By Luke Tamborinyoka
Zanu PF and its surrogate media have been on the forefront in blaming the recent national shutdown and the attendant violence on the MDC led by President Advocate Nelson Chamisa, yet Zimbabweans are well aware which of the two political parties has always masterminded violence and national shutdowns in this country.
In any case, the MDC national headquarters, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House, had its windows shot at and shattered in last week’s violence. The building was petrol-bombed in an attempt to raze it to the ground in the same horrific manner Zanu PF and the captured State security agents have executed similar acts in the past.
Nine vehicles with no number plates pulled up outside the MDC headquarters around 10 pm on Monday, 14 January 2019. Armed men jumped out of the vehicles and shot at the building, shattering all front windows and hurled petrol-bombs into the building with the party’s security personnel trapped inside.
The front-office desk was completely burnt in the raging inferno while all the walls of the six-storey building are still pitch-black with smoke arising out of the arson. It is by the sheer mercy of God that the three security personal who guard the building during the night survived and that the building itself is still standing today.
Now that’s terrorism!
One cannot expect the ZBC to have reported on this brazen case of arson at Morgan Tsvangirai House because it kills their propaganda narrative that the MDC is to blame for all the violence that took place during the national shutdown.
Yet Zimbabweans are all too familiar with the identity of these armed merchants of violence who drive around in unmarked cars, engaging in wanton violence and without any prospect of being arrested.
The inescapable fact of last week’s events remains that all Zimbabweans were outraged by the steep increase in the price of fuel that was nocturnally announced in the dead of the night by Emmerson Mnangagwa before his trip to Eastern Europe.
The country was outraged because any fuel price increase inadvertently results in the hike in the price of commodities and transport fares, burdening already weather-beaten citizens. Coupled with work stoppages by disgruntled doctors, nurses, teachers and the rest of the civil service whose meager salaries could barely take them through the month, a shut-down was inevitable.
And all this had nothing to do with the MDC.
The national shutdown became loud and palpable and assumed the scope of a huge labour dispute between the Zanu PF government and the suffering civil service, which civil service now constitutes the majority of those still at work in the country.
Due to the immediate national impact of the work of any civil service, their work stoppage affected all public service and immediately permeated into a citizenry already breathing under the heavy yoke of run-away prices and a biting cash crisis.
The national anger across the sectors easily took the form of a national shut-down. It is naïve for anyone to arrogate the shut-down to the MDC, which has a history of publicizing its protests and actions, as it did only some two months ago.
The trigger to last week’s shutdown and the violence that emanated there was Mnangagwa who announced a steep fuel price increase in the bewitching hours, triggering rampant chaos by sunrise as a despondent nation painfully struggled to adjust to his pronounced economic reality.
Displeased teachers closed their schools. Health personnel, including struggling doctors who are now using condoms as disposable gloves, had already shut down strategic national health institutions and the contagion immediately assumed a national scope.
While any form of violence is criminal and the perpetrators ought to be brought to book, the groundswell of national discontent was already brewing long before the clueless Mnangagwa’s witch-hour press conference. The country already stood to a heap of dry wood and paper and it was none other than Mnangagwa himself who provided the spark to this horrific national consequence.
Zanu PF and its megaphone media have ironically upped the ante in criminalizing any form of national shut-down, shifting the blame elsewhere when it is Zanu PF goons that have always been grandmasters of national shut-downs, including violent ones as in the latest case.
After all, Zanu PF’s illegal and medieval act to shut down the internet played into and exacerbated the national shutdown. The High Court was very clear on the illegality of the internet shutdown.
What remains unforgivable is that in this brave 21st century, when almost all economic activity thrives on the back of online and e-transactions, one could have a national leadership with the sheer nerve to shut down the internet for a whole week. That was tantamount to shutting down the country, considering the utility of the internet in this digital age.
Yet we had Mnangagwa in the same week gallivanting to the back of beyond in Belarus, Azerbaidjan and Kazakhstan; shouting himself hoarse that Zimbabwe is open for business when all economic activity was at a standstill back home; thanks to an illegal internet shutdown by his own government.
In any case, the touting of some of the countries Mnangagwa visited as havens of global investment was a yawning lie unless this jaunt was a cover-up for its real purpose of interacting with close political associates as well as mining tycoons and cronies in the criminal underworld.
Considering the government-sponsored shutdown at home, Mnangagwa’s call for foreign businesses to come and invest in Zimbabwe was a whistle in the dark; it was akin to inviting a business concern to come and sell oxygen tanks in a graveyard!
How does a national leader woo investors to a country where a government wantonly and illegally shuts down the internet, the very back-bone of 21st century economies?
Yet all this might not be surprising because it is Zanu PF that began this grand crusade of national shutdowns. Their bad policies since 2000 have meant that our industries have shut down. The roaring production plants have gone dead and quiet and the once-belching thick smoke is no longer bellowing out of our now quiet industrial areas.
