By Maxwell Sibanda
MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai’s health status should not be shrouded in secrecy nor should it be a private matter for his family as he is a national figure with millions of people looking up to him, social and political commentators contend.
They believe that while Tsvangirai did the honourable thing to disclose his ailment, the nation and indeed his supporters need constant updates on his condition.
The Daily News on Sunday caught up with a number of analysts who gave their views.
Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika said it is true that Tsvangirai has transcended family monopoly, and his life and health is a matter of public interest.
“For some, this may be to plan, but for most, indeed it is to know how a leading national figure, an inspiration to many, and respected political foe is faring.
“It is unfair for the family and whoever is in the know in the party to keep the public in the dark for whatever reasons — Tsvangirai deserves the good wishes of those who love him and the prayers of those who wish him well.
“But without knowing how do people pray, how and what do they hope for, and how do they stand in solidarity with him?”
Lewanika said as for the institutions he leads, lack of information places them into gridlock and the inevitable factional battles that we have been seeing raging.
“It is in the public, and national interest for the truth about Tsvangirai’s health to be known, and for the nation to wish him well and pray for his recovery, while the institutions and people he leads prepare for the next elections knowing that he may be indisposed to lead the charge, not out of his unwillingness but out of being encumbered by these health challenges,” added Lewanika.
Social commentator Rashweat Mukundu said health matters of public or national figures are always a challenge in balancing the public’s right to know and the interest the lives of such people generate and the right to privacy.
“In the case of Tsvangirai, I think it is all these issues as well as the political significance of his health and implications to the MDC and the entire electoral politics in Zimbabwe that are weighing heavily on his family and inner political circle.
“These are issues that Tsvangirai’s family is battling with and I would cautiously respect both him and the family’s right to privacy while urging a more proactive release of information that helps both his party and also keeps the nation informed,” said Mukundu.
Mukundu added that more critically it is in the interest of the MDC that the issue of succession be discussed.
“Succession is not an issue of undermining Tsvangirai but enabling the MDC to look into the future on the basis of a collective political project and not an individual.
“It is only fair for the MDC that Tsvangirai gives a clear indication of his prospects of returning to lead the party and those calling for a leadership transition may as well be looking at the implications of his long absence, the ensuing factional fights and chaos and the impeding elections.
“Tsvangirai’s legacy is imprinted in our national political memory and it may serve the MDC well that they look into the future,” said Mukundu.
Playwright Cont Mhlanga does not put any blame to Tsvangirai’s family or relatives.
“Chances are that they are not sure how to manage this situation given the precedence set out by government and Zanu PF in handling former president Robert Mugabe’s illnesses and age that led to his highly embarrassing dozing while at public platforms when he was still leader of his party and government.
“I would put the blame on the door step of our general membership of our political parties who ignore putting in place guide lines of how to handle and manage such situations should they arise,” said Mhlanga.
Mhlanga added that political party membership at the lower ranks easily and willingly manipulated by party members at the higher ranks.
“This promotes a situation where party members do not hold each other accountable to public service delivery and accurate information of public interest.
“Zimbabwe’s political parties and interparty political culture needs reinventing. It has learnt a lot of wrong and bad political practices since independence in 1980.”
Mhlanga said Tsvangirai’s family members did not appoint him to be a national leader who commands public interest and following.
“To them he is just a parent in a private family and home and they have all the right to keep his illness private. It is Tsvangirai’s party membership guided by their instruments who shoulder the responsibility of keeping the nation accurately informed.”
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said Tsvangirai is free to treat his health as a private matter, given that he currently holds no official government office.
“However, it was a great step and mark of leadership when he publicly revealed his health status. So, naturally, there are expectations that there should be further updates. The length of his medical vacation causes anxiety, especially with crucial elections looming.
“But if truth be told, the issue of the opposition candidacy needs to be resolved sooner rather than later, while MDC leader is recuperating,” said Gwede.
Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya believes Tsvangirai did better than most African leaders to disclose his ailment.
“Now, as a national leader faced with national elections, his family, his party and himself, owe us a responsibility.
“The nation needs to know — as a matter of urgency — whether or not he can stand the rigours of not just the election 2018 campaigns but also subsequent leadership.
“It’s not asking for too much. MDC cannot use Tsvangrai’s health as a pawn of leadership contests. It is inhumane, naive and dangerous for the credibility of the MDC Alliance.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said: “As a family they have a right to privacy. But Tsvangirai has followers who deserve to know what’s happening with him. They should allow the public to know how their president is faring. They are missing the point.”
Crisis Coalition spokesperson Tabani Moyo said: “The challenges in Zimbabwean politics is that of managing succession! In Zanu PF it took a military coup and in MDC is taking fears for the worst to be handled.
“Whatever the situation might be, Zimbabwean opposition is a big let-down, it must be closer to the ideas of a model progressive government in-waiting. In addition, we are on the eve of an election and the opposition is in a tailspin as to who should succeed Tsvangirai.
“As seen in the recent developments, the party is in full blown succession crisis and it’s a reflection of power succession planning!” Daily News