THERE is a growing trend that whenever Zapu holds a successful meeting or makes a move, the media suddenly publishes attacks on our party under the guise of critiques.

Zapu held a very successful meeting at Nkulumane Hall on Sunday last week. Hell broke loose, literally, the moment we did a news release about our meeting.

NewsDay suddenly carried a very curious letter to the editor by someone who questioned both the timing of the revival of Zapu, and Dr Dumiso Dabengwa’s suitability to lead Zapu. Last week’s issue of the Zimbabwe Independent carried an analysis by my colleague Dumisani Nkomo, the CEO of Habakkuk Trust who raised what he thought were factors militating against Zapu in the contemporary political scheme.

Nkomo’s article was to some extent balanced, though it lacked slant. As for the NewsDay letter, it sounded as if it was written by a frustrated MDC-T fan who fears that Zapu’s revival means trouble for his/her party and Zanu-PF, who want to limit political competition between themselves. May be the two analysts’ views, anxieties, fears and advice is justified and needs answers. Why Zapu? Why now? Why Dabengwa? These questions seem to still linger in the minds of some among us and need to be answered. The pleasing fact though is that very few still ask these questions anymore.

For starters, Zapu is the founder and authentic liberation movement of Zimbabwe, and therefore has a legitimate right to be a political player in this country, just like Zanu, the MDCs, Mavambo, and many other parties that exist. The reason why we have revived Zapu now is simply because the environment is ripe and full of all possibilities. In the first place why did Zapu join Zanu-PF? We all know that Zapu was force-marched by Zanu-PF through Gukurahundi to surrender itself to a splinter movement, literally at gunpoint. Such a scenario was bound to collapse the moment it is not possible to repeat Gukurahundi. And we believe it is not possible to repeat Gukurahundi now. Secondly, Zanu-PF is at its weakest since 1980. In fact the pullout of Zapu has further weakened Zanu-PF. Instead of begrudging Zapu, one thinks the analysts would recognize this and congratulate us for having done major structural damage to Zanu-PF.

Thirdly, Zapu and Zanu’s ideologies have always been different. Even withinpresent day  Zanu-PF itself, it is clear for instance that the mentality of John Nkomo, Simon Khaya, and Kembo Mohadi for example, is different from those of the original Zanu characters such as Robert Mugabe, Webster Shamu and crew. As a result, the majority of Zapu supporters or people who would normally be expected to be Zapu supporters never supported the unity accord. It was part of the Zapu leadership that joined Zanu-PF. So why continue with something that our supporters do not like?

Fourthly, Zapu believes this is the right time to come out and stand alone because the country is at crossroads and at the verge of a major political development to take us to a post-Mugabe era. Mugabe turns 87 this month. He has clearly lost energy. Even by his won admission, his absence from office is now ritually associated with his death or ill health. Those with eyes and ears see and hear what is happening and are mobilizing themselves for any eventuality. Anyone intelligent enough can see and hear that one way or the other Mugabe is going to go sooner or later  through any of the following – electoral defeat, incapacity or death – whichever occurs first. We at Zapu don’t want to be found wanting when the inevitable happens. We have learnt from our 21 years of the accord with Zanu-PF that trusting somebody else with your destiny may be dangerous. We do not want to repeat the same mistake again with anyone, Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T included.

