Friday, 6 February 2009

Inclusive Govt: Under whose colours do you march?

Inclusive Govt: Under whose colours do you march?


NEARLY a decade ago, a white business figure shared with select business executives what he considers vital piece of intelligence.

A new party was just about to be formed, one which could turn out much worse than Zanu-PF, unless urgent steps were taken "to infiltrate and influence it" in another direction.

The year was 1999, the setting a Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries meeting. The speaker was Eddie Cross.

A little later, the MDC was launched with great fanfare.

It had a good load of white sponsors, white supporters and white office holders, something which gave it a lasting image problem in a country in which race connotes quite heavily.

To this day, the image the acronym MDC evokes in the mind of an average Zimbabwean is that of a burly white farmer clad in khaki shirt and short, set against an all-white audience backdrop, somewhere in Banket, justifying why supporting the new party was "a good investment", before making a cheque donation to the cause.

Lost in that throng and evidently discomfited is a Morgan Tsvangirai, supported by a few aides, worried about the camera that roved, eternalising the moment.

The Banket that will not die

Historically Banket was a preserve for the Rhodesian pedigree, a setting for undisturbed agricultural pursuits for scions of Rhodesia’s offshore royalty, loosely defined as descendants of the Pioneer Column, or those who had distinguished themselves in defending the Rhodesian laager.

That Tsvangirai went to Banket for the inaugural fund raising for his party, was of lasting significance to the politics of this country.

Indeed for many years to come, MDC used strongholds of white plantation settlement — principally Banket and Marondera — as springboards for its launch and spread.

To this add Clause 57 in the rejected 2000 draft constitution, which focused on land, as well as the role of the black plantation workers vote in both the referendum and subsequent elections, including the March 2008 one, then you catch the full significance of what I am getting at.

Indeed so confident were whites of an outright MDC victory this last March that they actually released a document under JAG, detailing the computation of the black plantation worker vote in local electoral outcomes.

Rhodesian angst

Today Eddie Cross is an MDC Member of Parliament.

He is in charge of the party’s economic affairs desk. He may or may not play a direct role in the inclusive Government.

His worries then, arguably his worries now — worries which were widely shared by his white peers in industry and commerce — was the rise of a radical worker party under a trade unionist.

This would upset industrial relations, in the process trimming returns on white investments.

After all Rhodesia’s industrial base, while remarkably ingenious, remained notoriously inefficient well into Independence, which is why super-profits and stability to the country’s comparative advantage — commercial tobacco agriculture — was key to white settler prosperity.

This was about to be threatened. After all, the 1998 riots had vividly demonstrated how unpredictably threatening to capital MDC’s support base could be.

After all, for all the rheum against Zanu-PF, the nearly two decades of Zanu-PF rule had clearly shown the need to own or at the very least influence the post-colonial state as a bulwark against restive labour practices against tenuous profit margins.

These were both worries and aspirations of Rhodesian capital. These are both worries and aspirations of Rhodesian capital.

MDC strange staccato

But it is capital that comes as a package; that comes with an ethos.

Definitionally, an ethos is hard to pin down, harder to notice its approach. Always diffuse and hard to notice, yet inexorable, the Rhodesian ethos has been slowly but inexorably rebuilding, as a harmonious accompaniment to MDC’s perceived ascendancy.

The remarks by Eddie Cross a few weeks back, remarks that contained his wish for Zimbabwe "to crash and burn", while staggering, was hardly surprising. My worry is that it has not been well understood and appreciated.

Beyond its obvious meaning, the phrase suggested the destruction of an order and all its instruments of self-preservation, to be replaced by a "new" one.

But what is that order; what is that "new one" captured by the phrase "and pick up the pieces"? And the public relations flurry, which followed those utterances, largely mounted by the MDC at the highest level, meant what?

In case you may have, gentle reader, missed it, Eddie Cross was given the chance to cleanse himself by announcing that MDC would join the inclusive Government, and this after two days of utter confusion in the media.

What did that rescue effort suggest and portent regarding MDC obligation to Rhodesian politics?

Subtleties of Rhodesiana

Curiously, my "good friend" Heathen, sorry, Iden Wetherell, decided this week this time to take charge to make a case for a free media which his employers — all of them functionaries of UDI — never granted anyone else, least of all the church Press which was the only other meaningful alternative to the dominant Rhodesian ethos.

He went much further.

He made the case for the return of all "banned journalists", by which I understood him to refer to the likes of Andrew Meldrum and David Blair. Read closely, the piece suggested deep white angst, which is what made its headline — "Do join us" — quite redolent.

Join who? To do what? Maybe Zhangazha can tell us. But that is superficial.

The piece passes a far-reaching and surprisingly indiscriminate judgment on a certain type of politics: "What we need is a robust and independent media, free of the depredations of a post-liberation aristocracy that resents an outspoken Press for exposing its extractive career."

He goes much further, taking on the tone of a biblical Moses, Rhodesian Moses if you ask me: "Freedom of expression is our lifeblood.

Further, we want to see the return of the rule law, an independent judiciary, and people not afraid to speak their minds on the issues of the day."

