Ya ya yai! (as Leon Schuster would put it). Would you believe I have effectively been locked out of the internet since night Monday night? I use as my service provider a government-owned company and they have suspended my account. I am in the process of trying to sort that out. In the meantime, I have found other means to post but it's very slow and cumbersome, so I hope you bear with me. I say this to explain why I did not put up a post or your comments yesterday. My last post was really on Monday night, though it was technically Tuesday because it was after midnight. I really prefer to be able to post daily and any time something important happens. My alternative, as I have already said, is cumbersome and slow, but hopefully, we will be back with the faster "3G" service from the government ISP soon. Straight to the business of the day then:
Robert Mugabe of "Zimbabwe is mine" fame has adopted a risky strategy for dealing with the revival of ZAPU, the largely Ndebele political party once led by Dr Joshua Nkomo, the father of Zimbabwean and Rhodesian nationalist politics. The strategy, however, could backfire spectacularly, in the first instance because urban dwellers all over Zimbabwe, as well the Ndebele people themselves, have always taken the view that anything condemned by Mugabe has to be good, and anything praised by him is immediately tainted.
The strategy concentrates on Dumiso Dabengwa, the leader of this revived ZAPU. And it is simply to paint Dabengwa as an ethnic impostor, a fake Ndebele. For the last one month now, Mugabe and his ventriloquist dummy (spokesman), George Charamba, have repeatedly and publicly called Dabengwa "Tavengwa", saying that he is not a Ndebele at all, but a Shona, whose true surname, Tavengwa, was "Ndebelised" to Dabengwa.
The thinking is that the Ndebele people will react with revulsion at the prospect of being led by a Shona, especially one who is trying to pass himself off as one of them. It is a cynical ploy that demonstrates amply Mugabe's divisive style of politics that has kept him in power for almost three decades now. He believes that by lying to the people of Matabeleland that Dabengwa is an impostor, that will effectively kill the revived ZAPU in Matabeleland.
The reverse may actually be true: that the people of that region will refuse to accept this propaganda and instead turn out en masse to vote for the party. It is also a strategy that reveals just how deeply worried Mugabe is by the revival of a party he swallowed in 1987 in the much-touted "Unity Accord" between himself and Joshua Nkomo. People may not fully grasp this, especially in light of the fact that Mugabe has not won in the Matabeleland region since the formation of the MDC in 1999. Why would he bother with ZAPU, some ask, when he knows fully well that the region is lost to him anyway?
Mugabe is a strategist. Ask those who have worked with him and they will tell you this. His office, the innocently named President's Office (CIO) does detailed reports and analysis of voting patterns over time and Mugabe has all of this information to hand. Although he does not win elections in Matabeleland, he does get some votes from there. If the few people who vote for him in presidential elections now desert and go to ZAPU, Mugabe's share of the national vote would be noticeably affected. In these times when the difference between Mugabe and the opposition is so narrow, that percentage from Matabeleland could be crucial in deciding the winner of any election.
Mugabe's strategy reveals his archaic thinking: that all Ndebele people hate Shona people with a passion and would never knowingly vote for a Shona person if they have a choice in the matter. By labelling Dabengwa an impostor, not a pure Ndebele, he hopes to capitalise on this imagined hatred. But as I said in my opening paragraph above, this strategy may backfire. Most people who do not vote for Mugabe do not vote for him because they have a visceral hatred of the moustachioed dictator of Zimbabwe. The people of Matabeleland have been at the forefront of opposition to Mugabe since the founding of the modern Zimbabwean state in 1980. Gukurahundi only strengthened their resolve.
Ndebele people are also by far the shrewdest and cleverest voters in Zimbabwe. They interrogate their candidates closely. More importantly, though, they are the only group of people in Zimbabwe who vote based on their own strategic "national" interests. They have routinely asked each other who amongst the candidates offering themselves in that region was the most likely to look after the interests of the Ndebele people on the national stage.Once they decide on that candidate, they tend to stick with him or her and give them a majority of their vote. This was how Simba Makoni was able to garner 45% of the vote in Matabeleland. He campaigned in that area by telling the Ndebele people of his efforts regarding the Zambezi Water Project, an issue on which the people of the area feel very let down by Mugabe. The persistent droughts in the region have meant that, even when the going was relatively good for Zimbabwe, in the 80s and 90s, they experinced famine and, in the cities, water cuts were commonplace, simply because dams in the area did not fill up enough to meet demand. The region survived on grain harvests from the rest of Zimbabwe, which were trucked into Matabeleland to cancel the effect of the drought. (Right now, Matabeleland is suffering even more than the rest of the country, because the new challenges facing the country are simply misery being piled on top of more misery.)
On the drinking water situation, however, there was nothing at all being done and this has been the big bone of contention for the people there. Other issues that have caused bitterness include the fact that infrastructural development in the area is virtually non-existent. Road networks, dams, telecommunications and all manner of development have been lagging in the provinces of Matabeleland. The people of the region believe, with some justification, that this is a deliberate tactic to keep them beholden and dependent on Mugabe's "generosity".
Mugabe's focus on Dabengwa's ancestry, therefore, twisted and untrue though it is, reveals that he is more worried by the split than he lets on in public. Eyeing new elections as he is doing now, he is worried what impact Dabengwa's new party will have in the snap election that he will announce perhaps within the next six months. Certainly, in the absence of Makoni from that poll (if he decides not to run), Dabengwa's party is likely to endorse Morgan Tsvangirai for president. Let me say again that the Ndebele people are the most united people in Zimbabwe. When that region goes for a candidate, they do so overwhelmingly. So, if Dabengwa was to campaign for a candidate other than Mugabe (which he will most certainly do), then that candidate is assured a majority of the vote. Simba Makoni was the last beneficiary of this unity of the Ndebele people. One wonders which way it will swing next.
Intimidation has not worked in Matabeleland because the region has seen massive violence in the past. They have been immunised and violence does not work with them. Mugabe knows this. In fact, it can be said that the region has experienced genocide. Having gone through that massive trauma, nothing much else scares them now. So, despite Mugabe's attempts at intimidation in the region, he has fallen flat on his face every single time. The lesson has been learnt, hence this smear strategy.
The revived ZAPU would be well advised to take note of this strategy by Mugabe and prepare now for the election ahead. They need to think up their own counter-strategy for this. They should know that this is how Mugabe is going to campaign in their area when a new election is called. He and his campaign machinery will hammer home the lie that Dabengwa is not a Ndebele and therefore is not worthy of the support of all true Ndebeles. Mugabe's greatest fear in all this is that his vote will be split by the breakaway of ZAPU from ZANU. He will try every trick in the book to ensure that this will not happen. Intimidation and propaganda like this "Tavengwa" lie will be the only tools available to him during this upcoming election. And he will use them extensively.
Previous Articles: (Please click on one to read the full post)
- Jestina Mukoko - Real Reasons for Arrest Revealed
- Arthur Mutambara's Blunder
- Jestina Mukoko "Implicates Tsvangirai"
- The tragedy of Tsvangirai by Prof. Steven Chan
- Mugabe prepares to Arrest Tsvangirai