“You will know them by their fruits”:

February 11, 2006 at 10:16 am Leave a comment

“You will know them by their fruits”:
Is Zimbabwe’s CIO involved in the MDC split?
Sokwanele Report: 10 February 2006


The bitter infighting that has been going on within the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since the fateful meeting on October 12 last year has spawned any number of conspiracy theories. On the one side Gibson Sibanda, vice president of the MDC and Professor Welshman Ncube, secretary-general, stand accused of secretly conniving with South African President Thabo Mbeki to undermine MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, needless to say to their own political and material advantage. On the other side Morgan Tsvangirai has been accused of colluding with ZANU PF in a plot executed by former army general Solomon Mujuru

whereby Tsvangirai betrayed his party by pulling it out of the senate elections in exchange for certain undisclosed “political rewards”. Conspiracy theories abound; these are only two of the many that circulate. As they move along the gossip chain they are inevitably elaborated and the details become more picturesque. Sadly it seems that all too many Zimbabweans feel bound to accept one or another of the prevailing theories – depending on where their political sympathies happen to lie – without beginning to engage their own critical faculties. The view we put forward here is that both sides in the intense leadership struggle are thereby playing right into the hands of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) which not only benefits from the resulting division and confusion but actually planned it that way. And the meticulous planning began many years ago.

Zimbabweans should never forget that for the past quarter century one of the foremost functions of the CIO, which operates as the intelligence and security arm of ZANU PF, has been to undermine and destroy any credible opposition offering even the slightest threat to the party’s hold on power. Moreover they have always assumed the right – which the Mugabe-led government has never challenged – to achieve this objective by whatever means are deemed necessary, including unlawful and extreme violence. Consider for example the chilling words of Emmerson Mnangagwa, then Minister of State Security and responsible for the CIO in March 1983, a matter of weeks after the deployment of the infamous 5 Brigade in Matabeleland North. He told a rally at the Victoria Falls that the government was considering as one option the burning down of “all villages infested with dissidents”. The dissidents were, in his words, “cockroaches” and 5 Brigade was the “DDT” brought in to eradicate them. A few weeks later in a parody of the Scriptures he said: “Blessed are they who will follow the path of the Government laws, for their days on earth shall be increased. But woe to those who will chose the path of collaboration with dissidents for we will certainly shorten their stay on earth”. Mnangagwa was speaking as the Gukurahundi reign of terror was just getting under way – an act of genocide that was to claim the lives of between 20,000 and 30,000 victims in Matabeleland and the Midlands.

The ostensible aim of Gukurahundi was to deal with a dissident problem in Matabeleland and for this purpose Mugabe assembled a massive force, including the notorious 5 Brigade, thought to number between 2,500 and 3,500 combat troops. But the threat posed by dissident activity was far smaller than the government contended. According to the 1997 report of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and Legal Resources Foundation, entitled “Breaking the Silence: Building True Peace” at the peak of dissident activity their numbers did not exceed 400. In short Mugabe was taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut. The wider purpose of the exercise however, which soon became apparent, was to eliminate ZAPU as a party with a significant power base beyond the control of ZANU PF with the aim of establishing a de facto one party state. Hence the deliberate blurring of the distinction between the dissidents and “collaborators” – their supposed ZAPU supporters – and the use of equal violence against both.

In the ensuing reign of terror the CIO worked hand-in-hand with 5 Brigade. Mugabe’s intelligence network played a major role for example in the enforcement of the food embargo in Matabeleland South in 1984, in rounding up thousands for interrogation at army camps such as Bhalagwe, and in the associated acts of torture and brutality best chronicled in the report “Breaking the Silence”.

When considering the pivotal role of the CIO in keeping Mugabe in power for over 25 years we do not need to resort to speculation or conspiracy theories of our own. Rather can we rely on the facts which largely speak for themselves.

