Friday, 21 November 2008

Tsvangirai: Breaking hymen on sanctions

Tsvangirai: Breaking hymen on sanctions

HISTORY slipped by this week while the media attention fell on the "smalls" of Zimbabwe’s fast-moving politics. I don’t blame them.

The story is getting more complicated by the day, not quite helped by Zanu-PF’s well-calculated "sealed mouth" approach.

But tribute must go where it is due.

In a phase of leaping tongues, keeping a political mouth shut is no mean achievement.

That way, the ruling party has been able to keep its bosom buttoned, while giving itself ample room for reading the mind of its opponents.

Sandton gave Zanu-PF the first rewards of such judicious silence.

In contrast, MDC-T’s strategy, so surrendered to excitable boys like Chamisa, is being handled with the care of an urchin sent to deliver a parcel of unwrapped live coal.

As Achebe would say, now we can all see with what amount of care the urchin has delivered the parcel!

Little wonder that the inexperienced party is now left with ever narrowing scope for tactical twists and turns which in politics must always be budgeted for.

Pennyworth advice to peers

A little bit of penny advice for my political peers. Politics has no laboratory models.

Economists would say models for politics, like models for other human behaviours, are stochastic.

Where you are grappling with fast-changing, fast-flowing factors, you do not slam doors; lock them up, bolt them even.

Rather, like a bad man who strays into nuptial chambers of a married woman, you sleep and wink with this one unblinking eye firmly on the exit.

You do not speak with the finality of God.

Did MDC-T — from top to bottom — have to react to the Sadc communiqué in that very final way, well before arriving at a well-canvassed position?

Was it impossible to budget for adjustments and even reversals?

By declaring total, unconditional rejection of the Sadc ruling, MDC-T only made its predictable back-down such an ignominy, an ignominy only mitigated by the unconditional support it enjoys from powerful sections of the Western media.

But despite loud cheers from this captive media, defeat still registered and rang, registered and rang louder against the fact that Tsvangirai had lobbied heavily ahead of the summit.

The MDC strategy had collapsed in that spectacular way.

In sharp contrast, Zanu-PF went about its lobbying quietly, thereby packing a shattering surprise for the stooge party. MDC-T is now totally trapped, at the very least diplomatically.

Text from dust and dung

Apart from a flawed strategy, MDC-T continues to be a victim of the consequences of its initial successes. With parameters for inclusion in Government now firmly set, MDC-T has now entered that well-known notorious phase of splitting, divisive jockeying for notice.

Everyone hoping for some appointment has mounted the rump for frenzied political cat-walking, which is why considerations of collective political prudence are falling before the scythe of vaulting ambition and the accompanying quest for disproportionate visibility.

The current frenzied spewing of ungrammatical grandiloquence is quite in character, all of it attention-seeking ahead of appointments to the inclusive Government.

The MDC-T leaders face disgruntlement from the so-called Masvingo group which feels sidelined by the so-called Manyika group which it feels is dominating.

There is a return to the atavistic, itself a real headache for Tsvangirai.

And, of course, where little teaser bulls are marking territory, there is lots of squirting, raising of dust and dropping of strong dung, all of it obfuscatory: we reject troika and the Sadc decision; we still have 10 outstanding matters; Sadc was unprocedural; Mugabe should have recused himself; nothing before amendment 19, blah, blah, blah.

And obliging newsmen collide chins for catchy paragraphs! The maniacal attack on Zanu-PF, troika and Sadc is meant to hide furious contradictions within MDC-T, ahead of the inclusive Government which they are joining, unconditionally.

When history treads softly

Meanwhile, quietly against this small bull’s tumult, Morgan Tsvangirai slips out and tiptoes to an about-turn, gently wafting into a zone of reverberating history.

Again the media lost the soft steps of history’s tread. In France, Tsvangirai tells the EU Presidency that Zimbabwe no longer needs more sanctions; it needs humanitarian assistance.

This fundamental remark goes little noticed or un-inflected as our most vigilant media are busy with the text of the roar, fumes and dust of squaring teasers. For them, the story is how Tsvangirai got to France without the requisite ETD!

Yet however tentative, however obtuse, Morgan Tsvangirai may have turned the corner, and Zimbabwe may never be the same again.

In that short interaction with the French Press, he may have signalled a willingness to fulfil an important article in the Global Political Agreement, specifically Article IV titled "Sanctions and Measures".

Consistent with Article 4 (6), Tsvangirai appears to have begun giving effect to the Sadc resolution on sanctions against Zimbabwe, passed last year as the Dar Declaration; appears to be starting to fulfil the subsequent agreement between the three political parties undertaking to call and work for an immediate lifting of all sanctions, and for the re-engagement of the international community (read the West), to end Zimbabwe’s isolation.

