Dear Honourable SG
Comrade SG, I imagine that these must be especially trying times for you as the SG of our movement, the MDC-T, as they are for many of us as ordinary members of our beloved movement, which we have strived to serve loyally for many years.
I say this to apologize that I impose an additional burden on you by sending you this long letter.
In recent weeks I have discerned a disturbing trend and that is that violence has been increasingly threatened and used. Several party employees and staff members who are not aligned to your faction have been beaten, harassed and banished from MRT House.
Some senior leaders have been threatened with violence by thugs linked to you. Most recently a senior party employee was hospitalized after being stabbed by vigilantes linked to you. It is very clear that this orgy of violence will not end soon.
I do not propose at this juncture to delve into who is responsible for that violence. I am however of the strong view that what is needed now is a deep-rooted commitment from you to refrain from violence, not just in word but more importantly in action.
Anyone can simply condemn violence – Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF did that all the time at the very time they were plotting evil.
Violent tendencies can only be quashed if leaders like you demonstrate that they are not prepared to tolerate violence in any form or fashion.
In the coming months, we will stage an Extra-Ordinary Congress. I am concerned that if violence is tolerated or condoned in intraparty disputes that the same policy may be applied at our much-awaited Extra-Ordinary Congress.
In this regard, I draw your attention to the “Pledge to non-violence” drafted by Martin Luther King for the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights which I have both attached and set out in full below.
I think the following points about it should be noted:
1. Our aim in both the settlement of intraparty disputes and in our struggle against the regime should be to achieve “justice and reconciliation – not a victory”.
The organisation we serve is after all the Movement for Democratic Change not the Movement for Change. In other words, mere victory over the MDC G40 faction or Zanu PF should never be our goal – our goal should be to bring about a new order of peace, justice and reconciliation, not the continuation of the hatred, pain, intolerance and overwhelming power we have experienced under Zanu PF.
2. We need to “walk and talk in the manner of love”. We cannot just talk about non-violence; our entire demeanour must reflect our commitment to non-violence.
This applies particularly when dealing with internal disputes. Our walk begins with how we treat our own brothers and sisters in the struggle.
How can we possibly convince the world that we have noble objectives if in the settlement of our internal disputes we are so quick to resort to violence or to turn a blind eye to violence?
3. We need to “sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men shall be free”. One of the things that have distressed me the most is the realisation that many in your camp are not interested in free, fair and non-violent contestation because that is the very thing that will obstruct their path to higher office.
4. If our struggle is indeed a noble one, if we are to maintain the moral high ground, then we must observe “the ordinary rules of courtesy” with both “friend and foe”.
How can it be that you have allowed yourself to be so uncouth towards colleagues, comrades and friends who have been to hell and back together with you in the last 20 or so years?
What has caused you to stoop so low to sling all manner of unsubstantiated barbs against others in the last 4 months?
Why is it that you have not afforded others the courtesy of testing “facts” before publishing untrue and wildly defamatory statements about your colleagues?
Why have you resorted to making such vile and vitriolic statements about your colleagues in public? I have been utterly appalled by the use of words like ‘dogs’, ‘2 angry Ndebeles’, to describe colleagues who are in the trenches with you.
Indeed what has greatly diminished the moral authority of our struggle against the Zanu regime and MDC G40 faction has been our distinct lack of courtesy shown to each other.
It is now perfectly reasonable for the Chamisa group to argue that they are up against uncouth people who do not care for truth or the observation of ordinary rules of courtesy.
5. Our commitment to non-violence should be all-embracing; we need to “refrain from the violence of fist, tongue or heart”.
In other words, we need to watch our physical actions, what we say and importantly what motivates us. One can pay lip service to non-violence and even refrain ourselves from the violence of the fist, whilst at the same time entertaining deep-rooted malice which eventually spills out.
It is no good putting on a facade of commitment to non-violence whilst at the same time encouraging others, especially young people, behind closed doors to engage in violence.
Recently we have been given the excuse that violent acts and statements committed by young men at MRT House were not done with your blessings.
That is simply not good enough. In my experience young people rarely engage in acts of violence unless they are encouraged to do so by leaders behind closed doors.
The history of Zimbabwe is littered with examples of young men and women being sacrificed to achieve the personal political goals of their elders.
We must break this cycle both in the settlement of our intraparty disputes. The cycle can only be broken if leaders like yourself consistently demonstrate in their words and actions their deep-rooted commitment to using non-violence.
Unless those who have engaged in violence are disciplined and expelled from the party young people will inevitably be left with the impression that leaders simply do not want to be associated with violence but actually support the use of violence.
6. There is a need for discipline – all must “follow the directions of the movement”. Even if leaders are committed to non-violent methods being used, undisciplined and over-exuberant people can get carried away in attempting to achieve what is otherwise a noble goal.
I have been alarmed by the cavalier attitude displayed by you in dealing with an intraparty dispute. You seem to be prepared to throw caution to the wind and not to care how your strategies and tactics may unfold.
As a leader, you have a responsibility to consider carefully what you say and do and also leaders like yourself need to ensure that their followers are highly disciplined.
If this approach is not adopted there is a great danger that a wildfire will be ignited that will be difficult to extinguish and indiscriminate in its destruction.
I recognise that you may be deeply sceptical about what I have written. You may just think that these are irrelevant musings of a naive youthful activist who does not understand the nature of this struggle and what is needed to pursue it to its logical conclusion.
I hold to these views not just because I think they are morally correct but because I also believe that these principles provide the best and most effective means of bringing democratic change to our beloved nation.
I think if we engage in intraparty violence we will simply perpetuate the struggle for freedom and never deal with the root causes of our nation’s distress.
Let me conclude by saying that whether you commit yourself to these principles or not I am determined to do everything in my power to continue persuading anyone who will listen that this is the right way. I can do no better than to quote Martin Luther King again in this regard.
“I’ve decided that I’m going to do battle for my philosophy. You ought to believe something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it till the end of your days.
I can’t make myself believe that God wants me to hate. I’m tired of violence. And I’m not going to let my oppressor dictate to me what method I must use.
We have power, power that can’t be found in Molotov cocktails, but we do have power. The power that cannot be found in bullets and guns, but we have power.
It is a power as old as the insights of Jesus of Nazareth and as modern as the techniques of Mahatma Gandhi.”
It would be wonderful if you in particular and all the other democratic leaders in the party would make a similar pledge to the one drafted by Martin Luther King 57 years ago.
Councillor Thobani Ncube
Bulawayo MDC-T Youth Assembly Organising Secretary and Ward 23 Councillor