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Joseph Msika's Botched Legacy

By Dr Paul Mutuzu

Contrary to misleading claims and clumsy moralization of Msika’s death by South African President Jacob Zuma, Finance Minister Biti and Robert Mugabe, the death of Msika represents a botched legacy.

Since his appointment in 1999 as Vice-President, he became a co-author of a series of man-made disasters. As one of the leading figures of the monastic establishment, he presided over one of the most ignominious and darkest chapters of Zimbabwe’s history.

By the time of his death, he had become an irrelevant hero and a real danger to the very people he helped liberate, just like Mugabe. The death of Msika has ignited a moral outrage. In the court of public opinion, a verdict has already been reached (quite easily).

Msika was a civil servant who, for 29 years, was sustained by public funds. It is only justifiable for his true masters – the taxpayers, to undertake a moral critique and to take an audit of his performance during his painfully protracted tenure in office.

If the people of Zimbabwe were to arrive at the unlikely conclusion that Msika was simply incompetent, then that would be a mildly acceptable and forgivable excuse. However his record shows that he was not a dim-witted Vice-President nor one who slept at the wheel.

He actively facilitated Mugabe’s overstay in power and in the process he was a direct beneficiary of power himself. He became a senior member of the plutocracy worth millions of dollars. He never acknowledged the people’s misery, With all the suffering he has left behind, his legacy is that of emptiness.

Consider his demeaning statement made in December 2003 that, “All those who talk of succession are bloody sell-outs. There was someone who wanted to bring up the issue here at the conference. We were going to deal with him if he had brought up the issue, Mugabe cannot go …” He fiercely silenced any succession debates. There is no doubt that Msika was a polarizing figure even in his own party.

At a time Zimbabwe was desperate for change, Msika shortchanged the people of Zimbabwe. During a rally in Zaka last year (2008) he said, “Voting for the MDC in the run-off will be like voting for Rhodesia and the British which means voting for war. I will never accept to be ruled by an MDC government that is keen to sell the country’s birthright. I would rather die fighting.’’

Even Msika himself knew that he was lying and was deeply buried in denial. Less than a year later, the unthinkable happened as the very MDC he humiliated for a decade became the trusted government of the day. And the winds of change continue to blow to this present day.

Such dubious characterizations, show that he was referring to a war against the MDC as had previously done because no British forces or foreign armies had invaded Zimbabwe. It was a war that Zimbabweans are well too familiar with – deadly violence against unarmed citizens.

They experienced that war during the 2002 presidential elections which left over five hundred Zimbabweans (mostly MDC supporters) dead while thousands were injured, tortured or abused. Six years later (2008) hundreds of Zimbabweans perished under similar lies and incitements. After all, that violence was state-sponsored.

In spite of isolated incidents and piecemeal efforts to sanitize his name, which clearly contradicted what he conspicuously advocated for, Msika described the land reform ‘chaotic’. Other than that, where was the Vice President when the tsunami of green bombers and rented thugs unleashed violence, death and destruction on the defenseless people of Zimbabwe?

If Msika was a well-intentioned man, why didn’t he resign in protest of Mugabe’s misrule? Men of virtue like Joshua Nkomo offered to resign when Mugabe denied entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa the license and the right to operate a wireless network. He stood up for justice throughout his life and he will forever be remembered as a true hero.

As someone who was up there in the chain of command, clearly Msika was a veteran demagogue, the magnitude of Mugabe, his boss who in 2005 declared, “let me be a Hitler ten-fold.” Msika relentlessly participated in the regime’s heinous activities which deprived the people of Zimbabwe their basic freedoms and rights.

Msika’s record clearly demonstrates that he did not have the independence of mind to follow his own conscience, no wonder he couldn’t resign even as geriatric disorders took their toll on him. He surrendered his life to Mugabe’s whims and bought the notion that they were irreplaceable. Msika’s lust for power impaired his moral judgment.

When Mugabe says “This is not death, Msika cannot die”, that sounds quite disturbing. If he literally meant that, then we might very well be dealing with a mental case here. Does he think he is immortal. What else can explain his determination to die in office or coercing his Vice President to die office? But seriously, if these people are concerned about Zimbabwe’s posterity and their own their legacies, then they must do the honorable thing now – pack their bags and go, for they have outlived their usefulness.

