Sunday, 26 October 2008

Tsvangirai: With friends like these….

Tsvangirai: With friends like these….

Tsvangirai plays golf with James McGee. He likes it more than he likes anything else, his country included. This is why he will not hesitate to miss national regional fixtures for one more game with the American. Tsvangirai is the student, McGee the teacher. James McGee appears to relish the asymmetrical power relations fastening Tsvangirai to him.

He teaches our "prime minister-designate" how to swing his body-power for a good shot, or whatever golfers call it. This is why he agitates for so much power for Tsvangirai. Hailing from a history slavery and attendant powerlessness, McGee wonderfully feels his newfound power as his younger brother’s keeper. And his ward is poised to becoming the prime minister of a country which means what begins as power over one will end up being power over all.

It is a wonderful investment for imperial America, indeed a wonderful compensation for the power he personally never wields back home, may never wield after Zimbabwe. Sent by the world’s supposed only superpower, I am sure McGee relishes the colour twist which history occasions for him. Today he carries the burden of tutelage, thereby ensuring the "civilising mission" for once falls on black shoulders.

Serving Freedom House

It is a wonderful feeling and McGee is all over proclaiming the good news to the world. On October 16, he was in downtown Washington DC, selflessly measuring the prospects of democratic transition in Zimbabwe, in a wide ranging address to an NGO-dominated audience, put together for him by the Freedom House. Freedom House is white American Republican power deployed abroad, often acting unilaterally, untrammelled by international strictures which bind and inhibit state actors. Thanks to the Freedom House, many parts of the lowly world of men and women of colour today enjoy varying states of permanent un-freedoms, itself a condition most ideal for the preservation of American interests and dominance worldwide.

Cracks within Sadc

In that meeting, McGee made it clear America was singularly interested in effecting regime change in Zimbabwe, and stood heartily encouraged by cracks within Sadc which gave their programme good prospects. He mentioned two countries in Sadc on which America rested its hopes for achieving the desired regime change. Equally, the food shortages, challenges in the health and education sectors — all sired by illegal sanctions — bode so well for the regime change agenda. And in his reckoning, all these challenges were "man-made".

The audience did not have to sweat to guess the man who "made" these problems. But it certainly was not George Bush and his ZDERA. It certainly was not McGee and his golfing acolyte, Morgan Tsvangirai. It was not the potentates of Europe and America who had designed the ruinous sanctions; rather it was Robert Mugabe, the victim of those sanctions, who was being blamed. It made the envoy messianic and righteous.

The other side, the other Brown

On the other side of the Atlantic, on October 22, Malloch Brown — himself a citizen of bygone Rhodesia — was busy with a similar propaganda choreography in Britain’s upper house, the House of Hoary Lords. As in McGee’s act, this Brown’s agenda was similar, namely that of regime change. The language was as polite as Ian Smith could have used in describing Mugabe after the blasting of Rhodesian fuel tanks; Nkomo after the blasting of two viscounts, both at the height of the war. Back home, the MDC was doing slightly better than a sieve in leaking to the Press. Building up on Britain’s tentative effort at the UN Security Council a mere two weeks ago, the quislings made it clear they would be playing a hardball, if only to put matters above and beyond the detested Mbeki’s mediation effort. They want the whole action to shift to the African Union and the United Nations, their preferred "mediators". Basildon Peta carried this leak quite helpfully. Only yesterday, they grew bolder, with Tsvangirai telling OECD diplomats MDC would seek international "arbitration", not facilitation, in breaking the impasse. Recalling his history is in trade unionism, there is little wonder why Tsvangirai prefers "arbitration" to "facilitation".

Arbitration is a key word in trade union discourse. Little does our famous prime minister-designate know that in international relations, the term is especially reserved for mechanisms for resolving inter-state disputes, mostly of boundary or commercial nature. While we may be dealing with sincere ignorance, we must be alive to possibilities of "a giant’s robes on a dwarfish thief". Someone is feeling oversized here, a very unhelpful psychological state in negotiations.

The man without a corner.

Then you have the histrionic Mutambara and his "no troika without Tsvangirai" mantra. After that coquettish act at the Royal Villas of Mbabane, I started wondering whether or not to agree with the harsh verdict the MDC-T long passed on Mutambara, namely that "anopenga uyo, musamupe any Ministry".

