Morgan Tsvangirai has been the subject of much speculation and anecdote, and of books by others. This is his account of himself, written with T. William Bango, but very much in his own voice. Even the intonations and phraseologies are Tsvangiraiâ€™s, so I imagine Bango was copy-editor to a type-script drawn from dictation by Tsvangirai.
It is a huge 663-page book, which suggests it has been copy-edited but not edited in any normal sense. This renders Tsvangiraiâ€™s account somewhat baggy and it would have been a tense and tight read at half the length. However, its length does allow Tsvangiraiâ€™s reflections and descriptions full rein and, of the two, it must be said that the book is one of descriptions first and foremost. Tsvangirai describes his side of the momentous events of contemporary Zimbabwe and, as such, provides an extremely valuable first-hand account â€“ the text of a key player and, clearly, a momentously courageous one.
Tsvangirai, Mugabe and ZANU-PF
It begins right at the beginning, that is at the beginning of his life. And the first chapter is the best-written of the book as the adult Tsvangirai describes the child Tsvangirai and his infant impressions of education, health, religion and race. How much of these impressions are wiser after the fact is impossible to judge. Ironically, his impressions of land and its importance could have been penned by Mugabe himself, or one of Mugabeâ€™s spokesmen. The striking memories are of the childâ€™s recognition of racism and its effects. These are powerful and there is again a corroboration of Mugabeâ€™s own recollections of racism and how it perpetuates a slow burn in oneâ€™s consciousness.
Indeed there is a series of parallels between Tsvangirai and Mugabe that neither man would freely admit. But there is another comparative dimension that Tsvangirai does not labour, and that is â€“ for all his denigrations of Tsvangiraiâ€™s intellectual capacity â€“ that Mugabe has not yet authored his own book, and is now unlikely to have the time to do so. Someone who has written books is Jonathan Moyo, Mugabeâ€™s confidant and critic in a kind of revolving door history. If there is a single person who is essentially despised in Tsvangiraiâ€™s book, it is Jonathan Moyo who comes across as opportunistic, duplicitous, damaging and dangerous. The spokesman of Mugabe is excoriated, in measured tones, even more than Mugabe himself. But if Moyo is criticised, someone who is almost forgiven is the influential ZANU-PF member Ibbo Mandaza on the grounds that Mandaza has essentially always been ZANU-PF, whereas Moyo is a turncoat who turns without conviction but rather the prospect of advantage for himself.
The little episodes that Tsvangirai describes, for instance of Solomon Mujuruâ€™s quarrel with Margaret Dongo in which Mujuru seemed to want to assault Dongo in Parliament, are marvellous character revelations. And those on the fringes of politics, but who have played influential roles traversing the borderlines between inside and out â€“ people such as Nkosana Moyo â€“ are also given pithy judgemental dispatch by Tsvangirai.
Reflection and self
As a book of Tsvangiraiâ€™s formation, of his descriptions of people and events, the tome is quite marvellous. However, where it is without full reflection is in the later sections on his premiership. It is here that, certainly, an alternative account to that of ZANU-PF is given â€“ but Tsvangirai gives it without being particularly critical of himself. His is an account without reflexivity. He certainly describes when he felt angry or depressed but, by and large, fault is ascribed to others. Welchman Ncube, for example, is at fault for the split in the MDC, and Tsvangirai himself emerges merely as the man Ncube misjudged. Of course it is the nature, indeed almost the purpose, of memoirs to exonerate and present in the most favourable light possible the history and accomplishments of the narrator. Tsvangiraiâ€™s book does this, but he could have come across as a more fully philosophical figure if he had elaborated on his failures and doubts.
Tsvangirai clearly under-writes Thabo Mbekiâ€™s contribution to, and understanding of, the Zimbabwean situation. Mbeki, if ever he wrote his own version of events would undoubtedly return the favour. There grew a lukewarm accord between the two men, and there was no chemistry between them. This much is acceptable, but Tsvangirai never seeks to interrogate the chemistry that did develop between Mbeki and Mugabe. In fact, the key word, the interrogative word, â€˜whyâ€™, is seldom asked in this book. The difficulties still faced by Zimbabwe are simply put down to the ZANU-PFâ€™s refusal to cooperate fully with Tsvangirai and recognise his â€˜executive authorityâ€™.
Hopes, thoughts and action for the future
The book ends with a typical Tsvangirai clarion call for the future direction of Zimbabwe to be established by the democratic will of the people. His trust that the people will prevail despite immense ZANU-PF intrigue and intimidation is at once Tsvangiraiâ€™s most touching and revealing attribute. He really does trust the democratic impulse yet he cannot offer any guarantee of real protection for the people who want to exercise democratic choice.
Tsvangiraiâ€™s has been a most volitional path. Sheer willpower, wishing for a better future and genuine selflessness have led him to where he is today. There can be few more genuine and brave Prime Ministers in Africa or anywhere else. This is his account of how it happened, from his perspective, step by step. He does not stop to think, he just wishes for a better future and acts. This would be marvellous if he also had around him people who were more inclined to think than act â€“ people who could provide balance.
The true tragedy implicit in this book therefore, but never admitted explicitly, is his quarrel with Ncube. This is not to exonerate or champion Ncube who freights around with him a heavy load of mistakes and misjudgements, but ZANU-PF can only be stopped by true unity. The real question to be asked of Tsvangirai, as the most senior figure of a mini-phalanx of opposition parties and personalities, is why he has not been able to achieve this unity.