Friday, 21 September 2007

Gordon Brown: When the Scottish and Rhodesian factors meld

Gordon Brown: When the Scottish and Rhodesian factors meld

The one vital connection which commentators have not made is the advent of the Scottish moment in British politics, and this to manage the increasingly bellicose, irredentist feeling in that part of the so-called United Kingdom.

Both PM Gordon Brown and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell, are Scottish, the same way Ian Douglas Smith — that most reviled architect of Rhodesia’s UDI — is.

Even Michael Moore, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesperson, has strong Scottish association, even though he was born in Northern Ireland. So does Malcolm Rifkind, even though he is a Jew with strong family ties with Zionist Israel. I could go on and on, illustrating for you the basis for what I have termed the Scottish moment in British politics.

Short’s so long a letter

But there is another factor in British politics which equally is often unacknowledged. This is the Rhodesian factor which, from the demise of UDI in 1980, has sought worldwide influence, especially in the white world where it is quite entrenched.

I have already made reference to Malcolm Rifkind, himself John Major’s last foreign minister before the political birth and spread of the English TB. Rifkind had something to do with Major’s seven-man 1996 team which made a case for Britain’s continued funding for Zimbabwe’s land reform programme.

I am referring to the report which TB, through his equally contagious Clare Short -- then Secretary of State for International Development — proceeded to repudiate in 1997, once Labour ascended to No. 10.

"We do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchases in Zimbabwe. We are a new government from diverse backgrounds without links in former colonial interests.

"My own origins are Irish and, as you know, we were colonised not colonisers."

The timing could not have been worse. That same November when the blunt letter was written and delivered, Zanu-PF was gathered in Mutare for its Second Annual People’s Conference, itself too charged a setting for an incident-free postal delivery of such a terrible message. The rest is history.

I notice Dominic Lawson of the Independent admitted a few days ago that the letter itself was "astonishingly ill-judged", adding "it would have been hard to construct a letter more skilfully designed to enrage Mugabe — or even a man with a much thicker skin than the Zimbabwean leader".

He gets even more damning than Manheru: "Short’s amazing assertion — that because her family was of Irish stock there was no need to honour a commitment to Zimbabwe entered into by a previous British government — was an inimitable mixture of shamelessness and sanctimony."

Except his article does no better than Short’s letter, arguing, as it does, for action predicated on the very assumptions that made Short’s letter such a brazen obscenity.

Newsroom diplomacy

But my focus is not Short’s very long letter, important though it is. Nor is it on Lawson, much as it is quite tempting to see him as an extension of No. 10 Downing Street.

I mean if you have a whole Head of Government who uses the newsroom to address his colleagues in Portugal and the whole EU, surely the conduit for interstate communication shifts from the guarded diplomatic pouch to! My focus is on the Rhodesian factor.

Rifkind was in Rhodesia in the 1970s, and still prides himself for teaching one of Zimbabwe’s former finance ministers at the then University of Rhodesia. As a conservative, it is not difficult to decipher his politics then.

He was for UDI. Clearly, the fact of having done a thesis on Southern Rhodesia’s Land Apportionment Act did not quite help Rifkind appreciate the African struggle for land in the then Rhodesia. Or in Zimbabwe which he seeks to deal with now.

Significantly, he is in the forefront of agitating for the restoration of white land rights in Zimbabwe, an eventuality he legitimises through an anti-Mugabe democracy verbiage. He personifies the opposition Conservatives’ connection with Zimbabwean politics here.

Well, if you want more, you can recall Lord Acton — sickly Judith Todd’s brief or short-term in-laws — who still have vast land interests here.

Quite a number of Conservatives have direct connections to Rhodesia’s white elite which then gets dismantled by Mugabe’s land reform. They share in white anger arising from that drastic but belated measure by Mugabe.

