Saturday, 2 August 2008

US/UK: The horror of hiding a lofty mountain

US/UK: The horror of hiding a lofty mountain

President Mugabe attaches great importance to the ongoing talks, which is why he is not going to China for the grand opening of the Olympics.

Clearly, he is aware that unlike the Unity palaver with PF-Zapu in the 1980s, the current talks involve a political Minotaur shaped and disfigured by a complex web of external interests whose sole goal is to teach revolutionary Southern Africa a sound lesson by defeating Zanu-PF. And these external interests have been made more aggressive by the deep crisis into which late neo-liberal capitalism has slid, a crisis which can only be resolved by creating an impregnable cordon sanitaire around primary resources-rich Southern Africa through the founding of a web of pro-West client states in this highly mineralised region.

The brittle Zanu-PF and its tenacious adherence to the seemingly archaic liberationist discourse, is viewed as barrier on which the West must overleap or else stumble, to adapt a well-known Shakespearian phrase. With Chinese and Russian capital on the prowl, and seemingly cajoled by Zanu-PF’s empowerment and indigenisation coquettish rhetoric, it is not difficult to understand the London-driven Brussels/Washington consensus which has made even politically suave states like Japan and Switzerland uncharacteristically active. Significantly, both MDCs now acknowledge that they agreed to play pimp to awful forces which now have to be ejected for common national good. Therein lies the bright prospects for the current talks.

Small fig leaf on splayed hinds

Political scientists (not of cheap ilk like the John Makumbes) will one day pay tribute to Zanu-PF for outplaying the West into reluctantly revealing its real interests in Zimbabwe’s virile politics. Elsewhere, the West has been fairly successful in hiding its less-than-edifying interests, which is why CIA de-classifieds remain such important hind-sights for those outside the freemasonry of imperial dominance. Here, such declassifieds will only be important on nuances rather than on basic facts framing UK/USA intervention in Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF has been able to expose the naked interests which sought the fig leaf of first generation rights, to sound credible. Dear reader, I draw your attention to two important documents which have emerged from as many weeks, to lay bare these interests which seem to get harder to mask as contradictions get sharper and therefore more apparent.

An imperial girl called Almquist

Mid-July, specifically on July 15, 2008, USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa, Katherine Almquist, revealed more than a mouthful in her testimony to the Subcommittee on African Affairs of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Stressing USAID had "aggressively responded to the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe through both humanitarian assistance as well as our ongoing democracy and governance initiatives", Almquist confirmed what Zimbabwe had always asserted, namely that America, through USAID, was politicising food aid in the country by tethering food handouts to political objectives and players.

By giving its food handout programme a politically loaded and resonant name of "Food for Peace", USAID was making it clear its morsel to Zimbabwe’s poor had to chime in with America’s broader political goals on the recipient country. Food for Peace was clear political framing of humanitarian intervention. Just imagine the outcry if the Zimbabwe Government had renamed its food relief programmes Operation Stomach Sovereign Legitimacy! Throughout history, America’s notion of "Peace" has always meant war for lesser parts, for lesser beings like us. This is why America’s Peace Corps have always been a harbinger for imperial wars and subversions.

MDC’s NGO Commissars

To make sure no one is left in doubt, the lady went further to indicate that the "food for peace" was distributed through NGOs code-named C-SAFE, and included World Vision, CARE and Catholic Relief Services. The gentle reader will recall that many of my pieces made reference to these NGOs, stressing how they became part of the MDC-T commissariat in the run-up to the March 29 harmonised polls. Indeed, their crippling in the sequel June polls sealed the electoral fate of the MDC-T faction.

The report also makes reference to USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance whose US$5,9m non-food aid was disbursed through another battery of NGOs and UN agencies, including Mercy Corps, World Vision, OXFAM, FAO, OCHA and IOM.

Not much mercy came through these amphibian American governmental organisations. In Zimbabwe, the role of both OCHA and IOM, ironically in undermining UN stated mission objectives in the country, are well documented. So well appended to UK/USA interests in Zimbabwe both operationally and personnel-wise, these pseudo-UN agencies provided useful cover to imperial interests here, while embroiling UN agencies in Zimbabwe’s bilateral dispute with Britain, all in anticipation of the debate in the UN Security Council.

Especially noteworthy is the role of OCHA and IOM in contriving visibility to the so-called "humanitarian crisis" both inside and outside Zimbabwe, in order to suggest a spilling crisis whose only remedy and antidote would have been invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.

