Having been an ardent follower of Magaisa’s incisive and beautifully written BRSs over the years a few of his recent articles on the goings on in the Movement for Democratic Change outfit with relation to the internal tussles for power have set me thinking. Initially I made some responses to his articles then I stopped. What made me stop was the realisation that I was fast degenerating into an unproductive intellectual spurring with an intellectual who had ceased to be objective on the matter.
So I set myself to study the trend in his arguments and thought processes in as far as this matter is concerned. One of his latest facebook postings where he shared a memory of a scene during the constitution making process at Leopard Rock deep in the Vumba mountains in Mutare set my mind on a new assessive trajectory.
As I watched Magaisa and Mwonzora side by side facing the outbursts from Paul Mangwana of Zanu PF something dawned on me about these two lawyers. From the exchanges with Mangwana it is clear Magaisa is a politically naïve legal theorist while Mwonzora is a street wise pragmatic legal political actor.
Like they say theory and practice complement each other like thinking and doing. Thinking and doing make a smashing combination. With this in mind I watched the documentary Mugabe and the Democrats featuring Douglas Mwonzora with Magaisa appearing here and there. What is evident is that Mwonzora is both a thinker and a doer. And this is a critical quality of an effective leader and negotiator. Doing is guided by thinking.
Both Mwonzora and Magaisa are qualified lawyers. Both are brilliant individuals in their own right. Magaisa is currently a law lecturer at University of Kent in the United Kingdom. Mwonzora is a former law lecturer at the Great Zimbabwe University and University of Zimbabwe. Magaisa is a career legal academic and Mwonzora is a career legal and political practitioner.
Magaisa and Mwonzora closely worked together in the Constitution making process from 2011 to 2013 which saw the birth of Zimbabwe’s new constitution through Amendment 20 by the Parliament of Zimbabwe. Magaisa played the role of legal advisor to Mwonzora in the process. Mwonzora was the COPAC Co Chairperson alongside Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana and Edward Tshotsho Mkhosi.
While both men are lawyers one is an active politician and the other is not. Mwonzora has dabbled in Zimbabwean politics from his days at the University of Zimbabwe in 1988 through dances with Tekere’s Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM), Enock Dumbutshena’s Forum Party, Muzorewa’s United Parties and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change(MDC) in which he is a member to date. Both men worked with Morgan Tsvangirai. Mwonzora started working with Tsvangirai in 1992 just after completing his law degree. Tsvangirai was then Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). Mwonzora was a founder member of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) led by Tsvangirai at its inception in 1997. When the MDC was formed in 1999 Mwonzora and Lovemore Madhuku were some of the people who were strategically left in the NCA. The NCA was closely linked with the MDC. Its massive support base estimated to be around 500 000 individuals included MDC structures. When Magaisa started working with Mwonzora in 2011 he had no direct link with Tsvangirai and the MDC as a party. On the completion of the constitution making process Magaisa was elevated to the position of Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.
He started working directly with Tsvangirai. However, his links with the party led by Tsvangirai was very casual as Magaisa himself confirms in one of his BSRs. So practically Magaisa has never been politically active in any capacity other than ‘articlery’ analyses. From this angle whatever political views Magaisa propounds are experientially deficient. However, this does not mean they are not well thought. Magaisa is a thinker and one can’t take that away from him. Even when he misses the point his thought process is never flawed.
Lately, though something has become evidently amiss in Magaisa’s objective dissection of critical national issues. In clear display of patent partisanship which borders on propaganda he has adopted an insultive subjective stance that has generally left his objective ardent followers in awe. He has used all manner of name calling words to describe a fellow lawyer and his one time working colleague, Mwonzora, with so much venom. It is normal for every human being to favour one person or another as they deem. However, for objective analysts of repute to put paid that reputation to advance a patently flawed narrative littered with deliberate misinformation and partisanship boggles the mind. But hey every dog has its day. Its every individual’s right to choose the path they want. Magaisa’s one sided narrative on the MDC saga has become unhelpful and has only served to drive deeper the wage between the protagonist involved. While he deliberately misleads one group he vilifies with putrid abandon judicial decisions and those who choose to respect them leading to his articles failing to fully inform his audience for national and unadulterated intellectual development.