Now the other Brown and Annan

But there is a more direct link. Gordon Brown’s Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for Africa, Asia and the United Nations — George Mark Malloch Brown — is the other white Rhodesian boy with roots in South Africa (which Rhodesian did not have a South African connection?).

He thrived under UDI here until he left for his overseas studies. He grew very close to the British establishment, attested to by his tenure at the Economist, the World Bank and the UN, where he rose to become Deputy Secretary General with special duties in Kofi Annan’s office, on the diplomatic ticket of Britain.

We can say it now: Annan’s funny behaviour in respect of the Zimbabwe issue largely owed to this one man, aided, of course, by Pandergast, another Rhodesian boy at the UN. Blair hoped to use this important connection to haul Zimbabwe before the UN Security Council.

Malloch Brown’s Asian connection, which he now seeks to use to leverage China against Zimbabwe, stems from his role as Corazon Aquino’s campaign manager, against Ferdinand Marcos, as well as an official of the UN refugee agency in Asia. He also dabbled in Chile’s politics. More important, he is intimate with George Soros (he rented Soros’ apartment in New York!), the godfather of Open Society for Southern Africa (OSISA) which is active in subverting Zimbabwe’s establishment for Anglo-American interests. He is no stranger to the politics and schemes of regime change.

Moore at Chatham

I made reference to Michael Moore, who has been part of this week’s anti-Zimbabwe hype. He connects with Zimbabwe’s politics via the Westminster Foundation, itself the first public vehicle for an all-British party funding of the MDC. For three years, he was vice-chairman of this notorious foundation. He is also on the council of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, or Chatham House, as it is popularly known. Chatham House was key to defining the British response to Mugabe’s land reform challenge.

Against all this, it passes for precious little surprise that British Embassy’s Dare warns Zimbabwe against any policy shift with the change of guard at No. 10. She is referring to Rhodesia’s countervailing influence at Whitehall. As India’s lost daughter, she obviously is familiar with the long hand of the Raj.

Britain and coup politics

But still there are surprises within the expected. We can make more disclosures. Between the March 11 MDC debacle and Blair’s departure, Blair’s system was busy urging Don McKinnon and his Commonwealth to prepare to admit Zimbabwe back into the Commonwealth, albeit under a military leader.

The Commonwealth protested feebly, reminding the British establishment the Club’s credibility was already suffering from the Musharaff case. In the end, McKinnon did little else except to prepare for that admission, once it would have arrived.

The British were planning and hoping for a coup here. They still hope for one, ask the Swedish ambassador who still expects something to happen this October. I have made repeated oblique reference to this fact. Of course, Blair left; Mugabe remains in office; Zimbabwe is under a constitutional government, its soldiers quite professionally well behaved, and in the barracks.

Soon after Brown’s takeover, again another session was held with McKinnon’s people, this time to warn them to prepare for a shift of policy on Zimbabwe. Brown, the Club was told, intended to take a softer line on Zimbabwe eventually leading to a resolution which would not cost Britain a face. The Commonwealth could help by helping with toning down the anti-Zimbabwe shrill in the British media, themselves real impediments to a policy U-turn, the Brown team told the Club officials.

Brown as hostage

Except this indication caused consternation within the ranks of Labour itself and the

Conservatives, which is why Zimbabwe came under very serious debate soon after Blair’s departure, all meant to forestall any policy change. Thanks to the Rhodesian lobby, Brown’s officials were upstaging him, indeed prepossessing his Zimbabwe policy, leaving him and his policies thoroughly discoloured and wilting. His piece in the Independent, far from suggesting a contemplative and deliberative leadership, does in fact reveal a wimp at the helm, a man so firmly circumscribed by Blair’s machinery to cause little worries of policy change at No.10.

A time like this?

Let me validate the point. Gordon Brown could not have chosen a worse ill-timed moment for announcing a toughened stance against President Mugabe. On the ground, the Mbeki initiative had just announced a major breakthrough in cobbling some working amity between Zanu-PF and both splinters of the MDC.

