Saturday, 5 January 2008

Zim: Lessons from a splitting rainbow

As I write this instalment, a copy of this week’s Financial Gazette is in front of me. Its banner headline entitled "Zanu-PF split looms" looks me in the eye, emitting contemptuous spit I choose not to duck. The headline alleges a looming split within Zanu-PF, one ready to yield a new rainbow challenger to President Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zanu-PF. The rainbow, it is claimed, comprises disenchanted reformists inside Zanu-PF and both factions of the MDC.

As a piece of news, this headline story passes for an "old", something only really justified by the fact that January is always a silly month, a silly season to be exact. Nothing happens during that month: from Government, industry and from commerce, which is why newspapers really struggle to fill pages. The journalistic practice is to recall and speedily dust off those stories all along parked, and to wring out of them every once of news.

The idea is to fill pages, and it is a struggle. I always tell the uninitiated that woe betide whoever attracts the attention of this feral tribe of official gossipers in this thin month. Unosvinwa, ugosvinwa kusara wave musvuuganda, dzvinyu risina gushe. Until you are left ashen dry. No-one whispered this vital piece of advice to Honourable Butau, which is why he is destined to be with us for quite a while.

A whore’s charity

I called the Financial Gazette story an "old" as opposed to "news". The story of Zanu-PF’s alleged schisms, factions, internal coups — whatever epithets suits you — is an old and tired beat, much like assault, theft or murder trails in court journalism. From the day Robert Mugabe lost favour with the British establishment, Zanu-PF has been splitting, factionalising and coup-ing its leaders. Right up to the just ended Extraordinary Congress.

Someone from within the ranks of the war veterans was supposed to move a motion of zero-confidence in the President on grounds of old age, or the obverse, to make a case for new blood. You asked who the new blood is and, the horror, the horror! People in whose veins tired blood courses; people who have struggled to perform just marginally in infinitely lesser roles!

These are resurrected and rehabilitated by some bored journalists who decides out of a whore’s charity, to pawn goodwill by way of a saccharine headline. This is one strange country where little boys who are completely clueless about the art of politics and governance, play kingmakers with newspaper headlines. Babanguwe Shava iwe!

Needless aura

End of March the Year of our Lord 2007, the President was supposed to fly from Dar es Salaam into a storm of an ouster. The so-called Mujuru faction, we were told by the same media, would use a crucial Central Committee meeting to pass a vote of no-confidence in the President. The day came and what we had was a boring ordinary meeting of the Central Committee.

Again headlines, all originally confident, stout and convoluted, soon shrivelled and shrank. I do not need to refer to Goromonzi of the previous year, and the pregnant scenarios which were touted by the same media, all played up as redolent with earth-shaking possibilities. We all read these, to huge yawns.

So this is a story of all seasons, a handy gap-filler where there is no news. But I single out this particular one for the modicum of cleverness which went into its construction. Put aside the facts it bent, the reporters and their editor tried to be dramatic by draping their juicy titbits with an aura of conspiratorial enigma. Ibbo Mandaza was not given us as straightforwardly such. Instead he was packaged like a wonder gift to a kitchen party.

Listen to this: "The other (driver of the bid to create Zimbabwe’s own rainbow party) is a renowned academic who was closely associated with President Mugabe’s government as a key adviser during the formative years of his government".

This is a reference to the academic who is invited to Mozambique in the dying hours of the struggle to help the then Zanu Secretary General, Edgar Tekere, to develop policy for an independent Zimbabwe. He came from Botswana where he was lecturing.

He also became Tekere’s first permanent secretary until Tekere’s dismissal from Government in circumstances too well documented to repeat here. It clarifies why he is loaned the nationalist’s life and political career as a platform for launching his strange ideas.

So many awkward questions

Contrary to what the Financial Gazette claims, he and a Major Mbudzi have been whispering loud enough to make intelligence gathering effortless. In any case this is common knowledge to any journalists who cares to visit the drinking holes of Eastgate and the Sheraton, to get the latest from such political runners.

They mention Simba Makoni as their candidate, a claim which the good doctor has not challenged. His recent contrastive appreciation of what he termed "old" Zanu leadership and "new" Zanu leadership at a time when the President was in Lisbon got tongues wagging. From where was he peeping at "old" Zanu leadership? From the begriming settings of Chimoio, or from cosy Europe?