Fifthly and most importantly, when everything else (ZUM, Forum, Zapu 2000, Zapu-FP, MDC, MDC-T and Mavambo) has failed, it is perhaps wise to go back to the original thing – Zapu. After all Zapu has got all the necessary institutional memory, capacity, experience and real connection with the masses to be able to confront the monster called Zanu-PF. We have ex-freedom fighters, ex-army officers, ex-cabinet ministers, and -Zanu-PF politburo and central committee members who know exactly what Zanu-PF is and how it operates and are able to counter act. Zapu’s Zipra shared trenches with the ANC’s Umkhonto wesizwe, and  Dabengwa knows and is known by all the veterans in the ANC government, from Msholozi himself, and indeed has friends all over Africa. Dabengwa is Zapu’s key to SADC, AU and indeed the rest of the world. Parence Shiri, Phillip Valerio Sibanda, Constantine Chiwenga, Happyton Boyongwe, Paradzai Zimondi, just to mention a few, have saluted Dabengwa before and cannot turn around and say they will never salute him. Put simply, Dabengwa is the right man for the job at hand. The man was one of the first Zimbabweans to undergo military training and hold a gun for fight for independence. He is the only “Black Russian” in the world. He was one of the pillars around which Zipra – that mighty outfit – was built. He is a man who has always spoken – at times quietly – against injustice against his party and himself. This is the man who refused to be made a Major General in the army at integration because Solomon Mujuru and Lookout Masuku, who were made Lieutenant Generals to General Peter Walls were his juniors whom he trained.

Zapu supporters believe God has spared Dabengwa’s life up to this point for a purpose. For 17 years he was the most wanted person by the Rhodesian regime, was imprisoned by Mugabe on false charges for almost five years, and survived all this. The man has been literally through the needle’s eye several times. He is a gift to Zapu and a phenomenon to those who follow struggles around the world.

The argument that Dabengwa was in Zanu-PF and was Home Affairs Minister up to year 2000 when MDC activistPatric Nabanyama was kidnapped and disappeared, and therefore cannot lead Zapu is pretentious and inconsistent.

How come people who set up and managed the Fifth Brigade which killed more than 20 000 people were called heroes until recently? How about those who were active and known Zanu-PF youth wing members during Gukurahundi like Tsvangirai? Someone once told me that Tsvangirai was part of Zanu youths who stoned Zapu president Joshua Nkomo’s motorcade during the 1985 election campaign in Bindura. My informer swore that he was very serious because they were together with Tsvangirai in Zanu-PF at that time.

I am bringing this up to remind us that when you are pointing a finger at someone (in this case Dabengwa), the other four fingers are pointing at you. If it was good for Tsvangirai to be a member of Zanu during Guklurahundi, it was also good for Dabengwa to be a member of Zanu in 2000. We need to be consistent. There is a sickening tendency in Zimbabwe to blame individuals, usually from Matabeleland, for collective actions of government. Gukurahundi was blamed on Enos Nkala when we know that he was just an individual who did not do as much as Mugabe, Shiri, Emmerson Mnangagwa and other Zanu leaders from the other side did. Prof Jonathan Moyo is the only one to blame for AIPPA. Dabengwa is the one to blame for Nabanyama’s disappearance. Obert Mpofu is to blame for all the corruption in Zimbabwe. Malinga is to blame for all the tribalism in Zimbabwe. Who is to blame now for the violence that is rocking Harare and Chitungwiza? Suddenly it is not the co-ministers of Home Affairs because there is Theresa Makone. There have been several ministers of information after Prof Moyo but at times one gets the impression that people deliberately ignore all these facts when they talk about AIPPA. If Makone is not to blame for the murders, kidnappings and torture being perpetrated currently, Dabengwa would not be the one to blame for things that happened in the run-up to the 2000 elections. We salute Dabengwa’s decision to leave Government in 2000. Otherwise he would still be blamed for everything else that happened afterwards.

Then there is the silly theory that Dabengwa and Makoni “disturbed” Tsvangirai and his MDC-T from winning the 2008 harmonized elections. The sad reality is that Tsvangirai’s Mugabe-like winner-take-all mentality, and not Dabengwa, cost him. Tsvangirai, like Mugabe, wanted to use his big brother mentality to dull doze the other MDC and indeed Mavambo to unite with him at his own terms and this was refused. It is not Dabengwa’s problem that Tsvangirai was not intelligent enough to realize that he needed the so-called smaller parties more than they needed him. Even then, Tsvangirai had the opportunity to contest Mugabe alone in the run-off and he developed jelly knees and fled to Botswana. We need an indoda sibili to deal with Mugabe. There was no Dabengwa or Makoni in the run-off and Tsvangirai was cowed by Zanu-PF’s violence. The situation is even more complex for Tsvangirai now. He needs all of us if he and his party are to live after the next polls. I always fear Tsvangirai would have continued from where Mugabe left if he had managed to be president and Zapu supporters would have continued to see fire under the new Mugabe. Zimbabwe does not need another one-party government. When Mugabe goes, we all must go in as equals.

