Underestimating the Office of the President

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WHEN you listen to the speeches of our presidential candidates before elections, rarely do you get to hear of public policy.

Sadly public policy is yet to resonate with the psyche of the Zimbabwean voter, as people like Nkosana Moyo and Noah Manyika will testify.

These are two of the few presidential candidates who over the past years, have at least tried to sell policy ideas to the electorate.

Morgan Tsvangirai was a brave man, and he founded a political party purely on the clout of bravery, not brains.

The brutalisation of student protesters and union activists in the late 1990s, coupled with the tragic treatment of opposition politicians like Patrick Kombayi in preceding years meant that one needed a bit more than brilliant alternative ideas to come up with an opposition party.

Zanu-PF simply lost relevance with the emerging generation of the time, and the more it faced criticism and opposition the more it perfected the art of using state machinery to silence dissenting voices.

The December 1997 to Jan 1998 food riots made Tsvangirai the star man of bravery. For two years students and civic leaders pushed him hard to front a new opposition party, and what they lacked which Tsvangirai had was not brilliant ideas. It was bravery to face the monster establishment.

The late Morgan Tsvangirai, pictured here with MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa

In his inaugural speech at Rufaro Stadium, Morgan Tsvangirai unsurprisingly got himself arrested after telling Mugabe to go peacefully “or we will remove you violently.”

It was neither a mistake nor a bluff. That was Tsvangirai’s understanding of his new role. It took very clever lawyers to argue on technicalities and capacity to carry out the threat; to get Tsvangirai out of trouble.

The State had also acted overzealously by preferring the ultimate charge of treason instead of the lesser charge of inciting violence. With treason they wanted Tsvangirai’s head chopped off, while the lesser charge would mean a minimal custodial sentence of perhaps two years or so.

Anyway, this was the birth of protest politics as opposed to alternative politics.

The MDC became a hate channel towards the establishment, and Zanu-PF reciprocated in kind by not only brutalising and barring the MDC from its strongholds, but also carrying out massive propaganda portraying the MDC as a puppet sellout party working with the much hated colonialists and imperialists in order to recolonise Zimbabwe.

We had elections in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2013 and 2018, and at no time in any of these elections did we see a policy war between the two major parties.

Yes there were manifestos carried around at rallies, but not even the aspiring presidential candidates from across the divide seemed to have an idea what they contained.

Only Robert Mugabe would occasionally show flashes of policy brilliance when he chose to, but he had no challenger. Thezimail


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