It`s time for a new opposition leader

via Politicsweb – Zimbabwe: It`s time for a new opposition leader  by Ben Freeth 25 September 2013

Ben Freeth says Morgan Tsvangirai has been flip flopping his way through the MDC leadership for too long now

Just over a month ago a great wave of optimism was building and sweeping across Zimbabwe.  People were furtively – then later even openly – daring to hope that they would ride in on the great wave that was forming.   For some the mood was becoming euphoric.

The election took place and the wave broke.  Deeply shocked, we all went down like Jonah and came up spluttering, washed up and beached on the same old desert shore from where we had started.  Once again we were faced with the tedium and the disappointment of more mis-governance, more kleptocracy, more injustice, more corruption, more burnt earth and more shattered dreams.  After being forced to endure so much for more than a decade, we question how we can take any more.

Eddie Cross, the MDC-T MP for Bulawayo South and one of the valiant criers from the wave crest, wrote the following in a moment of realism after being sworn back into the new ZANU PF-dominated parliament.

“We left Parliament two months ago – then holding a majority in the Lower House, have come back as the Opposition with 72 seats in a House of 270 Members. Unable to block legislation if we want to but providing a voice for the majority in this beautiful, but broken land.  After 13 years of struggle, five elections and four years of the Government of National Unity (GNU) we are no further forward than we were in 2000, in fact we are further back than we were then…”

What has gone wrong?  How was the wave able to be undermined and broken?  Why should Zimbabweans have to continue wandering around aimlessly in the desert for yet another five years under an octogenarian leader whose hunger for personal power trumps all other concerns?  Why did SADC not only allow the theft of the July 31 elections – but then applaud Mugabe and crown him as the next leader of SADC when his people are getting poorer, hungrier, more desperate for jobs and leaving the country?

There is something intrinsically sick, evil even, in the Orwellian parody of it all.  What is wrong with our African leaders that they should endorse such a fraudulent, dishonest result in this election?  They saw the suffering and grieving on the funereal faces of almost all Zimbabweans as the results came tumbling out from Mugabe’s election rigging machine.

But closer to home, what is wrong with our opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, that he should flip flop around, sacrificing principle, because he thought that SADC would stand by them when things went wrong?  Softly, softly they went, not wishing to upset ZANU PF when it came to taking farms, taking businesses and putting draconian clauses into the new Constitution.  Furthermore, they allowed ZANU PF to not only run the elections but to steam roller any opposition and to bring the date forward with unseemly haste.

When ZANU PF was on the ropes four years ago, Tsvangirai, as the new Prime Minister, had four years to consolidate his position and be out there for the people.  When our workers were severely beaten up and put in a high security jail in 2009, where was he?  Where was he when our crops and tractors were all stolen?  Where was he when our homes and some of our workers’ homes were burnt to the ground, with everything in them?  Where was he when I wrote him an open letter about these gross injustices, criminal activities and human rights abuses – and he failed to reply?

Where was the Prime Minister when he should have been standing on principle regarding the clause in the new Constitution that allows the continued taking of farms and other properties on the basis that the owner is “white” and apparently not indigenous.

Where was the Prime Minister after the Constitutional referendum when it was clear from the small queues countrywide that perhaps a million ghosts had floated out of the ether to boost the “yes” vote?  ZANU PF went so far as to claim it was the largest ever turnout by the electorate – and by a very significant margin.  It was clearly a dry run for the July 31 elections … but the Prime Minister, having called for a “yes” vote, was elated with the result, and failed to stand on democratic principle regarding the blatant rigging.

Where was the Prime Minister when the Special Vote was strategically and dishonestly manipulated by ZANU PF?  Despite this, he still decided to contest the main election which was already becoming a blatant farce.

Why wasn’t the Prime Minister visible on the international stage prior to the elections?  Why, when he had the majority in Parliament, was he not calling for internationally-run elections as Mugabe had succeeded in doing prior to 1980?  Why did he not insist on long-established democratic countries and organisations at least coming to Zimbabwe to observe the elections – as Mugabe did in 1980?