Here was the leader of a vying faction of the MDC turning himself into an information officer of a rival faction, of a rival leader. I am fighting in Morgan Tsvangirai’s corner, he thundered. Indeed he was, for that is the only corner he has. As he made this filling performance, 52 of his councillors were busy crossing the floor to rejoin MDC-T, after roundly denouncing him. For me, Mutambara was completing his dismemberment, paying tribute to the paramount chief, after losing a bruising war, hoping for new favours. Is Welshman Ncube aware of the working truce between Mutambara and Tsvangirai, where the former acquiesces to MDC-T defections until there is no MDC-M? By that act, Mutambara followed what his ten MPs had started in Parliament when they could not support their own for MDC-T’s Moyo.

Royalty, no loyalty

All this would seem to suggest that for Morgan, things appear inexorably happy. And he has been showing it, either directly or via his minions, foremost Chamisa who has just recovered ground from Sibotshiwe. The MDC leader would not attend the meeting in Mbabane, we were told. He did not, in spite of the entreaty from His Majesty King Mswati who sent for him in his royal plane. The MDC would not attend the rescheduled Summit of the Troika in Zimbabwe, we were again told by Chamisa. All the time the problem was Robert Mugabe who could not see that the people of Zimbabwe are suffering, we were again told by Tsvangirai’s propaganda machinery. How Robert Mugabe, himself a victim of sanctions, becomes the one indifferent to sanctions-wrought sanctions, no one in MDC has quite said. The people’s suffering has become something the MDC can flaunt, hoping to escape the harsh and deserved verdict that they brought it about in the first place.

Searching for a deadlock

They were more dimensions to this convolution. How could the Prime Minister of the country be without a passport, the MDC-T asked. Why was he not getting a diplomatic passport, they added. Why were his inalienable human rights being violated by the Registrar General, still they asked. An ETD (emergency travel document) was downright humiliation, clear indication Zanu-PF was not negotiating in good faith, they again cried. He did not have cash to pay for the ETD, cried the dutiful Mangoma. But the ETD does not include South Africa where the "president" must pass through to pick up members of his delegation, they added. And since it is an ETD, where will the "president" sit while waiting for the flight to Swaziland, they again added, making it clear there was nothing rhetorical about the question.

Why did Mugabe fly on a State plane, leaving him behind, still they asked. It was a self-replicating barrage which suggested a determination to find an excuse. And at every stage, the Registrar General was most polite and accommodative. The ETD was organised for him on a Sunday; the cash upfront requirement for average Zimbabweans was waived; a second destination of South Africa was added on the ETD. Still the man would not go, to a chorus of approval from an obliging media.

Red herring or red passport?

Just what is the issue here? Is it about travel? Is it about a passport? Is it about a diplomatic passport? Is it about destinations? Is it about human rights? Is it about planes? Is it about talks? What is the real issue? For our average media it is about the passport, more accurately about the respect Zanu-PF and its Government are supposed to show to a man about to be the country’s Prime Minister. I wish that was the issue.

Let’s clear obvious points regarding this non-matter. Tsvangirai had all he needed to travel. Indeed he had used this very documentation to go places. That could not have been an issue. Secondly, a passport is not a right, which is why all passports the whole world over belong to Governments of given States. That holds true for America as it does for UK where all passports belong to the Government of Her Majesty. It is no different here. It will not be, merely because there is a man about to be a Prime Minister but not quite one yet. There is a backlog at the passport office, which is growing by the day. It stands at upward of 130 000, with many eager applicants having been on the waiting list for periods longer than the gallivanting Tsvangirai. The needs of these applicants are even more basic: travelling to neighbouring countries to buy necessaries.

Contrast that with Tsvangirai whose passport fills up on sanctions-buying trips. And anyway, why should he jump the queue? Why should he escape the shortages arising from the very sanctions he so loves? Is it very bad to pay the guy with his own coin? It is very lame for Financial Gazette to suggest a brand new passport flies to Tsvangirai to buy him into playing a constructive role in the talks. It smacks of blackmail.

Anyway, if he thinks we owe him regard as country’s Prime Minister, let him become one by concluding this one matter between him and premiership. It does not have to end up in Swaziland or any such country. It does not. But he wants more. He wants a diplomatic passport. For which Government? For which diplomacy? Sanctions-getting diplomacy. Let us reflect a bit.

With friends like these….

Let me pose a simple question: If you had George Bush, Gordon Brown, the EU leaders on your side, would you negotiate with any of your enemies, however strong? If you think you have the support of Jacob Zuma, of the Sadc chair, of the AU chair, of the UN Secretary General, of Botswana, of Tanzania, would you sit down to jaw-jaw with your enemies? With friends like these, who needs talks?

