Friday, 25 April 2008

Sadc: When a ship exposes the sheep in us

Sadc: When a ship exposes the sheep in us

What is this hullabaloo about a Chinese ship with arms destined for Zimbabwe? What? Let us get basic things straight so we deal with real issues. The arms are for Zimbabwe. Okay? The arms are from the People's Republic of China. Okay? The arms will be delivered to Zimbabwe, one way or the other. Again, okay?

This ship about which there has been so much brouhaha is just but one of the many arms shipments Zimbabwe has received, indeed shipments Zimbabwe will get well into the future. Zimbabwe is well stocked for its defence needs.

Let no one --- friend or foe, wise or British pound foolish --- ever, ever think that we are a sitting duck. Aggression will be well and truly repulsed and repaid. We are not just another small African country whose will is fragile, whose future rests on the goodwill or generosity of an encroaching outsider.

Sensible people and powers must know that. We know iron; we know blood, indeed we easily tell the smell of gunpowder, the sound of projectiles looking for targets. We have seen and fought wars, including a long one which founded us as a sovereign People, a sovereign Nation.

We are not a negotiated settlement; we are a settlement impelled by arms of war. Very few countries have seen action the way Zimbabwe has. Very few countries have paid so much for precious freedom.

Deep sovereignty, deeper cause

For us, sovereignty is not just a big word, a fleeting feeling which visits us at the UN and other conferences of nations. For us sovereignty is the blood shed; the lives lost, the tears wet and still un-wiped; bitter memories that cannot fade.

Sovereignty is a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, an uncle, an aunt, a niece who went to war but would not come back. It is a relative who fell in battle, whose image and voice reincarnates in two or so generations from that war, as a wondering, troubled spirit which haunts a little boy saying heavy words of elders, in a deep voice traceable to those long departed.

Sovereignty is that possessed boy who cannot sleep; who mutters about bones that lie scattered on foreign soil: unseen, unburied, trampled upon by beasts of the forest. But bones that talk and chastise, bones wishing for a homecoming, wishing to be brought home to reunite with the rest in dignity.

Sovereignty is that scar which time will not smoothen, let alone heal; sovereignty is that trauma that visits and shatters dreams, normal dreams; it is that horrid scene of limbs strewn in the veld, young flesh recklessly torn in a frenzy of war, still fresh, still bleeding. Sovereignty is betrayal; it is solidarity that fumbled, that faltered, that even failed because the struggle grew too heavy, too long, too painful.

It is the brother’s voice that hesitated to say Aluta, because of so much pain endured, so much destruction which solidarity could not justify, let alone repay. Sovereignty is real, never a matter for my neighbour, or his endorsement.

It is a right, an obligation arising not just from our collective being as Zimbabweans, but from the supreme price already paid. It cannot be a plaything; it cannot be smaller than the ballot; smaller than the whims of a distracted neighbour; lighter than ill-conceived communiqu├ęs.

No Sadc leper

There has been lots of irresponsible comment, both from friends and foes. I hold no brief for foes. But the past weeks have witnessed attempts --- startlingly from supposed friends --- to reduce Zimbabwe to a plastic paper ball for the edification of unwashed village kids in a rough playground.

There has been a concentrated assault on the integrity of Zimbabwe; a contemptuous attempt to turn it into the Sadc villager leper. It got worse this week, with dimwits --- clearly emboldened by imaginary British and American support --- saying extraordinary things, including harebrained suggestions of a Sadc-led invasion of Zimbabwe, and toppling of President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF Government.

People should not get carried away, should never grow over-indebted to their donors to the point of dangerous recklessness. Zimbabwe takes criticisms from anyone. But it never takes abuse; it never smiles at the splatter of a sod on its lip. Never.

A minion who plucks courage to suggest war, does it on the inspiration of a reckless elder. Achebe puts it graphically: you send a kid to deliver a parcel of live coal, he will deliver it with the care which is possible. Firing minions for reckless statements you have inspired is no way to mind bilateral relations.

Sickening hypocrisy

In 1998, Sadc faced an invasion of a member state. Only Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola had the courage and conviction to go to war in defence of that country.

No one else did, not even the then chairman of the Organs who today exhibits unfamiliar cheek.

Let’s not flaunt courage from a Dutch bottle, or from disability threatening to unhinge brains. Zimbabwe has peace, more peace than many in the neighbourhood. Zimbabwe runs better elections, far better than any on the continent. Let us not have holy sermons from out and out sinners who have offended democracy a thousand times over.

