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!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Zanu-PF: Beware of the ‘eve’ psychosis

Zanu-PF: Beware of the ‘eve’ psychosis

I HAVE often wondered why my column is so diligently read in many circles, Zanu-PF included.

I have also wondered why its often aberrant and irreverent thoughts tend to draw the sharpest reaction from persons in powerful spheres, including representatives of powerful states.

I have become a subject of discussion in courtesy calls, negotiating forums and boardrooms, all of them settings of power, sources of major ideas, indeed habitats of potentates.

Some want me lynched; others want me roasted from the temple downwards; all are united and unanimous that my sharp and in their view, poisoned pen certainly invites and deserves deep grief which, sooner, must visit my little person as a matter of retributive justice and expiation.

Then you have the MDC lot, with its strange coping mechanism of denying that they ever read my column, while proceeding to complain bitterly against its latest postulates.

You are struck by how current they are with the column’s preoccupations and arguments, struck by the accuracy and freshness of their quotes meant to prove I peddle "Zanu-PF hate speech".

You are struck by how well they trim their arguments and conduct, all to its dictates.

How they achieve this deep acquaintance with my "unread" column, I cannot quite say.

In my quiet moments, I ask myself: how have I managed this feat of upsetting powerful deities from these polar opposites.

Oftentimes I suffer a presentiment of hubris, an overbearing sense of ending consequent upon upsetting mighty gods, even challenging them to an open field wrestle.

I also must confess that in my other moments of reckless pride, this reflection gives me quite a handful of pleasure.

After all I seem to be in good company.

Here is Salman Rushdie: "For in the years to come you will find yourselves up against gods of all sorts, big and little gods, corporate and incorporeal gods, all of them demanding to be worshipped and obeyed — the myriad deities of money and power, of convention and custom, that will seek to limit and control your thoughts and lives.

Defy them; that is my advice to you.

Thumb your noses; cock your snooks.

For, as the myths tells us, it is by defying the gods that human beings have best expressed their humanity."

The "where are we" syndrome

So this does not worry me.

What does is a character trait I often detect within the leadership of the ruling Zanu-PF.

You meet some politician from the ruling party and the question you can expect is: "So what’s happening?" Or its variant: "So where are we?" Frankly, the question is as obscene as two dogs behaving badly where there are people, parikuroodzwa mwanasikana.

Coming from men and women who rule and thus whose ideas must lead, must rule, such a question however mutated, suggests a disheartening abnegation, a puzzling and capitulationist climb-down from the plinth of leadership – both of thought and of deed.

The worst that can happen to a ruling party is to be unable to understand the moment, which means being unable to understand the agenda and line of the day.

How do you enter history, still less shape it, if you cannot interpret the times, itself the starting point for shaping those times? The gods cannot be puzzled and still hope to remain gods.

And of course asking where we are, suggests not an inhabitant of the terraces — itself a bad dwelling place for makers of history — but a man or woman actually too late for and too far from the terraces.

Yet to rule is to act consciously, well before the rest of society has caught up with where you are driving it towards, which is why citizens often turn to history to understand moments they have lived through.

Registering mutability

What am I driving at? Simple: it is inexcusable for the leadership of the ruling party to be unable to understand the times.

Inexcusable for little gods to ask what time of day it is when mere mortals under them think they make day; think they make night, both of them markers of time for those living under its tyranny.

And it is the fact of living above time which makes the gods immutable.

The ruling party cannot ask "where are we", without registering its mutability.

The question suggests perplexity, real deep befuddlement quite unseemly of gods.

A "where are we" from a supposed maker of history thins out to a plaintive "where am I"? But not in the vigorous, philosophical sense of existentialism; only in the uninspiring and uninspired sense of acute impotence.

And even an unimaginative alibi where you pretend you are lost with the rest implied by the plural "we", when in fact you are only confessing to a punishable dereliction.

There are many in the ruling party who seem unclear of their role when their principals are negotiating.

They do not seem to know strategies of strengthening the hand of their negotiators.

Excused from history?

The biggest threat to the ruling party is not the MDC, the British, the Europeans, the Americans, much as all these are a veritable factor.

The biggest threat to the ruling party is its resignation from history, resignation from actions that make history, opting instead for the lulling "where are we", un-existential posture.

It is a posture that suggests a leadership type that is not even weary of making history, but one that has actually deserted that role.

