HARARE – They flocked in their thousands on Saturday to listen to their leader at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield — that ceremonial home of people power.
The 20 000 plus crowd was enough testimony — if ever there was need for one — that over the years, the Morgan Tsvangirai brand has carved a unique niche for itself in the national psyche.
Yes, that indestructible brand has achieved its own grand coalition with the people of Zimbabwe. Only the people are the grand factor in politics.
Tsvangirai, a resilient brand that cannot be wished away by both friend and foe, including supposed fellow democrats who hold conventions and spend hours in a needless invective and hate language aimed at Morgan Tsvangirai as if he is at the centre of the national crisis.
The positive trait about Tsvangirai’s crowd is that it is always genuine. In the case of Saturday’s rally attended by over 20 000 people, there had not been a single flier or poster to advertise it. Typical of MDC rallies, no church was closed, no flea market closed nor venders and informal traders bussed or frog-marched to the event.
It was a convention of determined Zimbabweans coming to listen to their leader out of their own volition.
In his message, Tsvangirai showed he is a leader familiar with the problems facing the people.
He spoke about his meet-the-people tours around the country where he has interacted with Zimbabweans struggling to put food on the table and to send children to school.
He spoke about a clueless party in government, saddled with its broken election promises to the people of this country.
Tsvangirai spoke about a 91-year-old president who needed to rest despite firing younger politicians and sending them into retirement.
He spoke about a president who has handed over power to his wife.
He said the country was already in a transition but with serious questions on the legitimacy of government, which legitimacy could only be acquired through a free, fair and credible poll.
Significantly, the MDC leader said the party he leads fully endorsed the national convergence conference as a platform that could assist in charting the future of the country in the middle of this debilitating political and economic crisis.
After all, it is Morgan Tsvangirai who, on Friday, January 24, 2014 at a Harare hotel broached the need for a dialogue of a broad section of stakeholders to discuss the crisis in country and create national consensus on the way forward.
He told the rally in Highfield that the magnitude of the national crisis made it necessary to have a national conversation.
At that convergence, he said in Highfield, the MDC would put on the table six national grievances that it felt needed urgent resolution because they were at the core of our crisis. He said in the opinion of the MDC, the six major issues requiring national attention, among others, were
– Immediate implementation of the Constitution
– Implementation of reforms as a prerequisite for free and fair elections
– The economic crisis
– Social delivery crisis
– National resource distribution and
– Partisan and personalised national institutions
But perhaps the message that sent the crowd agog was that it was high time Zimbabweans liberated themselves through action and mass protests.
“We will not be pushed on the time-frame but we will determine the nature, form, pace and time for the action ourselves,” Tsvangirai told the rapturous crowd.
“We have a generational obligation to liberate ourselves once more, but the liberation will not come cheap because we will have to do it through a lot of service and sacrifice.”
He said the MDC had a covenant with the people of Zimbabwe who were looking up to the party and its leadership to save them.
“So we are going for action and we would want the chair of Sadc and the AU to stop us from engaging in public protests and petitions that are allowed by the Constitution we made ourselves as Zimbabweans,” he said to a thunderous din.
The MDC, he said, was not only going to bank on its numbers but was seriously engaging in other strategies to ensure it wins the next election.
“Our challenge is to translate our popularity into power so that we can transform the lives of the people and this time we will do it,” he said.
Congress, he said, had made a significant resolution that the party was not going to participate in any election in the absence of reforms.
He said the objective of the imminent action or any dialogue or convergence the MDC would participate in was not to form another inclusive government, but was premised on the need to create the right environment for the return to legitimacy through a free, fair and credible poll.
So unity is important, the people are important and other parties and players are important but only if we all realise that Zimbabwe is greater than our individual egos, unbridled ambitions or personal vendettas against each other, he said.
We certainly cannot say we are committed to working together when we are giving preconditions that preclude other Zimbabweans simply because we hate them with a passion.
When others gather to discuss the crisis we all face, one would think that it is Tsvangirai who is at the centre of the national crisis, judging by the hate speech against him.
You don’t attack a fellow passenger when a bus breaks down like our economy has done in the hands of an incompetent and inept government.
You go for the driver, Robert Mugabe, and the bus company, Zanu PF, who have run us all aground.
“There is something more deserving of our attention than the needless preoccupation with Tsvangirai; and that is transforming the lives of the people,” the MDC leader told the mammoth crowd in Highfield at the weekend.
The people shouted back at him that they were ready to determine and control the end-game.
Many have wondered what makes Tsvangirai tick, but the answer has always been simple.
It is true that he has his own frailties like all of us.
But the incontrovertible truth is that at the moment, away from boardrooms, and ornate billiard tables where his political obituary is always prematurely written, Tsvangirai is the people’s man.
Far from self-serving power point slides and the cacophony of a few loud but ungrounded cyber-revolutionaries and desktop activists, Morgan Tsvangirai still remains the repository of the hope for millions of Zimbabweans.
Regardless of how unpalatable it may be to some among us, the man is dearly loved by millions of people in the villages and in the urban areas.
And these millions who still repose their faith in him do not own newspapers and have no media to influence the national discourse that is now driven largely by those who control the means of mass communication, including the ones who only got their radio licences last week.
But the misleading discourse by a few in the privileged elite who hate Morgan Tsvangirai with a passion has often proved to be at variance with the national sentiment on the ground.
As we brace for action, and as he continues to straddle in the middle of such huge crowds as the one in Highfield on Saturday, it has become clear that Morgan Tsvangirai has chosen to place priority on a true but enduring grand coalition, not with egoistic individuals, but with the generality of the people of Zimbabwe.
*Luke Tamborinyoka doubles as the technical head of communications in the MDC as well as spokesperson to MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. He writes here in his personal capacity.