Saturday, 21 July 2007

Vatican: When the plumage is better than the dying bird

Vatican: When the plumage is better than the dying bird

President Mugabe this week disclosed what the British establishment has been up to in respect of Zimbabwe politics. The British establishment has been trying to sponsor a coup here in order to bring about a regime type it hopes will protect its interests in the country. This new, muscular effort by the British establishment would seem to suggest that its hope and belief in an MDC-led regime change has evaporated, what with repeated electoral defeats of its fissiparous proxy by Zanu-PF. A ballot-based, MDC-led regime change strategy would have at least given Britain’s imperial project here a veneer of both democratic respectability and legitimacy. Now even that respectability is an encumbrance. The fig leaf is off, thrusting to the fore a coarser strategy that throws caution to the wind.

Better than a British gulag?

Does the British establishment hope and expect the Zanla/Zipra-derived command of our national security establishment to undermine what it created through blood and tears? This is a gross anomaly which only a haughty empire is capable of entertaining in the belief that any African is a potential askari, depending on the colour of the currency on offer. As is well known, the Zimbabwe security establishment is too steeped in the ethos of the liberation struggle to be turned so easily into a pawn of imperialism. What is more, it is an active participant in national processes, including the Third Chimurenga which created the present circumstances of conflict with the British, the Europeans and the Americans. To expect it, therefore, to oppose the very outcome it helped make, one, therefore, it identifies with, is a bit too much. What is more, to expect it to find better prospects in a resultant British neo-colonial gulag created out of the collapse of a Zanu-PF government, is to deny it the most basic instinct of self-preservation and common sense.

A humane, democratic coup

Another point needs to be made. The reverses which Britain continues to suffer through repeated electoral failure of the quisling MDC, threaten the democratic national body politic through the barrel politics which the British establishment has sought to inspire here. If one considers that the British and American charge sheet against the Zanu-PF Government is replete with accusations of flouting democratic tenets, the British drift towards a coup-driven political change becomes not just ironic, but cynical.

Is a coup the cure to Zanu-PF’s alleged undemocratic politics? Is it a democratic means to a new Zimbabwe which Britain and its opposition acolytes have been agitating for? Above all, if one considers that Britain, the EU and America want to dress their hostility towards Harare in values, instruments and resolutions of Sadc, the AU and the Commonwealth, what does this advocacy of military intervention amount to?

Sadc, the AU and the Commonwealth in whose name Britain couches her anti-Zimbabwe posture, have renounced military intervention as a way of bringing about a change of government. How does one harmonise Britain’s military blueprint for change here with this unanimous position of the three multilateral agencies whose values Britain pretends to be defending here in Zimbabwe?

I might as well disclose that as part of its orchestration for post-coup consent, the Blair government went as far as priming the Commonwealth and its willing secretary general, to prepare to justify and unconditionally embrace the outcome however bloody. In other words, Sadc, the AU and Imperial Club’s anti-coup ethos did not matter to Blair and his government, and were going to be changed to accommodate this one "humane" and "democratic" coup meant to reassert Pax Britannica. This must be sobering to all those who mistakenly think that Britain, Europe and America are a triumvirate of democracy and good governance here.

Straitjacketing Brown

Gordon Brown is carving his premiership against such a sordid, ethically free foreign policy background. TB’s hawks (led by the maverick Kate Hoey), who are anxious that Brown maintains the Blair course on Zimbabwe, have started piling pressure on him, to gratuitous echoes from the British media.

The pretext is the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit to which the President of Zimbabwe will be invited by the host Portuguese government. Hawks in the Conservatives have also joined in the bark and bash, with the foetal William Hague exhorting Brown to speak against the invitation, and to call for the widening of illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The British Sunday Times suggested Brown has succumbed to this pressure by telling his Portuguese counterpart he will boycott the summit should Mugabe be invited. The article added the premier is daunted by the prospect of an accidental handshake with President Mugabe, as did Jack Straw at the UN! But credible reports have also indicated Brown has been contacting all the heads in Sadc to gauge African opinion on Zimbabwe, something quite out of tune with TB’s way of tackling the Zimbabwe issue.

What Brown needs to know

Whatever is going on behind the scene, a few points need to be made clear to Gordon Brown. Zimbabwe will not make any U-turn. It has none to make. Only Britain can and has a turn to make in respect of Zimbabwe. Blair admitted to as much to Thabo Mbeki. We are vindicating national rights against a rapacious imperial power.

This is a fight for freedom, and one we cannot lose, we can never go weary. Zimbabwe has survived the worst, and is evolving ways of coping without Western support. It has done so from 2000 and is gradually adjusting its systems to self-sustain.

A Zimbabwe that picks itself up, unaided, will not need a Britain in future, indeed will become more assertive. President Mugabe will win elections in March 2008, elections which will be recognised by the whole of Africa and the Third World as free and fair. We run elections quite well here, far, far better than Big Brother Nigeria, whose shambolic elections Blair had little difficulty in recognising.

