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Hopewell Chin’ono comparison of MDC and Zanu PF “extremely problematic”

By Collence Nyazenga

Dear Hopewell, I read your article arguing there exists no distinction between MDC movement and ZANU-PF. I think it’s possible to advance this claim if we’re cognizant that these are rivers that issue from the same source and so it should not shock us if we find some of the same elements in their waters. Both are members of the same society where from they inherit certain societal and cultural norms. Even with that in mind, certain of your claims warrant challenging.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Let me say, so far as I could see, they were not written to advance the thesis that the two are more similar than different, but for their own merit. I therefore do not try to argue the distinction between the two; rather I wanted to respond to individual propositions that I find, at the very least, extremely problematic.

It’s completely shocking to hear anyone say or repeat that Morgan Tsvangirai had no moral compass. The man had many faults but a lack of moral clarity and vision wasn’t one of them. Tsvangirai serially suffered personal bodily harm, murder of his family members, lived in ever present jeopardy; these same fates were faced by many of his comrades.

Yet he never wavered from the fight that defined his life; he could have walked away. Nkosana did as did many without experiencing a smidgeon of the personal loss and suffering that Morgan endured. What other than a true and trusty moral compass can keep a man in an impersonal fight such as this when release is as easy as walking away?

We never heard, as with a man who stands for nothing, that today he was fighting for this, tomorrow he was fighting for that, before he was fighting for something else completely contradictory. The same thing that he started fighting for decades ago, is what he was fighting for at the time of his death, and is what people like Nkosana are only now openly fighting for, thanks to the space in our discourse that he managed to carve out and hold open. That anyone would accuse him of lacking a moral compass at all is completely shocking and reminds me of Naipaul’s “we live in a society that denies itself heroes.”

You, at the same time imply the laws were rigged (SADC warned MDC they’d never win elections unless there were reforms), and fault the MDC for asserting the very same thing. Are you suggesting that by participating in an election in which the MDC knew the laws to be rigged, they gave up the right to complain about it?

This seems to be about past elections but to the extent to which your reasoning is extensible to the impending one, do you acknowledge the difficult position in which the MDC Alliance find themselves in? If they don’t participate, then ZEC will say it was your choice not to and and the courts will say you have no standing to complain about something which you were not part to.

Isn’t it better for them to participate so that the election is exposed for the farce that it is? This seems to be happening with overwhelming rapidity. Even if some observers were willing to look away, as seemed to be the case with say, the U.K, there’s a limit to which they can do so and keep any credibility. So it seems better that the MDC participates in this election so that it all emerges into the sunlight, just as is happening.

You fault the MDC for going to the courts which, as you imply, they know to be biased. What would you have them do?

Why do you overlook that the laws were changed and are in place? You go on and on with the pretension that there is a fight about enacting new laws.

But present argument isn’t about enacting any laws. Yes, there may be better laws that can be put in place later but I don’t believe you can quote a single person that has claimed the law should be change in the period since the proclamation of the election.

Rather people are fighting for faithful adherence and implementation of our present statutes. There’s no way you don’t understand this; and so one is left wondering why you find it necessary to change the terms of the debate on this particular issue.

I take as fair the criticism of MDC’s handling of Tsvangirai succession; however, this concurrence I limit to the boardroom manoeuvrings that we saw. We diverge where you bring in “the thuggery” and mob mentality. It’s important to point out this was categorically and unequivocally condemned.

This is quite different than the ZANU-PF has behaved on similar occasions. Notwithstanding, it should be clear we are not responsible for other people’s action save to the extent to which we incite or condone them before and after the fact, respectively. To my awareness, none of the MDC leaders have incited or condoned any of the thuggery. ZANU-PF’s leaders on the other hand boasts of PhD’s in violence.

You limit ZANU-PF’s “tactics of intimidation and naked violence to” 2008 alone. This is not borne out by pretty much the whole history of this country. But even if we agree to limit ourselves to proximus memories for purposes of discussion, we should not be confused about the difference between graves, missing bodies and maimed ones (remember left hand or right hand?), all these committed that year alone. I don’t see how we can bridge this wide gulf to draw any similarities between the two.

It’s not true that the stalemate between ZEC and MDC Alliance and other parties is due to different interpretation of ambiguous laws. With ambiguity, the possible interpretations are clear; what’s unclear is which of the possible meanings is meant. Where ZEC has been accused of being in breach, they have not turned around and raise a plausible alternative reading.

Instead they make spurious claims about costs; offer provable lie after provable lie about dates when things happened; issue tantrums of abusive language when cornered and finally blatant disregard and contempt for the law and everyone that is not ZANU-PF. You could say, no I meant the law is vague. That too isn’t the case. The laws are quite definite in their meaning.

The issue is, there is willful misunderstanding and brazen violation of crystal clear statutes by ZEC. For instance, what’s ambiguous or vague about the provision that entries on a ballot paper should be on a single column in alphabetical order?

You can give the same instructions to a Form 2 pupil and they’ll come up with the correct arrangement of the ballot paper, in every instance. Perhaps, it would be helpful here, to know what laws you have in mind that have multiple interpretations or indefinite interpretations. Those that are part of our public discourse appear to be so clear even laymen are invoking them to good effect.

You say most western countries see Emmerson Mnangagwa as a stable leader. By most interpretations, Western countries comprise the 28 member states of the E.U plus, 10 or so non-E.U European countries, then the U.S and Canada. Of these, only the U.K, for its own cynical reasons has tacitly supported Mnangagwa or otherwise inserted itself in our public discourse.

None of the others have spoken about this issue, except the U.S and the E.U both of which have taken the line closer to the popular demand with regard to violation of our laws and constitution. But wait, that’s pretty much most of the Western countries! So where are you conjuring up your superlative majority?

Combining (2) and (9), do you see how even the U.K has sobered up a bit? I don’t think it’s because they saw the undiplomacy of their conduct. My speculation is that, in the beginning they did believe Mnangagwa’s New Dispensation nonsense. With time, however, even they, though perhaps reluctantly, have come to realise that was just cheap talk.

This is why it’s very important for the MDC Alliance to participate fully in this election; it shows where the people’s demands are and no investor wants to be in cahoots with a government with no legitimacy, and no mandate.

Unless they are being promised that I will shoot the people, they’d be wise to worry for their investment. Further to this though, if you brazenly violate your own laws, why should anyone expect that you will respect a mere contract? What will you do when the people rise up to demand their birthright?

Finally, your thesis purports to draw similarities between MDC Alliance and ZANU-PF. But only a few of your premises can be construed to support that thesis; for instance, what relevance is it what Western countries think about Emmerson to the question of similarities between the MDC Alliance and ZANU-PF? The question it seems, is what do western countries think of ZANU-PF?

Even that is only relevant in the margin.

Collence Nyazenga (citizen of no distinction)