[Marxism] Zimbabwe's Thabo Mbeki
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Apr 13 07:32:49 MDT 2013
NY Times April 12, 2013
Tasting Good Life, Opposition in Zimbabwe Slips Off Pedestal
By LYDIA POLGREEN
HARARE, Zimbabwe — The guests arrived in Bentleys, Benzes and BMWs. At a
plush, riverside wedding in an upscale suburb, the wine and spirits
flowed and tables groaned with the ample buffet. Politicians,
celebrities, diplomats and business leaders mingled to the strains of
Oliver Mtukudzi, a Zimbabwean music star, serenading the happy couple
with his famous love song “Svovi Yangu.”
This was not the wedding of some stalwart of the dominant party that has
ruled this mineral-rich nation for decades. Instead, the 60-year-old
groom was a one-time labor organizer, Morgan Tsvangirai, the
longstanding opposition leader and now prime minister in a once uneasy
but increasingly comfortable unity government with President Robert Mugabe.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Misheck Shoko, a member of Parliament
for Mr. Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change. “It must
have cost a fortune. We cannot help but wonder: who paid the bill?”
As Zimbabwe prepares to choose a new president this year in long-awaited
elections, voters are increasingly questioning the erstwhile opposition,
the only serious challenger to the tight grip Mr. Mugabe and his party,
ZANU-PF, have held on this nation for decades.
Mr. Tsvangirai’s underdog movement has long been the vessel of millions
of Zimbabweans’ hopes for a more democratic, peaceful and prosperous
future in what was once one of Africa’s most stable and wealthy nations.
But four years of governing alongside Mr. Mugabe — and in some ways,
analysts say, being co-opted by him and his allies — has taken a toll on
The disenchantment was evident in a survey last year conducted for
Freedom House, a watchdog group based in the United States, that found
support for Mr. Tsvangirai’s party had fallen to 20 percent from 38
percent two years earlier among voters who declared a preference. By
contrast, support for ZANU-PF — the party that clung to power by
beating, torturing and intimidating thousands in the last election in
2008 — grew to 31 percent last year from 17 percent in 2010, the survey
found, though some analysts noted that an unusually high number of
people declined to respond, probably out of fear.
Mr. Tsvangirai rocketed to fame as the courageous leader of a party that
dared to challenge the rule of Mr. Mugabe, who has led this country
since independence in 1980. Photographs of him beaten and bleeding from
the head in 2007 galvanized global opinion against Mr. Mugabe’s brutal
But these days, Mr. Tsvangirai’s lifestyle has been the talk of a nation
where millions live on $2 a day. He has taken to traveling abroad with a
sizable entourage, officials and analysts say, honeymooning in London
and spending holidays in Monaco. He recently moved into a government
residence that cost about $3 million to build.
His party entered the power-sharing government in 2009, after disastrous
elections in which Mr. Tsvangirai won the most votes but withdrew from a
runoff because of the violence meted out against his followers. Hundreds
of people were killed in the crackdown. In a deal hammered out with
Zimbabwe’s neighbors, Mr. Tsvangiriai became prime minister, and the two
parties agreed to share power.
In practice, Mr. Tsvangirai’s party has had almost no authority to
change the fundamental structure of Zimbabwe. The army and police forces
remained under Mr. Mugabe’s control. Mr. Tsvangirai’s party held
ministries controlling the economy and social services, both of which
have improved, but it has struggled to transform the architecture of Mr.
Mugabe’s security state.
Meanwhile, officials in Mr. Tsvangirai’s party, many of whom suffered
poverty while fighting to remake Zimbabwe, began enjoying the trappings
of power. Government ministers, members of Parliament and other
officials were awarded fancy cars and travel allowances. Mr. Tsvangirai
traded his trade-unionist leather jacket for tailored suits.
His personal life has been a source of embarrassment as well. His wife
Susan died in a car accident in 2009, and his romantic life since has
been the subject of extensive news coverage, much to his party’s
chagrin. When he was planning to marry Elizabeth Macheka, his current
wife, another woman challenged, claiming that she had been married to
Mr. Tsvangirai in a traditional ceremony in 2011.
The matter ended up in court, with a magistrate ruling that Mr.
Tsvangirai was in fact already married under customary law. He was
forced to cancel plans for a legal wedding, and instead called the
ceremony last September a celebration.
Another woman also filed court papers, claiming that she and Mr.
Tsvangirai had been engaged. Mr. Tsvangirai did not respond to repeated
interview requests, but he apologized publicly to supporters for his
messy search for a new wife, saying: “I had no intention to hurt anyone.
It was a genuine search.”
Other problems have erupted. In Chitungwiza, a stronghold of Mr.
Tsvangirai’s party, a corruption scandal has engulfed the City Council.
Elected officials stand accused of selling access to hundreds of pieces
of city-controlled land for about $4,000 per plot and pocketing most of
Council members from Mr. Tsvangirai’s party, with the help of their
former adversaries, parceled off soccer fields, playgrounds, wetlands
and areas set aside for schools and churches. Land in Chitungwiza is not
privately owned; individuals and businesses lease it from the
government. But there is a long waiting list, and bribes to city
councilors helped people jump the line.
For many, the painful irony is that thousands were pushed out of
Chitungwiza by Mr. Mugabe’s government in a 2005 demolition campaign to
eviscerate opposition strongholds. Hundreds of homes and businesses were
destroyed, and today housing is scarce and expensive. City employees are
supposed to receive land for houses, but many are waiting — and
officials from Mr. Tsvangirai’s party are now accused of profiting from
Never Tarugarira, a janitor and handyman at a community center, has been
on a waiting list since 2005, but his number has never come up. So he
rents two tiny, fetid rooms for $100 a month, eating up much of his
paycheck — that is, when he gets one. He has not been paid for the past
five months because of the city’s fiscal woes.
“Some nights we go to sleep without eating,” he said.
Alice Chihambakwe, another Chitungwiza resident waiting years for a
plot, says her husband goes to work every day at the city’s sewer plant,
but has not been paid in months. Two of her children had to postpone
crucial high school exams because the family could not pay the fees,
about $30 per child.
“Our lives are on hold,” Ms. Chihambakwe said, weeping softly.
The councilors proved easy marks for corrupt bureaucrats from Mr.
Mugabe’s party, said Amos Matanhike, a former town clerk in Chitungwiza.
“The problem is that most of the M.D.C. councilors are very young,” Mr.
Matanhike said. “They did not have houses, they owned no property. So
these youngsters took that opportunity, and they got onto the gravy train.”
Once it got wind of the scandal, Mr. Tsvangirai’s party tried to take
action, firing the councilors involved. But the minister for local
government, a ZANU-PF appointee, vetoed the dismissals, so the
Critics say the former opposition party has been naïve, falling into a
trap set by Mr. Mugabe to co-opt and compromise them.
“Old Bob must be chuckling and enjoying himself right now,” said
Munyaradzi Gwisai, a prominent activist. “He has them right where he
Nelson Chamisa, a top official with the Movement for Democratic Change,
says Mr. Tsvangirai remains the best hope for change in Zimbabwe.
“He is the next big thing in Zimbabwe,” Mr. Chamisa said. “He is the
only game in town.”
He called Mr. Tsvangirai’s ceremony “a basic wedding” and that he
deserved sympathy after the tragic death of his previous wife.
“At times people are very harsh and unkind to a very noble man,” Mr.
Asked who paid for the wedding, Mr. Chamisa said, “There are many people
who wish him well.”
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