What happened at Harvest House on Saturday reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s timeless masterpiece “100 Years of Solitude”, a novel whose main theme is the cyclical nature of events. In the book seven generations of the Buendia family are beset by catastrophes because they are unwilling to learn from the past. The family, and Macondo- a town founded by the family patriarch- are victims of their past and are constantly visited by ghosts. In the end the town is destroyed by a violent storm.
The similarities between our country in general and the MDC in particular with Macondo and its citizens are striking. As Zimbabweans we are caught up in a vicious cycle of intolerance and political violence from which we are seemingly unable to extricate ourselves.
Just like the Buendia family it appears we in the MDC have not learnt from the mistakes of 2005. On Saturday the ghost of 2005 came to haunt us again.
The ghost of intolerance and violence returned and sorely tested our commitment to the lofty ideals which we claim to espouse, ideals that are part of the name of our party- DEMOCRACY and CHANGE. It is a test we failed- and quite dismally.
More worrying were the comments seen on social media, where comrades who have always condemned ZANU PF’s intimidation, intransigence and violence suddenly defended the hooliganism and thuggery displayed at Harvest House.
I was disappointed to see some young people condoning Mr Mangoma’s assault. Some said he deserved a more thorough beating because he is a “sellout”. The word “sellout” and others like puppet and stooge are high ranking in the ZANU PF politicking vocabulary and it shocking to see MDC youths using them on someone simply because he differs with Mr Tsvangirai. There is nothing wrong with Mr Mangoma’s thinking, however unpopular it may be. Mr Tsvangirai like any member of a modern, progressive and democratic political party should be challenged and, if circumstances demand, replaced. Even the rigid Chinese Communist Party regularly changes its leaders.
If anything Mr Mangoma’s views must be welcomed and discussed. No individual should be bigger or think “he is” the party. It is precisely that kind of inane and archaic thinking that has made President Mugabe last for so long- his and his supporters’ belief that without him there is no ZANU PF.
One high ranking official, for whom I once had profound respect, queried, on his Facebook page, why President Tsvangirai is being blamed for the violence perpetrated in his name saying “a pastor should not be blamed for the sins of the congregation.” He conveniently forgot how he constantly lambasts President Mugabe for the myriad of social and economic ills in the country and the various incidents of politically motivated violence we have seen since 1980. If President Mugabe is responsible for the violent behavior of ZANU PF youths then the president of our party, Morgan Tsvangirai, must take full responsibility for the youths who assaulted Elton Mangoma and others in his name.
In our efforts to dislodge and replace ZANU PF, we in the MDC must ensure that we do not imitate what we condemn; else we lose our moral and logical high ground. It becomes patently dishonest for us to criticize the violence perpetrated by Chipangano or any other group when our own youths behave in exactly the same way. Likewise, it is difficult for us to condemn the profligacy exhibited by ZANU PF officials when our own leaders are living like kings.
This culture of violence and intolerance must be nipped at the bud. Mr Tsvangirai must be seen to take stern measures against the perpetrators, funders and instigators of the shameful violence we saw on Saturday. Anything less than that will lead to questions about his own commitment to democratic ideals and non-violence. In preaching democracy, we must also practice it.
As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche wrote, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” If we are not careful, the MDC risks becoming like ZANU PF.