One way or another, Morgan Tsvangirai must go

via One way or another, Morgan Tsvangirai must go | Daily Maverick by Simon Allison  28 APR 2014

Pity Morgan Tsvangirai. The veteran Zimbabwean opposition leader is facing a little opposition of his own, and he’s not coping too well. His party looks certain to split yet again, destroying in the process one of the few remaining challenges to uninterrupted Zanu-PF rule. Mugabe is loving it. Tsvangirai, on the other hand, looks weaker than ever.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Morgan Tsvangirai personified everything that was good about Zimbabwe. He was tenacious, fearless and determined to challenge the authoritarian one-party state that Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF was intent on creating. He rallied the masses, campaigned vociferously, stood firm in the face of threats and intimidation and vicious personal attacks. He represented a Zimbabwe that refused to be bowed into submission; one that knew the difference between right and wrong, between democracy and kleptocracy. He wasn’t just the leader of the opposition; in many ways, he was the opposition, and he gave Zanu-PF a serious run for their ill-gotten money.

In fact, he didn’t just scare the ruling party, he beat them fair and square in the first round of those 2008 elections. Zimbabweans wanted change. They wanted Tsvangirai.

For the veteran opposition leader, those heady days – days when the opposition was a genuine force, when the end of Mugabe’s reign seemed to be within touching distance – are long behind him.

We all know what happened next. Mugabe and his Zanu-PF thugs, terrified of losing their empire, unleashed a carefully targeted anarchy at anyone who showed the slightest sign of dissent. Many of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members were killed; more were beaten; still more were locked up on spurious charges. The same was true for all opposition parties.

Unable to cope with the onslaught, the MDC made a deal with the devil himself, agreeing to join a unity government in which Zanu-PF held all the big cards (i.e. control of the police and security forces, as well as the presidency). Tsvangirai was relegated to the hastily-created and largely ceremonial role of Prime Minister, in which he spent five years trying to make nice with Mugabe. To no avail; he was given little say in the running of government, often left out altogether of cabinet meetings.

In this time, he cut a strangely muted, inconsequential figure. He seemed to have lost the fire in his belly. Power had tamed him. While other opposition figures were making real headway in government (think Tendai Biti’s miraculous economic reforms as minister of finance, or David Coltart’s vital resuscitation of the country’s failing schools), Tsvangirai was more often in the headlines for his messy love life, or for his obvious affection for the trappings of office.

By the time the next elections rolled around, in July 2013, Tsvangirai had lost much of his appeal. The opposition, led by his faction of the MDC, fared poorly. Even though widespread reports suggest that there was some element of vote-rigging from Zanu-PF, it probably wasn’t necessary; voters returned to Mugabe’s fold in droves, giving him undiluted control once again.

It was a failure of epic proportions for Zimbabwe’s opposition – and specifically for the man who leads it. Now, Tsvangirai is facing the consequences.

Last week, a significant faction within the MDC-T declared that they had unilaterally suspended Morgan Tsvangirai as party leader. The statementreleased in support of this position was damning. In it, Tsvangirai stood accused of stifling dissent, ignoring party structures, corruption, rigging internal elections, and creating his own cult of personality. He was responsible, they concluded, for “the complete Zanufication” of the party.

The statement was signed by none other than Tendai Biti, for years Tsvangirai’s most loyal lieutenant, with the support of 136 MDC-T Guardian Council members. Not enough to form a quorum, admittedly, but more than enough to explode the myth of an opposition party united for Zimbabwe and against continued Zanu-PF rule.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Tsvangirai has faced internal dissent. The existence of several other parties claiming the MDC name, most notably the one led by Welshman Ncube, attests to this. But this time it’s different.

For one thing, Tsvangirai himself is much weaker. Although he still commands considerable support, he no longer has national appeal beyond his core constituency – as the last election results showed so clearly. He’s also compromised by his time in office; no one can forget in a hurry all the hugs, handshakes and smiles with Mugabe, as necessary as those may have been at the time. Worse for Tsvangirai, there is at least a morsel of truth in the accusations against him. In particular, he is damned by his decidedly Mugabe-esque maneuver of altering the MDC constitution to allow himself to run for a third term. The last thing Zimbabwe needs is another leader who doesn’t know when to leave office.

