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Do we really have to go with Tsvangirai?


I travel a lot. Inevitably, I stay in hotels a lot and I almost always realize, about a week into my stay, that I did not pack enough pairs of socks. I don’t like using the laundry service that the hotel provides: I am independent like that. I don’t allow the hotel porter to carry my luggage either. I love my independent streak, and I am reluctant to exploit those less fortunate than me. During my teaching days I never let the pupils carry my books or my chair. But my independent streak does sometimes lead to me not having clean socks.

With seven pairs of dirty socks and an important seminar to go to, I have to resort to what I call ‘bachelor syndrome’: of all of the dirty socks, which pair is the least dirty? That is the pair I will wear.

Morgan Tsvangirai‘Bachelor syndrome’ is what [Prime Minister] Morgan Tsvangirai has driven Zimbabweans to. A lot of people I have talked to will say: ‘We know Tsvangirai has got his problems and weaknesses, but rather him than retaining Mugabe.’ I agree that we can’t give Robert Mugabe another term in office. He did his bit between 1980 and 1990. There was a lot of growth with equity then, and much building of schools and infrastructure. But there is a reason why politicians are supposed to be given a maximum of 10 years in office. Politicians are humans; after five years they begin to descend into a mode of relaxation and a habit of being self-serving. It’s up to the electorate to vote out politicians after five years – or after 10 years if they are really exceptional.

So we don’t want to retain Robert Mugabe, but do we really have to go with Morgan Tsvangirai? Isn’t it time to go out and buy a new pair of socks instead of making do with the pair of socks which is less dirty than the others? It‘s easy for the electorate to think they owe Morgan Tsvangirai something, given that he has been battling Robert Mugabe for more than a decade. But that debt has already been paid: hasn’t he moved into a multi-million dollar mansion? Hasn’t he had his fun, reportedly going all over the place collecting concubines? Power has already corrupted him; whatever sympathies we have for him are now misplaced. It is time we thought of Zimbabwe. Morgan Tsvangirai should be subjected to serious scrutiny because we don’t want a change of government just in name.

So Robert Mugabe is not an option at the next presidential election, and Morgan Tsvangirai has had his time in the sun and his hands in the cookie jar. What are our options? In the previous election Dr Simba Makoni was dismissed as a ZANU PF ploy to divide the opposition vote. But deep down a lot of Zimbabweans knew that he was good for Zimbabwe and, given a chance, would do a good job. Even with the ZANU PF tag tainting him, Dr Makoni still got a reasonable share of the vote. He is still a viable option and could do well were he to occupy the presidency. The man’s silence is disappointing though. Honestly, how can we consider him as a potential president if he won’t bother standing up to be counted? Are we to believe that he really was a ZANU PF diversion project? Stand up, Dr Makoni, and give the people of Zimbabwe an alternative!

If Zimbabweans can rise above tribal politics, professor Welshman Ncube is another option. He is a man who could steer the Zimbabwean ship away from the gorge towards which it is headed. His nationwide rallies show us he is serious; we should support him. Tsvangirai is not the only option. Surely his arrogance in living a ridiculously luxurious lifestyle before the struggle is over, and letting 29 MDC-T (Movement for Democratic Change Tsvangirai) activists languish in remand prison for over a year, shows us he has arrived at his intended destination and we will have to continue our journey to Canaan on our own. We have to move away from our personality-cult tendencies and subject all available presidential candidates to a rigorous test based on their ability to run Zimbabwe, rather than reacting to our hatred for Robert Mugabe. Will we have to dig around in the dirty socks cabinet, or can we find a new pair?

Photo: Nick-Clegg under a CC Licence

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