December 16, 2006

MDC lacks visionary leadership, says Archbishop / Traditional leaders want Mugabe for life

According to Zimbabwe Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube the country’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party lacked visionary leadership and had become a stumbling block to efforts to achieve democratic change in the country. Ncube, a critic of President Robert Mugabe, said while the veteran President should be held accountable for the country’s political and economic crisis, the two leaders of the splintered MDC were also to blame for their failure to provide resolute and visionary leadership to multitudes of Zimbabweans itching for change. The MDC, which came closest to unseating Mugabe in elections 2000 and 2002, has since lost much of its potency after splitting last year into to rival camps the larger one led by the opposition party’s founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and another one led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara. "I do not have respect either for Tsvangirai or Mutambara. I blame both factions, they lack leadership vision therefore we must try and identify another leader," said Ncube at the launch in Johannesburg of an audio and visual report on increasing police brutality against perceived political opponents of the government.
The report entitled: Policing the state – an evaluation of 1 981 political arrests in Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2005, that was prepared by the Solidarity Peace Trust which Ncube co-chairs, says Mugabe’s government had reverted to the same brutal and repressive policing methods used by colonial authorities to retain control over a restive populace. A Ukraine-style mass revolt by Zimbabweans to push Mugabe to embrace democracy and human rights was possible but only on condition there was a drastic shake-up and reconfiguration of the opposition ranks, according to the report.
Prominent Zimbabwean academic Brian Raftopoulos also speaking at the launch of the Solidarity report on police brutality said while Zimbabweans have been accused of being to docile, they had in fact tried to stand up to Mugabe’s government. The state had however been ruthless in its response, closing off democratic space, arresting opponents and re-moulding itself into a semi-militarised structure. Raftopoulos said: "There is increasing closure of political space in Zimbabwe. The state has since been restructured. The regime is relying on policing all ministries. Arrests are being used to pre-empt any voices of dissent. This has weakened both the civic and opposition." (VOA News, South Africa) In the meantime, the country’s Chiefs Council, grouping the traditional leaders, has urged an ongoing conference of the ruling Zanu PF party to extend President Robert Mugabe’s term for life. Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira in an address to the party conference said Mugabe should be succeeded only at his death just the same way traditional chiefs are replaced. Charumbira, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of ordinary Zimbabweans at the grassroots who are represented by chiefs, said: "We are not for succession as long as one who holds that position is still alive."
Zanu PF insiders however insist that any move to openly make Mugabe president for life would find few backers in the party. They also say that the two rival Zanu PF factions vying to take over control after Mugabe – one backing former parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa and another Vice-President Joice Mujuru – could even be forced to unite in order to block moves to make the veteran leader rule for life. Charumbira, whose Chief’s Council is supposed to be neutral, said traditional leaders would continue to make life miserable for opposition supporters in rural areas as punishment for not backing the ruling party. Rural areas have provided the bulwark of support for Zanu PF with chiefs, who wield immense influence in rural areas, accused of using their positions to intimidate their subjects to back Mugabe’s party. (Zimbabwe Online, South Africa)

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