Friday, 18 April 2008

Zim: Conquering Judas’ coin in Sadc

Zim: Conquering Judas’ coin in Sadc

I KNOW the late Dambudzo Marechera to be quite impenetrable to the average reader. Of course so many do glibly drop Marechera’s name in conversations, hoping to sound erudite.

But very few understand him. Simba Makoni took this a little further in the just-ended harmonised elections.

Seeking to evoke an aura of greatness, his resume boldly stated he was Marechera’s contemporary at the local University, then the only one in the country.

I do not know what that was supposed to do, and to whom.

I am sure with sobriety now reigning so implacably, Simba can now tell us dispassionately what tax he hoped to levy through such a bald and gratuitous claim to neighbourhood.

I am certain he is still to read the House of Hunger, let alone his less yielding verse. But all this is an unkind digression

Cemetery of Neglect

I said Dambudzo Marechera can be opaque.

I should add that he does this in quite an original and brilliant way, the way Wole Soyinka can never be.

Soyinka is simply pedantic, a poor African writer who chooses to flaunt rather fulsomely his creative familiarity with western mythology.

When you plough through him, he emerge the less wiser, except in knowing the man long died as an African, to be reborn in alien sensibility.

Not so with Marechera, once he admits you into the "cemetery of [his] mind". It takes a bit of mental ardour though!

I am particularly fascinated by a poem he wrote, a poem only published posthumously by that German woman — Flora Veit-Wild — so adept at digging diamonds on hard and neglected savannah genius. But before the poem, a gust of my anger.

As Zimbabwe, we had no reason to orphan Marechera, the same way we have no reason to neglect artists like Shimmer Chinodya, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Charles Mungoshi and the likes.

And of course when such filial neglect sets in, the West’s adopting vultures are quick to hover, to descend for the carrion.

And for an artist like Marechera whose life scattered before he died, there was a lot of carrion strewn on the veld: nuggets of vintage poems left in illiterate bars and sheltering street corners that gave him temporary home; unfinished prose abandoned in homes of wearied, spasmodic Samaritans, Flora included.

This German woman had a hell of a time rounding up Dambudzo’s scattered genius, until piece by piece, fragment by fragment, she managed to put together "Cemetery of Mind", an anthology which she published when Dambudzo had left this world, apparently without a decent goodbye.

The title, while deriving from a piece from Marechera, reflected the German woman’s values, the same way a name tag fastened on the forehead of an adopted child, has nothing to do with the loins that sired it. It is about the adopter’s worldview.

Apartheid’s polish

So in that collection is a Marechera poem titled "Sharpeville’s Blind Nights Ahead," written well before the fall of apartheid, but well after the Afrikaner goons were beginning to flaunt fatal overtures to liberation movements and some Frontline States. Mozambique, so war-weary, so devastated, had succumbed to the lethal Nkomatic Agreement.

That agreement did not halt Renamo banditry; quite the contrary, it escalated it. That agreement did not give Samora Machel peace; quite the contrary, he got killed after it, in circumstances so glaring as to excuse an inquiry on whodunit.

The village could not account for its missing old women, and yet in a nearby thicket, apartheid’s hyena was vomiting white hair!

Like many of his contemporaries, Dambudzo Marechera was deeply disturbed and sceptical about cutting deals with apartheid’s captains.

He was hit by the ironic twists and turns which embattled Southern Africa took for unconditional, unprincipled peace, indeed some bizarre dances it obliged, with apartheid as a dancing partner.

Afrikaner jackboots were flashing lights of ceasefire.

"Sharpeville’s gleaming Eye" was being looted by searchlights from "apartheid’s polished guns".

Even its fawned condolences "bayoneted" "gaunt black faces" of its African victims.

The bard’s timeless lines

Marechera deployed evocative imagery to capture this massive duplicity from Apartheid, and Frontline fecklessness in the face of it.

He grudgingly recognised "Pretoria’s cunning glint", in the process provoking himself to ungovernable anger out of which emerged timeless lines I shall here reproduce:

"When finally the exile realises his total loneliness —

The caress among thorn-girt roses/When brotherhood is betrayal’s seed/When the betrothed is the bearer of your need & death/When promises like petals suddenly fade — This is the hour, the ear, the caress/To explode solitude into shrieking shrapnel/The hour to say No!/And like the Phoenix schooled on bitter ashes/Erupt into the burning scorching flight of Azania’s eagle/Red smarting eyes surveying the rats below/Once again dares the burning flight to freedom!"

