Tsholotsho debacle: the untold story


Who is Who of Southern Africa, published in 1998, a year before Jonathan Moyo came onto the political scene, describes him as “a high-powered academic” destined for a senior post at the University of Zimbabwe.

He did not make it back to the University of Zimbabwe, where he had been a lecturer before joining the Ford Foundation in Kenya, but he made it to the University of Witwatersrand.

Moyo did not stay, however. Within months he was heading the propaganda section of the Constitutional Commission tasked with drafting a new constitution that was rejected by Zimbabweans in February 2000. But he had laid the groundwork for his appointment as Information Minister following a narrow ZANU PF victory in the June 2000 elections.

Considered an outsider and an opportunist, Moyo methodically worked his way up, chopping down anyone who stood in his path and becoming one of the most powerful people in the country.

Editors were thrown out of jobs faster than junior reporters. More than 1 500 media workers lost their jobs.

Moyo had become so powerful that most people thought he was now untouchable. But things changed dramatically after he allegedly organised a meeting in his home constituency, Tsholotsho, in November to oppose the nomination of Joyce Mujuru as vice-president. He fell with a thud. He was kicked out of the ZANU PF central committee and its politburo. He has been denied the constituency he worked so hard for and the axe is hanging over his ministerial job.

But, surprisingly, although he has lost control of the state media, his most powerful tool, he has dominated the news ever since his political career took a dive, overshadowing the new vice-president Joyce Mujuru, who made history by becoming the first woman to attain that position and should have been the media focus.

Moyo, who is said to be one of the most disliked ministers both by his own colleagues in the ruling party and the public, has proved that he is hot material. His story sells.

But the media’s obsession with Moyo, although justified because of the havoc he created in the industry, has robbed the public of an explanation of what really transpired at Tsholotsho and who was behind the meeting.

Moyo has successfully organised political and musical galas. But he did not have the capacity to organise a gathering of the magnitude of the Tsholotsho meeting, unless he had powerful backers.

According to reports, the meeting was almost a who-is-who in ZANU PF, especially among the party’s so-called Young Turks. The fact that it was attended by six of the 10 provincial chairmen, provincial governors and ministers says a lot.

This is reflected by the fact that although President Robert Mugabe vowed to deal with all those who attended the Tsholotsho meeting, a good number seems to have got away.

The media has so far given the impression that Moyo was the biggest, if not the only, loser. He has drawn so much attention that people have not been kept abreast with the fate of the suspended provincial chairmen, or that of the chairman of the war veterans association and all the others who attended the meeting.

But more importantly, the public has not been informed about the significance or implications of the meeting itself and President Mugabe’s decision to deal with the rebels.

“There was nothing wrong with the suspension of the six chairmen, but what is wrong is the media focus,” political commentator Lawton Hikwa said.

“There is too much focus on Moyo. We are not being told what happened to the suspended chairmen, the leader of the war veterans association and all those who attended the Tsholo-tsho meeting. And people are still in the dark about what the meeting was all about.”

Hikwa argued that the party had every right to suspend the people it suspended. He said from a layman’s point of view, it appeared that the party was being harsh because people had a right to meet in any democratic society.

“Organisations are run along specified operational guidelines and according to their constitutions. Those involved in the Tsholotsho meeting got it all wrong because they ignored party protocol. So the disciplinary action taken against them was a question of procedure rather than an attack on democracy,” Hikwa said.

He said another problem was that the local media, both independent and public, tended to institutionalise people. “Moyo is not an institution within he party. The media has to tell us what happened to all those who attended the meeting.”

Although President Mugabe has tried to give the impression that he was on top of the situation, he conceded a lot of ground to the “rebels”. Apart from the provincial chairmen, the only other people who seem to have been given the chop are Justice Minster Patrick Chinamasa, war veterans deputy chairman Joseph Chinotimba, who had been elected to the party’s central committee, and former deputy minister Tony Gara.

Junior ministers Abednico Ncube, Andrew Langa and Flora Buka, and provincial governor Josaya Hungwe seem to have got away. The list could be much longer as no one made an inventory of who attended the meeting.

The media seems to have ignored these anomalies which, some say, reflect the simmering divisions within the ruling party.

Observers say the ruling party’s decision to deal with the provincial chairmen and some of the politicians who had built solid bases in their constituencies could cost it dearly in the coming elections.

Herald columnist Nathaniel Manheru, who most people claim is Jonathan Moyo, put it this way: “ZANU PF needs to introspect a little and see itself warts and all. Its Young Turks may have been abrasive and even subversive, but they represent an urge that exists in the party, which may grow stronger and too insistent to be ignored, the urge for a style more competitive, elective and meritorious.

“Equally, its old guard represents wisdom and the radical continuity of struggle. But not all of them are patriotic, innovative, current, competent and of democratic temperament . . . Some in their midst hide behind the aura of age, the halo of time and in fact stand greatly beholden to the same Young Turks who stood stout and steadfast to reorganise against the MDC after the 2000 bruising challenge.

“Moyo and his colleagues may have erred, may even be a problem. But they are hardly enemies.”

By focusing entirely on Moyo, the media could be in for a bumpy ride. There is much more to the Tsholotsho meeting than meets the eye.

Moyo could just be a scapegoat to enable the government to smoothen things so that ZANU PF can get back its respectability ahead of the crucial elections, which have to be seen to be free and fair and have to conform to regional and international guidelines.


See also: Dinyane was to be the coup de grace


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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