Mugabe In Opposition

Villagers such as these seen here being given treated mosquito nets  in Gutu, rural Zimbabwe, are herded to the meeting place by ZANU PF activists, working with chiefs or against them if need be, and they are told that these things are brought to them and made possible by Mugabe

An amazing thing is happening here in Zimbabwe.

When Morgan Tsvangirai went into government, he said he was going in there to continue the politics of opposition, to fight from within. 

I pointed out at the time that Mugabe had handed him a stink bomb, basically, by putting the Prime Minister in charge of policy formulation and implementation, meaning he would not be able to fulfil the role he set up when he announced the decision to join Mugabe in government.

He could not go into government to oppose policies he was charged with formulating and implementing.

Well, the amazing thing at the moment is that Mugabe is now using the state media, which he still controls, despite the GNU and the presence of a Deputy Minister from the MDC in that Information ministry, to act like the opposition and to campaign against the MDC.

The dictator's side of the government is being sly, praising Tsvangirai to his face and yet at the same time, de-campaigning him on issues using the state media.

On the 8 o'clock news on state radio last night, the newsreader and reporters went to town interviewing residents of Glen Norah, Lusaka in Highfields, Glen View, Budiriro and other townships.

With a faked pain in their voices, both residents and reporters told stories of raw sewage flowing in the streets of Highfields, running into the market where ladies sell vegetables and other wares.

They spoke of a city council that is collecting very high rates and yet is not able to restore water into people's taps, which is why Glen Norah, Highfields and Glen View, amongst many other townships, has had no water for some weeks now.

They wailed that the roads are still potholed. They cried that cholera is rearing its ugly head again because of the turned-off taps and the flowing raw sewage.

These are things I have spoken about plenty of times here on this blog, but Mugabe's party is now highlighting them and playing them up because the MDC is in charge of these things, since they have crushing majorities in the City Councils.

At the same time, Emmerson Mnangagwa is now being given HUGE prominence on state television. He is everywhere, addressing appropriately awed villagers as he did in the Midlands recently, where he promised manna from heaven because the province had given Mugabe "more MPs than any other province in Zimbabwe." So the vote buying starts....

Oppah Muchinguri who, for a long time now, has had to shoulder the burden in Zimbabwe of being widely, very widely rumoured to be Mugabe's girlfriend or "small house", was also on the news bulletin.

The former minister was reported to have announced that she will now restart those women empowerment projects that made Mugabe unassailable at one time with the women's vote. She is promising them money to start all sorts of small businesses as groups.

We know Mugabe and ZANU PF can do it, using state resources. That, after all was what Mugabe used the old Ministry of Women's Affairs for, using government money to dish out to his party's  Women's League for projects, cooperatives and subsidised agricultural inputs.

The odd thing about this is that, by hiving off the policy formulation and implementation to the MDC, ZANU PF is now left free to start campaigning, without having to answer any questions about their abysmal record in office.

This is largely because the MDC appears to be asleep at the wheel. Since they discovered that Mugabe was their long-lost father, they are loathe to criticise him at all. They are quiet as ZANU PF picks holes in their service delivery and points out all their "failures" so far without actually being directly confrontational like they were during the old days.

Meantime, as the Mail and Guardian reported a few days ago, Tsvangirai is concentrating on sprucing up Mugabe's image: the paper says at one press conference, after a reporter asked Tsvangirai how he could "trust Mugabe", Tsvangirai shot back: "It's President Mugabe", putting emphasis on the Presidential title.

Mugabe's aim with this strategy: to cast enough doubt about the MDC's ability to lead to be able to at least disenchant MDC voters or win them over (dream on, I say). Still, Mugabe sits there and sniggers as the MDC fights his demons for him while he de-campaigns them subtly but unmistakably.

What he has managed to achieve is to remain in power, give responsibility to the MDC (it is now reliably confirmed that Mugabe actually hopes the MDC gets nothing from its partners in the west, which will lead to MDC failure to deliver and, hence, defeat at the next election. Mugabe has already said quite openly that the next elections will be one in which ZANU PF will have an MDC record in government to campaign against.") and still find room to turn on his partners in government because the onus to deliver services is no longer on ZANU PF but on the MDC.

It is a peculiar situation. Make no mistake about it, Mugabe is at his evil best when he is cornered. And he was cornered before the MDC decided to rescue him by going into government without thinking it through. He still feels cornered and this is his way of fighting his way out of that corner.

But, you really have to be here to see the way the roles are slowly, imperceptibly being reversed. By the time the MDC wakes up, I fear it may be too late. The song will be "We gave them the chance to run government and they failed......"

This dictator is getting away with more than his fair share of luck, I think. But the MDC, by folding its hands and pursuing power, positions and oneupmanship, is entirely missing the point.

Of course they never listen to advice like this, so we can expect to tragedy to play itself out.


  1. Life must be very hard at Zimbabwe. I wonder how can you still be an active blogger while anything(including internet access) seems to be very expensive there?