A leadership adrift and hoping for powerful traction from somewhere to anywhere or nowhere.

The so-called political negotiations for an inclusive Government have sanctified the AWOL of ruling party members.

Except for President Mugabe, Mnangagwa, Goche, Chinamasa and one or two others, everyone else in the ruling party feels excused from history, even feeling righteous about it.

And the fact of asking "Where are we?" exculpates you from any responsibility, from any consequences arising from playing your part in engaging the baneful MDC, they reason, forgetting we are where we are because of what we did or did not do before and on March 29.

That is where the rain began to beat us and the current talks are a mere salvage effort, fullstop.

"Where are we" exonerates you from any unsavoury outcomes from the talks, registers your baby innocence as a child-man, child-woman.

What rank hypocrisy! Or is the leadership numbed by the sheer awesomeness of the unanticipated ramifications of March 29? Where you had men and women who would have found ample space in 31 cabinet posts, you now have a multitude jostling for a mere 15 posts.

Or simply abandoning all hope for any useful role outside of a ministerial one.

It can be quite unsettling, indeed appear sound enough reason for a consuming sense of the ending, of passive resignation, suggested by the very question under examination, so often posed by those who must know and answer it.

The ruling party seems in the grip of giant anomie, profound wistfulness which can be dangerously paralysing.

The "eve" psychosis

What is worse, this angst has given rise to a dangerous sense of a threshold.

It is a sense of a threshold which has now been turned enormous by the fact that those who are supposed to lead seem resigned to follow, literally swept by a presentiment of a millenarianism they cannot name, let alone shape.

There is an overbearing sense of waiting, itself suggestive of a deep sense of entrapment which thus makes anything which is not the present seem and look like something new.

The MDC, I am afraid, has skilfully played on this psychosis of TINA — there is no alternative — to give this collective angst and resignation a palatable name called "democratic change" or "new Zimbabwe".

Never mind that they are not in charge of the national tempo.

But the fact that they have a name for it — certainly a wrong one — has given them some claim to leadership.

I have termed this state of mind "the eve psychosis", itself the bane of the ruling party’s present politics.

People cannot live with an overwhelming feeling of the threshold which you as a ruler cannot name or shape, without suggesting you have become a butt of history.

Helping the MDC

What this eve psychosis has done is to dignify treacherous knavery.

In its present form, the MDC cannot give this society leaders or leadership.

It is a party of hungry knaves who cannot think beyond the grandeur of office, think beyond a sumptuous morsel and pat from the master.

MDC can never lead this society; it can only deliver it to those who have occupied and led it before.

This is why their discourse hardly goes beyond controlling powerful ministries.

They can only be office bearers who obey a larger pull.

And a return to a colonial past cannot be "new", "democratic", let alone "change".

It is a throwback, a giant march backward, only made inviting by the ruling party’s dereliction of leadership which has made stepping forward such a frightful prospect, such a forbidding pain.

I ask a simple question to all those in leadership of Zanu-PF: why have we helped MDC by making power-sharing the national issue, the great question of the day, of the Nation? Why? Even people who cannot venture anywhere near the hemp of this great power to be shared, today feel so passionate about it.

Is that the matter, the question really?

Hande kuminda

As I write this piece, the skies have grown darker, rumbling with the pregnancy of eager rains, and thus the tantalising promise of plenty to this our very hungry nation.

It is time to break the clod, seed the earth for tomorrow’s harvest.

The cicadas wail, the trees show verdure and look nubial, as if in heat, ready and mourning for mating.

Yet our politics suggest the season’s mating cycle can wait for power-sharing talks, can wait for some agreement with these idle tools of Britain.

That the talks will bring another season, another rain another time.

I despair.

Is Zanu-PF not the party of the Land, party yekuminda? Has it now become the party of hallways? Is not the main issue for national action the countryside, not Rainbow Towers? Why have we not pulled the national psyche kuminda whence comes our ultimate politics and all solutions to our collective vulnerabilities as a free, independent people and nation? Why have we allowed MDC to push us into this vortex of barren politics we know are meant to ruin yet another season, in the process preparing us for an unconditional capitulation in the next cycle of hunger?