For another, Zimbabwe’s opposition is particularly vulnerable at the moment. It too has been compromised, and found wanting by voters. Disorganised and divided, it is incapable of providing a genuine check on the government. Instead, it serves as a fig leaf which allows Zanu-PF to extol the virtues of Zimbabwean democracy while effectively enforcing a one-party state. In addition, there is an argument to be made that a weak, divided opposition is worse than no opposition at all, because it prevents other, more effective opponents of the regime from emerging.

Tsvangirai has, of course, vehemently denied the charges against him, likening his “suspension” to an attempted coup. He maintains that he is still the party leader, and that the dissenters do not have the authority or the numbers to enforce their edict.

Perhaps, though, if Tsvangirai cares as much about his country as he says he does, he should take their concerns to heart. Truth is, Tsvangirai has had has his chance to take on Mugabe, and he’s lost. The longer he remains in office, the happier Mugabe will be, secure in the knowledge that Tsvangirai’s combative style and diminishing influence will be unable to unify the opposition against him. Zanu-PF will never be defeated by an MDC faction.

The only chance the opposition has of successfully challenging the ruling party is to recognize that there is strength in numbers, and strength in unity. Petty political differences must be set aside in pursuit of the greater good. Morgan Tsvangirai has taken his eye off the prize, confusing his own future with Zimbabwe’s – that’s why he must go, to make space for a leader who will put Zimbabwe first.


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34 comments on “One way or another, Morgan Tsvangirai must go
  1. Roving Ambassador says:

    If Tsvangirai survives this tussle, Shamisa and all aspiring to be leaders might as well forget, this is a President for life in the making. Zanufication of the MDC. To say the truth I don’t see the MDC surviving this unless Tsvangirai agrees to take a lesser role.

  2. sparks says:

    Morgan must learn from Mandela .he didn’t over stay his well come .divided mdc will never defeat zanu pf

  3. Roving Ambassador says:

    If the MDC self destruct ,so be it, out of the ashes will rise a more powerful movement for we have learnt our lessons now.
    Never personalize the people’s movement. One commentator said I seem to have something against Tsvangirai, yes I agree ,he betrayed my trust. And yes Mugabe’s sins are even worse,he committed treason. As for Tsvangirai people invested a lot but the chap had tea with the devil and the rest is history.

    • NBS says:

      You know Roving as heartbreaking as it is I have to agree with you. may the Lord raise up a man after His own heart to lead this nation. As is no politician or party brings God any gory especially ZPF

  4. The late Joshua Nkomo signed a unity accord with Zanu pf. We all know why he did it. Zanu was out to exterminate the Ndebele people.The whole world watched and done nothing. This late hero put the people of his region first so as to try to get some peace and to stop them from being slaughtered. Prior to this scenario Zimbabwe Rhodesia was about to be split in two. The Zanla and Zipra forces were at it at Entumbane. A full Zipra brigade that was based at Gwayi melted into the bush heading for the Midlands. Lord Soames consulted with the leaders of then. Lieutenant General Pete Walls and Joshua Nkomo were flown by the airforce aircraft to the troubled area and asked the fighting factions to stop. The Zipra forces who had superior equipment were ordered by Nkomo to cease fire.The Zanla forces who had superior numbers complied. General Peter Walls told the fighting groups that if they did not stop the Zimbabwe Rhodesia Airforce would have to take action.

    My point is Tswangirai done the GNU to stop the country from disintegrating. He has made mistakes. He has erred. His biggest problem is that he did not see the snakes around him. Nkomo CHECKED MUGABE. Everything that brought the country to it’s knees started when Nkomo was no more. The period of UMDALA WETHU.