It is well known that during the liberation war Robert Mugabe and those close to him forged strong links with a number of authoritarian regimes, including China, North Korea and Romania. ZANLA cadres were sent to China for military training. (At the same time the ZAPU leadership under Joshua Nkomo was cultivating links with the Soviet Union, where for example Dumiso Dabengwa received training under the KGB and the East German Stazi) The significance of Mugabe’s close relationship with the political leadership of countries which were in effect under one-party, militaristic rule should never be under-estimated. Not only was he exposed to the rhetoric of communist ideology; he was also provided with a unique opportunity to study closely how authoritarian regimes maintained their hold on power. He and those who later rose to the top leadership of ZANU PF – and particularly those who were to assume political control of the CIO – were able to understudy the masters of state repression and learn from them some valuable lessons on dealing with any popular opposition.

Evidence that Mugabe was a good student of authoritarian rule was provided as early as 1977 when he used his dominance of the ZANU faction in Mozambique to introduce a programme of “political re-education” for those colleagues who were suspected of having any leanings towards unorthodox ideologies or harbouring any personal ambitions which threatened the established leadership. Those who were forced to undergo this form of indoctrination included none other than Augustine Chihuri, now Mugabe’s trusted Commissioner of Police and the journalist Justin Nyoka who was later to take on the role of his information chief. The experience was evidently traumatic. None of those who underwent the re-education programme would ever talk it about it subsequently. (In passing we note the similarity of purpose between this programme and the re-education of the country’s youth under the youth militia programme some 25 years later).

It was significant also that within six months of independence Mugabe led a delegation of ministers to North Korea. Accompanied by Joyce Mujuru and education minister Mutumbuka, Mugabe returned to his old mentors to sign a pact of friendship. At the same time (though Zimbabweans were only to learn of it much later) he entered into an agreement for a team of North Korean instructors to train a new military force which would be independent of the normal command structures and answerable only to Mugabe – what was to become the infamous 5 Brigade. The mandate of the new brigade was to quell internal dissent, a euphemism for crushing any political opposition.

When General Halle Miriam Menghistu, who had imposed a brutal form of dictatorship on Ethiopia and been directly responsible for starving many of his citizens to death, needed a place of asylum to escape justice in his own country Mugabe was quick to provide it. What is less well known is that he arranged for Menghistu to become a consultant to the CIO. No doubt the former dictator found the income useful and the CIO could benefit from his wide experience in suppressing dissent.

A further and rather amusing anecdote illustrates how close Mugabe’s ties with former authoritarian regimes were. In December 1989 a People’s Unity Congress was held in Harare to consolidate what were for Mugabe the huge gains made under the Unity Pact of 1987. Under this pact Joshua Nkomo and the ZAPU leadership had finally submitted to ZANU PF dominance. In reality it was an exercise in political ingestion in which the old ZAPU was swallowed up by its numerically stronger former partner in the liberation struggle. Mugabe was in buoyant mood – as he had good reason to be – at the Unity Congress. In opening the event however he lamented the fact that his “dear friend Nicolae Ceausescu” (the Romanian President) and his wife were unable to be present. However, Mugabe went on, to make amends for this unfortunate absence Zimbabwe was planning a full state visit for the couple early the following year. Delegates at the Congress exchanged curious glances as Mugabe continued, pouring lavish praise on the couple whom he obviously held in high regard and considered close personal friends. It seems that on this occasion Mugabe was for once behind the news, for at precisely this time the world’s media was focussed on the popular uprising in Romania. The following morning it was announced that the Ceausescus had fled the presidential palace in Bucharest and a few days later the fugitive couple were apprehended by security forces and executed.

But what is paramount is that from the first the CIO was moulded and shaped by those who had direct experience of the use of the instruments of State intelligence to buttress one-party, authoritarian rule and to subvert any popular opposition. This is not a national intelligence organisation; it is ZANU PF instrument designed first and foremost to keep ZANU PF in power.

Another indisputable fact about the CIO is that vast sums of money have been made available to the organisation without any requirement for accountability to the people of Zimbabwe. Just consider the figures over the last three years – a period be it noted when the country has been experiencing unprecedented economic hardship, as a result of which the government has been unable to feed its own people or to provide sufficient resources for even such basic amenities as education and health.

In the year 2004 the CIO was allocated 62 billion dollars.

In 2005 the CIO allocation was increased five-fold to 334 billion dollars, with a further 61 billion dollars supplementary allocation (including 50 billion dollars for the procurement of “equipment”).