Have we not seen enough? Should we ask: where are we, when the cicadas scream and yell back answers at us? Do we not hear haya — the water bird — wailing for our notice? Do we not see nyenga-nyenga gaily diving into the approaching season; indeed see nature in its most lecherous and coquettish plumage? Who mates with it; who seeds it? Until Zanu-PF realises MDC is tempting it away from the real issue, into a very dangerous realm of distraction, then we are in for a rude awakening.

A clear headed ruling party would know that a crocodile fights best in water, never on the high backbone of a dry earth.

Cease dereliction, oh ruling party.

The great question of the day is solving the issue of the stomach, of empty granaries.

That is the question.

And the country is ready, once bitten by the present hunger. It is very easy to mobilise it, transfix it on the issue of production.

Leave MDC alone, debating power they will never have. Use the power you have to go back to the peasant, gird his loins agriculturally.

That is the language of politics of tomorrow, a Zanu-PF tomorrow in which the MDC cannot but kowtow. That is what matters, what will count in tomorrow’s politics.

Not these soundbites which deliver food for thoughts, but hardly any for the stomach, indeed which give our nation a harvest of thorns.



Saturday, 11 October 2008

Inclusive Govt: How it will not work

Inclusive Govt: How it will not work

Let it be stated clear and plain: the so-called current impasse on the formation of an inclusive government has nothing to do with the poor, the hungry, the unemployed, the black, in short, nothing to do with the plight of all those writhing under the MDC-courted illegal Western sanctions. So let no politician posture, pretending a duplicitous humanitarian cast calculated to improve his or her political appeal.

It has everything to do with the growing discomfiture in the MDC-T constituency that their principals under-negotiated vis-à-vis the lofty expectations deriving from their propaganda postulates. Without proper regard to the real situation on the ground, the MDC-T primed its own constituency to expect its leadership to take over Government principally on the strength of a penultimate result of March 29, about which their propagandists have made much ado, from, by and for nothing.

With their principals in the saddle, their young and largely unemployed constituency saw itself already in uniform, summarily absorbed within security structures as politically glorified privates.

Medley motives in one boat

But there was also a white and foreign constituency, which expected MDC principals to achieve a seismic power transfer, albeit within a Zanu-fied form. Then you have little but ambitious and vengeful autocrats in their midst who tested the agreement solely in terms of its ability to grant them access to instruments of vengeful coercion against those they blame for their chequered opposition days.

Still others — well within this vengeful mode — would only find satiety if certain heads rolled, metaphorically if not literally. This is the wide gallery of expectations that burden implementation, made wider by one furiously ambitious member within the MDC-T executive who would have killed to become the second Deputy Prime Minister, or if he could not, killed to become Justice or Home Affairs minister.

Now, all these concerns are a far cry from recovering the economy or feeding the drought stricken, both of which require one simple intervention by the MDC, namely an appeal to its Western principals to drop illegal sanctions against this country, against this People.

You do not need to have Biti in this or that Ministry for MDC to tell Brown to reverse sanctions so the children can begin to eat, to receive treatment and go to school.

Redeeming stubbornness

So, we are dealing with a leadership which cannot sell an agreement it signed; a leadership which is fighting to improve its estimate in the eyes of its disenchanted constituency by demonstrating a redeeming stubbornness. But it is also a leadership which is so fond of boxing itself into a corner to an extent that movement on any matter, has to involve a face-saving intervention of external facilitator.

For all the pessimism in the media, the fact that Tsvangirai has now called for the intervention of the facilitator, clearly indicates his readiness to compromise, but without losing face.

It is also a major step forward that he is outgrowing his state of eternal denial by acknowledging — as he did two days ago — that sanctions are hurting all Zimbabweans, regardless of political side.

We are getting closer, and all those trained to read things at face value, may miss the huge desire within the MDC to join in Government at any cost, in some cases. That is what belies Chamisa’s boyish bellicosity which no one in Zanu-PF regards or fear. But of course you also had the meeting of the EU ministers this week whose decision on sanctions the MDC wanted to determine its way forward.

At the UN you had Britain, its principal handler, trying to persuade the Chinese and South Africans for another mission to Zimbabwe, followed by another briefing in the Security Council. In a way, the MDC ambivalence owed to its having flung several irons into the fire, none of which was hotting up fast enough.