Tsvangirai’s cockiness comes not from the power he wields in the country; it comes from the powers that he knows and thinks are behind him. They look formidable; they look numberless, which is why he flaunts them with reckless abandon. Their support to him is unconditional, which is why he can afford to abuse everyone, Sadc institutions included. That — not the so-called Zanu-PF’s clinging to power — is what will wreck the talks. And when his American and British masters do not come for Government briefings, as happened yesterday, the message encouraging obstinacy clearly rings home. Equally, when envoys accredited to this country attempt to refuse to present credentials to the Head of State until a bit of twisting, clearly the man cannot help but feel big-headed. After all both the British and Americans have made it clear nothing short of Mugabe’s departure settles the matter.

Ten to one

Let me spill a few more beans. The dispute between MDC and Zanu-PF is great or small, depending on who in MDC you speak to. To Chamisa, it is up to 10 ministries, plus ten governors. To Khupe — and that again depends on where she is — it is one ministry of Home Affairs. Still to others within the MDC, it is three ministries. And in all this, an impression is created Zanu-PF has been obdurate, starkly refusing to shift. And the obduracy is explained by two factors, as far as the MDC propagandists are concerned: hardliners in Zanu-PF who now hold President Mugabe hostage; former President Mbeki who is incurably pro-Zanu-PF and thus a very bad mediator.

The former includes entrenched generals and politicians who fear investigations for crimes allegedly committed in the past. To protect themselves, they want Zanu-PF to retain the investigative mandate wielded by the Police, we are copiously told. No regard is given to the fact that the office of the Police Commissioner General is a constitutional one, which may never be subjected to the whims of any one minister. That is one office which no minister controls. In respect of the latter, Mbeki should be replaced by Jacob Zuma, the current President of South Africa or by an arbitrating team of eminent world statesmen. Or by the AU and UN. But are these the facts?

Remarkable compromises

No, never! It is a fact that since Mbeki’s return into the country, the whole facilitation effort of Mbeki has been to get Zanu-PF to make more concessions to the rapacious MDC-T. Zanu-PF made a major concession in respect of the Finance portfolio. That left just one portfolio outstanding, that of Home Affairs. And let it be recorded that Zanu-PF made yet another major concession in respect of Home Affairs portfolio, which included co-managing it with MDC as suggested by the facilitator. The MDC-T rejected this starkly.

They wanted it all. Armed with these concessions from Zanu-PF, Mbeki had no presentment of the debacle to follow. Woefully, he had misread MDC-T battle to have been that for the control of a given set of ministries. And let history record that the four days President Mbeki was here only one matter was discussed, that of Home Affairs. In reality, the MDC was looking for a talks-breaking issue as a way out of an agreement that turned out sour for their constituency. They still are looking for such a pretext to this day. Who would not, with friends like these?

Keeping the closet

Let us get impertinencies out of the way. There are a lot of ugly things that happened within the MDC during campaigns for harmonised elections and of the run-off. Boldly put, MDC-T fratricidally killed many of

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Tsvangirai: With friends like these….

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its activists who had offended a few people in the hierarchy, or who happened to work for different vying factions within the formation. One particularly bloody case involved activists who ran away with a massive purse of foreign currency belonging to a senior MDC official and his wife. The culprits were slaughtered in cold blood and the matter was blamed on Zanu-PF.

Today the police do have full facts of the matter, and the MDC is aware of it. Then you have senior MDC officials behind inter-party violence who are either on the run or facing cases, which are pending. I do not need to refer to those facing higher charges. Even more serious is the matter to do with youngsters MDC-T was training in South Africa and other places, apparently hoping to launch an armed struggle. These have to melt back into the country, with no questions asked. The MDC badly needs to control a security ministry, and especially Home Affairs, to take care of its wide miscellany of fears. No one fears the reopening of the issue of party violence more than the MDC. So let not the media give easy answers to matters which in fact quite complex and carrying deep fears of the MDC. It is no paragon. It does not want the cupboard opened.

His real keeper

Morgan Tsvangirai knows he badly needs the goodwill of the command. He has tried hard to charm them; tried hard to charm those he thinks can charm them for him. It has not worked. He knows fully well that he cannot govern this country for a single minute without the man who commands the veterans.

He knows what is at stake; he knows we have a political security structure here whose loyalty is fiercely sworn to the ideals of the struggle he allegedly so infamously undermined. The matter was put quite graphically to Fraser by a regional leader who knows Zanu-PF well: do Americans think for once that Tsvangirai can govern or even "live" in Zimbabwe without Mugabe? That was his own way of putting it across to the Americans and the responsibility is his.