The 2006 budget estimates for “special services” provides the CIO with a staggering figure in excess of one trillion dollars. 1,007,512,081,000 dollars to be precise, and we spell it out thus to give our readers some appreciation of the huge sum involved. Nor should we overlook the supplementary allocation of 116 billion dollars.

In other words the current allocation to Mugabe’s intelligence services amounts to something in excess of 3 billion dollars per day. And remember the intelligence vote is not subject to audit. Not one single dollar of this huge daily outpouring of money need be accounted for to the Zimbabwean taxpayers who provide it. No body, not even the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has a clue how this money is spent.

Where does this leave us? It leaves us with a powerful “intelligence” organisation that is totally the servant of the ruling ZANU PF party and answerable to none other, which is ideologically committed to a one-party state, and is provided with almost limitless resources to pursue this objective. Should we wonder at the CIO’s amazing ability to deliver whatever its political masters’ desire?

But let us return to the year 1999. This was the year in which the MDC came into being. As an organisation which embraced the trade unions (and some employers), civic organisations, churches, student groups and many others, it amounted to the widest coalition of forces ever brought together to challenge ZANU PF rule. For that reason alone, and because of its rapidly increasing popularity across the country, it represented the gravest threat ever posed to ZANU PF hegemony. Moreover if that threat was not perceived immediately it was certainly underscored by the 2000 referendum results, in which Mugabe’s constitutional proposals were rejected by a significant majority. With good cause the alarm bells started to ring in the corridors of power.

Against this background of panic breaking out in the ZANU PF camp it is surely not at all fanciful to assume that the Director General of the CIO was given a mandate to destroy the MDC by any means possible. Indeed it would be extremely naïve to think otherwise.

How would he set about doing this? Logically he had a number of options, involving both overt and covert operations.

First he would use the government’s (read ZANU PF party’s) monopoly control over the state media to demonise the new opposition. He would have unlimited opportunities to characterise the MDC as “unpatriotic”, their leaders as beholden to either white commercial farmers or western interests, and their activities as treasonous. There would be much scope here – and the grossly distorted and tendentious “reports” in The Herald and The Chronicle bear testimony to the reality of this policy. Meanwhile the possibility of any balanced or objective reporting was reduced by subjecting the independent media to constant harassment and intimidation. Among the overt measures employed were the harsh new legislative controls on the media, and among the covert measures the bombing of the Daily News printing press.

Then the Director General would surely use the vast arsenal of resources at his disposal to intimidate opposition supporters with murder, rape, torture and all manner of terror tactics. In fact this is exactly what the CIO did in the run-up to both the parliamentary elections of 2000 and the presidential election two years later. Of course the perpetrators of these dastardly deeds would require guarantees of immunity from prosecution, but this was easy enough to arrange with a regime that was sympathetic to any violence or lawlessness employed to enhance their hold on power. One has only to recall the name Joseph Mwale to be reminded just how much those committed to the ZANU PF cause can get away with, given the active connivance of the CIO. Mwale was the CIO operative accused of masterminding the gruesome murder of two MDC activists during the run-up to the 2000 parliamentary poll. Talent Mabika, an MDC activist, and Tichaona Chiminya, Morgan Tsvangirai’s personal assistant, were burnt to death when the vehicle they were travelling in was torched by Mwale and three of his accomplices at Murambinda Growth Point in Buhera. Subsequently, with the free use of rape, torture and other terror tactics, Mwale and a former ZRP officer, Chogugudza, turned Chimanimani into a no-go area for opposition supporters, human rights activists and journalists from the independent media. To this day Mwale remains a free man despite a court order to have him arrested. The CIO’s response to the court order was to redeploy him to Mutoko, provide him with a disguise and help him to drop out of view.