Economically, the Zanu-PF government was announcing a major breakthrough regarding taming inflation and resolving the whole pricing imbroglio. Socially, Zimbabwe’s declining HIV infection rate was echoing as reduced infant mortality. And a South African research think-tank at an Afrikaner university had just indicated the threat of immigrants from Zimbabwe to South Africa had been overstated to the level of being a hoax.

Within its own belly, Britain’s Commonwealth Secretary General – himself no darling of Zanu-PF — and Britain’s think-tank, the International Crisis Group, were announcing possibilities of a breakthrough, and counselling against megaphone diplomacy or isolating Mugabe.

Within Europe itself, Britain’s anti-Zimbabwe stance was receiving quiet admonition by way of Portugal’s insistence that Zimbabwe must attend the EU-Africa Summit represented by its constitutional head of state. On the African continent itself, Ghana, as the AU chair, had amply indicated Africa would go to Lisbon, one and indivisible. In Sadc, Zimbabwe had just secured overwhelming support and solidarity.

Out of turn or out of power?

Tell me: why would a sane British premier dare a hornet’s nest by scribbling the note Brown did? Why? Why would a sane British premier aggravate sparse EU support for the British position by incontinently communicating with his fellow leaders via a newsroom? What is more, why would a premier truly in charge tickle the sides of his arch-enemy Mugabe by clearly showing he has lost open lines to his colleagues in Europe?

Communicating with fellow Europeans through the British Press clearly indicated British diplomacy had come unstuck. Clearly British diplomacy has foundered in its backyard, with Brown adopting for the rest of Europe Blair’s odious megaphone diplomacy against Zimbabwe.

By so doing, he has challenged the honour of Europe’s oldest imperial power, Portugal. Would Socrates want to be viewed as Brown’s poodle? Wise Socrates? By so doing, Brown has challenged the honour of colonially bitter Africa whose delegation to the summit now has to be passed by imperial Britain. Which self-respecting African leader would want such a stigma?

What is worse, by so doing, he has demonstrated exactly what Zimbabwe has always claimed, namely that the problem is essentially a bilateral colonial one between Zimbabwe and Britain. If it was not, why has the argument trimmed down to Mugabe and Brown, the one pitchy black, the other whitey brown?

Tall and black, white and colonial

Mugabe stands very tall and black. Brown stands white and colonial. It is anyone’s guess who carries world opinion. What is worse, it is clear who stands isolated, even in Europe. Mugabe stands vindicated and can now tell Africa that British colonial arrogance is now bursting banks to flood the whole continent and its "infantile" governments.

Made worse by a food gift of a paltry 8 million pounds. Is that Africa’s worth? And when Brown’s system says it fears a shouting match in Lisbon with Mugabe, does that not suggest their case is implausible? Surely the match will be shouted in English, their English? Which English Scot ever loses a shout done in the tongue of her forebears? Or is Brown deliberately provoking an outrage in Europe and the African continent to manage Blair’s left-over constituency? Surely he could have done it slightly more skilfully?

A pathetic prologue and epilogue

And what a pathetic prologue to Brown’s letter? Some obscure archbishop of an equally obscure "parish" of York, whose name is Sentamu and is originally from faraway Uganda, is made to pay a visit to Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of Britain.

The whole event is choreographed as if this was a chance drop-by of a holy man on the home of one of his flock. Come on, let us be serious! You do not just drop by No. 10 as if you are alighting from a train at Victoria Station. I know the rigmarole of minding schedules of leaders.

It could not have been a chance encounter when it did. Give me a break. This planned accident was on a Sunday, unholy Sunday. Then on the Monday, an even bigger accidental encounter happens: one involving a sickly African archbishop of doubtful orientation called Desmond Tutu.

The accident flies him all the way from South Africa, again to No. 10. Accidentally, both archbishops urge Britain to overcome her guilt as a former colonial power to intervene to stop a southern monster called Mugabe whom they describe as reminiscent of Sentamu’s Idi Amin, ironically a dictator whose self-view was that of the genuine king of Scotland – Brown’s Scotland!