Apprenticing the MDC

What is most urgent is to get MDC — particularly MDC-T — to understand how Government functions. Even more important, how Government does not function. While the so-called impasse owed to matters quite extraneous to actual governance, it also revealed a disturbing ignorance on the part of both MDCs on how the Government they are about to join will work.

But I grant it to them: the leader of MDC-T a few weeks back and before the signing openly admitted to the facilitator he does not know or understand how government functions or is run, having only run a labour center, even then badly.

I suspect his Western sponsors knew as much, which is why they pushed hard for what they term a "transitional arrangement" which really is meant to be an apprenticeship phase for MDC under Zanu-PF, hoping for a Zanu-PF ouster or voluntary abdication.

Indeed, President Mbeki arranged for a tutorial for the MDC leader. Judging by the current discourse from the MDC-T, either President Mbeki was a very bad teacher, or Tsvangirai was a very poor student. The party hierarchy does not seem to show much grasp of the workings of Government, let alone the role and powers of ministers, once appointed.

Men of small, bad things

And they seem to be badly grasping fast the small things which follow — never begin — in Government. Such as touting titles before swearing-in while at the same time being legally fastidious about the status of current ministers as they go about exercising lawful powers (eg Minister Chombo and his responsibility over local councils). Such as demanding Press accreditation cards to the very media they would have invited for a Press conference at their leader’s home.

It is elementary that when you have brought an ant-infested log into the kitchen, you must expect a lizard! You cannot turn your bedroom into a Press conference venue and still expect journalists not to see an undergarment by your headboard. It is silly.

Where the hub is

These guys badly need to know how Government operates; what they can and cannot do; indeed what they will and will not be able to do, once sworn in. The center of government is and remains Cabinet. Nothing happens outside, beyond, beside, above, it. It is the hub from which all ministerial spokes start.

One can have as many consultative meetings outside of it — as indeed Tsvangirai has been doing — but until and unless those consultations and views are brought to Cabinet through its well-written and well-tried systems, those consultations have no effect on the institution of Government. They cannot be entertained by Government, let alone command its executive attention. And until the substance of these consultations have been adopted by Cabinet after debate and consensus, they will not become policy. So what all those who have met with Tsvangirai have sought to do in those meetings, is merely to influence him ahead of debates in Cabinet, debates in which he shall be but a number, an opinion, pitted against many. One hopes he will be a cogent opinion, indeed one shared, not one too weird, sorry too idiosyncratic, to be roundly rejected. I pray for those who have thus invested.

No Zanu ministries, no MDC ministries

What will not happen is to have fifteen ministries which will run themselves the Zanu-PF way; another thirteen which will run themselves the MDC-T-way; and yet another three that shall be run the Mutambara way.

Yes, the Mutambara way only in the narrow sense of style of management, but never in the sense of policy direction, implementation direction and the resources from the Fiscus. From that perspective, this fetish around who has what Ministries is needless, indeed immaterial. What underlies it is the deep mistrust between the parties, made deeper by the obvious dependency of some in the agreement,

on hostile external powers. After 1987,

Zanu did not hesitate to cede Home Affairs to Zapu.

In fact that had happened in 1980 after the watershed elections which completed the decolonisation process. But that decision was based on the credentials of Zapu as a party of national liberation. That same offer could not have gone to Muzorewa or to the Rhodesia Front.

It could not. But Finance did. It went to David Smith, himself a Rhodesian of Ian Smith’s Front. What gave the Patriotic Front the courage to cede such a powerful post to a hard-core Rhodesian was a recognition of strictures built within the Cabinet system of Government.

More important, all the parties to the agreement swore in and by that agreement that institutions of Government would remain non-partisan, which means they cannot be the first ones to infract their own agreement, while hoping for compliance from all of us.

The P/S headache

Then you have the office of the permanent secretary in Government ministries. This is an office that receives Cabinet minutes and that superintends over the implementation of Government decisions through Cabinet. It is a constitutional office, which controls the tempo in a ministry. It is not created by a Minister.

It is not abolished by a Minister. All a minister can do is to love or hate it; motivate or de-motivate it. Yes, use it but never abuse it. In it inhere all the rules, the goals, the resources available to the Ministry and Minister who could very well come from Mars.

