The Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, MDC-T's Morgan Tsvangirai, sent six thugs to disrupt, jeer and belittle Dr Simba Makoni when he delivered a speech at a public forum organised by the Mass Public Opinion Institute in Harare on Thursday.
This is a tactic that was used extensively in 1920s and 1930s by Adolf Hitler (before he became Chancellor of Germany in 1933) against his rivals.
The subject of Dr Makoni's speech was National Healing and Reconciliation. Other panelists included Dr John Makumbe. The MDC-T's Sekai Holland, A Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (Healing Organ), who had been scheduled to speak, pulled out the day before the meeting when she heard that Dr Makoni himself would be representing Mavambo.
As soon as Dr Makoni started speaking, one of the six whipped out his cellphone and started speaking into it very loudly, right there in the hall as Dr Makoni spoke.
The six who were sent from the Prime Minister's office were each given US$5 to do the job. They are:
Nelson Nerwande, Cephas Chimedza, Edmore Manyofa, one Bernard (whose last time could not be immediately established), Washington Gaga (a bodyguard of Tsvangirai) and Clever Mudzingwa (a relative of the imprisoned Gandi Mudzingwa).
One of those sent, Edmore Manyofa, shocked the gathering, which was on Thursday, 30 April 2009, when he stood up during question time and insulted Dr Makoni to his face with the most vile and undignified words.
Makoni himself retained his cool and let the young man finish his rude interjection. The room was so silent when Manyofa launched his tirade that you could have heard a pin drop. His main point was the usual MDC-T smear against Makoni, that he had belonged to ZANU PF and was now being critical of the GNU simply because he wanted to be president, amongst other unprintable things.
Makoni took notes throughout Manyofa's tirade and then stood up to answer, chronicling in detail his efforts within ZANU PF and giving examples of when he stood up to Mugabe to try and change the course ZANU PF was taking. There was a standing ovation in response to Makoni's answer from the packed hall.
There was an audible sharp intake of breath from the gathering when Makoni revealed that, after Morgan Tsvangirai was famously beaten up in police custody, Makoni not only confronted Mugabe about it in a Politbro meeting, but he was also the ONLY ZANU PF Politubro or Central Committee member who visited the opposition leader in hospital.
Interestingly, the heckler as well as one other person sent by the MDC-T leader's office approached Dr Makoni at the High Table after the end of the function and apologised for what they had been sent to do.
It is true, as my commentor says, some amongst the six disruptors are now being asked to return the US$5 they were given to humiliate Makoni. It is said they did not do good enough job of it. They say it is Dennis Murira, Public Affairs Officer in the Prime Minister's Office who is harassing them to return the US$5.
This handler, Dennis Murira, Public Affairs officer from the Zimbabwe Prime Minister's office, was at one time being sought by police and would have been arrested together with Gandi Mudzingwa according to plans that were laid down by Mugabe's people's before Tsvangirai agreed to become Prime Minister.
Murira, it was said privately by the intelligence authorities in Zimbabwe, had received the same training in Serbia that Gandi Mudzingwa got in December 2004. The MDC says the training they got in that country was on "mass action".
The authorities here were saying the training was much more sinister than that.
The meeting was also useful for the ugly mood towards this Unity Government amongst the people that it revealed. For instance, one questioner asked Dr Makoni how there can be healing when he was sitting next to a person to had raped his sister during the June 27 presidential "run-off".
Another also asked how long this healing process was supposed to take, to which Dr Makoni responded that it should last until "those aggrieved feel that they have been healed."
Yet another questioner told Dr Makoni that "all politicians have let us down. We have now lost faith in both ZANU PF and the MDC." He also told Dr Makoni that in his (the questioner's) own constituency, a lot of promises had been made by the Mavambo Parliamentary Candidate and these never came to anything.
Dr Makoni responded by telling him that in his campaign, he repeatedly told people that he was not offering them anything material to vote for him. He wanted the people to be given an environment in which they did things for themselves.
There was deafening applause when he said: "If you were promised material things in my name by anybody, I would like to apologise to you. That is not the way we do things."
In fact I myself can confirm that during the campaign, as I travelled for six weeks by road all over Zimbabwe with Dr Makoni, he repeatedly refused to buy "scuds" (sorghum beer) for the young men who frequently asked him to do so.
Makoni even clashed with one high-ranking member of Mavambo at a meeting I attended in Masvingo during the campaign. His ire had been raised because the high-ranking member had organised haulage trucks with trailers to ferry people to one of Makoni's rallies in area.
Dr Makoni cancelled the arrangement, saying he wanted people coming to his rally to be genuine supporters, not bussed-in supporters. "If five people show up, then we know those are genuine five supporters, instead of misleading ourselves with bussed-in people."
As an aside, I must say I was surprised at Dr John Makumbe who was agreeing loudly with Dr Makoni throughout his speech. Makumbe, who is a known MDC-T strategist and sympathiser, suggested the following as a way to deal with the Military Chiefs who remain opposed to Tsvangirai:
He said the Inclusive Government should give them amnesty and then hold new elections. He supposed the elections would be won by the MDC-T. After the elections, Dr Makumbe said, then the new government should revoke that amnesty and arrest the former Service Chiefs, who would have by then been retired.
Perhaps this is naivety, but he should know that the Service Chiefs are of the opinion that they do not need amnesty. One has said, "Amnesty for what? For defending my country?"
Still, for me, it is very revealing that Morgan Tsvangirai would sink to such depths. It betrays the lack of ideas within the MDC-T. It shows just how hollow their talk about tolerance and democracy is.
It reveals just how afraid, nay, mortified, the opposition party is of the challenge that Dr Makoni represents.
It also demonstrates beyond a doubt that the MDC stands neither for democracy nor for change. They are, at the highest level, as intolerant as Mugabe and ZANU PF.
It makes those of us wanting Zimbabwe to become as much of a First World country as South Africa (economically) even more determined.
It makes us even more determined to bring about a truly tolerant and democratic society that lives out the true meaning "freedom and tolerance."