No doubt any competent CIO boss would also ensure that a number of “sleepers” were infiltrated into the MDC, to take influential positions and to lie dormant until such time as their spy masters chose to activate them. Less dramatic than the murder of opposition activists this measure would be no less effective in undermining the opposition. In the long term it would actually achieve more. This tactic has been used by spy and intelligence the world over and it is naïve to think that the CIO would have done any different. The CIO would also seek to infiltrate a number of “moles” into the MDC – moles who, with time, might rise to high office. A number of these “moles” would have been trained in the 1980s and would have had years to earn their “democratic” credentials thus over time “earning” the respect and trust of unsuspecting opposition leaders. One needs to recall the activities of the likes of Craig Williamson, the notorious apartheid era spy who wormed his way into anti-apartheid organisations over many years through his convincing “opposition” to the apartheid regime. The CIO Director would not have been doing his job well if he has not infiltrated the MDC with similar spies/”moles”/agent provocateurs. It is also important to remember that the more radical the language used by opposition activists does not necessarily mean that those people have not been infiltrated by the CIO. Indeed it is sometimes those very people, as certainly was the case with Williamson, who have the “freedom” to be more outspoken because they literally have free licence from the CIO to give them the cover they need. It should also be noted that a competent “intelligence” chief would make sure to infiltrate both sides of any potential fault line in a political party and he would also make sure that one operator/mole would not know who else in the organisation was working as well for the CIO. This is not fanciful speculation – if this as not at least been tried in the CIO then the directors of the CIO are not worth their salt. Judging by the events of the last few months not only have people been infiltrated in this manner but they have also been successful.

If the infiltration of CIO operatives into the MDC was the first step towards undermining the party from within, the next step would surely have been to examine carefully the potential fault lines within the party. Ethnic, race, class and intellectual differences come to mind immediately, and we may be sure each was given close attention. The remarkable thing about the formation of the MDC as a united party with a coherent policy was the manner in which these differences were transcended. But for anyone wishing to make mischief in the party the differences provided the obvious starting point. The work of the CIO was to turn differences into divisions by sowing the seeds of mistrust on both sides, and then fanning the flames of conflict. Standing back today and viewing the wreckage of what was once a vibrant and united party, now strewn across the political landscape, one has to concede they have succeeded – and brilliantly. Any reasonable teacher presented with such work would have to award his student an “A” for effort and an “A” achievement.

Most of the time Zimbabweans live in not-so-blissful ignorance of the CIO skulduggery that is going on around them, but then there come the occasional moments when, as it were, the veil is lifted and we behold the shocking truth. Such a moment came during the treason trial of Morgan Tsvangirai when, thanks to the skills of Advocate George Bizos (himself well aware of in the murky dealings of fascist/apartheid “intelligence” organisations) in cross examination, it was revealed that the State’s principal witness, a world-renowned rogue by the name of Ben Menashe, had received 700,000 US dollars from the State for his part in seeking to secure a conviction. The evidence obtained from an evasive and difficult witness also suggested strongly that he had been de-briefed by the CIO on the sting operation they had to set up together.

Long before the treason trial was finally concluded (in December 2004) it became evident that, despite the CIO’s best efforts, the regime was not going to produce the guilty verdict the CIO had planned for. Indeed the State’s evidence was so unconvincing that it became clear that even a politically compromised judge would have the greatest difficulty in finding any credible grounds for returning a guilty verdict. It is surely no coincidence therefore that as the treason trial was drawing to a predictable close two other events occurred, both of which were extremely detrimental to the MDC. It was as if, denied the conviction of the MDC leader, the CIO redoubled their efforts to damage the opposition party in other ways. (One must also bear in mind that the long drawn-out treason trial had a draining effect on the party anyway, forcing them to concentrate a huge amount of time and resources on the trial rather than stepping up the pressure on the Mugabe government. Whatever the outcome therefore, the prosecution of Tsvangirai was by no means a wasted effort so far as the CIO were concerned).

The first, no doubt related, event was the increased pressure brought to bear upon the Secretary-General of the party, Welshman Ncube. During the last few months of the year 2004, and subsequently, the attack upon Ncube in the State media became noticeably more virulent. The conspiracy theories proliferated and there was even the preposterous suggestion that Ncube was somehow complicit in the State’s decision to prosecute Tsvangirai – preposterous if for no other reason than that Ncube was himself initially jointly charged with Tsvangirai. Again and again, the State media played on the theme of a serious split emerging between Tsvangirai and Ncube. So flimsy was the evidence yet so persistent the charge that one is almost driven to the conclusion that there was a hand behind the State media almost willing the split to occur.