Then there is the nonsense that Zapu will “disturb” MDC-T. To me, it is like someone saying he wants to kill a buffalo alone because he has a dozen knobkerries, and does not want someone with a machine gun to shoot the buffalo, simply because he has been chasing after the buffalo the whole day and it is now tired. Everyone, whether armed with a knobkerrie or gun, must be allowed to kill the buffalo. There will be plenty meat for all of us when the buffalo has been killed. We need every hand to deal with Zanu-PF, from all fronts. If for instance MDC retains its 100 or so seats, and Zapu eats into Zanu-PF’s share of seats and takes away 30, would that not be the end of Zanu-PF? MDC in my view must view Zapu as an ally and not a foe.

For those saying Zapu must “wait”, our answer is that we are tired of waiting. Zapu prosecuted the struggle only to wait for 30 years to get into power, and is now expected to wait for another 30 years for another party to rule for another 30 years, to make it six decades of waiting. No ways. This time around tirikupinda tese/singena kanye kanye (we are entering into power together). In any case, you don’t need to be as intelligent as a rocket scientist to see that the time for an all-powerful “national” party  has ended. It is now each one for himself.

I could not help laughing reading Nkomo’s article when he implied Mugabe and Tsvangirai were “charismatic”, and Zapu did not have a charismatic leader, in apparent reference to Dr Dabengwa. Tsvangirai and Mugabe are nowhere near being charismatic. Mugabe is forceful, manipulative and Machiavellian. As for Tsvangirai, I will not say much except to say that short, chubby and ugly people can never be charismatic, worse if they do no sound intelligent. That is precisely the reason why the chap is not and will not be president of this country. His personal shortcomings are the reason why a once popular outfit like the MDC has for a decade failed to dislodge a dejected, tired, compromised and discredited party from power.

Admittedly, Dabengwa is not charismatic. Soldiers are not supposed to be charismatic. Our Black Russian is polite, humble, brave, patient, tactful, thoughtful, experienced, talks when necessary, respectable, respects, and dignified. It is these qualities that make us believe he is the right man to lead Zapu in the current circumstances. With his guidance, the next generation of Zapu leadership will certainly be able to takeover at our next congress.

As for Tsvangirai, he owes his progress up to this far to our hatred for Mugabe and Zanu-PF, and the massive international support he received from powerful nations. Give 10 percent of the resources that have been availed to MDC to Zapu and Mugabe will be history. The MDC-T’s main barrier to power has not only been Zanu-PF’s tactics, but also the MDC’s own lack of tactics and solid leadership. Even if Zapu and other forces were to close shop and let MDC-T face Zanu-PF alone that would not help because Zanu will simply refuse to go like they did in March 2008. And there is nothing in the MDC to scare Zanu-PF. However if Zanu-PF found itself without a majority in the legislature and Zapu was part of the parties which constitute the majority, that would pause problems for the former ruling party. We are tired of giving the MDC victories that do not translate to power.