The MDC will find this echelon possibly useful, but invariably decisive and rule-driven, rule-governed. It is an echelon that is incurably wedded to Cabinet minutes, strictly guided by them. It is an echelon which has the memory and the central processing unity of Government, through respective Ministries. It needs to be respected; it will not be overrun by partisans from whichever quarter.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

The Prime Minister will come to realise he is a cog in a wheel, never the hub of the wheel that has cogs. He will have a higher echelon of Vice Presidents to deal with and the highest one of President, which must be persuaded for his views to become the views of Government.

And both levels will show huge experience, intellect and composure arising from many trials of what does and can’t. There will be many moons of learning, Honourable Prime Minister, believe you me! More shockingly, you will realise, Sir, much as you may interact with your foreign friends as before, play golf with them even, you may not do it on behalf of Government anyhow, as you please.

You may not. Such as, for argument’s sake, writing the World Bank or UNDP, and inviting their missions here, outside of a collective Government decision. That will not happen, as indeed you have noticed it cannot happen. Only the responsible ministry can do that and even then, within set parameters.

The world in your one palm?

Above all Mr Prime Minister, Honourable Deputy Prime Ministers, you will soon find out that Government is faceless, nameless and very collective.

There are no heroes who stand out, no Herculeses or some such cosmic characters carrying the whole globe in one palm. None Sirs, none madame. We are all small, all big; we are all good, all bad; we are all failures, or successful, depending of course on how this whole bureaucratic monster moves and does not move in the direction of people’s aspirations.

That is the test. Around that test are many headaches, heartaches and other numberless aches in places you do not want me to name, Mr Prime Minister. Welcome aboard, sit back, tie yourself in and, hey, enjoy the cruise.

Ndini Nhataniyere Manheru, Muparanzvongo. Icho!


Sunday, 5 October 2008

Nigel: When they came for me, country and others…

Nigel: When they came for me, country and others…

I am not given to dishing out easy delights to fools. And if fools choose the splendour and bliss of ignorance, then let them have it, but without expecting thinking men and women to go on holiday, both in mind and by mouth.

Two weeks ago, my instalment caused a flutter in the MDC dovecot. I don’t know what it was about that instalment which tickled their sides, top to bottom, side to side.

As a result, I got a magisterial censure from this tribe which today feels governing, feels in charge of Zimbabwe, and does so with righteous aplomb. How dare I disturb their newfound "power" by releasing inconvenient truth, they excoriate, even wondering why I do not appreciate and support this one peace they have waited for, for so many moons before it came, all against the endless wiles of "Mugabe’s murderous regime"?

It is their time for a glorious, munching rest. So why mumble about their being nothing, even if this were true?

Why deliver a truth which must be deferred to allow for a ride, a gentle wafting into Elysian fields, that zone of eternal bliss, post-purgatory?

I, son of Manheru, must oblige these hungry lotus-eaters!

Bush’s black curse here

Well, I didn’t. I won’t, which is why Chamisa is mad with me, suitably mad with me on behalf of his master, Morgan Tsvangirai.

And it was madness that reverberated far and wide in a manner that was supposed to unnerve me.

It ran in the New York Times; it drew the comment of one McGee: that loud-mouthed black curse George Bush so graciously deposited on our blessed land.

What could have been more severe, they reasoned, these head-in-the-sand political might-be-s! But they will soon find out they have provoked a nursing tigress; they should not hope for even a glacial peace.

Votokunya. Whatever rituals of governmental leadership Tsvangirai may simulate today, tomorrow or whenever, he is not this country’s Prime Minister. Not just yet. Perhaps tomorrow.

And when tomorrow arrives, this column will be the first to hail him, first to address him as such. But no presumptuousness, please!

Far from suggesting an acute sense of duty, such presumptuousness betrays a very unsettling megalomania, a very disturbing narrowness of intentions.

And for me there is no surprise. That is the inevitable character of a political career shorn of people and larger purposes.

It dives for power, well before time, law and modesty.

Between likelihood and fact

However sonorous the agreement between Zanu (PF) and the two MDC formations may ring, it is not legislation and thus cannot command anyone, least of all Robert Mugabe as the lawful Head of State and Government of this law-abiding Nation.

Those guys must get that plain and clear so we are all spared the present confusion between likelihood and fact, between promise and the present.

And no one should expect me, or any communicator at that, to be bound and commanded by the legal promises of today’s politics. Let those promises be delivered, and then we have a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers on our statutes, to whom we can all genuflect deservingly.