Negative Western judgment will not matter at all. The current hype over Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown only misleads the West and no one else.

Zimbabwe’s economy will not collapse; no economy ever does except in the media. Brown will fight the next elections with President Mugabe still in office, most probably presiding over a recovering economy. British interests will be weakened severely as this recovery gathers pace in the context of continued British hostility. Now he must decide whether to vindicate his predecessor’s hostile policies here, or to open a new era of enlightened foreign policy.

The return of the white native?

Which takes me to a story which has been running for a while. White former farmers who left the country at the peak of land reforms, we are told, are trooping back to resettle, having concluded it is impossible to settle elsewhere in the world. They expect to be hailed or, at the very least, to be washed and forgiven like the biblical prodigal son.

Except the rapt media have not stopped to ask a few relevant questions. Why does this realisation seize this lost Rhodesian tribe a few months before the March 2008 general elections which the British have described as crucial to their project here? What reception do these farmers expect here? What opportunities are they expecting here? And the land question? Have they accepted it, and are they expecting any resettlement? Did they ever leave, or were they running their affairs and interests here from another country, another place? Have they really left the countries they fled to? Will they stay once the MDC gets beaten again? What will be their role in that election and who will they vote?

Watch out Zimbabwe! We could be in the middle of another 2000 where white farmers availed their infrastructure and personnel to the MDC which proceeded to win a significant part of the vote without a single organisational cell. Fortunately, those tasked with vigilance are hard at work and more shall be told.

The burdens of Catholicism

Pius Ncube, o-oh my good Lord! I leave the whole matter to his God, the courts and his conscience. I notice he wants to go to the courts. I am sure more shall be revealed and we shall all be shocked and amused at the same time. It is interesting how a man of God renders himself unto Caesar’s courts, in the process pledging greater faith in earthly judgment.

I am Catholic myself, albeit a lukewarm one. I worry, worry a lot about the future of my church. Whereto, my church? The more the court processes spew out ungodly detail behind the vestry, the less inhabitable this great House of God will be, both for God and man. I happen to know what is on tape. I cannot say more except to pray for my church. Without this extra pressure of a negative Press, it was already under retreating from Pentecostal onslaught. People were deserting the church in droves, leaving only mature believers behind, mostly mothers, married mothers.

Now these loyal mothers, themselves the bastion of the church’s membership, find themselves on tenterhooks in the supposed House of Peace and Righteousness. They have to prove their innocence, prove to sceptical husbands that any creases and folds on the bright, blue skirt owe to nothing sinister but mere reckless seating in worshipful moments.

It is burdensome to be both a Catholic and woman. Burdensome too to be nun, should ZBC choose to show us all that is alleged to have been happening in the holy man’s boudoir. It is going to be really nasty.

When prophets cannot see the mundane

But the sleazy aside, serious issues beg. Why is the Church, which is so quick to call itself the prophetic voice, so slow to deal with a contemporary allegation relating to one of its own? Is the matter too immediate for prophecy, itself the domain of disciples? True, Archbishop Ndlovu is an equivalent of Pius Ncube, and thus cannot summon him for some audience. But there is the Papal Nuncio in Mt Pleasant? But there is the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference? Is ZCBC not the Politburo of the Catholic Church? I mean if it has enough courage to tackle Government from such an uninformed position, surely it can tackle one of their own accused of transgressing holy standards they breathe, eat and dream?

Through Pius Ncube and other priests like Wermter, the Catholic Church has not hesitated to judge and condemn, in the process implying high standards for itself and its servants. Through Pius Ncube, it has even pronounced a fatwa on politicians, including the President. It has not left vengeance to God, suggesting doctrinal fundamentalism that dwarfs those sworn to Osama. Why this sudden ambivalence of a faith whose world is so Manichean?

Larger than one person, larger than

one church

Where is the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, itself the ecumene of all denominations in the country, and to which the Catholic Church pledged an affiliate status? Beyond the specifics of the allegations faced by Pius Ncube, surely this whole matter raises the whole question of conduct and behaviour of any church’s civil servants? One does not necessary have to be a Pius (no pun intended) and a Catholic to face the kind of allegation the archbishop now faces.

More than individuals, this is about the Zimbabwean Church, about Zimbabwe and its faith, and all those who claim to lead Christendom. And the Christian Alliance of Kadenge? How does he hope to "save Zimbabwe" when he cannot save the soul of his holy kind? The bishops have now discovered that far from facing blazing guns from Government, they are facing blazing shame they cannot handle. The very State which they condemned as devilish is protecting them from themselves. I leave the holy men for a while, to turn to the earthly matters of flesh.

Our man, right or wrong

The Herald yesterday carried a blazing letter from the foreign-funded MISA, frothing about "ethical journalism and the principle of fair and balanced reporting". MISA went much further: "The State media’s coverage of this case reinforces concerns that these media are used as political weapons against perceived enemies of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite. The showing of graphic pictures of alleged moments of intimacy of parties allegedly involved in this matter smacked of an agenda beyond normal journalistic reporting."