Why did Tsvangirai participate in an election when the internationally-guaranteed reforms in the road map to elections had not taken place?  Why did he go ahead, knowing that Mugabe would not allow the Diaspora to vote?  He should have insisted that Mugabe respect and abide by the timely Judgment given by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which ruled that the Zimbabwean Diaspora should be allowed to vote?

And why did he participate in the election when hundreds of thousands of young voters had not been able to register?  Why did he still go ahead when he was not allowed to view the voters’ roll – which he knew was a shambles – full of ghosts that would glide in on the day as they had in the Constitutional referendum on March 16? And why did he participate in the elections when he had prior knowledge that Nikuv, an Israeli company known to be an expert in election rigging, was on the ZANU PF payroll?

Why did Tsvangirai fail to speak out when the respected regional court of the SADC Tribunal was dissolved at the instigation of ZANU PF?  Ironically, this is a court that Tsvangirai also desperately needs in the light of the Zimbabwean courts being so partisan.

The only answer to these questions is that there is a crisis of leadership in the MDC.  Principle has been thrown to the wind.  While ZANU PF carried on taking personal property, mining the diamonds and preparing for the election heist by continuing to block access to the voters’ roll, the Prime Minister was enjoying the comforts of government.  Furthermore, he was not only compromising his reputation with messy love affairs but was also calling for the lifting of personal sanctions on the very people who were bringing Zimbabwe to its knees.

The question we have to ask now is this:  Where is the former Prime Minister in the aftermath of the election?  Why is he failing to go around from province to province and district to district gathering evidence of election fraud and encouraging his supporters, many of whom put their lives and livelihoods on the line to vote out ZANU PF?  Why does he allow his supporters to be victimized without standing up for and supporting them publicly?

If the former Prime Minister is tired – which he is certainly entitled to be given all that he has endured at the hands of ZANU PF, let him stand down and let someone who is energetic, God- fearing and not prepared to compromise on principle, take his place.  I distinctly remember Tsvangirai being reported as saying that if he lost the election he would stand down.  So why the change of mind?  After six bites at the election cherry [2000, 2002, 2005, March 2008, June 2008 and 2013] he has surely had his chance!

If we all manage somehow to get to 2018, can the people of Zimbabwe endure another debacle, another crash in the desert because of his lack of judgment as a leader?  It is time for a new leader of the opposition!


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    Mjiba 11 years ago

    Ben, you are a good writer but do you know your problem? You are only good at pointing your filthy fingers and blame others. You are like a spectator in a soccer pitch where a striker misses and you ask why did he miss? He was supposed to kick the ball this way facing the the opponant’s gate. Even if you are given a penalt kick with no one in the pitch, you miss the gate. If Tsvangirai has failed as you say, instead of wasting your energy like that why don’t you form your own oppostion party and use your brilliant ideas in 2018? At least Tsvangirai has balls, why don’t proove you have bigger; if at all you have some.

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    maisokwazo 11 years ago

    When I look back and see how Tsvangirayi stood up against Mugabe the suffering he endured at the hands of Mugabe yet he trudged on and established himself as a true leader and people believed in him and had all their hopes in him for a better Zimbabwe Look how much he was beaten for the people’s cause how he was humiliated ,how he escaped death several times, how he lost his wife.One would think here comes a man of purpose and sure he was and is.
    There are so many positive attributes attached to Tsvangirai’s resume and I applaud them.
    OKAY the terrain is rough and risky yet its only the risk takers who triumph at the end.
    FIRST it is a true fact that MDC won the 2000,2004 2008 elections YES ITS TRUE, VERY TRUE AND MUGABE KNOWS IT DEEP DOWN IN HIS HEART and the people of Zimbabwe know it. YES THEY DO!
    Yet common sense should have been embedded in MDC leadership’s minds that the fight was the PEOPLE’s fight. No amount of force by those in authority would or could overwhelm the people’s will -yes casualities were and will be there yet the will of the people would and will prevail if the MDC leadership had thought and think of the people. The MDC leadership would have said in 2008 okay the tyrants have beaten, bruised and murdered the people to keep in power so let them rule alone.Mugabe being stubborn and devilish went ahead and ran a one man race and”won” how far did he go ? He needed legitimacy he could not get it hence the brokering of the GNU by SADCC.

