to have been reversed.
Through its far-reaching political and economic reforms — which are diametrically different from the preferred tools of the combative epoch of the revolutionary party’s history — Zanu-PF seems to have upended the opposition, which now seems to have mutated into the Zanu-PF of old.
What Zanu-PF was, MDC has become.
This became clear at the MDC Alliance policy launch on June 7, which was beamed live on ZBC-TV. One of the principals of the MDC Alliance, the voluble Mr Tendai Biti, was again in his element — combative, caustic and needlessly abrasive. Fatally heedless that the cameras were rolling, so to speak, he kept on talking about “humbwa hwe Zanu-PF”.
He had to be subtly cautioned by his fellow comrade. Sad!
Mr Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Alliance, who ironically prefaced his speech with the call to abandon the fetish of personalities, did not fare better either.
In his presentation, he referred to President Mnangagwa by name more than seven times and Zanu-PF more than five times. Rewind to May’s Zanu-PF manifesto launch: not even once did President Mnangagwa refer to Mr Chamisa by name. He has maintained that to this day, even at politically charged rallies.
But worryingly, the toxic politics of old has even crept into MDC Alliance’s manifesto, which lets rip at Zanu-PF, using, at times, uncharitable words and the nauseating and inflammatory language, which divides more than it unites.
It is quite unfortunate.
Although they are retailing ‘SMART” as their major political selling point for the coming elections, smart politics would have been to acknowledge the good that Zanu-PF has done, and argue that they can do it better.
Times are changing and they need to change with the times. Let’s all contribute to a new type of politics.