Britain’s Lusaka

This whole week has been momentous for Zimbabwe. Against Zanu-PF’s quiet but firm and inexorable reassertion of mastery over events, the MDC of Tsvangirai has been all over, meticulously fulfilling foreign affairs fixtures lined up for it by the British government.

It has been criss-crossing Southern African capitals; it has even gone as far afield as Ghana, all in a bid to slough off its white western skin for an African one. The effort has been to use African forums, African leaders and African opinion, to nail Zimbabwe.

What took place in Lusaka clearly was an Anglo-Zambian arrangement which sought but failed to get a Sadc patent.

The British called for the meeting — announced it even — well before invitation letters went out to heads of members states of Sadc.

What is worse, a draft communiqué from Whitehall had been deposited with the Zambians, and only awaited a choreographed summit for authentication.

Painful though this is, the significance of British treachery must not be lost.

Given the history of Zambia’s MMD party, little was expected from its government.

Given the history of the MMD, precious little was surprising about Lusaka.

Only hard knuckles had stopped Mwanawasa from such treachery last year when he took over chairmanship of Sadc.

He would have betrayed Zimbabwe then. He escaped to fight another day. This he did in the just-ended meeting.

I said all this is not comment-worthy. We knew better, and the leadership had given enough indication when it threw away caution by warning the Zambian government against undue delay in delivering fully paid up grain.

That delay which did not make commercial sense, had very deep significance in bringing up the Zambian government’s politics towards Zimbabwe.

After all, when the election came, it was the stomach, not a free future, which decided matters. Zanu-PF had entrusted its voting stomach to the Zambians who fixed it by dilating.

Well before these inexplicable delays in delivering what was due to Zimbabwe, the British Press had ran pieces to say both Zambia and Malawi had no grain to deliver to Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, there was lots of grain for hostile NGOs, much of it from within the region. It takes very little addition to get the answer. Well before that, Zambia’s Finance Minister had told the Bretton Woods bosses his country stood to reap fabulously from Zimbabwe’s turmoil.

That was not quite friendly. As wasn’t Zambia’s decision to reap from the massive sabotage by fleeing white farmers of Zimbabwe’s agricultural infrastructure, implements and African skills.

This is not to mention the Fund created by World Bank to resettle white farmers, including the Nicolles who fund the MDC. There was a lot to warn us about the impending storm brewing from Zambia’s chairmanship of Sadc.

Rumblings in the neighbourhood

I got back to Marechera. That poem has a line I want to adapt: "Yesterday’s friends now judge & jury of my own liberation."

Zanu-PF’s friends left the office of Zambian government a long time ago. UNIP was defeated by MMD.

That defeat was itself a not-so-well appreciated ominous augury for Zanu-PF and sister liberation movements in the region.

The defeat of UNIP opened a flank on the defences of Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe, the same way any defeat of Zanu-PF exposes the flanks of Frelimo and Swapo.

You notice I left out ANC. Yes, I did and for very good reasons too.

In terms of the arithematic of imperialism, the ANC was supposed to fall last, after Frelimo, Zanu-PF and Swapo.

In a surprising twist, it fell first before all these. Zanu-PF is guilty of allowing wars on its doorstep, long after rumours and rumblings of such impending wars are heard in a rattling neighbourhood.

Polokwane was one such rumble. The forces behind Polokwane were openly hostile to Zanu-PF and its revolution here, whatever assurances we got from Zuma through our national chairman.

We probably extracted a meaning we were comfortable with, in that mosaic of portentous events and humiliations. But not necessarily the correct meaning.

Zuma’s ascendancy, or the obverse — Mbeki’s humiliating defeat — was not the signifier. The real signifier was the man below Zuma who had come here before as mediator in our inter-party dailogue.

And the force behind Zuma which was the force against Mbeki — a force called Cosatu. It is the same Cosatu which had tried to export itself here as the West’s amorphous Batista army.

ANC’s vice president stands in very good stead to become South Africa’s next president, should Zuma be successfully lynched through apartheid’s left-over justice.

