Friday, 14 September 2007

Aussies: Bruised, bowled, battered beyond doubt

Aussies: Bruised, bowled, battered beyond doubt

We beat them. We bowled them out. Hey, what sweet victory! Now it’s clear why Howard and Downer blocked those boys from Down Under from coming up North. Both men had a presentiment of defeat, and as events would have it, one well founded too. Now those guys from the penal colony know what stuff we are made of. And let them be warned: it is not just in cricket.

We will bowl their politics too, bowl the wretch they sponsor here called Tsvangirai. Those millions shall be eaten in vain. And if they seek to escalate matters by an Iraq-like adventure, they will be bloodied. I have just been sampling coverage of this historic cricket game, which buried these Australians. You feel their numb, feel Australia’s writhe. You feel that penal country’s excruciating agony, feel its ignominy at being felled by an imagined underdog. We, the small axe that fells the proud, giant iroko tree. Well done boys!

When the trained Alsatian eats dung

The agony also comes through by way of a frantic search for an escape — national escape — over this disaster. One report claimed Zimbabwe won from nature, never from nurture. It was the poor, ill-trained side only favoured by wild winds and rains. It was not the quality of play which decided the day, writes these wounded westerners.

It was the wet weather which made the ball bounce, bounce, bounce to Zimbabwe’s win! The game would have been decided differently, we are told, if the play was in Johannesburg where the climate is salubrious to the kangaroo! I call this a saving lie, the kind you feed and mollify yourself with, in the face of adversity.

Imagine the ignominy of a haughty owner of a big, white schooled Alsatian, the only Caucasian breed amidst rickety village curs. The owner heaps praises on it, addressing it in perfect English even. It listens to its master, understands English, and yes, has clean eating habits. Until one day it is found inopportunely licking the bottom of a neglected toddler, relishing every moment of the fecal feast.

And Munjodzi, the humble owner of the reviled villager cur — freshly wounded by his Alsatian neighbour’s hot boist — happens to be walking by, eyes fortuitously darting in the right direction to witness the spectacle of this great abomination in the village! He gently murmurs about "proud owners and educated dogs whose vulgar appetites drive them to stalk toddlers with no nappies"! Imagine the mortification.

The fumbling of lame explanation, such as: No, Fozzy does not eat human dung. She was merely passing by when she accidentally got to the kid’s unwashed bottom! Whereupon the whole village breaks into raucous, contemptuous laughter, felled by your saving lie!

My cricket, my identity

Why are the Aussies in such agony? Well, simply because cricket is not just a game. It is an institution. It is an identity. It is honour. It is the Englishman’s prime export to an otherwise benighted world of colour. A civilising game! You do not just play cricket: you project English values of gentility. You display English temperament.

To understand it, to watch it, to enjoy is an immersion into the English ethos. And if you are a native, you are comparable to Defoe’s restive Man-Friday, soothed and pacified and enchanted by a ditty from a white princess. You become an English gentleman: by apparel, by manner and by play. Cricket is a marker of English identity, the glue that keeps the Queen’s Commonwealth together.

Victory must always go to the white world. Or teams dominated by white players. Or black Britons like Henry Olonga. This is why rebuilding and running Zimbabwe cricket after 2000 has been such a hustle. This is why President Mugabe who "takes white-owned land", cannot be the patron of so nobly English a game. For how can a man who watches cricket commit such an outrage against the empire?

Clearly it’s worse when the game — the whole game — goes to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, goes to an underdog team rebuilt in defiance from the ruins of a supposedly paralysing white-player boycott. The scrapping of tournaments, whether by the British or by the Australians, was an attempt to eject fallen Zimbabwe from England’s cultural circuit, an attempt to make sure cricket dies here, itself supposedly an aggravation from the civilising presence of the Englishman here. We have wounded English pride, pierced its tender tissue. Albion and its underside groan. But then, it is their problem. Well done Zimbabwe!

The burdens of September 1

Things are taking a very interesting turn for genuine political watchers. Not fake ones like Jonathan and Bornwell! Chinamasa and Goche have briefed the ruling party’s Politburo, with the Politburo giving its nod to the progress and positions achieved so far, in the ongoing Mbeki-mediated inter-party dialogue.

I do not want to delve into the substance of that agreement. I may, some day. I want to deal with what negotiating parties have done with the interim outcomes. As already indicated, Zanu-PF has already got a report-back. It is happy and satisfied. Welshman Ncube has indicated he will report back to his principals this weekend, after which he will share the outcome with the rest of the nation.

Judging by his tone, and the reality of power mal-distribution within his faction, it is predictable and clear he will not have problems. What is more, he says he has "no problem" with Chinamasa’s briefing to the Zanu-PF Politburo! Which in effect is to say he can easily take Chinamasa’s notes and use them to brief his side. Or in the interest of time, simply asking them to borrow Zanu-PF Politburo minutes for their reading at their leisure.