Interestingly at precisely the same time opposition to Welshman Ncube from elements within the MDC reached new heights of intensity. An official MDC enquiry into disturbances at party headquarters in the latter part of 2004 provides some interesting insights into this phenomenon. The enquiry was set up to deal with the issue of intra-party violence which had become a serious problem, and more specifically the violent assault upon Peter Guhu, the party’s Director of Security at Harvest House in October 2004. Guhu had been brutally assaulted by a group of young thugs who attempted to murder him by throwing him down the stairwell from the sixth floor of party headquarters. In fact the youths very nearly succeeded and would have done so had others not heard the commotion and rushed to the scene. There had been many other less brutal but nonetheless serious attacks and a sustained campaign of harassment carried out by the same group of young thugs on other professional employees of the party.

The youths it transpired had not been given any official appointment but had attached themselves to the party as a kind of vigilante group. The evidence given to the enquiry was that they were there to serve the interests of some high ranking MDC officials whose protection they were under.

The most interesting fact to emerge from the enquiry was that there was a strong faction within the party which was orchestrating a campaign against Welshman Ncube on ethnic and tribal lines. To quote one of the commission’s findings: “there is a strong anti-Ndebele sentiment that has been propagated, orchestrated and instilled into innocent party members’ minds by a senior party leader under the guise of sheer hatred for the Secretary General at a personal level.” One of the key witnesses who was well placed to know the truth identified Isaac Matongo, the party chairman, as the leader of this faction and Gandi Mudzingwa, the Director of Presidential Affairs, as a member of it.

The evidence presented to the commission pointed strongly to a significant link between what we may call the Matongo faction and the group of vigilante youths, suggesting that the former effectively controlled the latter. On his own evidence Nhamo Musekiwa, the head of VIP protection, security and operations, was identified as the handler of the vigilantes.

The common thread linking all the victims of violence, including Peter Guhu, was that they were perceived to be sympathetic to or supportive of Ncube even though Guhu was himself a Manica. So here was an orchestrated campaign being carried on within the MDC to isolate and undermine Ncube at exactly the same time as the state media were directing their fire upon him and playing up the rumours of a tribal and ethnic split in the party. It would surely be foolish to think that the parallel events inside and outside the party were unrelated. The hand of the CIO can be discerned in both.

Moreover there were other strong pointers to the successful penetration of CIO operatives into the upper echelons of the MDC. Even before the serious violence broke out in Harvest House in October 2004 Morgan Tsvangirai had received a number of tip-offs from other intelligence sources, notably the Germans, that he was surrounded by a number of “ZANU PF submarines” who were “very close” to him. Gandi Mudzingwa was identified positively as a known CIO operative.

Again in May 2005 there was an outbreak of serious violence within the MDC. A week of sporadic attacks on individuals who worked closely with Welshman Ncube culminated in a violent rampage through Harvest House by the same vigilante group of youths. Again it was the same instigators of the violence and the same plot – to isolate Ncube and undermine his authority within the party, effectively therefore dividing the MDC. When the violence was at its height Isaac Matongo stood outside Harvest House, quietly observing events. He was in fact challenged to intervene and restore order by other observers who thought it his clear duty as party chairman to do so. Matongo however refused to intervene. Matongo escaped sanction in a subsequent enquiry in which he ironically presided over himself. A confidential internal enquiry report tabled at the MDC National Executive meeting in June found, inter alia, that Gandi Mudzingwa was at least sympathetic to the youths responsible for the violence.

By this time the evidence that Gandi Mudzingwa was linked to the violence in both October 2004 and May 2005 was overwhelming, and the evidence of Isaac Matongo’s complicity in the various attempts to destroy the party from within was no less compelling.

