Friday, 18 July 2008

Zanu-PF: Little noises, big distractions

Zanu-PF: Little noises, big distractions

I will not be detained by MDC arguments regarding the inter-party dialogue. Save for their sharp, cumulative irony, they do not make any sense at all.

For example, on the one hand, the MDC wants all "political detainees" unconditionally released. On the other, the MDC wants "all perpetrators of violence to be prosecuted expeditiously and impartially". How does one realise one without undermining the other? Those thugs in police cells — thugs we have been feeding as taxpayers — are MDC’s so-called democratic resistance committees (drcs).

To the man and woman, they are part of the gang which the MDC has been nursing for Renamo-like banditry in Zimbabwe. Hoping, of course, to frighten Zanu-PF into making grand concessions at the talks, the MDC last week ineptly leaked this ugly dimension of insurgency it hopes to bring into play as an extra string on its political bow. Strangely, these thought-free politicians forgot they were addressing Zanu-PF, a party with deep roots in insurgency.

Over-rating the dying

Then you have the MDC demand for a resumption of humanitarian aid, presumably made as a public relations stunt. Except this is a strange request from a party of sanctions. I mean how do you make a case for humanitarian relief, invasion and greater sanctions at the same time? It is plain stupid. Of course, the MDC does not want Zimbabweans assisted. It wants them to suffer more and more, as its leader said.

What the MDC is agitating for is the resumption of political work by NGOs who did all the dirty political work for it and Britain. But there is a greater danger. It is one of creating an aura around the MDC-T as the party with the key to resolving the Zimbabwe question which we all know to pit the country against imperial Britain. On the ground, the MDC has no wherewithal to set preconditions and send ultimatums. None absolutely. Its backers were humiliated last Friday; its structures are weak or non-existent on the ground. What is more, Zimbabweans are now more aware and are unlikely ever to repose their vote in that party. Which is why MDC-T will never want to go back to the polls, as the European auxiliaries of its backers mistakenly thought initially.

Pink politics

Then you have the danger of paucity of information filtering through the media. This could very well lend decency to MDC’s elaborate political stupidity. Or the danger of the media filtering false reports, such as the one we had in this week’s issue of The Financial Gazette. The residually pink publication wrote about "a United Nations sanctions list forming part of a draft resolution on Zimbabwe . . . "

It is as if the pink paper is unaware who drafted the list he imputes on the UN. Or that after the historic Friday veto there was no draft resolution on Zimbabwe before the United Nations Security Council. The list was never a UN list; the draft resolution was never a UN one. Both were idiosyncratically Anglo-American, and it is sinister dishonesty for any editor, least of all with a Zimbabwean paternity, to make such heinous claims against truth and country. To achieve what? Respectability for Anglo-American spite born out of neo-colonial avarice?

If it was a UN resolution, why then did it need debate in the Security Council? Such politically invested falsehoods disable informed judgements on the MDC, indeed incites the MDC to greater harm.

When the horn of plenty drips dry.

On two occasions, the MDC-T president has refused face-to-face talks of principals of negotiating parties. On both occasions he claimed the Chairman of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, had advised him against participating, citing an AU Summit Resolution he says required Mbeki to share mediation on Zimbabwe with "a permanent representative" of the AU.

Of course, no such AU resolution exists, which is why the MDC, thoroughly embarrassed by its own leader’s sparse reading skills, could only wish the bad story some quick death. Secondly, what is "a permanent representative" of the AU?

Does permanency refer to a definite position and tenure within the negotiating structures of the AU? Or does it refer to the quality of expected seizure with the mediation matter? Thirdly, why would the AU’s top civil servant mislead Tsvangirai? Except Khupe and Sibotshiwe were also in Egypt, in fact well connected through a Zimbabwean working for the AU Secretariat?

Of course, I am indulging myself a bit. Tsvangirai absented himself from the talks in the hope of plenty from the G8 Summit, and from the debate in the Security Council. He expected both developments to give him greater leverage at the talks, if not presidency of Zimbabwe itself. It was a strategy wholly staked on an external dynamic, then read as unfaltering, as inevitable.