Dark, sell-out archbishops

Does that act of so old an imperial government have to be so pathetic? Who is Tutu to Africa? Who is Sentamu to Zimbabwe? Where do both stand in the narrative of Africa’s revolution?

Tutu, that little bishop who would have nothing to do with the ANC in struggle; who would have nothing to do with rebel Mbeki’s wedding in London? Tutu, that little bishop who sought to free apartheid South Africa’s bloody agents imprisoned here in Zimbabwe , all in the name of Truth and Reconciliation? Tutu, the gays’ bishop? Tutu, South Africa’s Bishop Muzorewa, only a little clever? My goodness! Britain, with all her embassies here, must surely know that it is erecting its foreign policy on a manZimbabwe would never meet or do business with before the end of apartheid. Have they bothered to ask why Tutu was never received by the Frontline States? Or are they so desperate for converts that they have resorted to one of their own? And this Sentamu? Who is he? Some little altar boy of Britain’s state church, one who thinks seeing white tongues darting for the eucharist is so wonderful?

A once-upon-a-time Ugandan who has become British, very British. Why stretch the man’s colour? Why stretch the man’s significance? He may have synthetic honour abroad. Not here in the savannah which spat him. And what a poor argument for both men!

If it was not about giving effect to Britain’s colonial status, why approach Brown, and not Russia’s Putin? Surely if it is about states with enough muscle to intervene in Zimbabwe, Britain is the least in ranking — a decrepit once-was in geo-politics. I mean its army cannot handle Basra, tiny Basra. What can they do here against a party with so many years of experience in guerilla warfare? Now Brown remains with a long face, egg-splattered. Made worse by another bombshell from President Mwanawasa, himself the chairman of Sadc.

He will not go to Lisbon unless President Mugabe attends. He adds that the rest of Sadc will follow his cue. Ghana has already given Africa’s position, amplified further by the President of the Pan-African Parliament, a Tanzanian whose language to her European counterparts make her sound like Mugabe in female form. This is how well Brown has radicalised Africa, indeed how well he has consolidated Mugabe’s catchment.

Oh omniscient private media!

What has been happening in Parliament? What’s going on? It was wonderful to watch expressions of consternation from the media bay as Zanu-PF and splinters of the MDC co-sponsored Amendment No.18.

It was like a bolt from the blue, when in reality this has been there, more visible than Mt Everest against a media corps in induced denial. And when Chinamasa disclosed the three sides had met 20 times, well over half of those times here in Harare, the bafflement mounted. How could so many meetings take place without our knowing it? And to arrive at this?

Faces dropped; many needed counselling. That is the price one pays for pretending one can function as journalist while avoiding those who govern, to rely on voices whose claim to knowing what is going on rests tenuously on the discredited fact that they belonged once upon a time.

As it turned out, the principal mis-informant, who sits rather lonely in Parliament, was equally in a tailspin, crowning it all by supporting a Bill he was not privy to via the talks that crafted it. He looked lost; he is lost, experiencing the last rites of his tenure in Parliament, this shameful turncoat!

Rhodesian factor again!

I hear echoes of "Third Force"! How does another "third" emerge from a "Third"? To become what fraction; what faction? We are in for interesting mutations: MDCs deracinated from their NGO bedrock; MDCs cut from its British handlers; Cross, Bennett, Coltart quite unhappy with the route the natives have taken, and closing the tap.

Tsvangirai struggling with his toilet cabinet; Biti testing a bit of proximity to power, and liking it; Mashakada cultivating Makumbe for executive mayorship which will not exist very soon; Mutambara, aah-h Mutambara, simply hanging his gloves to run away from Zimbabwe. And at the end of it all, Zanu-PF under Robert Mugabe winning in March 2008! A great perturbation of nature.

Icho! l

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