It attracts sadness for an intellectual icon of Magaisa’s calibre to blatantly sink so low as to hit subjects of his analysis below the belt knowing so well by virtue of their positions they can not answer back. One will have no option but to admire Douglas Mwonzora for not seeking to retaliate to these uncalled for attacks. I have noted since Magaisa started his anti Mwonzora diatribe the victim has kept his cool to the point of seeming oblivious.
An assessment of the two men reveals that basically Magaisa is a desktop or laptop operator who relies on what he has read and heard while Mwonzora is a field operator who relies on what he does and sees. These two different settings influence how the two respond to a given situation. While both have legal backgrounds the two are not operating in the same realm socio politically. It would be therefore wrong for either to assume a judgmental aura over the other as we have seen Magaisa doing.
Magaisa and Mwonzora are like a coach and a player in football. While the coach observes and guides players on how to play it is the player knows when to kick or head the ball and what amount of force to apply for the ball to get to a particular point. Furthermore, it is the player who decides which move is best to employ in a given situation on the field of play. The player decides which angle to aim on the goal post. The player may decide to chest or head or scissor kick an aerially approaching ball. At the end of the day the player has to play within the confines of the rules of the game. Magaisa’s current attitude is like that of a coach believes and encourages his players to break rules of the game as long as they achieve their goal.
In my view since Mwonzora, the player, is on the field and has experience he is better placed to decipher what may or may not work on the ground. His experience enables him to employ other legal inputs and different kinds of legal solutions to the political situation confronting him. Being an academic exposes one to various possibilities around a given situation. Being a practitioner exposes one to practical possibilities around a given situation.
Magaisa is a legal academic and Mwonzora is a legal practitioner. While Magaisa has spend most of his legal time in the lecture room Mwonzora has spend most of his legal time in the courtroom. Experientially unlike Mwonzora Magaisa is not a politically active lawyer. He can do a lot in learning from the likes of Biti, Ncube and Coltart. I deliberately left out Nelson Chamisa and Job Sikhala because they are still green as lawyers. They are politically active green lawyers. They only became practicing lawyers after becoming politicians. They are politicians who became lawyers while Mwonzora and the other three are lawyers who became politicians.
It is not far fetched to conclude that Magaisa is a theoretical ‘lawvist’ in politics while Mwonzora is a pragmatic ‘lawvist’ in politics. While Magaisa exposes the theoretical possibilities Mwonzora exposes practical possibilities. Magaisa is a legal academic and Mwonzora is a legal practitioner. Mwonzora is a political and legal actor. Magaisa is a legal consultant and non political actor. Politically he qualifies as a desktop analyst. His short stint in the office of the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe does not qualify him as an expert analyst on the Zimbabwean political landscape particularly in the dynamics inherent in the opposition playfield. Magaisa is exposing himself as a legal Ivory Tower Intellectual, theoretically, wading in the maze of an actual political field where he can’t tell the east from the west. While his views have often been valid his current drift into insultive opinionated diatribal rants against Mwonzora is fast exposing an alter ego hitherto hidden all these years. Instead of our intellectual icons becoming doyens of well thought objective alternative views they have turned into propaganda mouthpieces sowing thorny seeds of confusion in the Zimbabwean body politic.
Think tanks have ceased to be sources of undiluted synthesis of issues of national interests. Unlike in the past when one meets Magaisa’s writing on the MDC saga one can easily tell what he is going to say without reading. He keeps repeating the same narrative veiled in different colours. He has become so predictable and has attracted himself a chunk of fanatical intolerant praise singers of arnachy within the opposition circles. Our nation has become cursed even on the island of sanity called intellectualism.