Grant him the right to build noisy atmospherics around this important step in national politics, but by this hefty retreat in local, inter-party politics, the MDC-T leader this week may have taken the first small step towards a momentous role as a constructive player in national leadership.

His courting ruinous sanctions is what has been between him and Zanu-PF, indeed between him and I, son of Manheru.

So, while the media have been relishing MDC-T’s supposed intransigence, the party may have, in fact, been doubly submitting itself to two major Sadc communiqués on Zimbabwe: that of Dar and the latest one of Sandton.

That is to be applauded, the same way the noise accompanying that compliance is to be ignored.

Giving Britain a fig leaf

The implications of this little noticed move are potentially far-reaching.

I will put aside the rather humorous fact that Tsvangirai travelled to France on the passport of the French ambassador (which makes him a minor of the Frenchman!), and that, as Biti tells us, the French immigration stamped on a tissue paper (hopefully unused!).

Seriously, Tsvangirai’s unauthorised trip to France may provide the EU with an excuse to begin the winded process of undoing and eventually lifting their illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe.

More important, it may provide Brown’s Britain with the vital fig leaf she has been pleading for from the days of Tony Blair, to cover her nakedness.

The British policy on Zimbabwe has not just been bankrupt; it has also been very difficult to reverse given the level to which it has entered domestic British politics.

Let it not be forgotten that Sarkozy is in the chair of the EU, the same Sarkozy who has been working closely with Mbeki to get both MDC and Britain to relent on the impasse.

America will inevitably follow once Europe has made the first move.

Maybe the Jimmy Carter mission, while badly composed and timed, may one day turn out to be significant the same way his trip to Cuba proved a turning point.

The hymen is finally broken.

I made the point the last two weeks that the ravaging effects of the sanctions have become too apparent, too indiscriminate for MDC-T and its leadership to ignore.

And give it to them, Tsvangirai made sure he made the about-turn before a Press that knew how to handle this potentially explosive story, without triggering a massive backlash against MDC-T.

In effect, Tsvangirai has registered culpability for the devastating sanctions, but has done so in his own mitigation.

If he says Zimbabwe no longer needs sanctions, that implies until now, Zimbabwe deserved these damaging sanctions.

But he has coupled the admission of guilt to a call for greater humanitarian assistance meant for exactly the same people he has ruined through sanctions.

It is the proverbial story of a condemned fratricidal son who pleads orphan status in his own mitigation.

All this apart, the hymen may have been broken and, hey, caring mothers-in-law may start breaking skirts in leaping joy.

Situating Amendment 19

For the sake of our media so fascinated with the inane, Amendment 19 cannot be an MDC precondition for joining Government.

It is a requirement of law which binds all parties, and which the Sadc communiqué fully recognised.

Any appointments done before the amendment have to be regularised through the amendment itself within three months. And all the pending appointments relate to both MDC factions.

There is nothing in the appointments for Zanu-PF. So when MDC-T stated it would only join Government after the Amendment, it was not creating a barrier. Rather, it was registering that it would not oppose the Amendment which is meant for it, after all.

It was also releasing the President from the burden of making prior appointments ahead of the Amendment.

That cannot be a burden, surely? As it has turned out, the interregnum has allowed Tsvangirai an opportunity to start working on undoing his sanctions.

Drafting or deal-breaking?

Secondly, the drafting of the Amendment can never generate a deal-breaking deadlock, much as anxious MDC-T officials like Biti and Chamisa suggest it may. Strictly speaking, the Amendment is not a new document. It is a derivative.

The Global Political Agreement document is the source document for the proposed Amendment, a "white paper" so to speak.

This is the document which guides drafting, a document, therefore, which will measure the adequacy and accuracy of the resultant draft.

The draft Bill is handled by Government, never by anyone, anything else, outside of State structures.

I doubt whether there can ever be a successful private member’s Bill on a constitutional amendment.

That Government produced a draft before consulting legal minds from the respective parties does not threaten the agreement; it merely increases scope for debate and probable amendments to the Government draft, en route to consensus building.

The debate will be on drafting, never on substantive issues which stand long resolved and eternalised by the Inter-party Agreement.

Surely such a debate cannot be a tragedy? Of course, in making this point, I am not blind to frenzied attempts by some individuals within MDC-T wishing to regain on the roundabouts of drafting what they think they lost on swings of political negotiations.

Such attempts to reopen negotiations on the political agreement will, quite rightly and naturally, be rejected.

The bogey of Home Affairs

The issue of Home Affairs is resolved and is long behind us.

The Home Affairs issue has always been ostensible, with the real issue having to do with managing bristling ambitions within MDC-T.

