I am excited about the hope that springs out of Dr Simba Makoni’s bold and brave decision to stand up and be counted. This is by far the best prospect for change that Zimbabweans have been presented with in a very long time. It would be catastrophic if we let this opportunity slip again.
Until Makoni’s decision on Tuesday I had made up my mind that for the first time since 1980 I was not going to vote in the forthcoming elections. The choice between the MDC and Zanu-PF under the current circumstances is no choice at all. This was indeed Hobson’s choice. Now things have changed and I will be voting, for I suddenly have a real choice.
Makoni’s decision to stand as a presidential candidate in the elections at the end of March is a huge personal sacrifice that now must be supported by all Zimbabweans who desire peaceful change. The first giant step has been made but it would be naive to assume that the job will be easy. Already the attacks from the state media have been vicious, but I am sure Makoni must have anticipated this. Some have even gone so far as to claim that this is a CIO hoax and Makoni is a tool of the state. Only the extremely gullible would believe this. He will need great determination to withstand what the Zanu-PF and state machinery are going to unleash on him.
The burden that Makoni has taken upon himself on behalf of us all will be made that much easier if progressive Zimbabweans liberated themselves from fear and made it known to all that he is not alone in this journey. Zimbabweans from all across the country have been decrying the dearth of high-calibre leadership and now that Makoni has stepped to the plank, those wanting change from within Zanu-PF, the opposition, civil society, business and the church must rally around him.
Coming so soon after the failure of the two MDC factions to unite, Makoni’s initiative provides a credible home and leadership for all those in opposition who desire genuine change and not self-aggrandisement. The MDC’s weakness has always been its pedestrian leadership, which should now join hands with Makoni to form a formidable coalition of forces opposed to all that Mugabe represents. On his part, Makoni will need to reach out to all and construct a movement that is accommodating to the diverse voices that have been calling for change.
I must confess that I don’t exactly know what Makoni’s programme is or what his manifesto holds. But one thing I am sure of is that I would be proud to call him my president any day. He is intelligent, very articulate, smart and well educated, and his decision to resign as finance minister a few years ago tells me he is a principled man. I think he cares and I am sure we can trust him. And I have never heard any hint or caught a whiff that he is a corrupt man.
My criticism of Makoni is that he is aloof and tends to come across as arrogant and condescending. I have also heard it said that he holds strong views and he can’t work with others. But then there are very few angels in Zimbabwe. His weaknesses must pale into insignificance when considering the dehumanising circumstances that we desperately need to liberate ourselves from.
Zimbabwe is in a desperate situation and we can ill afford the luxury of a wait-and-see attitude or fence-sitting as far as the prospect offered by Makoni is concerned. Those in the MDC need to go back to the days when they cared more about the people than their narrow, selfish interests and throw their lot behind Makoni. Those inside Zanu-PF must realise that there will never be another chance to break away from Mugabe’s suffocating clutches and that it is imperative that they also collectively answer the call by Zimbabweans for change. They must realise that Makoni offers them an opportunity to make right their sins of commission and omission. Will they grab this chance to reject corruption, murder, patronage and abuse of power, or will they choose to stand on the side of Mugabe and the ruin and pain that he has inflicted on Zimbabweans?
Within the context of Zimbabwean politics, I was the first one to write about the “Third Way” as an essential prerequisite for a fresh start for Zimbabweans. My thinking was and still is that under Zanu-PF our society has collapsed and we need a new beginning that rejects Zanu-PF corruption, oppression, arrogance and mismanagement and offers Zimbabweans an opportunity to dream again. The Third Way, to me, is a way of thinking that rejects the mediocrity offered by the MDC and seeks to define who we are and restructure our institutions and Constitution, and touch base with our norms and values in line with our aspirations. I believe Makoni gives Zimbabweans an opportunity to dream and live again.
While it will be near impossible for anybody to perform worse than Mugabe, for Makoni to make a difference he will have to be a democrat who values human rights and is committed to the rule of law. His manifesto must make an undertaking to involve Zimbabweans in crafting a new rights-based constitution. He will have to be a leader who listens and takes advice and one who is tolerant of views and opinions different from his.
Apart from Mugabe and his entire arsenal, perhaps the biggest challenge that Makoni faces is time. There simply isn’t enough time considering the work that needs to be done to realise the hopes raised by that noble decision he announced on Tuesday. But I believe that the task is made easier by the disaster that Zimbabwe is at the moment. People have been waiting for change for too long and this is the trigger they needed to liberate themselves from the current poverty, suffering and a less-than-human existent.
To a large extent, Makoni has done his bit and the ball is now in the court of all Zimbabweans. As US Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama said on Tuesday “We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”