No one, in his/her right frame of mind needs the current crop of Zanu PF politicians. To the overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans, they have become a perennial liability. Most of Zanu PF men and women will regrettably retire to their deathbeds squirming in shame and rejection.

As Zimbabweans try to quickly forget about Msika’s legacy, Mr Biti volunteered himself to be the harbinger of the depressing news that the Vice President was “untainted by corruption” and that “his name stayed away from scandal.” How emotionally troubling!

But for someone who just got a bullet in the mail, it’s understandable. ‘Mugabephobia’ has taken its grip on Mr Biti. However, the irony of Mr Biti’s cosmetic eulogy is that Msika was the co-author of this violence which is hounding the rest of the Zimbabwean populace, Mr Biti included.

For a decade, Msika oversaw the barbaric torture and killing of Zimbabweans but still intentionally hid his head from the horror that terrorized a nation in broad daylight. He goes to his grave with so many unanswered questions yet no one will ever be able to bear testimony better than him. His record is replete with prosecutable human rights violations such as aiding and abetting torture in contravention of Geneva Convention.

It is insulting to the people of Zimbabwe to call such a human being a ‘ true hero’. In any case as Minister of Finance, Mr Biti has no business pontificating about such controversial issues which have nothing to do with the fiscus. These politicians must learn to speak for themselves. It’s not fun. What a shame of a statement purporting to represent all men and women of the MDC!

As if to out-compete each other, from across the Limpopo entered Zuma, calling it a ‘painful loss’. What ‘painful loss?’ Zuma is the president of a country which has become a symbol of Zimbabweans’ desperation caused by the failed leadership of Mugabe and Msika.

No-one will ever forget the burnt corpses of Zimbabweans who perished in xenophobic attacks in Zuma’s backyard. Just last week, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai toured the ‘humanitarian crisis-ridden’ camps holding Zimbabweans in South Africa. It’s despicable.

Zuma must quickly disengage himself from doublespeak and equivocation about Zimbabwe’s desperate situation, Instead of helping Zimbabwe to quickly democratize Zuma is busy wailing over one member of the plutocracy who plundered the nation unabated for as long as he wanted. Is he following the same failed ‘quiet diplomacy’ set by Thabo Mbeki?

He must condemn violations of GPA terms such as appointment of Gono and Tomana. He must condemn the wanton arrest of MDC MP’s by Mugabe and his men. He must condemn lawlessness in Zimbabwe. He must condemn ongoing murders on the farms. Now that is painful!

Mugabe and Msika have an intricately shared legacy. The two are inseparable. The same way no one can talk about the colossal failures of Bush Administration on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the economy without bringing up the names Bush and Cheney together as architects of the disaster. Likewise Bill Clinton and Al Gore are responsible for ‘good ol’ days in America.

According to the most revered book of all time, the Bible, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked bears rule, the people mourn.” (Proverbs 29:2). What an incontestable truth about Zimbabwe.

The people’s definition of heroes has changed. Anybody who is working towards bringing peace, creating jobs, bringing clean water, feeding the hungry, providing for aids patients, eradicating poverty, improving the filthy prisons, fixing schools, universities and hospitals, protecting the environment is the people’s hero in Zimbabwe.

No one should impose heroes on them. Zimbabwe’s liberation war heroes have not guaranteed and safeguarded the real virtues of independence such as peace and prosperity, democracy and the rule of law. In that regard, people like Tonderai Ndira’s stature as national heroes easily dwarf Msika.

Msika and fellow geriatrics like Mugabe, represent a self-imposed leadership utterly disconnected with the present generation and fiercely out of touch with reality. Msika leaves behind a total nightmare for millions of Zimbabweans. Can you imagine the millions scattered across nations who are waiting to go back home as soon as Mugabe is no longer in power?

Many Zimbabweans have publicly wished that this Msika tragedy must have happened to the ‘big fish’ himself. That shows extreme desperation when people cross traditionally designated taboo lines to express their anger. (Even though its a ‘state’ crime to express that anger)

To many Zimbabweans, the conclusion that Mr Msika is yet another relic of a bygone era is inescapable. No matter how much ‘spin the spin doctors spin’ between now and Aug 10, the day marked for Msika’s burial to coincide with Heroes Day, the people will not be convinced. The only prevalent popular sentiment is that there are no more heroes left in Zimbabwe.

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