MDC-T is grappling with challenges of trimming its oversized officials who think they are God-designed ministers.

The number 13 is too small to accommodate these opinionated supernumeraries and "vice presidents". The push for Home Affairs was a push for a more elastic arrangement that could take a few more such characters.

Above all, the real issue is about managing perceptions in the MDC constituency.

Having promised their supporters that they were going to overrun Government, a political arrangement which seemed to suggest they had become mere eunuchs, was bound to be a hard sell.

But the solution lay not in getting Home Affairs, which they knew would not happen.

It lay in visibly appearing to fight tooth and claw for it, and then climbing down.

Now, who in their ranks would say they did not try?

The idea of co-chairing Home Affairs was Tsvangirai’s, and Violet Gonda is being slightly slow by frothing for an explanation from Mutambara on how it will work.

Mutambara has nothing to do with the suggestion. Tsvangirai does, and the lady broadcast pirate must strive to be a little better informed and relevant.

Or to be less bigoted about her MDC-T. Someone must remind her she needs a little more than Edwina Spicer tutelage and patronage, to be useful in the newsroom, if one it is.

Operation Hakudzokwi

I do not think diamond hunters will descend on Chiadzwa ever again.

KuChiadzwa hakuna mai. Hakudzokwi. Many have many tales to tell, sob tales I can assure you.

I know Chiadzwa very well, having stayed there briefly as a young, footloose teacher in the mid-eighties. It is dry; it is rocky, inclement, yes, a haven of peaceful languor until now.

In the classroom, you struggled to rouse its youth, supposedly the sum total of its vigour.

Marange, within which Chiadzwa falls, was both provincial and calm, its eternal calmness gently and seasonally disturbed by the serrated singing of the sect of the Prophet Johanne Marange, all draped in "sinless" white.

Until someone stumbled on some refulgent stone that turned out to be lined and precious.

Chiadzwa’s peace of generations got shattered in an instant.

The world descended on the once tranquil Chiadzwa, in the process dashing its innocence.

The age of innocence vanished and in came the season of hard experience.

Like a powerful vortex, Chiadzwa began sucking the young and able, and with them all manner of vices and viruses.

Overnight, humans became single-minded earth-moving monsters, vigorously boring beneath stout baobab trees which soon gave way, embarrassingly showing the world their undersides.

A myth had circulated to say diamonds favoured the tangled and twisted veins of the giant baobab.

Thus, the raping of Chiadzwa extended beyond its once-virtuous women; it reached its once-peaceful earth which got turned upside down, all to appease vapid greed.

Today Chiadzwa lies prostrate, badly wounded, copiously bleeding from countless assaults.

Who will suture it? Who will bandage its suppurating wounds? Above all, who shall repair her collapsed morality, treat her cankered lungs?

The day of the Untouchables

But something happened in the past two weeks. It continues to this day.

A shock therapy.

The Leviathan has stirred and, hey, the seemingly giant boats that mistook its back for an island have been sent tumbling. Government has had to reassert its authority in this wild, wild East.

The Untouchables of Chiadzwa are either slaving, wounded or dead.

Gullied Chiadzwa needs to be reclaimed, declared the authorities. Reclaimed by those who wounded it in the first place.

And there is a twist to it.

Those accused of damaging it may not use shovels, hoes or some such implements.

They shall use their fingers, and accomplish the job in record time, these gwejas and gwejesses.

It is a season of tears as man become beast to get beastly men and women to repair the heinous damage they have wrought on innocence.

It is painful payback time. The deep gullies are being refilled with bare hands.

Fingers are sore and finishing, well before a quarter of the job is done.

Chiadzwa, once a place for dashing fortune-seekers, has become Chiadzwa the place of unrelieved pain.

United Nations in sin

I walk past a row of once greedy diamond panners, now completely subdued and contrite.

I am shocked by the human miscellany before my very eyes. There are white figures, brown figures, black figures, big and wiry thin, all made equal, initially by greed, now by captivity.

There are whites from Belgium. There are Lebanese. There are Indians.

There are Sierra Leoneans, Liberians, Mozambicans, Angolans, South Africans: a mini United Nations in sin and greed.

How did they come this far?

How did they know about this obscure place called Chiadzwa, hardly known by many indigenes of this country?

Could this explain the growing boldness in the panners, evidenced by gun crimes, including firing at law-enforcement agents?

If left unchecked, what would Chiadzwa have been tomorrow? A place of diamonds? A place of blood?

Or bloody diamonds, as Zimbabwe’s enemies wished? Why is the American Embassy so interested in the goings-on at Chiadzwa?

Whichever way, the uninvited patrons of Chiadzwa will not come back.

And the prophet shall descend on this land, happy and fulfilled once more. Icho!


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