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Tsvangirai: For whom the bell tolls

By Tichaona Zindoga
"For a fear I feared and it meeteth me, And what I was afraid of doth come to me." This is one of the translations of Job 3:25 on the travails of the biblical man of the same name. The tragic man of faith, once prosperous, met some untold personal calamities when the Lord gave him up for temptation by the devil.

Some commentators have contended that by fearing the worst - some translations say "That which I always feared has come to pass . . ." - Job brought the worst upon himself. It is called premonition.

So, on Saturday, did Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have a premonition of his downfall when he saw the spectre of himself and other political players being sent to the villages to herd cattle after failure at the big stage? Was he finally coming to terms that his sell-by date was now rather than nigh?

That he knew that time had come when he no longer would be sexy enough, perhaps for the electorate as well as his party and financiers or even at the carnal level where he no longer would be considered a legend? Was he trying to exhort for another "Final Push", perhaps the last "Final Push" this time, after the failure of previous such pushes?

"We only have one last chance to prove that this party is ready to govern. If we miss, some will go to herd cattle," Tsvangirai told his interlocutors in his home area of Buhera. Everything is pointing to 2013 as an electoral year. There are such significant indicators, as provisions for the elections in the 2013 National Budget statement by Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week.

The conclusion of the constitution- making exercise, a key deliverable of the GPA, which GPA was supposed to give a breather to the heady political tussles in the country and clear the path for smoother, if temperate, elections, also points to a watershed 2013. Time is fast running out.

The clock is ticking even faster for Tsvangirai and his party. That the party has failed to juice up ahead of elections by launching its blueprint called Jobs, Upliftment, Investment and Environment, makes a body like Tsvangirai's frantic. In the absence of a coherent policy of its own, the MDC-T has for years had to rely on blaming Zanu-PF for the troubles in Zimbabwe.

Sometimes MDC-T opposed Zanu-PF for its own sake. Yet the fact remained that the latter always stood on a policy stead, providing the games in town such as the land reform and now indigenisation. MDC-T has taken a lot of flak from its better informed and more practical supporters for its dearth of ideas, leading to some white supporters openly admitting that MDC-T's nemesis Zanu-PF had policies while the MDC-T was bereft of the same.

Zanu-PF's ideas have been governing Zimbabwe and the MDC-T, when not trying to pilfer the glory of these ideas like dollarisation and diamonds (yeah), has largely remained a clueless outfit stuck in opposition politics.

That is why Tsvangirai is worried and has called on his side to "to prove that this party is ready to govern." Sadly, it is not.

In the first instance, how can a party prove its worth only months before elections? What kind of hurricane or tsunami or cyclone even, does the party have up its sleeve?

(Don't rule out any, though, as history records that when Zimbabwe said good morning to that forgettable electoral year, 2008, things started going so bad in the economy as to precipitate a hunger that gnawed people's insides that they soon forgot that actually it was the head not the stomach anatomically and naturally trained to think.)

MDC-T has been in Government for the last four years and no one from the party has really distinguished themselves - not even Tsvangirai himself as Prime Minister.

Ministries under Tsvangirai's MDC-T stewardship have been a disaster: from Finance Minister Tendai Biti whose economic or fiscal policies no one can really make head and tail of, a fact made worse by his knack for coming up with a myriad of figures plucked right from skies and dispensed thereto with same gusto, to the social services sectors. Look at health: Zimbabwe is not in the throes of a sanctionsabetted cholera epidemic, but are we better off when the country's health system is all but anchored on donor piety? Labour is always crying and Lucia Matibenga, who ironically hails from the ZCTU, is in this disgusting behaviour of shooing off dialogue with labour reps?

Water is a challenge in Zimbabwe more than ever and Matabeleland, where Samuel Sipepa Nkomo comes from, is as dry and thirsty as ever. Electricity, which Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, who comes from the MDC-T, is supposed to provide for domestic and industrial use, has been its scarcest in years. The electricity shortage has been worse under Mangoma than any other time in the recent history of Zimbabwe.

And it is the same Mangoma who is accused of holding up the operationalisation of the Chisumbanje Ethanol Project in Manicaland which will not only cushion Zimbabwe's fuel woes but also create jobs and additional electricity on the grid.

It is now common cause that local governments in MDC-T hands are run inefficiently, corruptly and face running down. Now, when things have somewhat got better than 2008, Harare still suffers from cholera and typhoid as the MDCT- run council has debased the people into faeces-consuming populace.

Even Tsvangirai admits that his party is corrupt, inefficient and immature. The MDC-T can no longer hide behind the finger. The MDC-T can no longer play saint or martyr or innocent bystander. The party has had the levers of power, which power most of its officials have abused to the extent of dispossessing old people of their houses. The party's officials have come from very humble beginnings to become owners of mansions and fleets of cars even when they have not had any gainful employment prior to, or after becoming councillors, mayors or MPs.

One columnist recently noted the change in the lifestyles of MDC-T officials, which better status has not rubbed off to the ordinary man and woman on the street or in the village. "Cheap cellphones were stolen," noted the columnist, "Reckless sexuality kicked in. Minors were abused. Incest was committed. Little girls were infected. Girls young enough to be daughters were laid, impregnated and jilted. Babies were born, are still being born, well outside the blessings of priests, well outside wedlock." And, "Legendary seas were crossed . . ."

All this has not made good report of the MDC-T, even if it is shared by a considerable number of people outside the party. It is innocence no more! This is why Tsvangirai should be dead worried. Which reminds one of Tsvangirai's book called "At the Deep End" which he co-wrote with William Bango.

In reviewing the book when it hit the market last year, did some authoritative columnist not indicate that biographies and memoirs were written at seminal times of falling or ascending? Tsvangirai is surely facing the prospect of falling from grace, which his opponents inside and outside his party will take with both hands. The setting of his seemingly weak rallying cry, at his village in Buhera, cannot be more significant. It is he, barring any miracles, that is going to be herding cattle back at Humanikwa Village. He has run his run and his party contemporaries will not take quite easily to his failure, again.

And already, just as the doctor Christopher Dell ordered, are Diasporans like Alex Magaisa not coming back to save the great Rhodesian hope in the MDC-T?

Magaisa came onto the scene last month and has been making key changes in the office. He is probably looking at a post-Tsvangirai era which MDC-T handlers have been doing, including considering the possibility of enlisting the services of the likes of Lovemore Madhuku. These academics and technocrats will leave no space for the barest of fellows like Tsvangirai, for all his having been the face of "democratic change in Zimbabwe", with little room on the big stage.

Meanwhile, as Zanu-PF meets at its annual conference soon, it may have to resolve to work only a little harder to consign Tsvangirai and his ilk back to the villages to herd cattle. And when he thinks of anyone being sent back to the village, Tsvangirai might find it useful to be a more little foreboding. "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee!"





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