Still others asked: who was Zimbabwe’s energy minister when the country faced its first energy crisis in the early eighties? How did he leave Sadc, Zimpapers, Government? Harsh answers were given, the lesson being that this is what happens when you provoke history, using the righteous anger of a comfortable by-stander.

I could name all the persons whom the Financial Gazette drapes in a false aura of mystery. These are average persons guided by an academic who has never known how to live outside a paragraph in a political science book.

No one quite worries about him. Or those who hire him. So Comrade Hama, there is nothing mysterious about the latest scenario for which no intelligence officer is prepared to pay by even a farthing. The supposed launch month for the stillborn initiative is February. Is it not?

The real mystery

What is mysterious is why you inserted the following sentence: "The initiative is understood to have the support of key international financial institutions that are disillusioned by the country’s current economic meltdown and the failure of the opposition to unseat President Mugabe from power".

Why mystify things Comrade Saburi? Since when have the IMF and World Bank adopted a political position vis-a-vis a Third World country, which is outside the direction and policy calculus of London and Washington? Surely your days as deputy business editor at the Herald taught you that?

What you meant is that the initiative to carve a rainbow political formation for Zimbabwe has the support and sponsorship of the British and the Americans? Why not say so straightforwardly? Who does not know it? Who does not know that the difference between the British and the Americans over Zimbabwe has been on who the regime change agent is or should be, with the British maintaining the MDC was the change agent, while the American maintained it had to be some force to emerge from within Zanu-PF, preferably one with impeccable liberation credentials to legitimise the effort and sell the outcome?

And that such a force would embrace elements in the opposition to create a solid opposition to Zanu-PF? Surely this column has written about that repeatedly? Surely both the Americans have said as much? With such repetition, surely the matter has become banal?

Then Tsvangirai, then Chibebe

Even outside reference to Financial Gazette’s "impeccable sources" which by the way are well-known, was it difficult for one to knead this loud whisper from these runners to Tsvangirai’s wish for broader unity which transcends the original MDC? Who else did he mean?

Or Chibebe’s new found vision of supporting any aspiring MP, "whether they are from Zanu-PF or MDC", as long as they are "labour-friendly" candidates. How else was ZCTU telling its members to vote in the past?

Along party lines? What has changed to give Chibebe the temerity to make such a bold adjustment, apart from his recent fallout with Tsvangirai over Matibenga? What political developments will make boundaries between Zanu-PF and MDC so fuzzy as to allow ZCTU to freely float support across parties?

I will leave pregnant happenings in Bulawayo for another day. Suffice it to say journalism is not about imparting an aura of mystery to the commonplace, the mundane. What really would have contributed to the generation of knowledge is an assessment of this proposed rainbow’s electoral strength.

The real rainbow’s worth

What is the value of this vaunted new blood, in terms of grass-root people and structures? Which and how many of them carry constituencies with them? How many are leaders of Zanu-PF’s most basic organisational unit, the cell?

How many can call for a village meeting which will be heeded? How many can address the people? And communicate with the common people outside the usual infertile learned media monologues?

And in their money-spinning enterprises, what have they done for common people, for war veterans, detainees, mujibhas and chimbwidos? What would be their draw card? What is their stance on the defining issue of land? How will they appease the British and Americans whose monies they have eaten? By mortgaging the socially enlightened policies of Robert Mugabe?

A paper that asks such questions and attempts to answer them will, without doubt, begin to make an informed input to the overall debate ahead of March. I mean who cares that so and so has declared himself a presidential aspirant. Tekere did it from Zanu-PF. Dumbutshena did it from the Bench which Zanu-PF created through its Government. Tsvangirai did it from . . . oh God knows from where! So what is the news?

Reading Kenya’s failed rainbow

A paper that carries a dispassionate assessment of what has happened in Kenya and Pakistan, to me would be much more enlightening than visceral fears built around a coalition of the so-called reformists and factions of the MDC. What lessons does Kenya’s failed rainbow give to Africa? Well, primarily that a rainbow whose arch does not rest on the dusty soil and stubby vegetation of the Savannah does not presage good, fecund rains that bear out expectations of plenty.

It cannot be an African rainbow which stands on the pillars provided by London and Washington. We all know how the Kenyan rainbow came about and why it had no black in its colour repertoire. Sooner than later its colours started disintegrating, pitting Odinga’s orange yellow against the rest. The just-ended poll whose wrap-up was so much blood pitted the original rainbow against reform claimants within it.

