A survival manual for Mujuru’s supporters
By Alex T. Magaisa
Looking at the political landscape, it must be hard being Zanu PF and a supporter of Vice President Joice Mujuru. Attacked relentlessly and ruthlessly and made to feel like lepers in their own political home, they must be struggling to adapt in the Siberia of politics to which they have been banished.
It’s the political equivalent of being thrown into the jungle where you’re exposed to the elements and wild monsters. So we figured out they might do with a survival kit. They are new to this terrain, which has long been home to those of us who dared to differ from and to challenge Zanu PF. So here are a few tips that they might find useful:
1. How to deal with the State-media
• Now that you are where you are, you’ve got to get used to the State media bashing you and your leaders every day of the week. Non-stop. All the headlines will be about the ills and transgressions of your leader. Do not expect the State media to give your side of the story, no. There is no other side. They are not your friends, anymore.
• There is a gang of political analysts which is quoted day in, day out, for no other purpose than to give some flimsy intellectual cover to the position advanced by The Herald or The Sunday Mail. Don’t mind them. They need their supper and they must sing in tune.
They just waited to see where the wind was blowing and when they saw that you were on the weaker side they chose to go with the wind. But really, they are harmless creatures. If you had been winning, they would have gone with you, too.
• There will be a lot of conspiracy theories about things that you have done and they will all emerge from ‘close sources that cannot be named’. They are all imaginary, of course, but allegations are presented as facts. You will have to get used to the ridiculous.
• You can choose either to ignore The Herald and not read it at all or to read it and at least know what they think of you. The latter is advisable. Besides, opposition supporters say the big papers are handy for other purposes, too. Besides, if you fancy a reminder of how stupid and vindictive your rivals are, those papers are a useful guide.
• When you read The Herald or its sister papers, you have to learn the art of reading between the lines, or better still, to use the ‘law of opposites’. The law of opposites in newspaper reading is that whatever is said in the paper, often they mean the opposite.
So when they say the economy is booming, usually they mean it is imploding. When they say you were a violent mob that beat up rivals, the real story is that your supporters were beaten senseless by their rivals.
• Don’t be hard on the journalists who work for the State-media. Yes, they all look vile and despicable, but actually most are good men and women who are just trying to eke out a living in a rotten system. Don’t take it out on them, please. Given a better and more professional environment, they could actually do a decent job.
But they have virtually no control over what is presented in their names. Still, they are expected to take responsibility and to declare to the world that they are in charge, when even their cats know they are not. Granted, there are a few obnoxious ones who can’t be redeemed, but they are in the minority – most are decent boys and girls who have families to feed. Believe you me, a lot of them in run-up to 31 July last year were, privately being very nice to the opposition, because they too were not sure.
• Your one option is to join the opposition in using the private media. Space there is limited so please do not squash us. But at least your voice will be heard. See now, why we were always calling for media reforms?
You know, last year, we asked the ZBC to cover our manifesto launch rally, just like they had done two days before when Zanu PF launched its own. They quoted us $165,000! We complained and you guys thought we were mad. This is why were calling for media reforms, not for us, but because we thought it was the right thing to do.
2. You’re now a ‘sell-out’ and a ‘regime-change agent’
• This might come as surprise to you but that’s what you are now, at least according to the State-media and those behind the propaganda. According to them, your aim is to remove Mugabe from power and that is considered treasonous. You are a puppet because you are supposedly sponsored by Britain and America.
You also want to reverse the gains of the liberation struggle, never mind that you were a critical part of it. You have simply become counter-revolutionary. You’ve now firmly anchored yourself among all those opposition supporters and leaders whom you used to refer to as sell-outs and regime-change agents. Perhaps that is what they meant when they said what goes around, comes around. It has for you. Not yet for your erstwhile friends who are now tormenting you but it will come around, too.
Being called a sell-out is not a very nice thing, as you know. It can get you thrashed. It can even get you killed. Many in the war and after it never lived to tell their tales. So now that you’re a sell-out and a regime change agent, do be careful.
3. Be very cautious
• Now that you’re a sell-out and a regime-change agent, you need to watch your every step. You used to see people looking briskly from side to side and turning their heads swiftly as they walked in the street? They weren’t mad, no. They weren’t paranoid, too. They were just doing what was necessary to be on guard. Survival instinct.
For the same reason, do not leave your beer unattended at the bar when you go to the loo. Or your tea. Or your coke. Avoid room service in hotels – go and eat with the others from the big pot at the buffet table. If somebody has something specially prepared for you, be very suspicious – ask them to eat it with you!
Be careful with that vehicle from the Government pool; if you sent it for repairs, get your mechanic to check it over before you drive it! That bottled water in the hotel room or your usual seat at the workshop round-table is not to be trusted. And that car that you saw 20 minutes ago along Lomagundi Road in Avondale is still behind you along Enterprise Road? Uuum, stop or turn around. If you see it again, be very worried! Don’t leave that vehicle unattended. And check the tyres before you depart.
