That was the day Tsvangirai signed the agreement to join President Robert Mugabe’s administration as a junior partner.
On that day, the dreams of the Zimbabwean people who voted for Tsvangirai in March 2008 were trampled on and betrayed.
On that day, Tsvangirai chose to be the cloak of respectability for Mugabe – a ruler who, for decades, has maimed, tortured and killed his own people.
Through the 2008 agreement, our former president, Thabo Mbeki, brought his decade-long defence of Mugabe and his army generals – the architects of the Gukurahundi murder festival of the 1980s – to a neat close. Mbeki managed to get Tsvangirai to jump into a “government of national unity” with the Mugabe regime. Mbeki hailed it as a victory for the continent, calling it “historic”.
Since that day Tsvangirai has been doing nothing but lose. How could he not?
Political strategists know that a regime that is as discredited as Mugabe’s was in 2008 cannot survive for long. All that was propping Mugabe up was the murderous campaign of the generals after Zanu-PF lost comprehensively in the March 2008 election.
Zimbabweans had – despite vote rigging and intimidation – shown Mugabe the finger. They were tired of fleeing their homes for South Africa, Botswana and Namibia; tired of a collapsed economy; tired of being the laughing stock of the world.
Mugabe was against the ropes. All he had left was brute force, and he unleashed it on the opposition in the period immediately after the announcement of the election result. Remember that even by Mugabe’s own crooked official figures, Tsvangirai had won the first round of presidential elections, with 47.9% of the votes against Mugabe’s 43.2%.
Observers and the MDC put Tsvangirai’s win at above 50%. He should, by all accounts, have walked into State House in Harare.
Mugabe’s supporters went on a killing spree. At least 200 people were murdered in the period between March 2008 and September 11 that year. At first Tsvangirai took shelter in South Africa, then went back home and was arrested, and then fled to the Dutch embassy in Harare. These were the conditions in 2008.
It was only a matter of time before the sheer weight of international sanctions, internal anger and opposition efforts would have led to the collapse of the Mugabe regime.
The MDC merely needed to pile up the pressure and refuse to accept an election result that was clearly stolen. Mugabe knew that he had no option but to cut a deal. Tsvangirai, on the other hand, had no need for such a thing. He had truth on his side. He had the people of Zimbabwe behind him. But he buckled as Mbeki and others told him to take a unity deal. When he agreed to it he became a small, sad, sell-out.
By agreeing to the sham deal of a unity government, in which he had no power, Tsvangirai betrayed the Zimbabweans who had defied Mugabe’s intimidation tactics and voted for the opposition. Instead of standing on principle, and pointing out the travesties that had been committed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai took the easy way out. He jumped into bed with Mugabe instead of demanding that he be tried at the Hague.
On that day, whatever shine he had was rubbed off. He was a mere politician now, a man who speaks with a forked tongue. He became a Mugabe-lite, ready to cut a tawdry little deal despite the principles he had so eloquently espoused before the prime minister’s salary was offered to him.
The reports of the high life Tsvangirai led once ensconced in his prime minister’s office reflect his abandoned principles. Those who once admired him realised that he is but a politician.
Tsvangirai should resign from the leadership of MDC and hand the reins over to a new leader. He has been exposed as an opportunistic man who has little or no appreciation of political strategy.
It has all been a terribly tawdry tale. The AU and the Southern African Development Community have once again illustrated that they would rather back despotic regimes than stand for good governance and the rights of ordinary people.
There is only one hero here – Lindiwe Zulu, President Jacob Zuma’s envoy to Zimbabwe, who dared to speak her mind and say there are problems with the looming election when grown men were too scared of Mugabe to speak.