Tanonoka Joseph Whande – Politicians must avoid abuse of funerals

Tanonoka Joseph Whande
Thursday, January 31, 2013

I note with great sadness that we, in Zimbabwe, can no longer give traditional, pacifying eulogies but always turn funerals into platforms to spout our nonsensical political filth at the funerals of other people’s sons.

A few days ago, it was amusing to listen to MDC-T Secretary General, Tendai Biti, giving a lecture on contemporary Zimbabwean politics while addressing mourners during a supposed church service at the funeral of the late John Makumbe.

A couple of months ago, these same people used grave-side eulogies to denounce the police and government over violence at the funeral of the daughter of co-Home Affairs Minister Theresa Makone, who had allegedly taken her own life.

And just yesterday, Tsvangirai chose Makumbe’s burial to announce the end of what he termed one-man rule, something he could have done with greater impact at an appropriate platform elsewhere.

The statements cannot go unnoticed as they were an indirect attack on a political opponent, much as Mugabe does against Tsvangirai every time at the so-called Heroes’ Acre.

I remember so many times when the MDC complained to the gods and to the public about how Robert Mugabe used funerals to hurl insults at people, particularly insulting Morgan Tsvangirai and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair during graveside speeches.

The sanctity of funerals is being violated by politicians who hijack funerals and take to the podium to talk about themselves and their inadequacies, neglecting those who gather in anguish to bid their loved ones farewell.

I did not expect this from MDC-T leaders.

Funerals, like soccer matches, always attract hoards of voluntary people; and politicians, who struggle to draw people to listen to their hogwash, never hesitate to commandeer such gatherings to abuse mourners as they disgustingly turn other people’s funerals into political rallies.

We no longer reminisce or talk about our loved ones as they lie dead among us while awaiting burial but politicians shamelessly seize the opportunity to talk about themselves at the expense of the harmless dead.

Did friends and relatives of Mr Makumbe really care to be lectured on how tough and important the forthcoming elections would be as their kin lay in a mortuary waiting to be buried?

Guys, come on now, please!

Biti went to Dr Makumbe’s funeral to tell grief-stricken mourners that, as MDC, they were looking for change and this coming election ‘is as important as the 1980 general elections’.

That, of course, is watery crap.

“If democratic forces fail, it’s a case of one step forward and 20 steps backwards. We are not getting younger,” Biti told the mourners.

It appears as if the MDC-T is mimicking ZANU-PF in just about everything.

What a shame.

There is so much noise being made over the forthcoming elections. The MDC-T has all but forgotten about the welfare of the people, promising people things they know they will not deliver.

MDC-T spokesperson, Douglas Mwonzora, said on Monday that, considering the kind of work they had done on the constitution-making process, there is no doubt in their party that “the next elections will be much better than the 2008 elections”.

In those elections, 200 of his party’s supporters were killed.

He did not elaborate what constitutes “better” but, like all MDC-T top people, was euphoric about the impending elections.

The MDC-T failed to get outstanding issues implemented; they failed to clear the political playing field to ensure people’s safety and a violence-free election.

The MDC-T put emphasis on itself at the expense of the people’s issues so much that the issues they used to trumpet no longer matter to them. Issues such as a free media are dead issues now.

They give token statements about violence, oppressive laws and many other issues which will make the coming elections just as much a farce as the 2008 elections.

“The coming election is about who is going to provide a clear vision for the future,” said Prime Minister Tsvangirai. “It is about the electorate analysing the policies and programmes of parties and evaluating on who could take this country forward.”

They just want our votes regardless of the danger people are in. How does the electorate analyse anything when state media does not cover MDC-T and when Tsvangirai himself constantly seeks courts’ intervention to address rallies across the country, when the army and police have been deployed to make sure these rallies are disrupted, with people being beaten up?

They are campaigning at funerals and wherever they can while MDC supporters are being terrorised by the notorious Jabulani Sibanda, something that has been going on for a long time and yet the MDC has no answer on how to protect their own supporters.

Mr Tsvangirai could have shown us a clear vision for the future by doing things that gave people some morale and he and his party could have tried to tackle those issues that are of concern to the people.

“In the past three days the MDC National Executive Committee has been engaged in a policy conference. We have been reviewing our economic, social, education, industrial and all other party policies to make sure they are responsive to our situation and the wishes of Zimbabweans,” said Mwonzora.

Because elections are looming, they are reviewing their policies which they failed to implement in the four years they have been in government. He had the gall to talk about “the wishes of Zimbabweans” when they opted to negotiate a constitution instead of incorporating “the wishes of Zimbabweans”.

The MDC-T could have made some issues paramount, issues such as the safety of their supporters, the removal of oppressive laws, allowing those in the Diaspora to vote, etc. but, instead, they are very excited by having people risk their lives to vote for them.

I cannot recall a single issue on which the MDC-T took a stand and refused to badge unless this or that is done or accepted. They always succumbed to ZANU-PF blackmail and ended up changing their original positions to appease ZANU-PF; always giving away more than they intended, always conceding like they did on Attorney General Johannes Tomana, like they did on the issue of governors; like they did on Roy Bennett; like they did on the constitution; like they did on Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono.

Now we are being insulted by both ZANU-PF and the two MDC’s.

They talk about a referendum.

After crafting a stupid Draft Constitution that was not “people driven” but negotiated, all of them want a ‘yes’ vote during the referendum.

But why a referendum?

And we are supposed to believe that having refused and failed to heed the people’s ideas for the constitution, these people will listen if we say ‘no’ to a constitution they wrote for themselves?

It’s now the people of Zimbabwe versus the so-called principals.

“For me the challenge is not about President Mugabe and Zanu PF failures, which are well-known and well-documented, but it is about the MDC talking about its specific plans and vision,” said the Prime Minister.

No, the challenge was never Mugabe. The challenge has always been the people because, as of now, neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai fully heeds or heeded the people’s voice. The challenge is the willingness to listen to the people and I see no politician who can do that.

The heart of the matter is that talking about “specific plans”, at funerals or wherever the opportunity arises, without giving specific answers is not going to make a difference.

We want to know just how those millions of jobs are going to be created. We want to know how investors are going to be convinced that Zimbabwe is a safe destination when property rights are non-existent. We want to know how the MDC is going to act any different from the way they have acted in government in the last four years.

We want to know specifics so as to make up our minds. Because of corruption and unnecessary numerous concessions the MDC made to ZANU-PF, it is getting harder by the day to distinguish between the two.

We want a clear choice between the two and the difference between both gets blurred by the day.

The MDC must work harder than they have done so far. We want one party in government so we can deal with any government that does not listen to the will of the people, unlike now when those in government always blame the other for non-performance.

The MDC-T must return to its original aims and goals. It must re-instate people to their rightful places as owners and employers of party leaders.

And, oh, the MDC-T must respect funerals…

I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that, my fellow Zimbabweans is the way it is today, Thursday, January 31, 2013.

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