Friday, 7 September 2007

Southern Africa — the world in a grain of sand

Southern Africa — the world in a grain of sand

IT’S a pregnant moment. Zimbabwe’s womb swells full, fecund with possibilities. Developments sprout, events pick pace and interpreters grapple to meaning. In Lusaka, Mbeki reports progress on inter-party talks he mediates; the West, livid at hearing progress, takes Mbeki off the pedestal of affection, takes him on with the kind of searing vengeance hitherto only known to, and suffered by Mugabe.

Mbeki has now joined Mugabe in the pantheon of the reviled. The West's charge sheet is clear and eloquent: he has become bad, very bad too. Clearly he has slouched into the "nationalistic liberation rhetoric" so seemly of Mugabe, so unseemly of him. He is the worst successor to so fine a legacy which Mandela built, we are again told by the magisterial West.

His regime must be changed, or for a start discomfited. Much worse happens. South Africa is rocked by an unusual disturbance: violent riots by that country’s poor. They, we are told, are so fed up to remain homeless, so tired of a benighted life they have led since apartheid. The riots claim one life, shot dead. Up until now, South Africa was a land of success, the best democracy on the continent, a crushing indictment on Zimbabwe's ill-governed polity. In short, the land of plenty to which hungry Zimbabwean run for respite. But soon after Lusaka, South Africa’s immemorial poor, suddenly realise their poverty, causally locating it in Mbeki’s "indifferent" governance! Clearly the arm of the white man has a long reach, and touches far.

Fawning liberal pity

Meanwhile there is a raging debate on this land of Azania, touching on the fate of some deputy minister of health sacked by Mbeki for playing internal opposition to the ANC Government policies, to wild cheers from white interests and their hired black hoodlums.

Such howling from quarters which daily mark and give poor performance to Mbeki’s ministers, daily exhorting him to sack his entire cabinet for countless malfeasances, mostly imagined! Why this sudden closing of ranks in defence of a mere deputy minister: little known, until now little mentioned and presumably little liked? It makes me sad when white interests successfully fawn love and concern of us, getting hordes of us to their side. It makes their hypocrisy legitimate, unassailable even. It makes us obdurate fools, acutely anxious to win pity, white and liberal pity.

Mandela in a Square hole

Meanwhile new British PM, Brown, is busy unveiling a statue of former President Nelson Mandela, presumably to symbolise Brown’s Labour’s love of Africa, and hopefully Africans.

Who accuses the British establishment for hating Africans and their freedom when right in front of Parliament Square stands tall and stolid Nelson Mandela, albeit in effigy? Who? And given the timing, namely soon after Lusaka, I suppose Mbeki is supposed to be piqued by such recognition, piqued and embarrassed for taking such a hostile stance against British interests in Zimbabwe, interests so magnanimous as to honour the one who gave him power. Ingrate!

Changing Mbeki's regime

Meanwhile again, some innocuous, little visible district of the ANC in Johannesburg becomes a major media character in South Africa’s white press. Reason? Well, concerned about the muck surrounding the succession matter within the ANC, they have just approached Cyril Ramaphosa to tidy up things by offering himself for presidency. Ramaphosa coquettishly denies any interest in the matter, the same way Sexwale didn’t.

This ANC district demands that Ramaphosa sands, to loud echoes from big businesses to which Ramaphosa got wedded and served as an intern soon after 1994.

Politics in South Africa can be quite cynical: people on polar opposites of the welfare and material pendulum, can make each other do things that suggest they live in intimacy and solidarity, nay, are sharers of a destiny. I mean it is amazing that captains of Sanlam can get a district of the ANC in Johannesburg moving for Ramaphosa! And like a huge air disaster, the story balloons and gets lifted — very high, very far — to become a centrepiece for white journalism in Europe and America. All this against the backdrop of an unequivocal verdict from the white world: that Mbeki and SADC "can’t work" after having failed to nail Mugabe in Lusaka.

Postponing the election launch

Back home, the Herald reports Zanu (PF)'s Politburo is happy with the Mbeki-mediated inter-party talks, seemingly vindicating Mbeki’s report in Lusaka which said real progress had registered on this front. The latest meeting of the inter-party talks had been held last Saturday, 1st September, a mere eight days shy of the day bin Laden stepped into history, name bedecked by epaulets of eternity.