Mbeki must be blossoming into an I-told-you-so smile. To his credit, he has always maintained Zimbabwe’s problems will be solved by Zimbabweans, with outsiders simply facilitating, encouraging. Judging by the oscillating venues for talks, and the number of times the three sides have met without the South Africans, it’s clear Mbeki kept his word, limiting his role to making the meetings possible. It is good for our sense of sovereignty and for once, the opposition has now understood what Zanu-PF’s tedious call for "sovherenity" means in real terms. Learning does not end.

When history stalks

Now Biti and the villager? Very interesting. But before all, a bit of history. It pays to remember that once upon a time, when Welshman was less Welsh, and more united MDC-man, he entered into talks with Zanu -PF, all under the auspices of a Nigerian and a South African.

History has not quite accorded that phase in the evolving talks its proper place. Welshman is right to complain so. After all, the principles which went into Amendments No.17 and 18, were largely cobbled in these seminary talks.

Faced by a split MDC, Zanu-PF proceeded to turn these principles into the constitutional piece we now have as law, and another we will soon have. So what went wrong? Well, Welshman could not take whatever it was he agreed to at the talks, to his constituency.

Tsvangirai and his kitten, sorry kitchen cabinet, would have none of it! Fullstop ndii! Bitter and dejected, Welshman was left with egg on the face. His response came on a fateful October day, by way of a permanent crack which severed his clique from the bellicose faction led by Tsvangirai. Now, is history about to repeat itself?

Of course Tsvangirai’s representative is Tendai Biti. Or so both sides believe. He has definite outcomes from Saturday, 1st September, 2007, outcomes which Chinamasa and Welshman have either sold or are about to sell to their constituencies. Can he do the same? Or is he destined to suffer the fate of the man from Wales?

Which message, whose emissary?

It maybe too early to say, but there are signs enough to allow some guarded reading. Biti has not been forthcoming with the media, as if to suggest crippling and tongue-tying incertitude. Mukonoweshuro has been blurting like he is out to pour scorn on the whole effort, as if to prefigure the cold reception which awaits the messenger and the message, should Biti ever dare.

ZCTU, Tsvangirai’s Trojan Horse roars bellicose, threatening stayaway next week. Tsvangirai did much to damage Biti’s standing at the talks. He went wild in Australia, leaving the South Africans, and Zanu-PF wondering. Was he the MDC whose emissary to the talks is Biti?

Or was he the British emissary to Biti regarding talks with Zanu-PF under Mbeki? Correctly, the South Africans warned all parties that there were elements who were opposed to talks, doing their damnest to ensure the talks come to grief. Interestingly all sides agreed, each for different reasons, each with different culprits.

Pariah politics, a white coterie.

But something else in happening. Tsvangirai has received a report which warns him to beware the ides of March. He is frightened. He is paranoid, and won’t trust anyone. There is a huge purge underway within his party, with many in his leadership struggling to prove they do not carry the invisible burden called Zanu-PF, it’s Government and it’s shadowy CIO.

There is no peace at Harvest, especially within the ranks of the so-called "university students", a reference to the likes of Biti, Mashakada and his colleagues whom the unionists say were invited much later, from their lacklustre student movement. Crucial meetings are being held at Tsvangirai’s home where only the invited come.

Thanks to this paranoia, Roy Bennett, Eddie Cross and, ironically enough, David Colart, are holding the reins. Or is it the horns? Panyanga chaipo! The insecure Tsvangirai has become hostage to the white factor which has always guided MDC politics, weighing it down as a swelling millstone.

Forget about the factions. MDC only has factions within its African membership. For its white players (directors), it remains a unitary political movement only rattled by bad natives.

Letters and e-mails come or go to Bennett; come and go to Coltart; come and go to Eddie Cross, each ensuring natives in both camps are well watched, well directed! So, Tsvangirai is set to go into March elections a white man’s property he has always been, but atop the rubble of a bitter membership.

It is no wonder that Sweden’s politically duplicitous envoy tells his Government and people MDC will never govern Zimbabwe, right in front of Thoko Mathe! I will have occasion to write about this false friend of liberation movements in future. It is no wonder that Peta Thorncroft’s anniversary piece on the MDC makes it clear the party limbs along, its chances of capturing the vote ever diminishing.

She goes much further: even if the electoral laws and rules are changed, elections internationally monitored, MDC will not win. Which is to say Zanu-PF will win. That is what frustrates the British, across party lines. The latest burst of this anger took the funny shape of Rifkind, the man in the saddle when John Major renewed Britain’s commitment to land reforms.

Quiescent silence?

So this is the environment within which Biti reports back: trenchantly hostile and stilted. He needs to be helped, one way or the other. Already, negative help has come by way of the pressure Chinamasa and Welshman have already exerted on Biti and Tsvangirai, simply by indicating progress in their respective constituencies.

Biti now has to face the media on this matter which remains outstanding on his side. What is worse, he has to meet hurtling events, especially those already unfolding in Parliament.

