By Conrad Nyamutata
Morgan Tsvangirai has achieved a lot than we credit him for. The charismatic former trade unionist managed to marshal various interest groups to congeal into probably the most veritable opposition movement to challenge President Mugabe.
The MDC has thus far remained the only source of hope for freedom from the shackles of a pernicious regime.
Since then, Tsvangirai literally put his life on the line for democratic change, arrests, prosecution, persecution, assassination attempts and beatings. He has, along with others, borne the wounds and scars of that struggle. Add to that the tragic loss of his wife in 2009.
Most people who back Tsvangirai recognise his tenacity and resilience in the face of a brutal regime. Had we lived in a democratic country with transparent electoral processes, Tsvangirai could be president of Zimbabwe today. Against all odds, he still sneaked into the echelons of power, however limited.
As far as the struggle for change is concerned, Tsvangirai has earned his badges.
But what he has not earned is a ticket for socially and morally errant behaviour. Most of his supporters will be deeply disappointed by the recent goings-on in his private life. When one is in a position he holds, the line between private and public life becomes thinner.
It is the reason citizens and journalists were as curious about President Mugabe’s re-marriage years ago as they are with his health today. The curiosity becomes even more intense when actions of the public office holders are socially and morally deviant, let alone, repeatedly so.
Tsvangirai cannot take his supporters for granted; that he has earned a right to rule and therefore can behave in a manner which offends social morals.
A crucial election lies ahead.
As he accepts himself, the way he handled the matters regarding Locardia Karimatsenga Tembo was shoddy. It remains a mess; the rot will unfold some more. You have to pity Luke Tamborinyoka, his spokesman, because his is a difficult job if his boss does not shape up.
Tsvangirai must take full responsibility for both his actions and the subsequent PR disaster. What I cannot accept is the attempt to absolve him and shunt the blame on the doorsteps of other people, as subtly hinted in his statement and now expressed by some anonymous MDC officials.
Tsvangirai’s close associates Ian and Theresa Makone, in particular, have been fingered as sources of bad influence on Tsvangirai. The daggers have been drawn on these two.
But hang on a minute.
Did this couple have anything to do with another relationship and child which Tsvangirai allegedly had with a Bulawayo woman? And are we to believe that this couple also influenced Tsvangirai to impregnate Ms Tembo?
It would be deeply worrying that a 59-year-old presidential aspirant would be led into relationships (we would then assume bedrooms too) and sire children.?
The problem is not about Tsvangirai having relationships, whether he is introduced to the partners by the Makones or not. It does not sound out of the ordinary that a friend introduces his or her friend to another colleague.
But what one subsequently does in the relationship, including siring children, surely cannot be blamed on the match-maker. If there is an ulterior motive in the match-making as alleged in this case, and one does not read it at the time, the blame can only lie with the one who fails to discern it.
It is understandable that MDC officials would be aggrieved at the damage of brand Tsvangirai. But Tsvangirai has himself to blame. It is disingenuous to scapegoat others for Tsvangirai’s own personal indiscretions.
If Tsvangirai is indeed susceptible to “bad influence” to this extent in his personal affairs and cannot read alleged ulterior motive, then the MDC supporters and officials ought to be concerned about their own leader rather than his alleged influencers.
Lastly, this is not about women’s groups that some are trying to instigate — the man has not been throwing Berlusconian bunga-bunga parties or taking advantage of his office juniors. And we have women of very sound judgement. Does a rich businesswoman fall in the category of the vulnerable?
This is about broader society yearning for a role model of a family man.