The Sunday Mail
Joram Nyathi Group Political Editor
Some sections of the media have decided that those who dissent or object strongly to certain decisions by the party leader should be labelled “rebels”. For their part, those like Mangoma who have disagreed with MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, accuse him of deviance — he has deviated from the straight and narrow principles which inspired the formation of the MDC in 1999.
The MDC-T national council finally decided to expel its dissenting deputy treasurer-general, Mr Elton Mangoma, last week for bringing the name of the party into disrepute.
“Kicked out” along with Mangoma were senior executive members Mr Jacob Mafume and Mr Last Maengahama, and youth assembly secretary-general Mr Promise Mkhwananzi.
The accusation against Mr Mangoma that his renewal team was bringing the name of the MDC-T into disrepute has an uncanny ring of irony about it, for that was one of the issues they raised against Mr Tsvangirai himself, especially his personal indiscretions with women and the alleged misuse of donor funds.
That is only by the way.
The main issue is: what next Mr Mangoma?
People want to know whether Mr Mangoma was acting on his own or he was merely a strawman.
If he was a strawman, will the real men stand up now that their straw has been cast out?
Some of us have no doubt that Mr Mangoma and his team had a point to raise. Losing an election, no matter how many times, I believe remains essentially a collective responsibility of any political formation. On that I think they lost it.
But they were right to question their leader’s personal integrity, his ambivalence when it comes to making crucial final decisions, his failure to manage personal affairs and his love for luxury.
I believe they also had a right to question their leader if they felt he was deviating from the party constitution, just as they are being expelled in terms of section 5.11 of the same constitution.
That is the same constitution they wanted their party leader to respect.
However, beyond the circus in the MDC-T, Mr Mangoma’s expulsion raises troubling issues about how Zimbabweans approach their politics.
When it comes to politics, it does appear that even ordinary voters are completely amoral.
Once they have staked their votes, they are prepared to forgive the most egregious personal indiscretions. They do not care about so-called clean politics. Morality and good behaviour are reserved for Sunday, not everyday living.
Mr Mangoma should have learnt from Professor Welshman Ncube’s experience.
Prof Ncube left the MDC because of violence and Mr Tsvangirai’s use of the infamous kitchen cabinet.
He said he was going to stand by the founding principles of the original MDC.
He believed, naively, it turns out by hindsight, that his principled stand on democracy, non-violence, respect for the constitution, would draw many Zimbabweans to his party.
While in private they felt he was a better leader than Mr Tsvangirai, in public they simply thumbed their nose at him.
Instead, he was accused of arrogance, of tribalism, of practising village politics. Nobody listened to his pleas about principle.
Mr Mangoma should not expect to fare any better, and this is worrisome.
Worrisome for two major reasons. The reason why there was so much interest globally and so many people wanted to observe Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections last year was because of allegations that previous elections had been marred by widespread violence.
Everybody wanted to ensure there was no repeat, and that if there was, it was properly documented to discredit the outcome of the election.
The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic), made up of senior members from Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations, made a peaceful election one of its key result areas. And there was not a single incident reported of physical violence against anyone, making the July 31 ballot arguably one of the most peaceful this country has experienced since independence.
Yet it still does seem that people like to stick to their chosen leaders even as others are leaving, citing violence.
So far Mr Job Sikhala and Mr Edward Mkhosi, who both left when the MDC first split on October 12, 2005, have returned to Mr Tsvangirai’s big tent, or is it cockpit, without him renouncing violence as a tool of the trade.
The second worrying issue in our society’s rejection of principled politics relates to the pervasive scourge of corruption. Once you embrace amoral politics then you sanction any behaviour which is not specifically prohibited by law.
People are, therefore, free to award themselves any salaries or board fees because they are not in violation of any statute.
A company executive can draw his obscene salary while the rest of the employees starve because he does not need to moralise about it.
He is entitled to his salary and perquisites.
Our amoral politics justify the kind of politicians we get. We elect them for their lack of moral sensitivity.
We should not be surprised that no amount of shame will make them resign just because they have been exposed as corrupt; they got elected or appointed to certain positions because they were corrupt.
Amoral politics draws crowds and voters because it splurges or promises to splurge on voters. People are venal and will follow whoever appears to have bags of money.
So Mr Mangoma and company may yet discover, if they have not already, that principled politics does not draw crowds and votes.
It draws jeers and scorn. You are viewed as smug and elitist; in fact you deserve to be beaten.
In a recent interview, Mr Mangoma made clear he had little respect for Mr Tsvangirai whom he said was unable to lead.
He said he did not want to be accused by people of failure to warn them that the person they wanted to lead the country was incompetent.
He is both correct and wrong. He is correct to try and clear his conscience. But he is wrong if he believes that people do not know that Mr Tsvangirai is incompetent.
They know of all those leadership weaknesses and more, and all that can always be blamed on Zanu-PF.
They love him for that, so long as they can spite Zanu-PF.
And Mr Tsvangirai has lately been scoffing at Mr Mangoma and team, rhetorically asking at rallies: what principles are they talking about?
Were they there when we formed the MDC?
We are living in a society without a conscience, where the masses remain a dangerously fickle lot.
The sum total of which is to say short of a miracle, Mr Mangoma could be finished politically.
Or he might have to return as a prodigal son to embrace once again the politics of violence.