Whatever mischief the CIO was doing within the MDC, October 12 (2005) must rank as one of the high water marks of their success in dividing the party. On this fateful day, after reminding the national council that the MDC was a democratic party, that there were strong arguments for and against participation in the senate elections and appealing to all to respect the result, Morgan Tsvangirai promptly rejected the outcome of the secret ballot which went against his personal wishes. In the party’s top management committee Tsvangirai who wanted to boycott the senate elections had found himself in a minority of one against five. The ballot went the same way. The result was close but clear; 33 votes in favour of participation and 31 against, with two spoilt papers. Tsvangirai then walked out of the meeting and without further consultation with his colleagues gave a press conference in which he lied to the media about the outcome, claiming a “split vote” (which there was not) and the use of his casting vote (which the constitution did not give him) to secure a verdict against participation. The rest, as they say, is history. The party, stunned by the leader’s dishonesty and dictatorial tendencies, found itself divided almost down the middle between those who rallied to Tsvangirai’s support notwithstanding his delinquent behaviour and those who now opposed his leadership. Gibson Sibanda and Welshman Ncube were in the second group and inevitably the opposition coalesced around them. Although the issue that divided them was not a tribal or ethnic one the resulting division could easily be misinterpreted in this way. Not surprisingly that is precisely the way the State media chose to interpret the split, and tragically there have been those irresponsible leaders on both sides of the divide whose fiery rhetoric has given further credence to the idea.

A fact that has been all but forgotten in the turmoil that has resulted from the 12 October meeting is that Isaac Matongo was one of the most fervent supporters of participation in the Senate. It is no secret that he had lined up a Harare seat for himself and that he openly organised for his mistress, former MP Yvonne Masaiti, to have another. It is also no secret that he openly opposed Morgan Tsvangirai in the Management Committee deliberations which took place on the 12th October just prior to the vote. Tsvangirai was outgunned 5 to 1 in that Committee.

The mudslinging from both sides since the 12th October 2005 has been hugely damaging to the MDC. Some of the inflammatory insults traded have bordered on the ridiculous and none more so than Isaac Matongo’s accusation that Welshman Ncube had been part of the conspiracy behind Morgan Tsvangirai’s treason trial. As we have seen this preposterous idea first surfaced in The Herald several months before and here was Matongo, at a Tsvangirai Rally in White City Stadium in Bulawayo on November 13, repeating this ZANU PF propaganda piece. One is tempted to ask if he was not the author of the original propaganda. The closeness of the level of cooperation between those working to destroy the MDC from within (the moles) and those working from outside, particularly in the State media, to achieve the same purpose, has now become plain for all to see. During the heated exchanges between the two factions for example The Herald proved only too willing to blazon forth a report that Gibson Sibanda had called for the creation of a separate Ndebele state. This was pure fiction. Sibanda had never said any such thing, but it suited the State press to fan the flames of division in this way.

But to return to the national council of October 12, it has to be said that Tsvangirai’s bizarre behaviour on that day has left many formerly enthusiastic supporters both inside the party and outside, completely baffled. Why was he so totally committed to boycotting the election that he would not countenance any other course of action? Why was he so dogmatic and unyielding in his view that he was prepared to trample on the party’s constitution, lie to the media and even say to the national council “If the party breaks, so be it” ? It was a new side of Morgan Tsvangirai that the world saw on October 12 and many did not like it.

The unanswered and troubling question is why he did it – and why he has not done anything since to make amends or seriously to seek to reconcile the two opposing factions as one would expect of the leader of a national party representing the hopes and aspirations of so many. His opponents within the MDC say that he was once in favour of participation in the senate elections and suggest that he changed his mind following a secret meeting with the ZANU PF king-maker (former Army General) Solomon Mujuru. Though there may be impressive circumstantial evidence to support such a claim it remains unproven. But what adds to the dilemma of those who seek to stay with the facts and take a balanced view of the whole, is the strange response of Tsvangirai and his spokesperson William Bango when asked to comment on this meeting. It was reliably reported in 2005 that Tsvangirai had told several top aides that he met Mujuru in late August. He indicated then that he would be briefing his “top six” or management committee on the meeting – though in fact he never did so. (There were also unconfirmed reports of two meetings between Tsvangirai and Mujuru, for which Tsvangirai was collected from his home by the Director General of the CIO). The strange thing is that William Bango denies vehemently that his boss ever met with Mujuru. Even when faced with the blatant contradiction between his statement and Tsvangirai’s reported statements and having, as he says, referred back to his boss for confirmation, Bango still insists that Tsvangirai never did meet with Mujuru.

