By Douglas Mwonzora, MDC-T Secretary General writing on his Facebook page, says:
Some commentators and competitors have sought to place doubt on the suitability and ability of Morgan Tsvangirai to lead the Zimbabwean opposition to victory over Zanu PF. They argue, inter alia, that after a number of electoral “defeats”, it is time that a new person be found to lead the party. That way, they argue, MDC can finally win against Zanu PF.
This argument is based on two false assumptions. The first is the assumption that indeed Tsvangirai lost the elections to President Robert Mugabe. The second is that this loss was solely as a result of the natural fallibilities of Tsvangirai.
As stated before, these assumptions are false. Tsvangirai’s first contest with Mugabe was in the constitutional referendum of 2000. Mugabe’s party and government poured in huge financial and material resources into the infamous “Vote Yes” campaign.
However, Tsvangirai and his associates, with modest resources went on to silence Mugabe with the win of the “Vote No” campaign.
This famous victory underlined Tsvangirai’s organisational potency. In a display of organisational proficiency, Tsvangirai nearly snatched a majority of the seats in parliament in MDC’s maiden parliamentary contest of 2000 with a handsome 57 seats.
In 2002, Tsvangirai directly challenged Mugabe in the presidential race. In order to secure a Mugabe victory, both the security and electoral authorities committed unspeakable acts of fraud in that election. Justifiably, Tsvangirai challenged that election in the High Court of Zimbabwe. So overwhelming was the evidence of voter fraud against Mugabe that no judge would rule against Tsvangirai. However, 13 years on, the courts are yet to deliver the judgment.
On March 29, 2008 Tsvangirai posted that famous victory against Mugabe in the presidential election. The military man who was heading the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had to delay the announcement of the results by a month to allow for a doctored outcome, ostensibly inducing the infamous June 29 runoff election.
When that runoff election was called, Mugabe unleashed his terror machine on Tsvangirai and the MDC which ultimately forced Tsvangirai to withdraw his candidature in order to save Zimbabwean lives. We now know that the terror campaign was meant to create leverage for Zanu PF and force a power-sharing agreement which brought about the government of National Unity.
In 2013, Mugabe pulled another unexpected result. It is now evident from the confessions of some of his erstwhile compatriots from Zanu PF, that in fact Mugabe through his junta cheated his way to victory. When Tsvangirai again sought to challenge this result in the Constitutional Court, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku told him that he was not allowed to bring witnesses to prove his case.It cannot be treated as a historical truism therefore that Tsvangirai ever lost to Mugabe.
The second false argument is that Tsvangirai lost because he is Tsvangirai.
First, Tsvangirai was not the only opposition presidential candidate in these elections. Why then did those other leaders who were not him not win the elections? In 2008 we had another credible candidate, Simba Makoni, who only managed 8% of the vote. He never complained about this result.
Second, the common feature in all these elections was the state-sponsored violence that was directed at Tsvangirai and his party. In 2008 alone over 300 MDC supporters and activists were murdered in cold blood by the Zanu PF military establishment.
Third, Tsvangirai was subjected to a lengthy and excruciating treason trial. Still after his acquittal he was in March 2007 brutally subjected to a beating almost to death. The glee with which Mugabe relished and celebrated the beating shocked even the most sadistic of murderers.
Fourth, while Mugabe and his party were allowed free access to State media, Tsvangirai and his party were ordered to pay for their media coverage. However, when they marshalled the resources to flight some of his advertisements in the state media, some were ruthlessly censored.
Fifth, Mugabe, feeling the heat of battle in the 2008 presidential runoff election, resorted to using a state helicopter to transport him from rally to rally with minimum fatigue. When Tsvangirai secured a helicopter as well, it was banned from flying him in and around Zimbabwe.
Sixth, taking advantage of his immunity, Mugabe committed a lot of electoral offences including vote-buying when he doled out Chinese gifts and rice in exchange for votes. Tsvangirai neither had the immunity, opportunity nor the willingness to engage in electoral bribery.
Seventh, contrary to their constitutional mandate, the security forces at the instigation of the generals clearly campaigned for Mugabe while violently suppressing Tsvangirai’s campaign. They granted Zanu PF militia all freedom to abrogate the law, while using the same law selectively to persecute Tsvangirai and his supporters.
Eighth, Tsvangirai’s strongholds were denied full opportunity to register as voters. An official go-slow was orchestrated in all these areas by the electoral authorities responsible for voter registration. This resulted in massive disenfranchisement of thousands of Zimbabweans perceived to be aligned to the MDC. In Mugabe’s strongholds, on the other hand, voter registration was expedited smoothly.
Ninth, a lot of vitriol and hate language is always directed at Tsvangirai and his supporters by Mugabe and his supporters.
Tsvangirai and his supporters, on the other hand, cannot do the same because of the law that criminalises insulting or undermining Mugabe. In fact, those MDC members who have dared insult Mugabe have been prosecuted and some jailed.
Tsvangirai detractors argue without justifying how any other person leading the MDC then, would have outmanoeuvred these irregularities to post a victory. A few historical examples illustrate the invalidity of this argument. When it was Joshua Nkomo and his PF Zapu posing a threat to Mugabe’s power, did Mugabe’s terror machinery not kill people in Matabeleland and the Midlands? When Edgar Tekere and his ZUM posed a threat to Mugabe’s power were his officials not abducted and shot by Mugabe’s terror machine? And in both instances did Mugabe not pardon the perpetrators of these heinous crimes?
The fixation on Tsvangirai’s perceived failure clearly show some selective amnesia in some of the commentators’ reasoning. It is baffling why they choose not to analyse these purported failures in the context of Zanu PF’s deliberate disregard of constitutionalism. Therefore the unfair criticism levelled against Tsvangirai clearly betrays the hypocrisy and dishonesty in the Zimbabwe body politic.
It does not require a rocket scientist to attest to the fact that Zanu PF has over the years, systematically crafted conditions that make it very difficult to contest, let alone win an election in Zimbabwe through blatant abuse of state institutions like state security.