When Sibotshiwe is not Ping

But all this presupposes Tsvangirai indeed heard from Jean Ping. He did not! This is where the media has not been helpful at all. Ping is reachable, surely? Or is there a consensual editorial reluctance to report the truth, and to expose its victims? July 16, the day an MoU was supposed to be signed. When it became clear Tsvangirai was not coming, Mangoma pleads with Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Mushonga (I never like double barrels where one shoots enough!) to reach Tsvangirai to try and persuade him to do the right thing.

Biti and Mangoma would trail behind, clearly knowing the predictable outcome but still hopeful the day would deliver a rare miracle. In the end, Mangoma was the only one in tow to witness the failure of Tsvangirai’s erstwhile comrades.

The media make passing reference to this encounter, quickly dropping it as if it bore no significance or relevance to the state we are in, or the turn of events in future. I will bring out the significance which lies well before the outcome. Fascination with outcomes makes the media less inquisitorial, and thus more likely to miss significances in the penultimate.

Asked whether indeed he had spoken to Ping to receive the counsel against participation, Tsvangirai stunned his interlocutors by confessing he had not spoken to Ping. George Sibotshiwe had!

And who is Sibotshiwe? Some little boy who hits fame as a once-off music promoter, helping with the design of MDC’s tasteless website, and, of course, playing PRO to Strive Masiyiwa, himself the real nut for cracking.

Does anyone expect a whole leader to take momentous decisions on the basis of impressions of some little minion unable and disabled from spelling out P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S? And it turns out the little boy got nowhere near to Ping, all the time spending his un-precious time in the digging the minds of Masiyiwa and Bennett, his real founders.

Hurting interest and diplomacy

But worse was to come. It later transpires that on both occasions the villager was supposed to meet with fellow principals, the prologue was a quick despatch of dialogue documents to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, courtesy of George Sibotshiwe.

And on both occasions, Milliband made it crystal clear Tsvangirai should not attend, lest British interests and diplomacy are damaged. Interests because the document for discussion and signing requires all political parties to affirm the irreversibility of land reforms and to renounce Anglo-Saxon-led unilateral sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe from 2001.

Diplomacy damages because Britain hoped a combination of US support and manipulation of the Russian position at the G8 Summit, would make a sanctions resolution against Zimbabwe in the Security Council an accomplished fact. Unable to invent any victory on the domestic scene, Brown badly needs a foreign policy breakthrough for a dividend at home.

Zimbabwe was eminently suited for such a role. The white émigré community here makes it very easy for Brown to ethnocentrically dock British domestic politics here. Which is what would have made Brown and Tsvangirai Siamese twins if one was not the master, the other the servant. Both badly expect domestic glory from foreign affairs. Again, the media has not been fair with their readers.

Who is out of touch?

Increasingly, Brown is getting desperate, really desperate. He can no longer pretend that Zimbabwe is a matter "for the world", a matter to do with democracy and governance. It is a matter for Britain, both as former coloniser and as an intending neo-coloniser.

Which is why Brown came for heavy drabbing from the tabloid Press for "sub-contracting Zimbabwe to the UN" when he should have just sent in the boys to do a quick job. We are a parcel, a piece of work for Britain. We are not a sovereign country. No!

So reckless is Brown that his system has laid bare British motives in the whole matter. Apart from wanting Mugabe out (and they never pause to ask themselves on what legitimate basis), Brown wants to sideline Mbeki in the resolution of the Zimbabwean question.

Of course, the larger meaning is hard to miss: diplomacy is standing in the way of war, which is what Britain and America are itching for. The American permanent representative to the UN was even more brazen. Describing Mbeki as "out of touch", he added that the US takes heart from "interesting developments inside South Africa itself".

What are those? Do they include xenophobic attacks we have always known to have been made "spontaneous" on behalf of black South Africans? I am surprised Pahad did not give the US a fitting retort: who now has been shown to be out of touch, Mbeki or Bush and Brown who could not read President Medvedev?

From revolution to bureaucracy

When will Zanu-PF learn? When? Is it not obvious that while power is exercised in and through the institution of Government, in reality it resides elsewhere in larger society? I am not referring to that long-ululated lie of political science that the people are the power.