Previous week, Tsvangirai, whose faction is represented at these talks by Biti, is in Australia, winning lonely standing ovations of Howard and Downer for asking for more wrongs for Zimbabweans, including harsher sanctions. Of course he is rewarded a small purse with which to fight Zanu (PF) in the forthcoming elections, that is, if Anglo-American plans to stop Mugabe before then fail.

Tsvangirai’s is a posture well calculated to provoke, hopefully succeeding in wrecking the Mbeki dialogue, and with it, the possibility of the poll set for March, which the British and the Americans fear so much. Tellingly, the Tsvangirai faction calls off its election campaign launch, originally set in Harare for September 9, as if in presentiment of a disaster of twin-towers proportions which awaits them, should they ever participate in that poll.

The reason given is quite ironic: the faction wants to wait and see the final outcome to Mbeki's mediation. As if that reason did not exist when the 9 September launch date was set. Never mind that only a week before, Tsvangirai himself was working so hard to wreck these talks. Zanu (PF) instructs its government to initiate the parliamentary processes which eventually will turn Amendment No. 18 into law, to no protests from MDC legislators.

We, the NCA

Except feeble ones from Mukonoweshuro, himself part of the thrust to white Australia. He says the announcements is of no consequence, unless it had come jointly from the negotiating teams. He never pauses to think that the same point precisely makes his reaction a nullity. He is part of the negotiating team. Will never be.

For that reason, he does not know that after the Saturday meeting, all teams were asked to report back to their respective constituencies on progress made so far, which is why Chinamasa needed to brief the Politburo. And of course a negative reaction from the head-sharp Madhuku and his forlorn NCA which thinks it is "the people". NCA says the amendment is not "by the people and for the people". You pity that phrase, so worse for wear. Anything which happens outside of the NCA automatically happens "without the people"! Madhuku adds: "amendment number 18 has only one purpose: to promote the interests and agenda of those who are currently in government and would want to remain so forever". Really, only those "currently in government"? You almost feel like reminding him of what Makumbe said of him recently: very loud futility incarnate. Mutambara is dead quiet — or dead dead — too numbed to comment on either Tsvangirai’s hare-brained address in Australia, on the talks, or on anything. Clearly completely concussed and buffeted, nicely retreating into the silence of boyhood which should have been his before a foolhardy venture into the arena of tussling elders.

A world in a grain of sand

Back home, Zanu (PF) announces not a people’s Annual Conference, but an Extraordinary Congress. Its constitution does not allow congresses to be brought forward, which would have taken care of the problem of a tardy 2009, itself the date for the next ordinary Congress.

And for it, Extraordinary Congresses are a one-item agenda, which immediately begs the question: what is this lonely item, yet one so powerful enough to move so phlegmatic a formation that Zanu (PF) is known to be? Pregnant times. Of course the other time the old Zanu (PF) did this was to prepare for the Unity Accord, and of course much later in 2000 to deal with the 1999 Congress’ unfinished business.

I can see speculation running wild, even suggesting another unity accord is nigh. Fie, fie! What unity? With whom? MDC? God forbid! MDC is not PF-Zapu. Can never be. It is not Zimbabwean. Again, can never be. It has to be defeated. Extirpated from the body-politic. So what then? Let me be banal revealingly, and here I go: the Extraordinary Congress will be about Zanu (PF)!

Brown is an old, waning colour

All of which means what? Firstly, that there has been appreciable progress on that part of the talks which matters. Which is why the British are furious — very furious — with part of that fury coming through their mouthpiece here, the Zimbabwe Independent.

Since when has this British, sorry, Zimbabwe Independent devoted a whole editorial to a rival paper called the Chronicle? Madame Dare at the British Chancery here had squirted litres of such anger, warning the Zimbabwe Government not to expect a soft line from Brown. As if the Zimbabwe Government is trimming for accommodation from the British establishment! Clear colonial self-affectation on the part of the British to believe that Zimbabwe without a Britain is doomed! Who believe the principal purpose of an African head of state is to trim for an endorsement from the Metropolis. She thinks Zimbabwe’s silence since Brown's ascendancy was a wish and bid for ingratiation with the new Brown.