    I think this was our and MDC’s GREATEST opportunity to have the political scenario changed forever and the realization of the people of Zimbabwe’s hopes ,dreams and aspirations and we would not have been in this quagmire we are in today. MDC should have demanded and dictated the pace and course of events at this juncture because Mugabe needed MDC and not MDC needing Mugabe.Writer even quizzed Tsvangirai when he visited USA why MDC was ALWAYS dancing and reacting to the whims and dictates of ZANU PF when it came to appointing positions of office and what should be done and why MDC only became reactionary to what ZANU had proposed instead of standing steadfast and principled – a no being a no A yes being a yes and I think that’s where ZANU had a foothold and throttled MDC and got away with it up to today. I would want to think had MDC stood their ground and demanded what they deserved instead of being denied the state house, the security sector and strategic positions they should have walked out instead of supping with the devil and look at it now. MDC supped with the DEVIL and a devil is a devil no matter what clours he dons he remains a devil -EVIL DOER and never changes. MDC please re-strategise and stand and stick to principles.DONT GIVE UP. ITS TOO LATE TO GIVE UP . ZIMBABWE NEEDS YOU!

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    Nick Collis 11 years ago

    I think it takes physical courage to stand up and demand the reform of a dictatorship . Tsvangerai probably had it years ago but security beatings and continued intimidation have left him unable to confront the regime. Time for change and a younger energetic approach!l

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    nesbert majoni 11 years ago

    As long as Mugabe is is the leader of ZANU PF even if MDC is led by a leader from the moon they will never win an election in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai has done very well as an opposition leader. Those calling for him to step down are ZANU pf sympathisers. These liberation movement political parties are not interested in letting other political parties rule. They think they are the rightful rulers because of their liberation background. Give Tsvangirai a break I think he is a very brave leader.

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    mucha 11 years ago

    This is the talk of a loser who had invested much on their puppet Tsvangirai. Freeth was an official with the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union and he and his father-in-law used to own a 1 200 hactres of land in Chegutu. He was born in England in a British military family. After the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, the family relocated to Zimbabwe and he married Laura, Mike Campbell’s daughter. During the early 1970s, Campbell, a South African Army captain then, was involved in the Rhodesian Bush War that massacred a lot of Zimbabweans.

    So this speech is not surprising.

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    Moses 11 years ago

    This is waffling. Tsvangirai does not lead by himself. Where was the decision making body when they went for elections without reforms. Now the same people want Tsvangirai to step down. They should relinguish their positions first b4 we get to Tsvangirai. They all failed us.

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      Davy Mufirakureva 11 years ago

      There is a national council to advise Tsvangirai. Where were they? We dont have to blame one man and if we failed lets say mdct failed not Tsvangirayi alone. The problem is everyone wants Tsvangirayi to sacrifise his life alone then others are keen to rush for positions to enrich themselves but when it comes to action they are pretty smart. We rally behind Morgan.

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    Nkalakatha!!!! 11 years ago

    Prof Welshman Ncube is the opposition leader. Forget the Monday Teas and Buscuits man!!!!

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    Charles Cutshall 11 years ago

    The expert in battle seeks his victory from strategic advantage and does not demand it from his men.

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    shumba liverpool 11 years ago

    Well..let those that aspire to lead come forward. Hono dzinowoneka nemabhora adzo kanakuti mazino akareba. Armchair or shall I say laptop philosophy is cheap..if indeed there is a new leader in the offing what is he or she waiting for. Face the monster now not in 2018. When are we gonna realize that this is a do or die situation. And as someone has already indicated Tsvangirayi is not a one man band so spare him the wholesome blame and show some appreciation for his efforts all these years.

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    michael 11 years ago

    Maisokwazo – Your appraisal of the issues raised in Freeth article are commendable and your valid contribution shows insight. Great to read such input, I will vote for you as president of MDC, lol.