  2. There seems to be a lot of things happening in Zimbabwe.

  3. Zanu was in this role for almost 2 decades before it took power, so I think they will find it comfortable to go back to their roots. They had to be genuinely liked in the areas where they launched from, otherwise they were toast. Problem is bourgeois intellectualism took over after independence and accelerated after Nkomo, Muzenda and Zvobgo died. All of a sudden Zanu found themselves isolated from the people. In fact what has saved Zanu from extinction over the past decade has been grassroots structures put in place during the war and not “state machinery” as we all like to call it. Zanu is presently trying to find a direction to take and that has manifested itself as the “succession battle”. Bourgeois intellectualism vs going back to their roots; economic independence vs maintaining corporate culture we inherited from 1980. Since the bourgeois intellectualism route proved to be politically unsustainable, the question was whether they would go back to their roots before or after the MDC takes over.

    Problem with urban support which the MDC is enjoying is that they are always swinging for the opposition no matter who it is. The same urban population claiming credit for fighting during the struggle voted in numbers for Huruyadzo, in 1995 voted overwhelmingly for ZUM, and are now staunch MDC supporters. The same people like Mugabe when the West liked him. Whereas urban people emulate American lives on TV first, before thinking about politics, a person from the rural areas is a Zanu PF supporter first before they convert.

    The MDC outsourced almost everything to the extend that NGOs are now a symbol of something in the communities (I just don’t know what it is). Even a local institution such as the ZCTU somehow had to function as an NGO to be relevant. But what happens when NGOs leave or when War Veterans, AAG, Women’s League, and the new Farmers’ Union start taking their places in the society? As I have highlighted on this blog before; Zanu’s strengths rest in representing people for over 3 decades but tinokangwamwa chezuro nehope.

  4. @Smiley - many wonder the same....but you can always do anything if you set your mind to it, really. We learn to work around the constraints, it is the nature of Zimbabweans, which is why the country has not collapsed yet despite everything falling to pieces.

    @Nyatsimba Mutota: It is not what ZANU PF is doing that raises eyebrows here. Rather it is the MDC reaction.

    It appears that they have decided that being an opposition party is their calling, they take the support base they have for granted, almost as if the grassroots are really weeds, that grow with no attention or encouragement at all.

    The question is more: why is the MDC not realising that while they run around putting out Mugabe's fires, he is back at their own village setting fire to their huts.

    When they eventually come back, the MDC will find that their village is now a ghost town.

    Can they not see this or are they so popular that they barely need lift a finger to garner support?

  5. @Denford
    The MDC’s (in) action should have been expected. Firstly their whole game plan revolves around the fact that money solves everything. Money buys support, money buys good policies, money buys friends, and money gets them out of trouble. But the problem is that’s someone else’s money and therefore rather than change their tactic, they would rather fight for that money before embarking on anything else. Countering Zanu amounts to something else and a waste of time. That’s on the MDC side.
    Denford you are making the same mistake intellectuals in Zanu made of not realizing the importance of the structures Zanu put in place. Perhaps we have just seen a giant fall so pathetically we are forgetting what brought the giant there! The MDC had started relying on the western sponsored NGOs to do the work for them and Zanu did the rest! They never had to do much. Problem is that women still want some representation; workers still want some representation, black farmers, war veterans, rural people and small businesses etc all need representation. Those organizations were not in place because Zanu wants them, but because the community needs them. They perform a function which NGOs can not. I do not think MDC can counter that right now without being “against people”!

  6. @ Nyatsimba Mutota,
    I also share the same view, about what could have led Zanu PF survive against all odds.Some say they use the State Machinery,security apparatus, etc to an extent, it might be true. Lets look at the composition of the security leadership and their immediate lieutenants, from the Police, Army, Airforce, Prisons and CIO. These Organs are headed by people who are all War Veterans from Zanu or Zapu, they fought in the liberation struggle, and share what Zanu PF stands for, Zanu PF is their mother whom they feel they should never abandon or betray. They also formed a strong and genuine bond with the rural poor most of whom bore the brunt of the war. A lot still got stories to tell of their loved ones who went to war and never came back and until today their whereabouts are unknown, they have true stories of mass graves in their villages.Their allegiance to Zanu is not out of any mercenary motives, it is from deep down their heart, they were never offered monies or goodies to buy they allegiance or support, though later it would appear some were rewarded for their support.
    Unlike the MDC urban support, except for some, most of them are the youths, who will not participate in MDC activities if there are no Scuds to drink after or during the mission, some form of payment or a joy ride in the latest 4 x 4s, which can easily swing should some one wave some greenbacks to their face.
    That is the vast difference between the type of support the two parties have. Most of MDC support is driven by personal need, whereas most of Zanu Pf support at its formation was driven by a cause.But the truth is money rules, everybody needs it,they will follow you as long as you can fill their pockets, but once you can no longer fill them, they will abandon you and go for whoever has a fat wallet or some better offer, that is how delicate urban support driven by personal need is.


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