Parallel Voter Tabulation

More brazen was the lady’s revelations on USAID "democracy and governance initiatives". Admitting to sponsoring "civil society" and "forces of democracy" (read MDC), Almquist reveals the deployment of a new "PVT technology" — parallel vote tabulation — through which the Americans interfered with the Zimbabwe’s harmonised ballot like they had never done elsewhere in the world. "Despite the difficult country conditions," brags the woman, "this initiative was one of the most successful such undertakings of this PVT technology practised anywhere to date."

Of course this was a pat on ZESN’s back, which is why the near de-registration of ZESN in the June run-off poll was such a flashpoint for the Americans. Even more interesting was a direct correlation established by the lady between the USAID-funded "get out the vote" voter education campaign mounted through ZESN and "an historic victory for MDC candidates in the March 2008 elections and an MDC majority leadership in Parliament."

Why a USAID funded and managed voter education programme must necessarily lead to "an historic victory for the MDC", the testimony does not quite say. Except it is not difficult to establish causality here, which is why the so-called voter education was in fact a case of gross interference and rigging of the Zimbabwe ballot by the Americans.

Much worse, the report makes it plain Zimbabwe’s future shall be defined by the West through International Financial Institutions through the vehicle of the so-called Multi-Donor Trust Fund administered by the World Bank. The operating philosophy will be market-based macroeconomic reforms whose negative effects will be assuaged through USAID-provided safety nets. It is a future which is not a Zanu-PF one, a future that excludes ideals of empowerment and indigenisation. Caveat Emptor!

Beware the wiles of Fishmongers

The lady makes it clear the struggle continues, buoyed by latest gains made through the March poll. MDC’s parliamentary and local government majority provides important fissures for political mobilisation, as does the media "in partnership with Voice of America and local media-focused NGOs", like MISA.

More space will emerge from constitutional and judiciary reforms, as well as those reforms anticipated in security structures.

It is a blueprint for greater US interference in Zimbabwe, well beyond the June poll, indeed enough reason for the West’s opposition to any settlement which does not emasculate if not annihilate Zanu-PF and its leader. Little wonder then that the so-called Fishmonger Group comprising US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Sweden, Holland, Norway, Australia and Canada, has the audacity to claim "veto power" on talks, insisting "the unity government (to emerge from the talks) must have close ties with the western donors", and must be headed by Tsvangirai.

You and me as Zimbabweans do not matter at all. It is so clear that the dialogue is meant to secure western interests, never the interests of the Zimbabwean people. How well the interests of the Zimbabwean people will be secured will depend ultimately on Mbeki and Zanu-PF’s combined ability in nudging MDC-T away from the West. Hence the significance of very creative tensions within the MDC-T camp itself, and a clear nationalist position which Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi, have adopted at the talks.

Wringing dry the humanitarian argument

As we move towards the crucial stage of the talks, the plank of "humanitarian crisis" in Zimbabwe shall be overplayed, not so much for the sake of the Zimbabwean people, but in order to put back the organisational infrastructure for western interference disrupted and dismantled by the Zimbabwe Government in the run-up to June. Noteworthy is the call by this daughter of imperialism for the UN and donor countries to bring pressure to bear on the Zimbabwean Government in order "to create the ‘humanitarian space’ necessary for aid operations." Pursuant to this goal of prising open this so-called "humanitarian space" — in reality post-27 June political space — USAID administrator, one Henrietta H. Fore this Thursday issued a Press statement demanding that the Zimbabwe Government "immediately and completely rescind the June 4 NGO suspension order."

A stateless people, a people-less State

Ominously, the statement calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to "respect the right of the affected populations (affected by hunger) to move freely to seek and receive protection and assistance without fear of intimidation or unlawful seizure of humanitarian aid". What is being required here? Clearly that the Government of Zimbabwe abridge its jurisdiction over an indeterminate portion of the people of Zimbabwe who must now exist outside of and beyond its suzerainty.

Significantly, on the same day the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, issued a kindred statement urging for the "immediate opening up of the humanitarian space across the country". The coordination cannot be missed. What is missed though is the fact that soon after the march harmonised elections, the se western interests attempted to block the bulk purchase of grain in the region by the Government of Zimbabwe. As with fuel, they sought to block grain purchases offering to double the market price (to US$400/tonne) to suppliers in order to outbid Government.