Some of the issues raised by Nkomo, such as his allegation that there is perception that Zapu is a Zanu-PF project have been proven by the short time since the revival of Zapu that our party is a thorn in the wrong place for Zanu-PF, and both MDCs of-course. No one in Zanu-PF, including the trigger-happy Mugabe himself, has the guts to treat Zapu with the same contempt they do the MDCs. And that is not our problem. We have earned the respect of our opponents because of our history, conduct and profile. That is why it is unimaginable that a police men or women would take his baton stick and whip Dabengwa until his face gets deformed the way they did to Tsvangirai in 2007. Let someone try that and we see what happens next. There are some people who think that the fact Zanu-PF has for now not acted in any major violent way towards Zapu means that Zapu and Zanu are friends. We are not. It is a case of both sides being cautious and reserving their energies for harder times. You don’t start a war unnecessarily with a formidable enemy when you can avoid it. Zanu-PF has been clever in that regard. That is why they have ordered the government-owned media they control never to write about Zapu. We have not complained because that gives us the chance to do our things away from unnecessary media interference. That is why people get surprised when they hear that Nkulumane Hall was full to the brim with Zapu members attending an inter-branch meeting.

Then there is the funny theory that Zapu is a regional or tribal party. If Zapu is a Ndebele party because it is led by a Ndebele person, then MDC-T  is a Karanga party and Zanu-PF is a Zezuru party. So we are all tribal parties. So where is the problem? If half-a-loaf is better than nothing, then an inch of a country is better than everything. Zapu has nothing in terms of territory for now. Capture of any part of Zimbabwe, whether a district, province or region would be a huge bonus. We will no lose any sleep over remarks that ours is a regional or tribal party. Dumisani Nkomo also said his perception was that Zapu criticized MDCs more than we did with Zanu-PF. Yes. While we believe Zanu-PF is beyond redemption and we do not expect them to ever change, we are worried that the MDCs, especially the one with Tsvangirai’s surname, has since 2005 become a new Zanu-PF in outlook and character. Also, the MDCs occupy what was traditionally Zapu’s territory. We have to get that territory from the party that is occupying it, the MDCs, and not Zanu-PF. Again, the MDCs are trying hard to counter Zapu in those areas, while Zanu-PF has given up. It is also important to remember that the MDC is now in government and therefore a ruling party that must be criticized just like Zanu-PF. The problem with the MDCs is that they put themselves in situation where they are not able to define if they are ruling or opposition parties under the high-sounding but very loose GPA.

In conclusion, it clear to all and sundry that Zapu, even at this point, is an effective political party which Zimbabwe badly needs to counter Zanu’s bully-boy tendencies. Members of the white community in some areas have come forward to work with the party because they realize that Zapu may be a small but vicious dog. We have been able in many instances, especially in the Matabeleland region, to stop people from elsewhere being bussed by Zanu-PF to invade the few remaining commercial farms. Despite all the support the white people gave to MDC, the party could do nothing when Zanu-PF disposed them of the land, and now wants to dispossess them of their firms in the cities. Zapu is clearly a strong and effective opposition party, even at its infancy.

Finally, we need Zapu to recover all the properties that our party and our Zipra veterans bought but were forcibly taken by Zanu-PF and given to government or Zanu-PF activists. We have realized that none but ourselves can push our agenda. No one from the two MDCs has ever opened their mouth to say Zipra and Zapu must be given back their properties. Contrast that to the matter of Mutumwa Mawere, an individual who lost his assets to Zanu-PF, and the MDC-T has gone out of its way to support his fight to repossess the companies. We have revived Zapu because we need Magnet House in Bulawayo, and Snake Park in Harare, with all our snakes, back to Zapu. We are as aggrieved as Mawere.

Zapu invested in its future and has assets and a culture that perpetuates itself, and will therefore never die. Nkomo is therefore obviously wrong to ask if Zapu is not a party for the past. We are a party for the past, present and future. Zapu will outlive most of the parties, because most of them were never founded on any tangible ideological background. Let me take this opportunity to remind all Zimbabweans that Zapu was formed on December 17, 1961 and this year is our Golden Jubilee. Fifty years is no joke. Expect to hear more about this as we move towards the 17th of December 2011. How we wish the elections could be held during the year of our Golden Jubilee.