    • Roving Ambassador says:

      Jack we are back to square one .
      In the history of zanu ,after 80.
      ,thee were only 4 men whom they could challenge Mugabe, Nkomo,Tekere and Zvobgo.and I think I should add 2 women,Chinamano and Dongo.I have to admit Tsvangirai spoke the people’s language but did not realise the power of his premiership. Tobaiwa Mudede was more powerful than him .what a waste. Opportunities squandered. A disgrace.Mugabe the looter should definitely love to have Tsvangirai as MDC boss so he can run rings around him. A cup of tea and the man is like putty.

    • Tjingababili says:


  5. Hutu says:

    Nice to hear some history from someone who seems to know . Thank you Jack. Some people will never know what this dictator has been through to hold us hostage for this long.

  6. Actually Ambassador you are wrong. With all due respect to Joshua Nkomo because during his time people were voting Tribaly he only won Matebeleland seats. When the people were not voting tribaly Twangirayi beat Mugabe hands down. Mugabe did not even appear in front of the media or in public for weeks. Never left his room literally. They would not even release the election results. Then they refused to allow the MDC to rule. Biti said “MORGAN RICHARD TSWANGIRAYI HAS WON THE ELECTIONS”. HE WAS THREATENED BY CHINAMASSA WITH TREASON CHARGES FOR HIS UTTERANCES. That is history.

  7. tino says:

    Roving Ambasdor at times you write what you feel not the facts.For you to say the only people to challenge Mugabe were Zvobgo, Tekere, Nkomo is the shallowest statement I have ever heard.Nkomo was swallowed.Zvobgo penned the constitution from Prime Minister to Executive President, giving all powers to Mugabe.After that , Mugabe made sure he gave Zvobgo funny portifolios like Minister without portifolio, Mines etc.Tekere died long after his ZUM was bones.So what do you mean?Let us not be jelousy of Tsvangirai.He defeated Mugabe on record two times.Where were you when the results were delayed by a month?Who had won? So some of us write not because we have sense, but we have nothing to do, have access to computers, and have personal dislikes with certain characters.Zvobgo is the hangman of Zimbabwe.He was crooked to give all powers to one person.So how do you say he was serious challenger to Mugabe?Zvobgo could not even defeat the ZANU faction of Muzenda.
    We know people are frustrated, but ngatisabuda ziya kurova majanga iyo nyoka iripo.
    Tsvangirai has erred, same with all of us.Remember African politics is controlled from the cenral points.Beliefs have to coerced, not individually sought.Rural voters, more than 65 % know Mugabe and Tsvangirai, thts a fact.If you say Tekere, maybe in Manicaland they will hear.

    • roving ambassador. says:

      Thanks Tino, I see where you are coming from, I will not dispute your angle, I was referring to the internal dynamics of Zanu that these chaps could stand up to Mugabe and restrain his obsesses.
      I agree the Tsvangirai issue is debatable whether he was in Zanu[GNU] or not.
      Point taken.
      The point about affording a computer is a cheap short, a bit under the belt.

      • NBS says:

        It is good to talk like this and see different angles. maybe we are beginning to mature as a people. Someone said we will never be fooled again into personalising a party etc. I have my doubts. As a Christian nation we need to put our trust in God alone and NOT in a man. We can honour and love the man but we must watch and pray for none of us, outside of Christ, are trustworthy. Let us stop putting mere men and women on pedestals and worshipping them.

    • Lily says:

      Zvobgo haboured presidential aspirations so when he penned that constiyution he did not have Mugabe in mind. He was preparing for himself unfornunately he forgot that there is no guaranteed formualr in politics.

