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Hopewell Chin’ono – Like Mugabe, MDC-T true colours are emerging

By Hopewell Chin’ono

I am supposed to be away from writing on politics but certain developments make us realize that politics is too important to leave it to politicians alone. 

Hopewell Chin'ono
Hopewell Chin’ono

One of the classic Robert Mugabe questions has always been, what happened to him, what made him change? My old friend the late war veteran, Freedom Nyamubaya always said to me that, “…nothing changed with this old man, he has always been like that, you were fooled by the oratory skills.”

I thought of the same question when talking to Siphosami Malunga in his office yesterday about what is happening in the MDC-T. The same Robert Mugabe principle applies to the MDC-T as well.

What we are seeing in the MDC-T today is exactly what it has always been like. The culture of lawlessness, violence, intimidation and hiring hoodlums to threaten opponents is not the preserve of ZANU PF, it is a culture also embedded in the opposition MDC-T.

Like Robert Mugabe, the MDCT’s true colours are emerging for all to see because its leaders have been cornered with situations that might curtail their life long political ambitions of leading the party.

Robert Mugabe was a nice charming man until he was faced with awkward political challenges, that is when he unrestrained his dark side.

The same applies to the MDCT leadership today, their dark side of lies, deceit, manipulation, intimidation, lawlessness, intolerance and abusive language has emerged when faced with a political challenge.

Instead of generating ideas to resolve their leadership disputes through civil processes, they have resorted to intimidating each other and barring some of their leadership from coming near the party headquarters.

The MDC-T has always reminded us that it is an alternative government in waiting, however events of the past two weeks have shown us that no such capabilities exist within this party in its present state.
The MDC-T should have been the party of constitutionalism, adhering to the rule of law.

They broke their own constitution with the appointments of two unelected Vice Presidents and violated the rule of law by not regularizing that breach.

What Zimbabweans were looking for was a break with the past, with Mugabeism where there was NO transparency in what a leader does. The MDC-T failed that test because they seem not to have systems in place to even appointing an Acting President.

But that is their problem which unfortunately shows how unprepared they are to govern a country if they can’t resolve the question of who is in charge of their party. I am writing a long piece around this issue for an international newspaper so I won’t delve much into this detail.

However, what I can say is that the MDC-T top leadership and its presidential spokesman have not been honest with their followers and the country.

They lied which in itself is a reflection of what this party is all about and also a projection of how they are not different from what they seemingly were opposing for the past 18 years.

This is a culmination of what I have written about for years when I said that Morgan Tsvangirai needed to have stepped down and allowed a lawful transition to take place.

I was pilloried by MDC-T supporters and even accused of all sorts of stupid things because they don’t allow a culture of constructive criticism, a behavior which in itself is anathema to democratic dictates.
Unfortunately my words have now come to pass.

That in itself is the tragic reality of our politics where fanatics refuse to face up to reality in order to make wise choices. There is nothing democratic and progressive about that.

It is foolish to assume that one should always support the breaking of the law and the constitution simply because it is being done by your political party and personality of choice. That is exactly how we ended up with Robert Mugabe and all the tragic things that he subjected us to.

If thugs can be hired to beat up opponents and intimidate journalists as has been happening with the MDC-T, if party officials are stopped from entering the party headquarters, what will such leaders do when they have access and control of state security apparatus?

What is democratic about such tendencies where someone with an opposing view is shut down by the very people that claim to want to change our political and democratic fortunes in Zimbabwe?

If party officials can lie about circumstances around who is in charge of their party when they are still in opposition, what will they do with the government apparatus when they are in power?

These are questions that all right thinking and sane Zimbabweans should now be grappling with as we head towards a watershed election.

We need to develop a citizen who can think and interrogate issues devoid of sycophancy and ignorant exuberance.  There is no difference between the ZANU PF sycophant who shouted ‘VaMugabe chete chete’ and the MDCT supporter who shouted ‘VaTsvangirai chete chete.’ 

They are two sides of the same coin.

This is what the 17th century Frenchman, Joseph de Maistre, meant when he said that every nation gets the government it deserves. We have known of the Robert Mugabe ZANU PF for 37 years and now we are learning about ED’s ZANU PF. A stroke of luck has now given us a front row seat to bear witness to what an MDC-T Government will behave like.

What I saw and heard in the past two weeks has simply reminded me of the stories of people like Trudy Stevenson and Elton Mangoma who were victims of intra party brutal violence which was used to settle the variance of ideas.

Choices have consequences, it is up to us as citizens to make choices that we can live with for the next five years. It is also important for the opposition parties including the MDC-T to know that the citizen’s vote is not guaranteed simply because the other parties are questionable.

The fact that the Alliance partners like Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube who claim to defend constitutionalism are today quiet when their partners are doing things contrary to the rule of law shows how opportunistic their political agenda is.

They see nothing wrong in the stripping of the MDCT constitution as long as that lawlessness advances their political careers and objectives. This is an election that should see tactical voting.
We shouldn’t vote for a slate but for politicians whose actions match their rhetoric and who are able to deliver the change that we want from years of Mugabe’s ruinous policies.

We can only do that and achieve these desired objectives if we use our brain to assess the choices before us. We can’t afford to simply voting against, we need to start voting for something and using the same standard when choosing political leaders.

Failure to do so will take us back to the French philosopher and diplomat Joseph de Maistre, people get a government they deserve!

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning journalist and filmmaker. He is also a CNN African journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman fellow. He can be contacted at [email protected]