Some of the problems Zimbabwe is facing today are clearly due to faulty thinking resulting in people mixing issues —and not knowing what the idiom “fair game” means.
For starters, if President Emmerson Mnangagwa is fair game for criticism, so is MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa because both are public figures. Fair game means both are acceptable subjects or targets for criticism, scrutiny, mockery, or attack. Anyone running for public office is fair game for criticism. So is anyone in public office.
From that, it follows that, notwithstanding sanctions, the buck stops with the government over the fuel crisis in the country. The government has to see to it that fuel is made available — and not point fingers at anyone. That’s why the government did not look outside for scapegoats to blame, but looked at itself and axed Energy minister Joram Gumbo this week as the fuel crisis worsened. That is how it should be under the constitutional convention of ministerial responsibility that a Cabinet minister bears the ultimate responsibility for the actions of their ministry.
Cartoonists in the private media had a field day after field day at the expense of the government and Gumbo over the fuel crisis. In the same way British Prime Minister Theresa May has been the butt of media jokes over Brexit because the buck stops with her never mind that she campaigned for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union.
So in that vein, there was nothing untoward or sinister in Zimbabwean journalist Constantine Chimakure’s incisive and witty poser on the leadership wrangle in the MDC, which — depending on who you speak to and at what expedient juncture to them — is also variously referred to as MDC-T and MDC Alliance. Chimakure posted on social media this week: “From democracy to democrazy and democrisis — is it the situation in Chamisa’s MDC?”
Many crises spawn their jokes. Humour, at its best, is the self-consciousness of crisis. Humour permits reality to laugh at itself. Even a blind person can see that crazy things are going on in the MDC. The whole thing has assumed comic proportions.
But their favourite line of denial is that any person who differs with them — including MDC stalwarts Elias Mudzuri and Douglas Mwonzora — has been captured by the Zanu PF government and has been roped into what they call the “Zanu PF project” to destabilise their party. Well, this is most infantile and asinine reasoning. Why do I say so? Because Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, who were similarly labelled as Zanu PF plants when they broke away from the MDC, are on the verge of being voted MDC Alliance vice-presidents without undergoing security clearance and, as it were, re-education. One would have thought that the pair would be in the first intake of the MDC’s proposed Tsvangirai School of Ideology. As one can see, these accusations are empty and baseless. It’s irresponsible and dangerous politicking calculated to destroy their internal opponents.
Instead of looking at themselves, some of them have vented their anger on Chimakure, saying, with a straight face, that there is no crisis, burying their heads deep in the sand like an ostrich. You then ask yourself: If there is no crisis, why do they get so angry? They are masters of self-consolation, self-deception and apportioning blame. Crisis means crisis.
You cannot assemble a high-powered legal team — as they have eventually done after cooling down from their dismissive anger following the High Court ruling that, as it stands, Chamisa is not the MDC leader — if there is no crisis.
It’s even sadder that some so-called experts will go to great lengths to give this politicking a veil and veneer of pseudo-intellectual soundness when it’s all a con game to turn people against their internal and external enemies by playing the victimhood card.
Zimbabweans need to open their eyes the same way Peter Beinart, Professor of Journalism at City University of New York, observed during the 2016 presidential election campaign when allegations of Russia’s interference in the election started to emerge. He advised his American compatriots to scrutinise the United States’ own election meddling in other countries for what it is and not let the government pull wool over their eyes, to deceive them in order to prevent them from discovering the reality of their government’s shenanigans in other countries.Wrote Beinart: “In this moment—thick with accusations of ‘treason’ and references to Pearl Harbour—discussing America’s own penchant for election meddling is like discussing America’s misdeeds in the Middle East in the wake of 9/11. It’s apt to get you labelled a traitor.”
Well, some of the warnings from Mudzuri, Mwonzora, respected lawyer Eric Matinenga, who was Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister in the MDC-T component of Cabinet during the Government of National Unity, and uncompromised journalists, advising the MDC against the party’s penchant for not respecting its own constitution, taking legal shortcuts and then taking it out on the courts, has resulted in them being labelled traitors.
Continued Beinart: “Discussing America’s history of electoral interference has never been more necessary. It’s necessary not so Americans can downplay the severity of Russia’s election attack. It’s necessary so Americans can determine how — and how not—to respond. The less Americans know about America’s history of electoral interference, the more likely they are to acquiesce to—or even cheer—its return. That’s dangerous because, historically, American meddling has done far more to harm democracy than promote it.”
In the same way, discussing the MDC’s conduct has never been more necessary than now because a pattern of behaviour is emerging that is worse than those it accuses of being dissembling, undemocratic and repressive. Zimbabweans should know how to respond to gratuitous attacks on the judiciary which are tantamount to contempt of the court process. They should not cheer such conduct because it does far more harm to democracy than promote it.
That’s why we should not be swayed by this fallacious argument from Julius Magarangoma, a failed politician with an axe to grind, fuming at Chimakure: “Saka zvaChamisa zvatokosha kudarika zve (So the Chamisa leadership wrangle is more critical than) fuel shortages, cash unavailability, corruption, health care services collapse, poverty, bread shortages? You are probably in a queue for something now yet your only worry or concern is Chamisa.”
Enter Laiton Mkandawire: “Ndozvaari (That’s how Magarangoma is), he is unable to address an issue without bringing in side issues. The shortage of fuel is not the cause of unconstitutionalism in the MDC.”
Indeed, there is a crippling fuel crisis — but it has nothing to do with the dangerous crisis of breaking rules at will in the party variously referred to as MDC, MDC-T and MDC Alliance.