Clearly someone is lying here and the intriguing question is why. Why should it be so important to deny that Tsvangirai met Mujuru some few months before either the MDC national council or the senate elections held at the end of November? And, even more intriguing, why if a meeting (or meetings) did take place did Tsvangirai attend them alone? The risks were obvious. It would surely have been a matter of normal prudence for him to take one or two of his senior colleagues with him to the meeting. Did Tsvangirai really learn nothing from his bruising entanglement with Ben Menashe?

Moving on, it is instructive to note who is moving into high office in the Tsvangirai faction of the party. Tsvangirai entrusted the re-structuring of his slimmed down version of the MDC (which excludes the likes of Gibson Sibanda, Welshman Ncube and Paul Themba Nyathi) to none other than Isaac Matongo. Under his direction elections have been held at district and provincial level.

At provincial level we see a number of discredited politicians taking office. Morgan Femai is the new chairman of the Harare Province. Mr Femai’s main claim to fame (or rather notoriety) is the crucial part he took in engineering the violent attacks upon the party’s MPs from Matabeleland and the Midlands in the year 2001 and again in 2005. He is said to be driven by an almost fanatical hatred of those of his fellow citizens whose ethnic roots lie in the western side of Zimbabwe.

The new chairman of Tsvangirai’s Matabeleland South Province is Lovemore Moyo. Moyo, it should be noted, had previously contested and failed to secure election to a post in the parallel structures of the Sibanda/Ncube faction of the party. As a Member of Parliament he has conspicuously failed to impress. He is the son-in-law of prominent ZANU PF politician Sithembiso Nyoni and appears to have benefited greatly in material terms from this relationship. It is understood that he has recently acquired substantial assets in both the city of Bulawayo and rural Matabeleland, and he has failed to offer any other satisfactory explanation for the sudden acquisition of this wealth.

The deputy chairman of Tsvangirai’s Bulawayo province is one Matson Hlalo, otherwise known as Matson Musikiwa. (He was born Musikiwa but recently assumed the name Hlalo after his stepfather). His brother Temba Musikiwa is a well known Kwe Kwe businessman who in turn is close to Emmerson Mnangagwa. Hlalo was an active member of Mugabe’s ZANU when the butchering of the people of Matabeleland and the Midlands was under way in the early 1980s. He has subsequently flip-flopped several times between ZANU PF and the MDC and has the rare distinction of having been expelled from both parties at different times. After a spell in the political wilderness last year Hlalo hitched his colours to the Tsvangirai faction, and has been rewarded with an influential post.

One could mention also Victor Mapungwana, newly elected organising secretary of the Bulawayo Province of Tsvangirai’s restructured party who was once expelled from the party for treacherously betraying to the CIO his party colleagues who were assisting in the mass action campaign of June 2003 – and several others like him. But the point has been made that many of those moving into provincial and district leadership positions lack all political credibility. In one way or another they have been associated with violence, factionalism, betrayal of colleagues or simple ineffectiveness. Many have flip-flopped between ZANU PF and the MDC showing that their only true allegiance is towards themselves and their own material advantage.

Isaac Matongo, the common thread in so many of the MDC’s problems and failures of the past, is conspicuous for his ineffectiveness in achieving any of the goals the party has set him. Ironically it was none other than Matongo who was appointed head of the Democratic Resistance Committee. This committee was set up to prepare for mass action. Its biggest project in 2005 was the stay away held on June 8 last year to protest the infamous Operation Murambatsvina. It was a popular cause and should have attracted massive support, yet under Matongo it proved to be the most poorly organised mass protest action to date. Another dismal failure for Matongo who was himself nowhere to be seen when the crucial day arrived. The same happened in the so-called “Final Push” in June 2003 when Matongo was nowhere to be seen when the call for leaders to be out in the streets was made.

There is another very troubling fact. The only member of the MDC Management Committee who has not been detained or obviously harassed by the regime since the formation of the MDC in1999 is none other than Isaac Matongo. Tsvangirai and Ncube both had to endure a treason trial and the detention that went with that. Sibanda was detained after the “Final Push”. Chimanikire has been detained on several occasions. Dulini-Ncube lost his eye during his 2001/2002 detention which included a long period of solitary confinement. Virtually every other MDC leader of any significance has been detained or harassed in some way, but never Matongo. For that matter nor has Gandi Mudzingwa. The question must be asked: “why is this?” Do the CIO not know that Matongo is head of the so called DRC? Surely they know that Mudzingwa has known Tsvangirai’s every move in the last 6 years. It is inconceivable that they would be unaware of the roles they play or uninterested in them.