It is Zanu PF that masterminded that national shutdown.
When I was growing up in Chitungwiza, every morning Zupco buses would be ferrying thousands of the country’s workers to industrial sites at Lyton Road, Msasa, Plymouth Road, Graniteside and other industrial areas.
Thanks to Zanu PF, there has been a virtual national shutdown of these once-thriving industrial sites.
Zanu PF spawned a similar shutdown on the country’s farms, where we used to earn hard currency through huge tobacco exports. Today, the politically connected elite that took over these farms has largely been unproductive. On most of these farms can only be seen thriving weeds and grass, derisively referred to by ordinary Zimbabweans as a thriving crop of soya-beans.
No one can dispute the fact that we had to own our land but we did it to intractable national detriment. We could have done it better. In the words of the late Eddison Zvobgo, we bastardized an otherwise glorious revolution by turning it into a violent and racist agrarian enterprise.
Thanks to Zanu PF, there has virtually been a national shutdown of our agriculture. That is why in the past few years we were importing maize from Zambia and Malawi, of all places, after we downgraded our national status from a bread-basket to a basket case.
With over three million Zimbabwean economic refugees in South Africa and millions others in Europe and the broader international community, is it not Zanu PF that orchestrated that national economic shutdown, resulting in us exporting our skills and expertise abroad?
In 2008, it is Zanu PF under Robert Mugabe that had shut down the country when we had empty shelves, a worthless currency and closed schools and hospitals.
Was that not a Zanu PF inspired national shutdown? And was it not Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC’s ministers’ competent hand on the wheel of government that opened a country that had been virtually shut down by Zanu PF’s incompetence.
Yet they now want to criminalize shutdowns by saying those who spearheaded this one should be prosecuted, which shutdown they masterminded themselves?
They also have the cheek to say the MDC is a violent party! Yet it is Mnangagwa who should tell us more about the Gukurahundi genocide, Murambatsvina and the 2008 violence that was orchestrated by the military while he was Minister of Defence.
The callous murders of August 1 and last week’s murder of at least 12 people, which happened with him as Commander-In-Chief, are instructive. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, an independent constitutional body, has pronounced itself on the matter by holding the military liable for last week’s deaths.
Now that innocent Zimbabweans, including some in the MDC leadership, have escaped with their lives into the mountains in fear of the sword of Damocles, we have a regime that is now blaming the victims. It is instructive that it is not even the police who are hunting down these innocent Zimbabweans but Zanu PF youth in army uniform.
Zimbabweans are aware of the real godfathers of violence—the deacons and arch-bishops of violence, as Tendai Biti would say.
The press last week exposed the gory details; the intricate inside plot in Zanu PF to either impeach or remove Mnangagwa through yet another military coup. The mouldy and divided command element was exposed in last week’s action where some soldiers were ordering schools to shut down while others were commanding that they be opened.
The different instructions spoke to acute divisions at the very apex of the State. Upon their return from Eastern Europe, one could see George Charamba’s hand in the vain propaganda attempt to deflect and divert the whole matter from Zanu PF’s rotten innards by implicating the MDC in the latest violent acts.
For the record, and however justifiable the reasons for the shut-down may have been, the MDC did not call for any such shut down and did not partake in any violence. The MDC is not a secret cult movement. It is a political behemoth and when it calls for a shut-down, it does so openly. Only two months ago, the MDC publicly called for and held a peaceful demonstration in Harare and had no reason to spill blood or to loot people’s businesses.
Anyone who killed or looted must face the music before a competent court of law. All we urge is that there be no persecution by prosecution.
School headmasters and teachers, civil servants and other institutions that were shut down did not do so at the behest of the MDC. They did so for legitimate economic reasons that had nothing to do with the MDC.
When the MDC does call for a national shut-down, as it may in the future, it will be peaceful and its tremors will betray its gigantic national traction, its legitimacy and its mammoth source.
For now, Zimbabweans know that it is Zanu PF that is the master-mind of violence and all national shut-downs, including the on-going wanton violence. Any lame attempt to implicate the MDC will not wash. We note the desperate attempts to divert from the internal fissures in Zanu PF and the widely reported Zanu PF internal plots to violently oust Mnangagwa. The rotten Zanu PF innards should not be blamed on the MDC, whose national headquarters was burnt in a criminal act of arson.
Never mind the oft-repeated mantra that Zimbabwe is open for business. A free and fair election is the foundational business upon which all other businesses are built. It is a contradiction in terms for a country to purport to be open for business when it is not open for credible elections.
Zimbabwe is definitely closed for business while the party in government remains completely shut down and impervious to common sense, reason and logic.
Luke Tamborinyoka is a journalist by profession and the Director of Communications in the MDC led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He writes here in his personal capacity. You can interact with him on facebook or on the twitter hanle @luke_tambo.