Which mediation, which mediator?

Let us not kid ourselves, when the chips are down, not one country in Southern Africa can handle Zimbabwe. The present mediation effort has largely succeeded because Zanu-PF reserves deep respect for South Africa and President Mbeki’s person. I happen to know that even the latest concessions made by Zanu-PF would not have come about under a different mediation.

Facilitators are not imposed on countries, still less on parties with the history that Zanu-PF has. So you do not just jettison this facilitator and pull out another like you are getting dry nuts from your pocket. It does not work like that. Zimbabwe is a sovereign country and will have to agree to mediation and to mediators.

I notice Tsvangirai seems to realise that fact, which is probably why he says a new mediator, would have to be agreed to by both Zanu-PF and his party. Except he benchmarks the matter one step faster. Zanu-PF will have to agree that Mbeki must go, that a new facilitator must come. Zanu-PF has to agree that more mediation must continue at all after the collapse of the current round of talks.

Indulgent or weak?

It has many options including some, which are quite unpalatable. It could very well choose to go back to the people for a clearer mandate. I notice MDC is throwing that up not because it prefers it, but because it fears Zanu-PF could so decide. MDC has to be careful what it wishes for as it might just get it.

I notice people like Chamisa have not posed to imagine what kind of a Zimbabwe they will wake up to once the talks have collapsed. Zanu-PF is in the talks not for want of options, but because it prefers an inclusive political settlement. More dire options are available. Let no one think that should things come to a head there will be any hesitation. Which is why MDC-T must never confuse Zanu-PF’s indulgence with weakness.

Peace-making or peace-breaking?

Given the present state of political and security matters in the region, the only State with the competence and experience for a peacekeeping and peace-making role in the region is Zimbabwe. I dread to imagine that capacity being turned the other way, namely as a peace-breaking proposition. Should that happen — and God forbid — those quarters, which have been pretending militant solidarity with MDC-T, will go quiet. They stand no chance. The environment will be very grave and forbidding. So the MDC must never overrate its friends who can only go so far, do so much, with Zanu-PF’s tolerance. Except the region will not allow that dire eventuality of peace breaking, not for Zimbabwe’s sake but for its own sake.

Today, Sadc faces real threats of implosions and possible annexationist wars. An implosion could visit a very unlikely country. It is clear where the onus of peace-enforcement will lie. Countries in the region need Zimbabwe’s peace-enforcement capacity to deter aggression; to help restore order and keep the regional peace. I make this point in view of glib references to military interventions in respect of the Zimbabwe question. Zimbabwe can never be pacified by its neighbours; it can only be invaded by outsiders through them, to very dire consequences.

Sanctions boomerang

Equally, there is a glib reference to sanctions against Zimbabwe by Sadc countries, possibly led by a South Africa different to that under Mbeki. You see arguments crafted by thinking fingers and toes, never by brains. With Zimbabwe being where it is geographically, it cannot be a country for African sanctions. Only Europe can sanction Zimbabwe, the way it already is doing. This is a sober fact of geography — geo-economics to be exact.

How would South Africa impose sanctions against Zimbabwe without throttling its north-bound trade with the rest of Africa? Just how? And for what, for whom? Uncle Brown? And even then has anyone stopped to think of the relationship between a harmonious South Africa where the powerful white man behaves well, and a strong, assertive Zimbabwe across the Limpopo setting pace for social transformation for the rest of the region?

I don’t like Mondays

Then you have this yarn about Tsvangirai holding the key to Western donor support. All this assumes post-inclusive Zimbabwe will pursue pro-Western policies, does it not? It also assumes a West which has a surplus capital to donate, does it not? It assumes a West which is the sole donor player and market, does it not?

I found it interesting that Iceland is bailed out by Russia. Does anyone in the MDC follow these events? True, there will not be a shift of US policy towards under Obama or McCain, in that order. But US hostility whilst not diminishing, will certainly be blunted by other factors. In fact this has already begun.

I should not be tempted to say more on this matter as that scuppers "things" underway. Before long, Zanu-PF will not be an underdog. Which takes me to my central thesis: with friends like these, Tsvangirai needs an enemy like Zanu-PF to enter into a national agreement. It is not the goodness of Bush, Brown or the combined EU, which will make him constructive in the talks; it is the strength of Zanu-PF which will. That is why that strength must be nurtured to full growth for a definitive way forward. I don’t know what Monday will do. Certainly I know the aftermath. Icho!

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