It was a plebiscite founded on schismatic feelings, leaving Kenyans with an illusion of a choice. After all, it was the BBC itself which pleaded that the two contesting men’s manifestos were identical, confirming their status as chips off the same political block. It was the same BBC which confessed that both candidates were filthy rich, far removed from the slum dwellers and peasants from which they drew their confronting armies of supporters.

The rainbow that will not touch Kibera

And considering that Kenya is such a haven for western capital, it was a remarkable achievement that it was Kenya’s children — not Britain or American capital — which got matcheted, which bled and died. After peace comes back to Kenya — and one prays it does so quickly — the sprawling slums of Kiberu will remain, teeming and untamed or affected by the drama of swopping power at State House.

That is exactly what elections are supposed to do to us: divide our communities so marauding capital is never confronted by a united people. Kenya has taken a giant step back, not in the democratic sense America and Britain tells us, but in the strict African sense of evolving politics that unite its people against occupying, predatory capital Ngugi wa Thiongo so bitterly wrote against.

The pent-up frustration of the immiserised Kenyans which exploded as the destructive and directionless Mungiki, is what has mutated into the gratuitous post-poll violence organised around the two candidate, neither of whom represented any real prospects for the poor.

Spitting Tekere’s in-law

And because America and Britain’s wish in launching the rainbow was to oust President Moi, what became of the ousting rainbow afterwards was of no concern to them, as long as the angry hordes would not menace capital. Of course Odinga made the fatal mistake of courting minority votes, including that of Moslems of Mombasa, so close to America’s military base.

From that simple election calculus, Odinga was thought friendly to Al Qaida’s cells active in East Africa and the untamed horn of Africa. Hence America’s flip-flop on the electoral outcome. America had spat our own Tekere’s bitter in-law, himself MDC’s door to the original rainbow which took power in 2002.

Cleaner rainbow?

But the British, whose overweening ambassadors had repeated run-ins with Kibaka over corruption, had invested in Odinga, hoping in him would emerge a cleaner rainbow. That was not to be, the same way it would not be in Pakistan where they hoped Benazir in a coalition with the general, would be a way out of the Commonwealth conundrum.

The general would give the resultant coalition government its reckless boldness in the fight against terrorism, while Bhutto would give it a tinge of democratic acceptability so badly needed by McKinnon. Who draws such lessons to those about to swallow Anglo-American bait, hook, line and sinker?

Butau, a British visitor.

So Honourable Butau had a valid visitor’s visa given him by the Harare embassy of the British in 2004? So which Briton was he supposed to visit? And he survived the British-inspired EU banned persons update? The Americans missed him so repeatedly in their update of banned persons?

So did the Australians who went as far as listing the likes of Trevor Ncube, apparently in error? Yet he was Zanu-PF? Or was he not? Yet he was chairman of the powerful finance and budget committed of Parliament? What an invisible giant!

And did Butau have to be on the list of banned persons for lawful Britain to do the right thing? Is not allegations of serious crimes enough motivation? Apparently not. Did the fugitive bankers from NMB have visitor’s visas?

Interestingly there are many Zimbabweans — unsullied by crime or Zanu-PF — who will not get visas for just one entry. Including musicians who just want to go and play to their countrymen and women before coming back. No, they will not be allowed in. Aspiring students too.

No, they shall not enter Britain. And on the visa form and entry declarations, the issue of crime is uppermost. Not in Butau’s case. He did not even have to be detained a minute at the airport as London was cross-checking.

He just walked in, and within four hours of arrival was both comfortable and connected. Then you have this strange British officer called Keith Scott who submits a hobbling argument! My goodness! What cheek!

Mawere, poor Mawere!

To have an opponent like Mutumwa Mawere is a blessing. You never struggle for feedback. I am sure Charamba relishes his tango with him. I mean if such a pithy line on Butau is acknowledged so profusely, so sanctimoniously, so expansively, who needs to cast lots to tell where and how the blow has fallen and has been received respectively?

What piqued and hurt this born-again South African? A mere reference to fugitives who run and run until they unfailingly hit the shores of Albion? Fugitives who know no other land to run to?

And he dares talk about Gono and patronage. He, of all people? What business did he start here without Zanu-PF and Government guarantees and patronage? Let him not push his luck too far, this clever-for-nothing bitter charlatan. Tizvinyore. Ngaati pwee. Icho!


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