Of course, they are not, much as power is successfully exercised in their name and supposedly on their behalf. Throughout history, the people have always been the pretext for the unilateral use of power by those who have it. Between 1980 and now, we all witnessed Zanu-PF’s slow but inexorable morphing into a staid and very inefficient bureaucracy. It was not society that suffered a gradual de-politicisation. It was Zanu-PF itself, as its ideology and revolutionary programme went dormant.

It is not surprising that the one matter that has repeatedly vexed Zanu-PF has been that to do with ideology and the school for it. Bureaucracies run on cold, brittle, universal rules to which all societies are expected to adapt. Which is why bureaucracies are never agents of transformation. Their craving and appetite is stability guaranteed by immutable rules, strictures of precedent.

Rude awakening of 29

So did Zanu-PF expect the civil servant to politicise society for it? Or to keep and defend power for it long after it had itself dis-empowered and demobilised itself? Which takes me to the nub: why does Zanu-PF confuse bureaucratic power with its own stability and continuity as a party, tradition, goal and legacy?

Until it nearly happened on March 29, it was inconceivable to imagine a Zanu-PF out of power and without power or leverage for a second coming. Its power was its Government, its civil servants, its parastatals and its dominance in making rules for the rest of society.

Until March 29 rudely shocked it to realise that power residing in Government is there for taking by anyone whose tricks makes him more successful in an election. Had it not been for this clever clause requiring a run-off, Zanu-PF would have been without Government, without parastatals, without media, without security, without the power of making commandments only the morning after.

Ghastly, is it not? Yet possible, is it not? That party of struggle, of liberation, of history would have been wiped from the political face of this our small earth. By puppets, settler puppets at that!

Product, price and peasant

Has Zanu-PF drawn any lessons from this? That power resides outside Government and its instruments, cleverly dispersed in larger society, ready to be mobilised on a rainy day? Is that not why the soul of the British Conservatives lies in CBI — Confederation of British Industries — never in their party headquarters?

Is that not why Labour’s is in TUC — Trade Union Congress — never at its headquarters? Indeed, is that not why MDC’s fate lies in its ability to keep ZCTU politically interested? The predicate of Zanu-PF power has always been the peasantry in the countryside. No doubt a stable base, but the events of the last year have clearly shown that the moguls in cities wield the whip that upsets the peasant.

Goods and prices make up this deadly whip, made even more painful by nature’s own retribution, such as drought. Thanks to its successes in transforming rural lives, Zanu-PF’s rural vote is increasingly having to be defended and stabilised from the market-place.

Gone is the era of place and numbers; come has the horror of product and price, the horror of placeless stomachs. Which is why the 100 percent Empowerment mantra is a do-or-die for the ruling party. It has to find life and place in post-June 27 politics.

Law for good or bad times?

Much worse, Zanu-PF has to learn that the art of good law-making and development is not one where laws are made to confirm and comfort a party in moments of its undisputed power and dominance. After all with a parliamentary dominance, who needs the law?

The test of good laws is how well they become a veritable resource in the seven lean years, that is, when the margins are slender, dominance slim. In such dispensations, far-sighted parties with a strong urge to fall and rise, rise and fall will wring succour from good rules and generous interpretation of them.

The whole legislative agenda of Zanu-PF has been geared to serve a party at its zenith of power, never a party in serious political trouble. The agenda has never been crafted to become a tool, a resource for hard and harder times which are so predictable and so inevitable in politics.

I cannot say more, although I imply mouthfuls to the thoughtful. From now on, Zanu-PF must learn to think outside the box of power. Literally. Including knowing that once bigger ideals are jettisoned because an election has been won, little thoughts become big and dangerous distractions.

Such as the miasmic succession debate. Such as the myth of "gossip" and "stooges" for Matabeleland. How so experienced a party, so encircled a party ever affords such inane thoughts, is what beats little boys like me. The Israelites needed a star to keep focused; to avoid getting confounded and conquered by their own ugliness; to keep going, focused. As the 100 Percent Empowerment election hype hits a slow denouement, Zanu-PF, true to form, begins to chew its own entrails, strangely satiated by its own self-destruction.



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