And the men and women who complain of perceived indignities know how to speed up matters. Let them take what is on offer when they meet the President today at State House for another round of talks.

That is the way to hasten honours which they so crave for but which they do not have presently. They thus must not seek to violently pluck supplications from us. It is not just disgusting; it betrays a dangerous craving for enormous power that may be undeserved. Supreme law is not a matter of prospect or conjecture.

It is an implacably hard fact on national parchments. Yes, we can be appealed to for some politeness — mere politeness - in recognition and appreciation of what may pass for a development of some significance between Zanu (PF) and the two MDCs.

But not to come down on us with the force of an injunction as if we have infracted any law. We haven’t and I personally resent latter-day compass-wielding pseudo-Urizens who seek to set boundaries to my pen. I get very hot and truculent.

Dare not, Sirs.

What a cheap gag!

This column is not, will never be, about delivering delectable lies and illusions brewed for dreamy easiness to those who find facts of outcomes they negotiated for, appended their signatures to, just too hard for ingestion by their broad constituencies.

It is their duty to find sweet floss for their constituencies. Not mine. This stupidity of trying to intimidate me by invoking miasmic titles such like "prime minister designate", "elected representatives of the people", blah, blah, blah, just will not wash.

Is the run-ahead "prime minister designate" elected? Is he not a product of politics of narrow negotiation for inclusivity, rather than those of and from the ballot?

Did he not drop out of the race a mere five days before the polls, after it became clear to his American sponsors he was headed for a whitewash, which still came nevertheless? And to say so is treasonous?

Do I have an obligation to sustain MDC’s the March 29 illusion it has invented for itself? And when I remind them they did not win Presidency in March — that they merely led in the initial run for Presidency — I am said to be spreading hate-language?

What a cheap gag!

If they won why are they not in Government?

Dimming prospects of rapport

And you dare tell me my column is what threatens the agreement?

Am I party to that agreement? Am I that important?

I did not write last week.

Did the agreement move forward by even half an inch during that respite? Would it with the kind of provocative dependence on Britain and America which MDC-T is showing, apparently without any sense of shame or regret.

Would it with Tsvangirai’s foolish trips to bank queues so he gets first hand the suffering which his sanctions have wrought on Zimbabweans?

Would it with the various advisory committees full of Rhodesians which his MDC has set up as props and to help him turn a bad agreement into good political gains from within? Would it with the numberless meetings his Masunda is having with ambassadors of hostile countries, as if Town House has become the new ministry of Foreign Affairs?

He wants to join President Mugabe to New York? Was he not there a few weeks back, thanking the Americans and British for keeping the sanctions pressure on?

The State must now sponsor him to America, must now underwrite the costs of sanctions against which it has been struggling in the past eight or so years?

My foot!

What is going on Nigel?

Oh Nigel! Oh Nigel! These white boys will hurt you if you are not careful.

From the very beginning of your dalliance with those boys from the Thomas Meikles empire, I smelled African blood.

You became too powerful, too successful for your race, for your place in white economy and world.

Grief was bound to follow.

But I knew more. I knew you had come into the white Rhodesian corporate empire to stave off indigenisation.

You would have been the black buffer to a policy that was ironically meant for you.

I winced, prayerfully hoping the good Lord you worship would grant you wisdom and guidance out of the belly of this great beast whose menacing grin you mistook for a gay smile. Surely you would have known that on the back of the MDC’s March prospects, the Rhodesians, right across the economic board, had set up structures for a return to Rhodes’ dream of painting the map red, British red?

We saw discreet but precipitous changes; we saw foreboding movements across sectors; we saw far-reaching re-positionings in key sectors, including agriculture.

Soon after the expected MDC takeover, there was just going to be one massive roll-back, legitimised as movement for democratic change. Indeed Rhodesians never die. Only their askaris do.

He knows the shrine

I could not fathom you Nigel, reducing yourself to a front for white interests. I just couldn’t.

You meant much to most of us, young Zimbabweans; symbolised much by way of overcoming the debilities of colonial history through sheer spirit and ardour.

The white guy you are pitted against, and which one of your black business brethren has no compunction to play dirty skirt to, comes a long way with the TM family.

He knows which god they pray, knows the route and hour to the shrine, indeed repeats incantations that invoke the guardian spirits with such ease. You don’t and yet still hoped to carve