Saturday, 23 August 2008

Dear Arthur Mutambara: So long a letter to MDC-M

Dear Arthur: So long a letter to MDC-M

The real shock to Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube is when they find themselves on American and EU sanctions list. It will not be long. Only then will they realise that you do not need to have committed any crime. You only need to have hurt the interests of the Emperors, namely the British, the Americans and the Europeans. And for the two, the crime gets even more tenuous and baffling.

They are not in Government and thus are incapable of materially committing this great abomination against the Deity. But the punishment will be just as vicious. Their real crime is one of perforating the fig leaf that hides the Emperor’s sacred nakedness. Now the head of the Emperor’s thing has been exposed where there are people! You do not get away with that kind of embarrassment. You pay heavily. You pay double.

Democracy’s supposed votaries

Already shunned by political donors as a way of coercing them back into a violent marriage, MDC-Mutambara now faces a new threat by way of a vicious campaign to de-legitimise it as an opposition. This new dimension is real, again driving home the Manichean nature of our politics: you are either Zanu-PF or MDC; Mugabe or Tsvangirai. You cannot be a Mutambara, a Shumba, a Semwayo. You cannot be anything else, which is why Mutambara’s bid to claim the space of an arbiter which the supposedly supreme voter gave his party, is proving very dangerous and possibly politically fatal.

We do not have a national opposition; we have a Zanu-PF antipode. The culture in the opposition realm is as repressive and as intolerant as the opposition charges against Zanu-PF. Either way, the voter say has no place, which is why the voter verdict of power sharing as opposed to power transfer, is being rejected by democracy’s supposed monks. It is not the place which the voter gives you which matters; it is the veto which the fishmongers wield to defend their interests as an imperial collegiate which matters.

Against fact, numbers and the law

And the fishmongers demand power shift, power transfer and nothing less. For this goal they are prepared and able to be unreasonable. The results of March 29 polls – which results until now they were rejecting – are what they are hanging on to. And in their view, those results provide a basis for power transfer. Just how?

Well, Tsvangirai won, they declare rather viciously, well against fact and numbers. Well, the results concluded the electoral process, they again declare, this time against our law and their own practices back home. Come to think of it, many current leaders of Europe and America are by-products of run-offs, foremost Merkel and Sarkozy themselves dedicated denouncers of Zimbabwe’s electoral process. Brown does not come into the radar at all. He does not need the British vote to govern. No one elected him, that very un-handsome man. He pilfered the crown, something not quite unknown to the British, right from the Elizabethan days. But many of his peers were sired by run-offs.

So it cannot be a question of ignorance in Europe and in America. I said they are speaking against fact and numbers. Yes, they are. The total vote for the legislature comprises the upper and lower houses. When brought together, the March results give Zanu-PF a commanding lead. Plain lead, too plain to be missed by anyone who is not Tsvangirai. What is the story then? Zanu-PF controls the legislature, indeed has the popular vote.

Finalising the hung result

I do not need to talk about Presidential where the argument is plain. McGee went to drag Tsvangirai back from South Africa to participate in the run-off precisely because America knew the March result was inconclusive. Those polls gave Tsvangirai a marginal lead over President Mugabe. But it did not decide the matter. Nothing at law or in common sense justifies a hung result. Everything in law and common sense cries out for a sequel. After all, it is impossible to have a hung result, and Tsvangirai and his masters knew as much. Tsvangirai did not boycott the run-off.

He dropped off the run-off, and there is a huge difference between the two. Withholding participation in the run-off, while clearly not making legal sense, would have placed on some plinth of arguable decency the proposition which the MDC and its backers are belatedly invoking, with the wisdom of prophets of hindsight.

Then the argument would have centred on the accuracy of the March 29 result. They did not do so, could not do so, in fact. Such a stance would not wash given that, like all previous polls, the result was not just accurate; it underpinned an immaculate poll process. Additionally, so consumed were they with the sense of an irreversible voter mind shift that they saw the result from the run-off as fated to go one way, indeed as foregone. A whitewash awaited Mugabe and his Zanu-PF, they reasoned.

They never budgeted for a dramatic turnaround as indeed hit them later. The fact that Tsvangirai joined in the run-off acknowledges and underlines the inconclusive nature of March 29. And he did it at the behest of the whole Western world, including the British who sent McGee to bell the cat, in order to hide their vested interest in the whole matter.

