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Published: September 4, 2009
A decade or so of one man political and economic madness in Zimbabwe have seen everything literally going back to square one if not zero hence it shall take a long time to normalize in every sense.
Whilst many observers are quick to cite the high death toll, displacement and injuries from political violence as well as cholera due to crumbling social and economic infrastructure as direct devastating effects of President Mugabe’s ruthless iron fist rule designed to install a one party and one man rule in Zimbabwe, there is one effect of his rule that is often forgotten or ignored.
President Mugabe’s misrule and the ensuing struggle to democratize Zimbabwe have unfortunately created a serious national problem bordering on false or trivial intellectual debate and personal hate directed at both the dictator and Zimbabwe as a nation.
The false or trivial intellectual debate is unfortunately dragging down some of the country’s so called shining minds like the editor of the online publication The Zimbabwe Times Geoffrey Nyarota, The Independent political editor, Dumisan Muleya, among others.
Let’s look at the reports on whether the 2 of the service chiefs saluted or not the Prime Minister Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai during the just recently held Defence Forces Celebrations in Harare.
Firstly those people who are worried about the saluting of PM Tsvangirai happen to be the same people who often write long articles arguing against cultivating a political culture of heroe-worshipping national leaders because it nurtures tyranny.
They often cite as a good example the man they hate most, President Mugabe for transforming the unfettered love and heroe – worshiping by Zimbabweans earlier on to turn himself into an untouchable semi god over the years.
Most level minded people support the PM simply because he proved beyond any shadow of doubt to be the most popular politician and national leader after he came first in the March/08 elections ahead of 3 other presidential contestants including the self proclaimed invincible President Mugabe of Zanu PF.
Such people also know that because of the obtaining circumstances where President Mugabe is head of state and commander in chief of ZDF, whether by hook or crook, there is no need or point to continue to make unfounded claims or hang on to a futile debate that the PM must be saluted by the generals.
The argument put forward by the promoters of this trivial and useless debate is that since the PM shares executive powers with the president, he must be saluted to symbolize the new political dispensation in the country as well as recognize his authority.
As far as most Zimbabweans are concerned this is a sideshow in a country where enlightened people must be worried about rapid economic turnaround and genuine democratization of the political situation.
The minister of defence Mr. Emmerson Mnangagwa has since responded in Parliament the question whether the generals should salute or not the PM, and no one protested against the response given.
If the debate was whether the PM is the de facto head of government or not and the need to ensure that all the ministers report to him regardless of the fact that he is not the appointing authority, then such a debate would be very relevant and pertinent.
The argument here is to engage the nation to debate issues that end up making our PM more efficient and effective as a governing authority or top officer in charge of policy formulation and implementation by cabinet.
The word salute simply means greeting your head or somebody by raising the right hand as a sign of respect. For example where I work government security officers salute me on their own volition, but I never sense the importance and difference, because I am not their commander o head.
Thus this issue of generals saluting or not saluting the PM is a simple question of being nice to be important or important to be nice, for those who still claim, doing so would help to build confidence in the inclusive government.
When the generals swore several times in the past not to salute Mr. Tsvangirai in the case he becomes the President of Zimbabwe, such declarations were critical and of huge national importance because were unconstitutional.
Today Mr. Tsvangirai grudgingly accepted not to be president of Zimbabwe despite coming first in March/08 thus he is not the commander in chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, therefore saluting or not is purely a matter of courtesy.
Zimbabweans can not waste their time, energies, intellect and sentiments debating courtesy by service chiefs, because like charity it begins at home. It is a Zanu PF problem tied to a flawed self serving perception that nationalism and patriotism are synonymous with Zanu PF.
For example for lack of shame, after independence, President Mugabe’s Zanu PF, constituted just before the Lancaster House Conference in 1979 by those who rebelled against the leadership of Ndabaningi Sithole in 1977, continue to sit and determine who is a national hero or not despite the undeniable fact that nationalists like Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika and other greats, way back in the 1950s started the ideas and movements which culminated in the formation of various black political pressure groups to promote and fight for the right to self determination.
The obsession by some to see generals saluting the PM was evident in Nyarota’s online publication, where futile attempts were made to confirm or not if the 2 service chiefs Air Marshall Perence Shiri and ZNA Commander Vallerio Sibanda really saluted or not.
Nyorata himself ended up saying the unnecessary confusion created by the report emanated from the publication’s pre-occupation with identifying positive points for the inclusive government. Why “kustvaka uta nemugate”.
Dumisani Muleya later on comes up with a theory of his own purporting that PM Tsvangirai has secretly negotiated a pact with the service chiefs that would allow him to be saluted by the same in exchange for dropping some of the GPA outstanding issues like the call for Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana to be relieved of their duties.