Amendment No. 18 is being presented and everyone is watching from the gallery, how the two factions will behave. So far they have been quiet and un-obstructive. Is this a case of co-sponsorship through quiescent silence?

Mbeki’s whiplash

But hark! I hear Mbeki has summoned Tsvangirai to Pretoria. Very interesting. Is it about his wild, anti-talks shameful speeches in kangaroo land? Is Mbeki upset, and about to tell Tsvangirai his piece of mind? Or has Mbeki got whiff that Biti is not winning with the kitten, sorry kitchen, cabinet? Or is it both? Maybe he wants to caution Tsvangirai against provoking the Zimbabwe Government through the ZCTU?

It is well known that the ZCTU has been given monies by the British to help them block Mugabe from participating in the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit. I know the dollars which have flowed in. The agenda is simply to provoke Government into reacting for European cameras in order to give content to British propaganda. Whichever way, Tsvangirai’s trip to South Africa is an unhappy one for him, a defining one for Zimbabwe’s politics. The Saturday, September 1 outcome is Mbeki’s.

To the etent that Mbeki is fulfilling an assignment of Sadc, it is also Sadc’s outcome.

Whoever rejects it, alienates South Africa, the Organ and Sadc. They will have negotiated in bad faith and thus will be spit by the region. This seems to be the fate awaiting Tsvangirai, nay, the fate he is already suffering given who his surrogate mother is. After all, even elections in March will swallow him, hair to butt. Very, very interesting times.

Flip, flopping Bornwell

Bornwell Chakaodza says he does not read me. He adds he finds me unreadable. Still he responds to my piece, showing a thorough grasp of its import. Never mind that he could not deal with the issues it raised, which made him so angry, so embarrassed. I felt attended to. It’s like giving a violently destructive fool a false butt to thump! It keeps him away from destroying precious family furniture! It is a week gone by without any further damage to the national consciousness through his flip-flopping perorations. He says I was a toddler during the struggle. Let us suppose so. Except he is my senior by a mere three years. I could not have been any more toddler than he was at the time! Which sounds like some self-immolation. But that is inaccurate. From 1976 right up to the end of the war, I was deep in the war zone, carrying the chores of struggle, as a student activist. I saw dead Rhodesians. I saw dead comrades, buried them even. I saw Rhodesia’s unarmed victims. I never forget a mentally challenged teenager who is shot dead by Rhodesian soldiers after innocently walking in a battle zone, led by his unsound mind. In panic, Rhodesian emptied their arsenal on him, reducing his head to pulp. They took the body to a nearby camp, opened his stomach, buried cobs of grenades, before dumping the body back in the village. In grief family members of the dead teenager threw themselves on the corpse, in the process detonating the grenades. It was a bloodbath, a family genocide. Bornwell can come for details so he sees for himself what that brutal war did to tender minds when he was away, safely away. Maybe that is why I am so unrepentantly Zanu-PF. The only diference between me and Bornwell is that he drifted to Lesotho to valiantly fight the white-man from where he had left. Lesotho had long secured its independence. I am sure whilst there, he faced greater risks from the Rhodesians, carried greater burdens for the struggle than we the internals ever did. He made sure he had nothing to do with guerrillas, meticulously ensuring he only caught a glimpse of them after April, 18, 1980, as they trooped from Assembly Points, this our most daring overseas warrior! I am sure he now has a clue.

Taking any colour, eating any bone

Early into independence, he dabbled with ZIDS, hiding behind its radical paradigm and scholarship. It was a Zanu-PF Government think-tank and he belonged. He did not mind, until ZIDS went into decline, he getting new godfathers who gave him a new line of day. He became a critic of Government, to the pleasure of the British and Americans. He traversed the world on sponsored ticket given by he-knows-who. Someone in Zanu-PF whispered that he was the proverbial hungry child who needed a bone to quieten him. A bone was thrown at him: Director of Information in the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications. Quite an insipid career there, but quite unfazed by the flip to Zanu-PF and its governing structures. His jaws grew and those responsible reasoned that with his easy-to-dissatisfy temperament, it was safer to fling a bigger bone his way. It was flung: Editor of the State-controlled Herald. Very happy, munching! Happy enough to get into Mashonaland Central Province as that province’s Zanu-PF Secretary for Information. Yes, Zanu-PF he routinely snipes nowadays. Quite recently, mind you. Again, another colourless career there. The 2000 whirlwind came, sweeping him to the margins, part of the debris. He lost the bone and, true to temperament, angrily flopped, this time to structures of opposition, urging Zimbabweans to topple Zanu-PF. Flip, flop, flip, flop, flip, flop, flop, flop plays this our piper of ductile causes. Could this be the reason the just created, so-called Zimbabwe Media Council won’t have him? It pays to be constant, consistent, Mr. Bornwell. Those who cherish diversity of ideas do not agonisingly wish the toppling of contrary views. Views and values which fed you fat, only yesterday. Icho!

l nathaniel.manheru@


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