He said this in Chinhoyi where Zanu PF youths disrupted his rally, beating up MDC-T supporters who had come to listen to their leader
While it is human nature to get angry upon provocation, and we agree that survival instinct has the last word, leadership of political organisations requires a lot of self-restraint, caution and strategy.
It is not right for influential political leaders to burst into unchecked rage and make statements that may expose and cost the lives of supporters while the leaders that make such utterances are safely ensconced in their homes.
This is what we have seen happening with opposition leaders who in their quest to appear brave and also to boost their political mileage, tend to treat their followers as cannon fodder.
“We have problems of people who abuse our rights. We will no longer accept this. As leaders, we now face a dilemma when our supporters are being beaten, do we tell them to run away or retaliate? They are human after all and have a right to respond,” said Tsvangirai on Friday, adding that MDC-T supporters would henceforth not fold arms when attacked.
Three years ago in July 2012, Tendai Biti, who was then the party’s secretary-general, made the same utterances, threatening to hit back if attacked by Zanu PF militias. A week later many supporters of his party were hospitalised after being injured when they tried to fight back Zanu PF youths who had the apparent backing of the police. The MDC-T did nothing about it.
Ironically, the opposition party makes these threats even as they have signed a pact with Zanu PF agreeing to let off the hook people that committed human rights atrocities before February 2009.
Many opposition party supporters who were at the receiving end of political violence that rocked the country during election time since Independence, mostly in the bloody 2008 presidential re-run election period, were angry with this betrayal by their party.
Victims of the 2005 human rights tragedy called Murambatsvina were also surprised that a party that had over the years promised to make right their ruined lives and punish perpetrators, had decided to have their cases swept under the carpet.
Relatives of the thousands that perished in the Gukurahundi massacres too found it difficult to believe their only hope for redress had all of a sudden died on the altar of political expediency.
The political deal to write off pre-2009 political violence cases was crafted by negotiators from the three political parties that made up the Global Political Agreement, Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC.
Biti is one of two officials that negotiated this deal on behalf of the MDC-T and therefore, according to Zanu PF’s Patrick Chinamasa, agreed that the Human Rights Commission — which the people of Zimbabwe expected to deal with the issues of Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and the 2008 blood-letting — would not have the mandate to investigate these issues.
Tsvangirai, like everyone else, is very much aware of the political matrix in this country where Zanu PF enjoys the support of State security apparatus such as the army and the police.
Commanders of these institutions have clearly declared their allegiance to Zanu PF, whose militias Tsvangirai threatens to beat up using civilians armed with stones!
Both Tsvangirai and Biti are very much aware that the 2008 political mayhem involved armed soldiers and police and that supporters of their party, like Tonderai Ndira, were abducted in broad daylight and murdered by people who witnesses said appeared to be armed members of the State secret service.
Tsvangirai and his party have no means to stop the killings, beatings and displacements that the MDC-T leader is inviting upon party supporters.
What Zimbabwe least needs is a repeat of the 2008 nightmare and Tsvangirai must not start inciting that by threatening to do what he cannot do.