With that simple legalism, ANC shall have fallen into the hands of a labour movement, the same way Zambia did and Zimbabwe is supposed to (God forbid!) through MDC. Without a single shot being fired!

Two centres of power.

Zuma is impotent, which is why the ANC is a pressure point not just against Zanu-PF, but more directly against President Mbeki and his government.

When the West realised Mbeki could not be won, the West went fishing in the ANC, to ensure Mbeki is torpedoed and lost.

He has come under withering attack largely launched through the flank which the ANC leadership exposed.

He has defended Zimbabwe at great personal risk.

For that, I salute him deeply. When the world talked about the birth of two centres of power out of Polokwane, we did not quite digest what that meant for Zimbabwe and her interests.

We also did not quite appreciate what a weak Zuma would mean and, above all do.

His trip to the US, just before Polokwane, was terribly significant to us. I doubt we read it correctly.

His desperate effort at escaping the noose in order to keep good prospect for the ultimate office, is supremely important to the way the ANC relates to the West and therefore to us who stand in opposition to western imperialism.

What will Zuma’s ANC do to win western legitimacy, indeed to show that it is fit for office?

What will Zuma personally do to secure acquittal well before trial?

More important, what will Zuma’s ANC do to be rid of Mbeki?

When Mwanawasa directly pecks on Mbeki’s presidency, where is he getting the temerity?

Beyond South Africa, is Ian Khama ready for risks for Zimbabwe, a mere few days into office and on loaned tenure?

Who is his running mate and what is his disposition towards Zimbabwe, judging by his role during the C-MAG days of the Commonwealth?

The various institutional bases which the British set up for MDC in Botswana in the last two or so years, did these signify dangerous mutations in our neighbour’s policy towards us, or simply the whims of the man who sat in State House then?

Is Khama’s presidency a continuity or a break with Mogae? And what will all these answers add up to in relation to the bourne wither Sadc tends?

Back to the détente

I said I will adapt Marechera. The just-ended Lusaka meeting clearly showed the impact of British-led Western diplomacy in the region.

We are back to the days of the détente, only with no remorseful KK. In his place we have brazen arrogance, clearly inspired and made doughty by the promise of a pound purse. It is diplomacy by Judas’ coin.

I once made the point in this column: in the final analysis Sadc politics shall be shaped by the magnitude of donor funding in national budgets, never by the wars we fought together in the past.

That era, quite sadly, is gone probably never to come back in our time. It took Ghana nearly half a century to begin to understand Nkrumah, by which time insuperable damage had registered.

Lusaka clearly indicated Sadc can no longer rely on the bonhomie spirit of its fraternal founders.

It will proceed on gritty, hard-knuckled politics of revolutions aggressively defending their modest gains, always against western aggression often legitimised by narrow interests of sister states.

It gets worse when those sister states are governed by parties whose provenance is anti-liberation sentiment. Such parties have no regard for the ethos of liberation which created Frontline States, itself precursor to Sadc.

In such parties and leaders, them imperialism will acquire "fetid lilies", as Marechera would say, with which to throw at liberation movements they seek to devour. Which is what happened in Lusaka.

Poetry to rats in attic

Lusaka’s most ominous outcome was not Tsvangirai’s imagined status, much as that is getting into his swollen head. Marechera puts it so beautifully in one of his long poems.

Tsvangirai’s perorations, including his audacious demand that "President Mbeki be relieved from his duties as mediator" [sic], are but "writing angry poems to the rats in the attic."

He will get nowhere with his British, except to help Zanu-PF build stronger patriotic sentiment as his brawny Brown overreaches to demonstrate British proprietorship of the MDC.

Lusaka’s most ominous outcome was the fact that Britain, Europe and America were able to claim a moral pedestal on Zimbabwe, thereby moving one inch in the direction of making Zimbabwe a UN issue.

Imperialism has posed as the voice of democracy, with a liberation movement playing the fall guy. It is odious; it is obscene.

Yes, Dambudzo, "yesterday’s enemies [are] now judge & jury of your liberation."

But please get solace from what I see from where I stand: while Zanu-PF may have lost a propaganda opportunity, it has enough offensive spirit to "explode solitude into shrieking shrapnel".

For sure, Zimbabwe will not be a colony again. Icho!

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