President Emmerson Mnangagwa has spoken glowingly about the late MDC founding father Morgan Tsvangirai while mocking the former trade unionist’s successor — Nelson Chamisa — whom he is squaring up against at the watershed polls on Monday.
Writing for the Washington Post yesterday, Mnangagwa who is spending big on his campaign regretted that the country lost a stable opposition leader in the form of Tsvangirai, who died on February 14 after a long battle with cancer of the colon.
“Up until the untimely passing of the opposition MDC-T’s admirable principal — Morgan Tsvangirai — the change that party proffered held clarity. At its root was democracy that is both sustainable and certified,” he gushed.
“All political parties and candidates should have equal opportunity to put their agendas to the nation under not just the law as written, but through those laws as practiced. A future that can be sustained rests on this very foundation,” opined Mnangagwa.
The Zanu PF leader then took the gloves off — blasting Chamisa’s party for failing to seize freedoms ushered in by his administration, which ascended to power in November last year following the dramatic ouster of Robert Mugabe through a soft military coup.
He castigated Chamisa’s leadership of dwelling in the past and coming up with utopian dreams that are not compatible with the obtaining environment.
“Yet the opportunity a free and fair election offers does not ensure every party seizes it. In that regard, the new opposition leadership has surprised: they have campaigned across all corners of the country and reached out and into districts few might have expected them before,” said the Zanu PF leader.
“But their prospects seem wasted when they talk so much of the past, rather than promoting a cogent platform for the future. When they have presented their plans, they are replete with high-speed bullet trains, vast motorway networks, and villages transformed into cities overnight; all complete — they insist — in the next five years,” added Mnangagwa.
Tsvangirai led the original MDC from its founding in 1999 until his death in February this year, coming close to tasting power in 2008 when he out-polled Mugabe in the first round of voting but came just short of reaching the threshold required to be declared the winner.
He then pulled out of the run-off which followed due to widespread violence that killed over 200 MDC supporters and officials, thus, handing an easy victory to Mugabe.
The fierce contestation for power that ensued resulted in the formation of an uneasy inclusive government in which Tsvangirai was prime minister.
Despite the applauses from Mnangagwa, Zanu PF used not to hide its hostility towards Tsvangirai and his movement.
The MDC leader was arrested on trumped-up charges on several occasions, and was charged with treason in the early 2000s.
The charge was later dismissed.
At one time, he was left for dead after he was attacked by the police in Highfield.
Zanu PF only started warming up to him towards the tail-end of his life when Mugabe’s successor made a courtesy call on him at his Highlands home, a few weeks before his passing.
During the surprise visit, Mnangagwa — who was in the company of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga — went on to pledge medical fees for the MDC leader, charming many in the opposition.
In the aftermath of Tsvangirai’s death, the 40-year-old Chamisa assumed the MDC leadership after outwitting his opponents in the opposition movement.
Since assuming the reins, he has been a thorn in the flesh for the so-called new dispensation.
He has led mass demonstrations against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which he says is in the claws of Zanu PF.
Recently, Chamisa threatened to shut down Zimbabwe if the ruling party rigs the forthcoming elections.
A fortnight ago, a visibly frustrated Mnangagwa threatened to throw Chamisa into jail if he dared the authorities.
Pollsters are suggesting that the Monday election would be a close call.
Chamisa’s spokesperson, Nkululeko Sibanda, reacted angrily to Mnangagwa yesterday.
“This is beyond pathetic; this guy does not even understand democracy. Democracy is not someone who is accused of killing over 20 000 people. Democracy is not someone who was in government when the likes of Tsvangirai were brutalised by the State,” he said.
“Chamisa was in government only for a few years and during that period the economy recovered. For his whole life … Chamisa has been fighting for democracy; he can shout democracy while Mnangagwa can just mumble.
“Mnangagwa was at the top table when things like Gukurahundi took place; when there was Murambatsvina he was there at the top table. Mnangagwa cannot represent change, he is part of the old and that is why he is losing this election.
“When the president (Chamisa) spoke of spaghetti roads he meant every word, it now seems there is discord in government because even Chiwenga knows that we need spaghetti roads — that is why he was talking about ring roads. One will not have infrastructural development by going to China to beg because that way you open the country to exploitation,” said Sibanda.
In the same opinion piece, Mnangagwa said the choice before the country next week was stark, saying his opponents were not change agents as they proclaim.
“This election is making clear that my opponents have a very different understanding and meaning of the word ‘change’,” he said.
“Of course, it is not my place to question such vaulting ambition — even when the identities of those who may address the practicalities, or provide the funding, are yet to be revealed. Zimbabweans have, however, already been informed that they are not from China: the opposition has announced they will eject Chinese engineers and investors from Zimbabwe once they assume office,” opined Mnangagwa.
“Whether this is ‘visionary,’ as the leader of the opposition declares, or, as others describe, ‘fantasy,’ it is certainly an original approach. Similarly, it is unique for a political leader, as the opposition candidate has repeatedly done, to claim he has been promised $15 billion from the Americans (which they manifestly did not, and have publicly denied ever committing). To then contend he guided Rwanda’s national ICT development by personally advising that country’s head of State provokes incredulity compelling President Paul Kagame to state, on the record, the two have never even met.
“My opponent is neither the first nor the last political figure to stretch his CV. This is a consequence of holding such high party office when still a relative political novice. That, at least, is plain for all to see,” said Mnangagwa.