Together with the Independent she says the same establishment which served Blair still underpins Brown. It is supposed to be a mighty revelation. Who in the Zimbabwean Government does not know that Brown is an old colour? And no one tells Dare — and her Zimbabwe Independent — that the same speculation could be reversed: is Brown’s silence to date an expectation of a climb-down on the part of Mugabe? That Mugabe will say, Mr. Mighty Emperor, Terror of the Universe, one whose fart trembles the earth, please sent back your kith and kin so wrongfully ejected, to reassume control of the land? None in the single-minded Independent stops to ask: why did the same establishment which backed Thatcher and Major, still break with a set policy on land to infuriate Zimbabwe? Spare me the crap about Conservatives and Labour, while talking about the "establishment". Surely establishment are for continuity, if the logic of Dare and her Independent is anything to go by.

An olive branch is always green

The equation is clear, very clear. MDC is created as an all-British party effort through the Westminster Foundation. That cannot make support for it a subject of party vicissitudes, let alone intra-party putsch and change of guard. This extraordinary collaboration of British parties stemmed from the trans-party nature of British interests here and overseas in general.

We have an across-parties British absentee landed gentry here, a matter made a lot easier by the easy-as-corruption criteria for meriting British lordship. Britain’s commercial interests here remain implacable, and are perceived as threatened by the liberation ethos of Southern Africa, whose epicentre is Zimbabwe.

They remain both politically anxious and influential, if not determinant. It cannot be a matter for a nearly Labour premier like Blair. Still worse for un-telegenic, dull colour Brown. It is a matter for defensively embattled Britain, whoever governs it. Thatcher and Major represented that phase in the Britain-Zimbabwe relationship when the latter believed charm and minor concessions could be deployed to disarm the revolution variously, not least through growing a conservative middle within it.

That phase ended with Blair, opening the present chapter of open conflict, one whose resolution cannot be a matter of British foreign policy generosity. Brown’s appointment of another Brown — one Malloch Brown — into his cabinet, sent a clear message to thinking Zimbabwe.

This other Brown was Britain’s fissure into the last UN Secretary-General’s office, as she vainly sought to put Zimbabwe on the UN agenda for wider sanctions. His appointment could never have been an olive branch, whose colour is green anyway! He is trying his luck at alienating the Chinese against us, and will not succeed. One hopes the British are not naïve enough to think all that matters and shapes things here is their wishes and interests, many of which have already come to grief.

In lap of penal Australia, nothing at home

So the British are angry. Angry that sooner than later, their anti-Zimbabwe campaign will go limbing, what with an agreement between Zanu (PF) and the MDC factions. Angry that their campaign will go limping, what with an election which Africa will acclaim as free and fair, in the process putting paid to their hysterical lies that Zimbabwe suffers a democratic deficit. They will have no choice but to lay bare their motive, namely to be rid of Mugabe.

It is a horror scenario which they cannot avert, one they seek to subvert through such actions as Tsvangirai’s provocative trip to Australia, itself another indication — long and well read — that Brown will be the same, in fact can’t be any different. Penal Australia was doing the bidding of Albion. The door has to remain shut, even as guards change. Isn’t? Much worse, Britain cannot avert this eventuality because Tsvangirai and his toilet — sorry, kitchen — cabinet is doomed electorally.

That faction will have to embrace the progress in Pretoria, in the process exposing a critical flank of the British. Or it will have to reject it, in the process sliding deeper into pariah politics when mediating South Africa, followed by the rest of SADC, will denounce it for negotiating in bad faith. This will cause a further break-up in that faction, with greater benefits accruing to Welshman.

No nectar in present foulness?

Tsvangirai will be exiled politically, reduced to a mere nonentity in Parliament and beyond. The discerning side of both factions of the MDC have read the writing on the wall, and are looking far beyond March 2008. They know fully well that while the current situation is not exactly positive for Zanu (PF), it is incorrigibly much more adverse for both MDCs.

For the MDCs, there in no nectar to be gained from present life’s foulness. Much rests on Zanu (PF) being able to secure its leader, while isolating a British-run faction which has been seeking to worm itself to influence. It is a faction which is greedy, anti-nation, a bit daft, without structures, but well heeled and quite white at its core.

As the party moves relentlessly to pare down the power claims of this faction, real threat from the British will recede, clearing the way for many things. Much rests on whether or not Zanu (PF) is able to do something to bring meaningful relief to the voter. A big initiative is in the wings. What is more, much rests on whether Zanu (PF) is able to acknowledge the voter’s present challenges by way of current difficulties, and be able to situate these difficulties within an interpretive framework which is convincing and allows the voter to peer beyond and glimpse the peep of a daybreak on the horizon. Which is why December is so significant. Very significant. Icho!


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