Deserving to govern, building a nation

The fact that Tsvangirai dropped off a mere five days before the poll underlines a rare whiff of commonsense which hit him a few days before his Waterloo. He correctly read defeat and opted out. This is permissible in a democratic process, as is also the phenomenon of a loser who builds face-saving arguments as a result. Such as blaming your pull-out on violence while accepting by-election victories emanating from the same process and held under the same conditions.

That Zanu-PF agrees to mediation and a power-sharing deal after its own victory, should never be taken to indicate self-doubt with the mandate given it, or the process yielding it. The swearing-in process underlined this deep and just belief in the validity of the process, the deservedness of the responsibility to govern.

Acceptance of mediation and power sharing that followed, underlined a trait and a realisation. Through this magnanimous gesture, Zanu-PF emblazoned its trait as a nation-builder, indeed as a party able and prepared to transcend the inter-party bickering and competition upon which the notion of democracy rests. It expressed the volition to abridge, truncate and share its hard-won mandate for a higher national good.

Its name is British, American, European

Through this gesture, Zanu-PF correctly acknowledged the crisis bedevilling Zimbabwe is essentially exogenous. Its name is British. Its name is European. It is American. It is called sanctions, fundamentally premised on a dispute that has nothing to do with MDC, the ballot, March 29 or June 27. All these remain mere pretexts to what is essentially an outward conflict that seeks legitimacy in local colour. In a way, it is right to say MDC is threatened by any settlement with Zanu-PF. It is, particularly that faction of it which is un-national and externally oriented.

That is the faction which is led by Morgan Tsvangirai. The one led by Mutambara represents fitful national consciousness, but one getting increasingly more clearly defined and directional. Between Zanu-PF and any opposition which is national, there can never be a Chinese wall. But between a surrogate MDC on the one hand, Zanu-PF or any opposition party which is national in outlook on the other, there can only be a whole turbulent ocean, abutted by a reinforced Chinese wall.

Mutambara puts a lie to claims that MDC-T is made to look a puppet by Zanu-PF propaganda. Mutambara puts a lie to the British propaganda claims that nothing good or redeemable motivates Zanu-PF beyond its cynical wish to rule forever exclusively. Therein lies the challenge to Mutambara’s MDC faction.

Making a choice

In trying to carve a niche for itself, MDC-M should not hesitate to be likened to Zanu-PF on the national question, the same way it should not hesitate to be likened to MDC-T on the so-called democratisation project. Zanu-PF does not agree with MDC-M’s neo-liberal sense of democracy, never will. But it deeply respects undirected spurts of national consciousness which are so disgustingly absent in the other MDC. And Mutambara and Ncube must not fear to be likened to Zanu-PF on that one matter. In defiance of circumstances of birth, the Mutambara faction is steering away from powerful external handlers. That is formidable, as Zanu-PF will quickly attest. Yet that is what will make the opposition national and genuine.

And persecuted too. In fact, the coming weeks will force MDC-M to make a choice between Zanu-PF and MDC-T. They will have to be sworn in Parliament, which is not a challenge. They will have to decide on a position regarding the Speakership, which Zanu-PF will kill to get.

Hey, they will have to say whether or not they are ready to play a direct role in an inclusive Government. While a tripartite agreement is certainly welcome, MDC-M will decide in a political environment where it may not yet be available. Or even possible. To baulk at joining would suggest they are a junior party to MDC-T, apart from underscoring the fact that they still stand beholden to external forces whose positive rating they will be out to win.

False threat of split

They cannot worry about an internal split arising from this question. Their rebel MPs, if any do exist, would have to face a series of by-elections in which MDC-M and Zanu-PF will be collaborating against MDC-T, presumably the new home for those rebels. Not a single seat will come back to those rebels and MDC-T. MDC-T cannot face an election, any election at that.

About that I am certain. To join Government will mean MDC-M will share the fate of Zanu-PF, and that means joining the sanctions list and the unremitting censure from the West. But the argument for Zimbabwe, which is an argument against the West and its hidden interests, will have won, in the process creating a huge step forward towards an honourable resolution of the national question. While Ncube and Mutambara may be reviled by the present highly polarised politics, history will absolve them, indeed accord them a place of honour as honest and independent men who refused someone else’s drum, against the dance of their own people.

A key or keyhole?

I notice one bald writer — a something Makwanya — thinks Tsvangirai holds key. He does not. He is the hole into which the key disappears. The key is with Britain and America, a reality which was driven home at Sandton City, South Africa. What frustrated Sadc heads, apart, of course, from Tsvangirai’s all-round ignorance, was how the whole MDC-T team could never give answers on anything without asking "for time to reflect". That included on a simple question like what time of day is it, Cde MDC-T!