  8. Godfrey Kazomba says:

    A good vibrant and everlasting organisation is determined by how it manages and extinguish a crisis. Say what ever you vomit,Tsvangirai and his gallant troops will emerge stronger. They are just going through a long awaited purging process of thrashing out the malcontent zanu pf infiltrants. Good riddance. Only time will silence the profets of doom and we will remind of this time when we are just calming down this storm in a tea cup

  9. easily fooled says:

    Biti to represent Gono in a case of corruption was an indicator that Biti was now a spy. Pple said from day one. Now, its on the wall

  10. Che'guevara says:

    You guys you seem to be emotionally involved in this project. I feel this writer is moronic and self serving. One time he talks of breaking the ranks as a noble move and later on he talks of unity as a formidable force. One will asks who is faning disunity, who has set his eyes from the ball. I feel Biti’s changing colours smacks of a flip flopper

  11. BLESSING says:

    Going to the 2014 elections was the most stupid move he ever made.Even I knew what was taking place ,he was warned ,but he still went.He was just interested in his own comforts obviously.You will not vote ZANU out in a peaceful way.They only understand rigging and violence.I feel sorry for ZIMBABWE it is going to take generations to sort out this country.And it needs people to amass in numbers to get off their butts and do something!

  12. shumba liverpool says:

    Tsvangirayi is not yet in power..what brings about all this panic. Corruption, clean water, good roads, jobs. The list is endless..renewal issues wont divert our focus..if indeed zimbweans tire of Tsvangison he wont last a day. There are no complications here.

    • xaxa says:

      You have a vision Shumba. It’s a pity we allow ourselves as a nation to get distracted and lose focus on the real issues affecting the country. It is out of this turmoil that will forge the once disintegrating party. The media attention Tsvangirai is getting is building is political character and that of MDC. The main problem with us Zimbabweans is we are good at destroying than build. We are quick to celebrate the demise of others not knowing that what goes around comes around. Mutambara and Welshman are key learning points in the political history of opposition politics.

  13. During all the time I have debated I have always said until a better option is available I will vote for an the better available Option. Jack and Tino hats off for the points you guys have summed up the on the history we have been through. The problem for the failure of Politics in Zimbabwe is that History is stifled. I hate to say that Zimbabweans have short memories because I love the People,Black white Brown and other that populate this country and will never ever make the look like they are stupid. On the contrary I think they are very resources full and have taken all the battering that humans can take and survived. They continue to.
    My point is that those that use the pen need to keep refreshing our memories about where we are coming from. Too often we have seen a leopard try change it’s spots and some will believe it is not a leopard because no one was talking about leopards for a long time. Let us remember that even if it paints it’s self it is still a LEOPARD. Tino and Jack respects.

  14. Rocks tone says:

    It is good to express vivid analysis of the political dispense in our beloved country Zimbabwe. I had written last time , that we have good articles written , blaming Tsvangirai, supporting , showing allegiance , but & I quot”,we are our own betrayers of democratic change, because Tsvangirai can not bring , change , alone , Mugabe is not destroying or had not destroyed the economy alone, but he had people behind him , people , people who preach empowerment, and patriotism in the name of credentialism. We all know this Tsvangirai had his weakness yes I agree, but us what are we doing , beside expressing eloquent articles .It will be very paramount to convert this concept to a WELL CONCOLIDATED SCRUM TO BRING MEANINGFUL CHANGE.

    • xaxa says:

      Thanks for this insight Rocks, not many of us can see yonda. Havazivi kuti kusi kwemusova kune usavi.Tinoda kuitirwa zvinhu takarara and only want to get the benefits. Tsvangirai can not single handedly manage it. Where was this bunch of sel-proclaimed messiahs when Tsvangirai was mis-firing as they claim. Were they crafting his downfall so they could pick up the pieces? Mangoma, Biti and all those behind this scam murimbwende, why didn’t they wait for the congress and challenge him. Some people claim to be educated yet they are not. They don’t even know the difference between being educated and being learned .

      Tsvangirai made his own political blunders coupled with social blunders too that could have worked to the advantage of those who want to take his place. However they are in themselves making grave mistakes of wanting to clandestinely topple him. Biti and crue makurumidza kumedza kutsenga kuchada. The best people to have put you in power iPOVO, that is behind MDC but the approach this group of people has taken raises a lot of questions.

      The writer of the article, who is also trying to build his political career using this mayhem as a benchmark has no right to call for Tsvangirai to step down – yes, it’s an opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinions. The dictates of the Constitution should be followed and this is the Supreme governing facet that determines the direction the party should go. Kana nguva yasvika Morgan anoshamura but not clandestinely.