MISA added that the images played by the

public media "tarnish the respectable reputation and image of the archbishop once and for all".

The statement was signed by one Loughty Dube, MISA’s chairperson based in Bulawayo, itself the setting for the alleged misdeeds by the holy man. Dube, who works for the Independent, followed through by another instalment in the Independent which sought to link both the complainant and the investigator to State security machinery. Not to be outdone, Muckraker followed up with a barrage of questions, including one asking where Mahoso is for not taking action against public media through provisions provided under AIPPA. Suddenly both Mahoso and AIPPA have become good!

The gossiper also takes a provocative swipe at the President, stating "he is not exactly a paragon of virtue", a line taken up by one Tawanda Mutasa, who introduces himself as "a friend of Archbishop Pius Ncube". I happen to know that he is writing from South Africa and is credited with the launch of the NCA. He is a very righteous man, as evidenced by who he befriends. Then there were advertorials from Zimrights and Ncube’s South Africa-based Solidarity Peace Trust, both seeking to show Pius Ncube has been hard done by. Solidarity Peace Trust goes much further:

"It (Solidarity Peace Trust) notes the accusation of adultery that has been made against the Archbishop, and regardless of truth or falsity, stands by him during this very difficult ordeal." And without any hint of irony, it adds: "Archbishop Ncube has over several years taken a strong moral stand against the repression and political and human rights abuses of the Zimbabwean state, and for his efforts the Mugabe regime has continuously tried to smear his good character." Nothing surpasses such bigotry from a body led by religious figures who have embraced gays and lesbians.

Shifting the accused, accusing

the innocent

All told, there has been a hefty reaction to the coverage of the story, expectedly from the same quarters opposed to President Mugabe and Zanu-PF. If you were coming from Mars you would be forgiven for thinking that the accused is President Mugabe and his Government.

How does a person or an institution making a case for giving due process a chance, end up incriminating and passing judgment on a person who is not party to the proceedings, indeed who is not in the pictures (no pun intended)? Where does President Mugabe come in? Who says he is virtuous? How virtuous are those querying his virtue? And yet if their own fallibility does not stop them from casting aspersions, why are they condemning the public media for doing the same? More important, they use the argument of letting the courts decide. True the courts shall decide. But how do you declare in the same argument that the public media had tarnished "the respectable reputation and image of the archbishop" without suggesting a judgment for the same courts? Or dare say you stand by the archbishop "regardless of the truth or falsity"?

When nudity is not nude

After March 11 and much later, towards the middle of the year, we were all treated to the double nudity of Grace Kwinjeh and Beatrice Mtetwa. MISA did not raise a finger, in fact knew nothing about ethics of journalism. Nudity then made political profit for the MDC, and was thus justified. It was nudity that was less nude, according to our holy MISA!

Then came this one, focusing attention on one of their number and, hey, suddenly moral prudery hits the zenith. Surely we want to talk about ethical standards, not this my-man-right-or-wrong attitude. It cheapens the whole debate. And in all this, who speaks for the complainant? Is a media-led trashing of a complainant not itself a trashing of the due process? Who speaks for Sibanda in this whole debate? And assuming he worked for the security structures, does this destroy his right to approach the courts with allegations for which he seeks redress?

Supposing Tekere once worked for the security structures of the State, does that impair his findings? Or take away the subject of his pictures? Why this fascination with the "how" of the whole saga, and not its "what", which is what passes for the great question of the day? Supposing Ncube is acquitted by the courts, would that kill allegations he faces from society, from churchgoers specifically?

What is the place of human courts in the indictment of a holy man? Why do we want to pity the plumage while forgetting the dying bird? The bottom line is a man whose industry and purpose turns on high moral standards, faces very serious allegations of an extraordinary moral lapse. He badly needs to clear himself, FULLSTOP. The media which bring to public attention circumstances of the allegations cannot be more morally blameworthy than alleged actors in this drama suggesting monumental moral failure. Who Ncube has been attacking politically, what cause he has been peddling politically, does not put him above allegations or coverage. That is not what created the circumstances that caused the writ in the first place.

Gag order

I do not like a bit this gag order from Ncube’s lawyer. What is it meant to do? Intimidate the public media? This from the lawyer of a man who lives in the glare of international media, a man who delights in abusing other people’s reputations with impunity? This from a man who claims to be a democrat, who claims to hate any fettering of civil liberties, including that of freedom of expression.

Is it not ironic that his lawyer seeks redress through a section of AIPPA, the same AIPPA Ncube denounced before Colin Powell, leading to greater US hostility against Zimbabwe? And if we allow a mere archbishop to gag the media that way, how about more powerful citizens like the President who has suffered serious besmirching without bringing down the gag order? And MISA backs gags? Why MISA anyway, and not the brand new Media Council it created in the name of ZUJ? It is truly pathetic. But there is a silver lining to all this. Our law could very well be on the verge of a jurisprudential breakthrough. We watch, we listen. Icho!

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