For journalists who pretend to exhibit some kind or level of minimum intellectualism like the ones cited above these analyses leave a lot to be desired to say the least. Can PM Tsvangirai sellout the change agenda of the people of Zimbabwe who gave him the mandate in exchange for a fulano called Tomana?
In as much as we adore or abhor our PM Tsvangirai or President Mugabe, if we are genuine patriots who love their country and institutions as well as committed to real development and democratic change in Zimbabwe, we should try by all means possible to invest all our energies, intellect and visions promoting factual debates which will pass the test of time, not overnight imaginations.
I am an ardent admirer and supporter of PM Tsvangirai, but not heroe-worshipper of anybody other than God. Thus, to me this debate, is trivial, irrelevant and idiotic, because it does not add value to people’s lives instead it gives Zanu PF spin doctors an unnecessary upper hand and field day.
It gives Zanu PF spin doctors a higher moral ground to dully despise trivial debates which are not of immediate national importance or simply use such cases as good examples of lack of depth in some of the minds which claim to be behind or support the MDC cause.
Enlightened editors and journalists failed to see that next to PM Tsvangirai was retired general Solomon Tapfumanei Mujuru former ZNA commander not ZDF chief as Caesar Zvayi ignorantly claimed. To correct him, Retired Gen. Mujuru was ZNA commander when the late Josiah Tungamirai was Air Chief Marshal and the first ZDF commander was the late Vitalis Gava Zvinavashe.
The named generals are not gods or permanent structures in the country’s life just as PM Tsvangirai and President Mugabe will one day go. It is their time, but one day it will come to an end and Zimbabweans shall never be bothered by whether the generals will be saluting this or that be it in their retirement homes or graves.
Last year, the late VP Joseph Msika whilst addressing supporters in Matabeleland North called PM Tsvangirai umgodhoi (dog), but today he is gone leaving us with the task of praising him for the good works he did to liberate us from colonialism.
Certainly, if one of these evil generals die today or tomorrow, we will be at the National Heroes Acre dully showering them with praise for sacrificing their youths in order to liberate us, so why wasting time debating saluting or not.
Secondly, some Zimbabweans, often drag themselves into a dirty war against President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, consciously or unconsciously, standing ready to soil their own country in the eyes of foreigners, hoping to win sympathy or probably favours.
Whilst I acknowledge that, a good number of Zimbabweans living in exile have been genuinely haunted by President Mugabe and his government over the past 8 or so years, the same can not hold for millions who squatter in the Diaspora, proudly claiming to be bona fide refugees.
There is no justification whatsoever for a poor Zimbabwean to flee the comfort or rags of his/her home country claiming to have been impoverished by President Mugabe, and at the same time prefer to live in even worse conditions at Johannesburg’s Methodist Church and shanty settlements scattered all over.
That really confirms that although President Mugabe is that diabolic, some of Zimbabweans have lost their senses by now believing that it is better to live a pauper’s life thousand of Km away than at home.
This is a serious loss of self esteem although it is a direct result of President Mugabe’s dictatorship over the years it is as good as enjoying the tarnishing of your country in exchange for donation of daily bread.
In the same vain, if the Deputy Prime Minister, Professor Mutambara is serious about rebranding the country, then he should first provide immediate solution to the presence of millions of suffering Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora claiming the identity of bone fide refugees who fled political prosecution at home.
Surely, you can not convince a foreigner to visit, come to and invest in Zimbabwe, when millions of her own citizens living abroad still claim the situation is not conducive.
I however, would want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the DPM’s efforts in ensuring the despecification of some fugitive Zimbabweans, thereby allowing them to return home, but that is not enough.
The really unfortunate net outcome of this dictatorship and democratic resistance over the years now seem to be mistaking the virtues of a genuine and broad people’s struggle for anything that resembles deep hate for President Mugabe and his rule.
Thus, just purporting to hate President Mugabe so much and at the same time presenting useless arguments and niceties in favour of PM Tsvangirai is considered by some Zimbabweans good moral ground to claim political sanctity.
The MDC itself the party I admire and support claims to be the party of excellence, a benchmark which is proving difficult to achieve with a growing number of our comrades including MPs and some Ministers being found on the other side of the law.
How does one view the recent appeal by MDC MPs through a motion in parliament that such convicts be pardoned? Committing a crime and prosecuted for that is one different thing altogether, whilst the case of selective application of the law by the police and AG’s office is another.
Slowly or rapidly some respected Zimbabwean intellectuals are sliding on their integrity in name of a false democratic struggle against President Mugabe.