We have had election-related riots in the neighbourhood. We have had national armies deploying to battle a bitter and outraged opposition in streets of capitals. Businesses have screeched to a loud stop, not far from us. Results have been tempered with, with well-documented assistance from the British whose record of fudging elections date back to Nkrumah’s Ghana.

In another friendly neighbour, the Americans and their friends tried to ennoble a bandit all the way to State House, all in the name of the ballot. Is he better than Charles Taylor who faces unjust process in white Europe, all in the name of the UN?

The silence we keep does not arise from ignorance of goings-on in the neighbourhood. We know quite a lot, and have been responsible with what we know. I repeat: no African nation runs a cleaner poll than we do here.

And ZEC does not become independent because it releases results on the instructions of imperial powers speaking through some of us, worse still at a time when we should be defending the collective sovereignty of the region.

Ordinances for Iraqis, Afghans

We are a sovereign nation. We do business with countries of the world, for as long as they have goodwill and share mutual respect. We buy arms, as does all nations on this planet. From the war of liberation, we learnt that politics do guide the gun. To this day, no Zimbabwean gun has politically shot astray.

The arms we bear have created peace in the region, on the continent and beyond. We are not a rogue nation, no outlaw Government. We have not armed ourselves to kill for oil, for diamonds, to kill and steal sovereignties of "lesser’ peoples. We did not invade Iraq; we did not invade Afghanistan. We do not occupy Iraq or Afghanistan.

We are not perpetrators of genocide in Iraq and in Afghanistan. No! We are not arming combatants in Somalia in under the pretext of fighting so-called Islamic terrorism. No!

The Americans, the British have done all these ugly things, unhindered by any in our neighbourhood. In fact some would have gladly housed forces of these great Satanists, had it not been strong reaction from the region, led by Zimbabwe.

These invaders have been shipping mountains of ordnances with which to destroy countless lives, precious sovereignties. Not a finger from the voices that speak loudest today. Why this false piety, this disgusting righteousness? Is taking back our land indictable? Is upsetting the British a war against humanity?

Who embargoed Savimbi?

Countries which would not set an arms embargo against Jonas Savimbi, in fact countries which gave Savimbi succour against the Angolan people, today speak the language of regional peace! What rank hypocrisy. Was it not Robert Mugabe who stopped one such country from being pulverized by a rightly raging Dos Santos?

Today Mugabe is repaid by brickbats and threats of invasion! And which northbound export or import by-passes Zimbabwean territory? Why provoke a trade war that is unwinnable?

Leaders should think properly, or they bring great grief to their own people. Zimbabwe does not need solidarity it does not earn. But equally, it does not need hostility borrowed from the British.

Searching the soul of Sadc

Sadc has lots of soul-searching to do. Far from validating its credentials, it now carries the dishonour of fighting a borrowed war, a British war. It now carries the shameful badge of a quiescent community, radically different from its founding principles and spirit.

Sadc was founded on the principle of liberation and reducing dependence. It was not founded on the shameful impulse of donor-induced servility. It has no tradition of handling its defence and security issues in corridors overpopulated by British spooks.

It has no tradition of being dictated to by non-state actors. Or of helping imperial powers weaken the defence of a sister state facing hostile action. Sadc has never joined America and Britain in fighting China. Or countries whose national policies give China the pride of place in trade.

Sadc has always viewed countries like China in the light of their role as partners in liberation. Why help troubled American and British economies to assault China’s rising economy?

Does Southern Africa not stand to benefit from China as a refreshing alternative to the exploitative relations which have sapped our economies? Does Southern Africa not benefit from Zimbabwe’s trail-blazing Look East policy? Is the assault on Sino-Zimbabwe trade prompted by democratic commitment to human rights on the part of these foremost oppressor nations of the West? Who benefits?

Fight to survive

I will end by a fundamental question which faced Mao’s China as it battled Japanese imperialism in 1939. Mao saw the need for forging a united national front against Japanese occupation.

He saw the need to resist Japanese aggression, using unity as an instrument of that resistance. But he faced opposition from those who sought shameful peace; those who felt peace had to come at any price, including occupation.

These war-weary opportunists blandished peace and argued: To fight is to perish; not to fight is to survive. Mao on the other hand argued for armed struggle against Japanese imperialism. He took a contrary viewpoint which he summed thus: To fight is to survive; not to fight is to perish. He won, both the argument and the struggle, laying a firm foundation for the great nation that China is today.

It is an argument which is replaying here. I know who will win. Icho!


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