Which prompts the obvious question why, against the advice and warnings of so many, and against Matongo’s own appalling track record, Morgan Tsvangirai still appears to trust him implicitly – to the point of being content to rest his own political fortunes on such a discredited ally ?

This past week’s disastrous meeting in Livingstone (which culminated in Morgan Tsvangirai’s ignominious deportation from Zambia in the middle of the night) once again involved Matongo. One asks the question why is it that Tsvangirai has managed to hold meetings outside the country without any fuss or bother in the past and yet the planning of this meeting appears to have been communicated very well to the CIO. It certainly appears from the outside that anything Matongo puts his hand to in the MDC results in chaos. Is that incompetence on his part or does he have a different agenda and is he working for a different master? The question must also be raised why Morgan Tsvangirai continues to collaborate with a person who has so obviously failed the party.

We end where we began – with two bitterly divided factions of the MDC. Each needs the other yet at the moment they are divided into two warring camps. Accusations are being traded back and forth on the basis that absolute right resides on the one side of the divide and the other is somehow complicit with ZANU PF. Yet we urge our readers to consider another possibility – namely that, wittingly or unwittingly, both sides have played right into the hands of the CIO. Consider that this is precisely the end result the CIO planned all those years ago when the MDC was first formed, and which the CIO has carefully choreographed through the intervening turbulent years, to be brought to a dramatic denouement just as ZANU PF reaches its lowest ebb in terms of popularity and would otherwise be on the ropes. Consider how convenient the timing to a desperate ZANU PF. Consider how otherwise a strong opposition would be in a position to press home its advantage and demand real and radical change.

We do not seek to arbitrate between the two warring factions but we do wish to sound a clear wake-up call to civic society. It is desperately important that we all cease henceforth from making simplistic judgments between the one MDC faction and the other. It is dismaying to see how otherwise sane and rational people have leapt to accuse people in one or other camp without taking the time to consider the hard evidence, or lack of evidence, supporting such allegations. It is time we considered that our assumptions may not be correct, or not wholly correct. It is time we considered that perhaps the CIO is involved in both sides of this dispute and that neither side commands absolute moral high ground. It is time to consider that perhaps the very people we think are the “good guys” simply because they are on the “right side” and saying the “right things” are anything but that. It is time to question why it is that there are people on both sides who have made absolutely certain that there will never be any chance of reconciliation through their inflammatory statements directed against their erstwhile comrades. It is time to consider that whilst some of these statements may just be the outbursts of hot heads, made without any regard for their consequences, other may be deliberately made to ensure that the MDC remains divided. In doing so the makers of these statements, on both sides of the divide, will have served their common master well.

It is also high time we ended the personality cult in Zimbabwean politics. It is time we stopped blindly following (even popular and charismatic) personalities who have already shown that they are seriously flawed as leaders. Where there is confusion and uncertainty in the political realm, as here, it falls to civic society to critique those who put themselves forward for positions of leadership. The evidence is before us if only we will take the trouble to sift and weigh it. Some of those who beckon for our support have shown appallingly bad judgment. Others have shown they have no substance but are ready to do a political flip-flop as necessary just to retain their status and standard of living. Others again have clearly demonstrated that they are hopelessly ineffective in opposition politics; meaningful change will never come through them. And some are obviously there to spy on and subvert the opposition; so long as they remain among us all our efforts towards freedom and democracy will be doomed.

Jesus said (in the context of discerning between true and false prophets) “You will know them by their fruits”. Wise words indeed. And since we can see the fruits let us – trade unions, churches, women’s and student groups, human rights activists and the whole of civic society – let us show true discernment and wise judgment. Let us judge the principal actors in the drama by their own records. Those on both sides of this division imperilling the MDC and opposition politics in general who have condemned themselves by their own actions and those who are under serious scrutiny must be excluded from leadership – or opposition politics will not survive in any credible form.

Entry filed under: Past, Present, The "3rd" Chimurenga, Zimbabwe Politics.

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