On any matter put to them, the team would ask for recess, which meant going back to their hotel rooms for new instructions from London and Washington. It was despicable. It was embarrassing, with one South African official quipping: "Judging by the conduct of Mr Tsvangirai, I have no doubt that Zimbabweans are a determined people!" He was referring to Tsvangirai’s obduracy, even against commonsensical positions. MDC-T has no mind of its own, which is why unexpected shifts expose them, such as the opening of Parliament.

Contradictions in the camp could not have been more glaring. As with his party, Tsvangirai has no mind of his own. He is as good as the last man or woman he spoke to, and such people make very dangerous puppets. And they cannot be the key; only poor holes where clever keys penetrate. The man is being raped in broad daylight, at the Station. British rapist.

Puffing up Morgan’s pride

So what is the game plan? It is a very simple one. Diplomatically, Zimbabwe won. Its verdict that power must be shared was upheld by Sadc. President Thabo Mbeki won. His blueprint for power sharing was adopted by the region and is now recognised by the AU. President Mugabe won on several fronts. Against a bleak backdrop, he once again has Africa behind him, all engineered from Sadc. President Kikwete made the point: the powers which Tsvangirai is getting from the deal are far above what Odinga enjoys in Kenya.

He spoke with the authority of the man who brokered the deal. Unconfirmed reports say Odinga himself told Tsvangirai as much. As also did Botswana which made a surprising U-turn at the summit. The Nigerians flew in to persuade Tsvangirai against rejecting a good deal.

Yet such ministrations gave Tsvangirai a convoluted sense of centrality in the resolution of the Zimbabwe question. The issue cannot be about how power was partitioned in the agreement.

The governance issue has fallen away, and with it, the principal grievance of both MDCs, if they are ever to be believed. What remains, and stolidly so, is the twin desire to demolish Zanu-PF and its leader as infra

structure of a liberation ethos which the West wants extirpated from highly mineralised Southern Africa. This is the outstanding matter to which Tsvangirai is a minor. Now President Mugabe can expose the real enemy, the real culprits behind the deadlock, and the Trojan horse in front of that stalemate. This is key to keep Africa behind him while ensuring a consolidated position at home. Declining support at home and a reviled profile on the continent is about it Zanu-PF requires for now. After Sandton, the propaganda image of Mugabe as a megalomania will be harder to validate, the same way the image of Tsvangirai as an incipient and possibly incompetent Jonas Savimbi will be harder to dodge. Maybe Tsvangirai has overplayed his hand.

Structures of the war ahead

But the West will play its economy card, and I notice there is a convergence of thoughts on this one matter. Even Tsvangirai makes the same point that he does not need Zimbabweans and their vote. He only needs greater sanctions from Europe and America, to engineer power transfer. Let it be so. It is important for Zimbabweans to know and understand what is really hurting them, in order to be able to fight it, whether politically or economically. And the more we stretch events is the more the West’s pretences wear thin. The British and Americans are giving Zimbabwe less than 60 days to collapse. We need Government, a strong Government, which will take bold decisions without flinching. Globally, developments pitting Russia against Nato present real opportunities. Back home, the mature realisation that the enemy within needs to be handled conclusively, will help. Structures of war – economic war – are needed and will come shortly. As will leadership. In the few months it will become apparent whether or not the revolution can or cannot defend itself. By any means necessary.

After reading Kanengoni

Oh Alexander Kanengoni! I really enjoyed your piece, including the snide reference to Manheru. You have this knack for exploring a complex question in such a plain and light-hearted way. The central plank of your thesis was that maybe the trouble between Zimbabwe and Britain is too much love and sameness (not similarity), not too much mutual hatred and differences. We are thoroughly British, are we not, you declared, forgetting though that evidence of this incurable British-ness included your very piece declaring so, again in perfect English! Soon after, I had a muscular debate with my two daughters, both in high school. I had made your piece a highly recommended read in the home, and the two daughters, faithful to instructions, obliged. "But daddy, how would we be heard by the world if we do not speak in English?" cried one, with a clear nod of approval from the other. I flung my hands in despair, prayerfully hoping that you, Alexander, were not somewhere in the eaves to watch yet another layer of British-ness in Manheru’s very home. It is terrible. Desperate to convince, I told my two unlistening daughters China which has 1,3 billion souls, speaks Mandarin, speaks broken and halting English. Why won’t you study it to get to that vast portion of humanity, I challenged them, stressing their real argument has nothing to do with the world, only with the English-speaking part of it. You talk as if speaking English is the crime, I added, again sensing the vulnerability of my argument. The trouble is thinking English, to which the English dropping so effortlessly from our twisted tongues is but a symptom. Alexander, I lost the argument in the home. I cannot win it in the world either, which is why I look elsewhere for succour. Everywhere I hear English, British English. That means the British personality will never set!