    Nick Collis – Your comment “security beatings and continued intimidation have left him unable to confront the regime” may have had merit up until the GNU. Since that time Tsvangerai (and MDC leadership) have partaken of the spoils of the ZANU-PF party, driving Mercedes, partying and generally enjoying life in government. And while Tsvangerai (and MDC leadership) slept Mugabe stole yet another election, but this time Mugabe thrashed MDC-T into insignificant oblivion.

    The MDC is a dying party under the current leadership. To participate in an election without receiving the electronic voter roll, without media freedom reforms and without UN observers was politic suicide, so Tsvangerai (and MDC leadership) took their own political lives at the cost of the MDC supporters. Now many MDC supporters believe Tsvangerai should be MDC president for life. I say NO, he has failed us once again, now he must go.

    If MDC is to survive as an opposition party then the sooner Tsvangerai steps down as leader the better. To wait until the party congress in 2016 to vote on MDC leadership would mean political stagnation for over three years. Can the MDC maintain its support and drive politic pressure for that length of time?? I think not. If three years are lost to the stagnating old guard of the MDC, it would only leave two years for any new leadership to challenge Mugabe in 2018, even the best opposition politician’s would struggle to challenge Mugabe in such a short period of time.

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    William 11 years ago

    Ben you have a point but you forget that Tsvangirai was not alone in the battle. Yes he has his flaws but who is not to blame? You seem to underestimate Mugabe’s thuggery and the extent to which the election was rigged.Who among the MDC top brass who can succeed Tsvangirai was not in government? If Tsvangirai is blamed, that very individual shares the blame as well. Whatever action the opposition takes now must not be driven by anger but by wisdom.

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    Mavara Azarevhu 11 years ago

    Does Freeth hold an MDC party card. If he does he must go to his branch and convince others to unseat Tsvangirai. Perhaps if he produces his membership card, I would listen to his issue.

    Tsvangirai is president until 2016 unless you can effect a palace coup.
    Chinja maitiro.

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    chimusoro 11 years ago

    Ben, you will make a good opposition leader.

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    todii zvazvo 11 years ago

    Varume lets just form another opposition if we have the guts, if not then lets shut up and leave tsvangson and his party alone.
    The Ncubes,The Job Sikala thought as much and formed their parties, where are they now?
    Long live Tsvangson!!!!!!!!!!

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    LoudSilence BlindingDarkness DzimbaDzemabgwe 11 years ago

    Unpopular as it may seem, leadership renewal is a must for the MDC-T. Morgan is our beloved President, the masses love and adore his courage and fortitude, he however must step down and pave way for new thinking younger ‘tenacious’ crop of leaders.

    What we must be wary of though is why these calls are being made by certain sectors of our society especially those of a lighter colour? Why should this leadership renewal cause be championed in the name of donor fatigue?

    Morgan holds the key to the survival of our party at this juncture. The leadership debate has the potential to play itself into Zanupf’s favour and chicanery. Morgan must, as he has allegedly been qouted as saying that debate is open, truly allow our structures, constitution and processes either further endorse his stay or elect a new leadership. Much counsel is needed to guide our dear leader to a wisdom inspired decision.

    To those eyeing positions, keep in mind the need to maintain and sustained a united MDC party and that we have an enemy or opponent in the driver’s seat with all the power to yield against our people.

    Morgan for President of Council of Elders and Lifetime membership in the MDC. Morgan for 1 term as President in the next Zimbabwe National Elections.

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    The MDC really knows that Tsvangirai is the leader.Those who want to talk, talk is cheap and action is a ountain to climp.Most of us just write because we are not known by the brutal state agencies.If we were known , we were never going to write anything.Just look how fearful people are when they reach a roadblock.They put their smart phones which have ZANU PF denigrating pictures under the seats.Cowards!!!!!!!!!!.Tsvangirai stood up fearlessly.About leaders, there is no doubt that the most capable leader, considering maturity , ability, soberness and courage is Elias Mudzuri.The only problem is he is low in the hierarchy.Remember how he changed the face of Harare in his firt four months as a mayor of Harare.ZANU PF was embarrassed that things which they had failed for decades were accomplished in just 3 months.Then Chombo did his usual brainless curbing of opposition mayors.But as of now even if you go to Watsomba harahwa nechembere dzinobvunza”ari sei Tsvangirai”