  15. zimbo says:

    Why the focus on Tsvangirai, his weaknesses etc? Someone help me?Is he in power? If he is a mess why not leave him alone, form your own party and remove those who are in power and sort the country out. First you want to get rid of Morgan, second you go for Zanu pf? Why waste time and resources by taking a longer route? Go straight to Zanu pf. If you cannot go there without Tsvangirai’s involvement then shut up and go to hell.

  16. Rock stone says:

    Ok mr Zimbo,I respect ur opinion , but it’s precisely good to be factual than to be too emotional ,when u express ur views don’t use emotions bra,(handiti )

  17. I dont see why people should waste their energy writing about Tsvangirai. Why not write something on whoever they think will help us topple the evil regime.
    leave Tsvangirai alone, the fact that you dont sleep or cannot write anything without mentioning his name tells us there something special on him.

  18. Tonde says:

    Well from my opinion Tsvangirai must go!
    What is MDC really fighting for? Dictatorship and Mugabe is the so called dictator who have ruled for 34 years. How many years did Morgan lead as a president of opposition? Where is the democracy that you always stand on top of mountains and preach of? I see the fact that Tsvangirai is personalising MDC clearly shows how undemocratic he is with his allies who want the vaccant posts left by the fellow cadres. Pass the button stick to others, you failed the people of Zimbabwe and the struggle that a lot of young Zimbabweans lost their lives for. Is this a game of thrones or to free the Zimbabweans, if its the latter then Tsvangirai must go but if its a game of thrones well play on but sooner or later you will be removed violently the same way you ought to remove president Mugabe.

  19. Ivor Payne says:

    Good article from DM except we do not know that “voters returned to Mugabe in droves”. There is a large question mark over the validity of the poll numbers…and the fact that ZANU PF functionaries withheld or destroyed the evidence necessary to prove or disprove the election results only makes the question mark larger. Remember, not even SADC pronounced the vote as “fair”

  20. mujibha says:

    Whoever is commenting Tsvangirai to go I don’t think those people r in their normal senses, to me its just personal. When someone sees that his/her boss is not doing well/against to his/her opinion the best thing to do is to quit. The same applies to Biti and company. You guys don’t forget that zanu comes out from zapu and zanu mugabe comes out from zanu sithole and anc some of its members were from zanu or zapu and zum was out from zanu pf, and now mdc its members were from zanu pf, zapu, zanu sithole, rhodesian front, zum and other parties. I don’t see why we should waste our time and energy nearly every week trying to undermine Tsvangirai because we want to accomodate Biti, if Biti sees not fit for him to be under the leadership of Tsvangirai he has to quit and form his party like what other leaders did before. You guys who r supporting this guy is working hand in hand with zanu pf just to destroy/weaken MDC and nothing else. Some people r saying Tsvangirai has overstayed yes as a party leader not as a leader of the country. Can u guys pls tell me how long was mugabe as leader of zanu pf before our independence, and why people didn’t raise their finger that he should go because he has failled to remove smith. Biti can u tell us why u don’t want to form ur own party? U know very well that u haven’t got support. I want you to know this if Tsvangirai decides to quit mdc and form another party he will still have more support than u and mugabe. I will only judge Tsvangirai’s faillier when he is in power not now, I still believe he is the man to let us out of this mess and unite every Zimbabwean despite colour or race, white/black, shona/ndebele.

  21. mujibha says:

    Sponsors of these rebels u r betting for a dead horse, u will never win.

  22. Ngoto Zimbwa says:

    Title of this piece should have been “One way or another, Bob and ZANU must go”.
    When you got a leader liked by the people, keep him.
    And Morgan certainly has the following, witness whats happeing in the regions right now.

    That some folk have been fooled by ZANU’s antics is very disappointing.

  23. Jono Austin says:

    No one in opposition has MT’s charisma. They are all children. I mean can you really see Biti bringing in thousands to listen to him? He has as much charisma as a wet rag.

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