The English Department that once was

You have broached a matter that nearly split the "English Department" at UZ in the early eighties. Was it an English Department or a Department of Literature in English? We could not get it right, beginning with the very label on our foreheads, itself an identity marker. Four years later, I limped out of that Department, a perfect human specimen of that unresolved question. In between, we could not have Micere Mugo, the firebrand writer-scholar who spearheaded Kenya’s challenge to the dominance of England in literature departments across the continent. In between we fed on all English – from its old, unreadable form as in Sir Gawain and the Green Knights, right up to its deliberately subverted and broken form as is Amos Tutuola’s Palm-wine Drinkard. I ate all that book, in order to be a capped graduate from the English Department. A furious debate was detonated when someone, apparently supported by Dr Chivaura and Dr Gecau (another Kenyan!) daringly suggested Shakespeare must be scrapped from the syllabus. My goodness, what an abomination! A real desecration of literature! Was Shakespeare not the father of literature? How dare you suggest that? The liberal Dr Chennels was prepared to migrate to apartheid South Africa, all for the sake of Shakespeare!

I hope Joram Nyathi now does . . .

Until much later into adulthood and amidst this bruising fight with the British, I would not understand this whole furore. I hope Joram Nyathi of the Independent now does. (He was a year behind, a student of a BA General, with English, sorry Literature in English, as a major). The debate followed and haunted my professional phase. Two degrees with UZ. Two degrees with UNISA. One lonely degree with a British university I shall not mention. Verdict: "the British-trained Manheru"! With four degrees from Africa? Why is one more than four? Because it’s a British one? We have a long way to go.

The story of Caliban

But there are a myriad ways out of this trap of British-ness and maybe I illustrate one such, taking after British Shakespeare’s Caliban. You should know, Alexander, that Caliban stands for an archetypal native awaiting to be discovered and developed by a white "pioneer" colonialist. Such as happened to the Kanengonis when the "Pioneer" Column came into the vast, empty space that we are said to have been before 1890. So Caliban who inherits this unnamed island (does it have to have a name given the placeness of colonial assaults on the Third World?) from Sycorax, his mother, helps a shipwrecked white-man called Prospero survive the shipwreck, and to thrive afterwards. As part of this package of fatal hospitality, Caliban shows Prospero the riches of the island, in the process exciting the annexationist urge in Prospero. Sooner, Caliban not only loses control of the island; he is reduced to a chattel, and has to draw water and hew wood. One day, feeling both quite fed up and libidinous, Caliban attempts to rape Miranda, a supposed beautiful daughter of Prospero. The attempted rape is both an expression of natural human urge and of resistance. Above all, it puts Caliban on the same human plane as Prospero and Miranda, something quite odious to Prospero. Sexuality would have humanised Caliban, much against furious denial of the new white master.

Hewing tools of protest from British-ness

Expectedly, Prospero is furious at this attempted violation and he threatens Caliban with gnawing goblins which he controls through his black magic. Caliban will not be intimidated this time and stands up to Prospero, who is quick to remind him he found him a mute monster "on whose nature nurture would not stick". I even gave you a language, adds bragging Prospero. Caliban wastes no time to cut in: "And my profit is I now know how to curse you." What follows is an excellent nationalist credo, with Caliban declaring the island his by aboriginal inheritance. Alexander, that, in summary, is what I have sought to do with this column: curse the British Prospero; kiss his beautiful daughter, nay attempt to seed her, to assert my claim and humanity. You chose a different path. You went to war and shot them dead. And as you did, we as collaborators sang: "Zvamunoona vakomana bhunu rinofa/Toridze mbira dzekumatongo!" It was through dying that the Boers regained their humanity, after a near-century of self-deification that spawned frightening halo and myth of impregnability that had to be broken by fighters like you. For that I thank you and your fighting peers. But the battle is not yet won, continues to shift to more complex forms, Alexander. Albion is near, breathing heavily on us. There are many ways of fighting Alexander, including – as Chinua Achebe would remind you and me – the course taken by the tired, abused and very angry Negro after a thankless working day in a white-owned sugarcane estate. In frustration, he seized his white master’s stolen trumpet, blew it like it was never blown before, and the result was jazz! So, weep not child.


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