4. You need a lawyer
• Keep your lawyer’s number on speed dial. Ever heard that group called the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)? Yes, the same one you were bashing just last year. They are really a nice bunch of men and women who have dedicated themselves to serve the interests of human rights and justice. They do fantastic work, often at great expense to their health and safety.
One of them, Kennedy Masiye was brutally assaulted just two weeks ago, when he was trying to assist his client, Itai Dzamara, who had been arrested and beaten, also brutally, for exercising his freedom of expression, which the Constitution is supposed to protect. They might be your new best friends now. Get their number. You might need them.
5. If you have been a victim of political violence, weigh your options before you run to the police. This is because when you report that you have been assaulted by Zanu PF people, the police can arrest you instead. Going to report political violence can be a big risk.
6. “Free and Fair Elections”
• Start practising these words, “Free and fair elections! The elections were not free and fair!”, because from now onwards, you will be singing them. Elections are not free and fair in Zimbabwe. They never have and it is unlikely they will be, anytime soon. You thought the opposition were mad all these years when they sang this song. You said they were cowards. And you said they were puppets. No, they actually had legitimate complaints about this rotten system. The same rot that you are now seeing. They felt the same pain that you are now feeling. Now you will appreciate better, why they were calling for electoral reforms all these years.
But since you have a better knowledge of the system and how Zanu PF rigs elections, we are sure your input will be most welcome. The opposition are still struggling to know what happened in 2013, although they know something dodgy happened. Since you were part of it, it would be nice if you told the world what happened because whether or not you do, they are after you and they will haunt you. Come on, spill it out. Maybe when it’s all out there, that system can be reformed.
7. If you benefited from any ‘empowerment’ schemes, please remember that it was only because you were on the right side of Zanu PF. It was not because you were great or anything similar. They will now come and take it away, any time they want. Even though you were all stealing together, they will come after you and you alone.
They are shameless and very vindictive. And they have the evidence, since you were all in it together. That is the biggest weapon the have against you. Those farms that you have, they will come and take them. They will just send a mob masquerading as war veterans.
8. The law is not what it is supposed to be but what Zanu PF thinks it is. The judges and magistrates, like journalists are generally good people but sometimes they have got no choice. They have to do what they have to do for the sake of survival. If given a fresh, professional environment in which to operate, they will do an excellent job and they will even begin to write more excellent judgments.
But as long as this system is in place, political cases will drag on for years. If you are unlucky, like Tsvangirai whose 2002 election judgment is yet to be delivered, it could go on for years. If you are given bail, the prosecuting authorities can always invoke section 121 of the criminal procedures law, to keep you in the filthy Matapi cells for another week. Just because they can.
9. You’re a second-class citizen. It’s the Orwellian Animal Farm. Some animals are more equal than others. Those on the right side of Zanu PF are more equal than others. When it comes to agricultural inputs, welcome to the world of opposition supporters. Ditto when it comes to food-aid and funds from projects. If you have rural relatives, and you have never had to buy inputs because the party was always there, now you must begin to save and look after their needs. Because they will be at the back of the queue or out of the queue altogether.
10. Skip the Border. More than 2 million Zimbabweans are said to be living outside the country. Most are economic refugees and a significant number are also political refugees. They were assaulted, tortured and faced threats to their lives. They were lucky to escape and claim asylum in other countries.
Of course, there are some who took advantage of the facility but there are really genuine cases of men and women who escaped in order to survive politically-motivated violence. You might have to do the same, at some point. You will need to make new friends out there and they can help you how to navigate the terrain of asylum-seeking, which is a terrible pain but oft-times there is no other choice.
11. You will soon have to get used to the fact that you are the primary cause of all the ills of the country. You’re responsible for economic ruin and everything bad that’s happening. In time, you will also be accused of calling for sanctions.
Finally, we know the anguish you are going through at this time. Chiripamuri chitsveru chacho. But hopefully the above manual will be handy. We know you are now suspicious of your friends, not very sure what to do or say to them. Do you visit them? If you have a party do you invite them? If they call, what do you say? It’s a hard time, when friend is now suspicious of fellow friend.
We know also, that you are quite embarrassed, especially if you used to shout and scream that Mugabe was the greatest and that Zanu PF was the most democratic organisation the world has ever seen. You don’t know how to talk to the erstwhile opposition people that you used to bash at will.
It is tough, we know. But we also recall the wisdom of our ancestors. They said, in reference to puppies, that they do not all open their eyes on the same day. Some are quicker but others take a bit of time. It has taken some years, we know, but now you can see for yourselves.
Dr Alex Magaisa can be reached on [email protected]