Opinion & Columnist

How to sabotage your own political career

Tendai Biti

Wendy Nyakurerwa-Matinde

Musings from the East

IN the south-eastern part of Zimbabwe, close to the border with Mozambique, lies the magnificent Chipinge.

The district houses the calming Rupisi Hot Springs and the mesmerising Chirinda Forest, home to one of the tallest trees in Zimbabwe. 

Being predominantly rural, farmers here grow tea, coffee and macadamia nuts, as well as pine trees. 

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Chipinge residents are generally living a comfortable life.

This quiet giant is home to about 350 000 Zimbabweans, the bulk of whom are registered voters who know how to use their democratic right to vote for local and national leaders. 

They will use that right in the next two years when the country puts pen to ballot in yet another general election.

Therefore when MDC-Alliance vice president, Mr Tendai Biti, recently chose to twist a legal debate into an insult to the Chipinge people by airing his tribal stereotypical views and implying that witchcraft is their forte, his party lost some votes.

In a tweet to Professor Lovemore Madhuku, Mr Biti wrote: “Lovemore you are very wrong. The golden rule of statutory law is the ordinary natural meaning of words. Your contextual approach within the context of this debate is pure witchcraft. But then again you come from Chipinge.”

The backlash came as expected. 

But due to his uncouth choice of words, the opposition leader is not knew to controversy. He seems to enjoy speaking in a tactless, verbose way. 

In 2018 after his party had held a rally in Marange, Mr Biti referred to the people of Manicaland as uneducated polygamists.

Writing on micro-blogging site, Twitter, Mr Biti hit below the belt: “Manicaland regrettably has the highest rate of polygamy in the country with 45 percent of ‘married’ persons in this community being in polygamous unions. Education and development will eliminate these throwbacks from our feudal past.”

By putting ‘married’ in quotes, Mr Biti was questioning the validity of those marriages; and by extension, he implied that the offspring from those marriages are illegitimate children.

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But then, polygamous marriages are rooted in our culture and there is a vast difference between a forced marriage and consenting adults in a polygamous marriage. And consenting to enter into a polygamous marriage cannot be a measure of one’s education. Whatever Mr Biti holds against Manicaland, one thing for sure is that the province is not a wilderness of ignorance, poverty and witchcraft.

A little too late 

Now at its weakest point following countless splits and several lost legal battles, Mr Biti’s party, which is the one led by Mr Nelson Chamisa, is holding its breath as it hopes to lure President Mnangagwa to the negotiating table for some “crucial talks”. 

At a recent prayer meeting, the MDC-Alliance expressed its desire to engage Government to “find a lasting solution to the country’s crises”. 

It is crucial to note that the MDC-Alliance has insisted on not being part of the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), where the President periodically meets with opposition political leaders to hear their views.

President Mnangagwa has made it clear that since Polad has already been established and is yielding the desired results, he will not speak to one political party or politician. 

Indeed, no opposition political player is more equal than the others. 

In a parliamentary democracy like Zimbabwe, those with different views must all be heard and respected, hence the establishment of Polad.

In addition, following his poll victory, President Mnangagwa on August 3, 2018, invited Mr Chamisa to work with him in fostering peace and unity for the country’s progress. The opposition leader frowned upon the offer.

However, unfazed by the malodorous attitude, on September 21, 2018, the President indicated Government’s intention to create the position of leader of the opposition in Parliament. Before a formal offer could be made, the opposition leader rejected it.

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Now he calls for talks; what talks outside Polad? 

Deny it and it’ll all go away 

While 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year that brought the world to a halt as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also a year that the few remaining cadres of the Movement for Democratic Change would rather forget.

After several splits before 2020, a major blow last year saw the opposition party splitting into Mr Chamisa’s MDC-Alliance, and the MDC-T, initially led by Dr Thokozani Khupe and now by Mr Douglas Mwonzora.

There is strength in numbers, and every division brings in weakness; but Mr Chamisa appears to be in denial. 

“The MDC is not divided. The people are united except for a few individuals who chose to go, and that doesn’t make us divided. They have chosen to dine with our oppressors. Don’t confuse and conflate the MDC-T with the MDC-Alliance,” recently said the leader of the fragmented and weakened party.

Alright then.

So the opposition party’s leadership and supporters are united, and yet they are jumping off the sinking ship one after the other to join the ruling party? In other words they are united in deserting the MDC-Alliance?

Only time shall tell.

Till next week, let’s chew the cud.

Feedback: wendy.nyakurerwa@zimpapers.co.zw 

Twitter: @wnyakurerwa

HERALD