When that did not work, they sought to hire out all the northbound wagons to ensure none was left to move grain to Zimbabwe. The role of the so-called compassionate West in politicising food, as well as pushing up food costs, both as weapons for effecting regime change, will someday be written. But unmistakable is the link between MDC-T’s items in the MoU and the West’s cloak for its deep-seated demands on Zimbabwe. In the meantime, Zimbabwe’s role is to defeat this sinister dimension.

When minders, not your mind, matters

I made reference to two important documents. The second one is the surprising confessions of one Stephen Chan, professor of International Relations in the University of London and Foundation Dean of Law and Social Sciences at the School of Oriental and African studies. Himself "an organic intellectual" for latter-day British Blairite imperialism, Chan makes amazing disclosures that make his piece — published in the August 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine — a real obituary for Morgan Tsvangirai, and a painful valediction to himself, after such a chequered FCO-inspired attachment to the MDC leader.

The first startling disclosure concerns himself, revealing he provided the manifesto MDC campaigned on in the 2005 elections. This column kept making the point that MDC had no mind of its own, depending as it did and does on foreign western thoughts whose incarnates are the likes of Chan and British image minders who have hovered around Tsvangirai for so long. Often, these go as far as penning and publishing pieces for the MDC leader, without reference to him at all, as recently happened with the British Guardian. Odinga has somewhat enriched the colour-mix of this group to which the MDC has subcontracted all thinking. It is not Tsvangirai’s mind that matters apparently; rather, it is his minders who do.

Screwing McGee

The second disclosure from Chan is that "Tsvangirai’s main source of advice was the US embassy in Harare, especially after Mugabe’s government arrested Biti on treason charges and imprisoned him two weeks before the runoff". "The US embassy sought to fill the gap, and was complicit in Tsvangirai’s decision to withdraw from the elections and seek refuge in the Dutch embassy. The plan was to hand Mugabe a hollow victory which the West could then attack. The US analysis was that the poll had already been fixed so a Tsvangirai victory was impossible. Participation would only legitimise a brazen "steal". The idea was also to create an image of such great intimidation that even a leader of the opposition could find safety from assassination only on diplomatic soil."

It is a breathtaking confession from within, one which confirms this column’s reading of that whole stunt involving the Dutch embassy. What is worse, it confirms US duplicity in the whole affair, revealing the US propaganda role in creating pseudo-events that drove world opinion. Why was it necessary to "create an image of such great intimidation" if real intimidation existed?

And what other images did the US and UK create "to hand Mugabe hollow victory which the West could then attack"? Images of violence, including redeploying burnt corpses from Odinga’s Kenya? Little wonder that McGee treats the June setback as a personal defeat. But Chan has no kind words for him. The Vietnam defeat-ee screwed up. Full stop.

The loner in the crowd

The third disclosure is not quite new, merely another confirmation of what the column has obdurately maintained, namely the isolation and increasing insecurity of Tsvangirai within his MDC. It is precisely this overriding sense of insecurity which pushed Tsvangirai to insist on a one-to-one meeting with President Mugabe, and on an expansion of the negotiating team.

The expulsion of Theresa Makone from the talks adds to the intrigue, does it not? It’s clear the machinery which Tsvangirai has always relied on historically for counsel is caught up in a tussle with a makeshift one put in place by the West battling to steady up a moving target that Zanu-PF has become. The deepening lack of consultations within the MDC itself has in fact deepened this alienation which has turned Mugabe a real saviour of Tsvangirai.

Evil Hour

But it is a turn of events which presents an evil hour to President Mugabe. Chan’s romancing of Ncube, Biti and Makoni betrays his recommendation to Whitehall, which means a possible rethink in Whitehall, a rethink in the direction of carving out a new pressure point against Zanu-PF. It will be an opposition which seeks to supersede the old MDC which is reckoned as gone in the West. "The West has always been prepared to do business with Makoni – a technocratic paragon of "Zanu-PF-lite" who many feel never really left the party — and might insist on his ministerial inclusion." Clearly Chan is a foreigner who romances a politician so ugly at home, but one who looks so handsome to outsiders. But Chan is right in regarding Makoni as the figure on whom British calculations may depend. Which is why the Makoni/Dabengwa/Dukwe axis is as important as Tsvangirai’s Government-in-exile never-never idea which looks more never now than ever before. How to play all the cards without giving the devil a holy grievance, is in fact the challenge. An evil hour indeed.



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