And those "political prisoners currently held in reportedly appalling conditions redolent of the Stalinist era" must be freed, forthwith.

The other Iden….

Just across the page, Iden speaks as another voice, possibly another person. Some character called "Muckraker" (no doubt no relation of Iden!) expresses envy that Jestina Mukoko and Gandhi Mudzingwa are the only "political prisoners" getting attention. John Naested, Angus Thompson and Brian Baxter are still held at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison while the state tries to find a case against them," says Muckraker helpfully adding: "The Herald has tried to be helpful by branding them Selous Scouts. In fact Naested was in the RLI.

The others were no more than reservists, we gather." Muckraker matronly adds that "at least the International Bar Association is watching the situation in Zimbabwe carefully." And the person watching is Justice Richard Goldstone, a person whose claim to a place in post-apartheid is his self-vaunted liberal spirit — in all ways and habits.

Marking new territory

Iden rails at "depredations of a post-liberation aristocracy" which appear on close examination to be the depredations of UDI only paste or fastened on post-liberation politics.

Why did he not deplore them under Rhodesia? Why does he not recall Rhodesian depredations for the education of post-liberation Zimbabwe?

And what does the condemnatory benchmarking of "post-liberation" imply about the preceding UDI white aristocracy?

That it was impeccable, flawless and diametrically different from the post-liberation which Iden gladly indicts?

And what is the time frame of "post-liberation" politics denigrated as "aristocracy"? Does it begin and end with Mugabe, or does it begin and end with African self-rule?

Clearly, this is an attitude against post-colonial Zimbabwe, against post-colonial Africa, itself an inverted yearn for the return of Rhodesia, of colonial governance.

And you notice the condemned epoch is post-liberation, not post-colonial. Not even a mere reference to colonialism is permitted under Rhodesiaspeak.

The trouble is that Iden’s sweeping "post-liberation aristocracy" etches a very wide epochal continuum, one that smothers Tsvangirai as an incoming but one such player in an interminable series. Is he epochally condemned?

Are the organic intellectuals of white Rhodesia marking territory and boundaries against the newly reconstituted power matrix of "a post-liberation aristocracy"?

Would that suggest white Rhodesian angst with the inclusive Government, which means more white sponsored agitation? Is that what we are being invited to join?

And what passes for "a return to the rule of law" and an "independent judiciary"? What is returning: the rule of law for "post-liberation" or a law for white property rule?

The kind Rhodesia Light Infantry!

Muckraker, who uses journalistic license to say those things Iden cannot openly say, makes a case for the "liberation" of three whites facing very serious charges.

The Herald gets pilloried for suggesting one of the three was a member of the notorious scouts. No, he was a member of the RLI, an acronym we must all know and be familiar with as a household item.

Well, RLI means Rhodesia Light Infantry, a brutal fighting arm of settler Rhodesia.

How does that Herald inaccuracy reverse the point its report made? And the reference to the other two as "no more than reservists" of the Rhodesian army? Mitigatory?

It is a scary euphemism for this Rhodesia’s deadly machinery designed to brutalise Africans, to fight an unjust, racist settler war which Wetherell seeks to whitewash through a diversionary damnation of post-liberation politics. Is it being suggested the Rhodesia Light Infantry was less murderous?

Is it being suggested that Rhodesian reservists killed more kindly?

Is it not a fact that Rhodesia, which did not have a significant standing army, relied on reservists for its war effort?

And is it not white luxury to be finicky with Rhodesian compartmentalisation of its murderous army.

Did these classifications mean less death to the dying, pre-liberation Africans under a post-settler Rhodesian racist aristocracy Iden so lamely but gladly defends?

And why did Iden decide to emerge from the laager this time in the evolution of the inclusive


Maybe MDC may have made the unforgivable error of obliging an inclusive Government.

Is Iden venting British frustration with the turn of events here?

Bennett for Finance!

A little more. As the MDC national Executive Council met last week, a fugitive from justice was amongst them, one Roy Bennett. The following day the Herald gave us an image of him, widely grinning.

He had flown into the country for the meeting guaranteed from arrest by the MDC. Another rescue package?

And you watch events, the MDC hopes to appease the Rhodesian lobby by nominating him minister of finance! And his resume will show his skills at interfacing with donors, a skill that kept the MDC campaign well oiled.

Except they have to reckon with the fact that Bennett was largely drawing from the Rhodesian lobby worldwide, a Rhodesian cause which galvanised this scattered tribe, a little hopeful for a second "little England", supported by the real, big England.

I grant them that one such Rhodesian --- Mark Malloch Brown --- is a real link between little England and real England. Yet it must be reckoned that a Finance Minister in the Government of Zimbabwe cannot be about post-settler racist Rhodesian depredations.

Will that fly?

When the mosaic crumbles

Which takes me to my point, a relational point. Far more critical for the stability of the inclusive government will be the way the MDC leadership in Government relates to its disparate formations, many of which are already creating a rumpus. What yesterday gave the MDC a mobilisation edge over Zanu-PF, namely creating and replicating interest groups and organisations seemingly independent of it, today return to haunt it as it slouches into Government. Illustratively, the NCA is not going to fizzle out merely because the MDC is now in Government. Over the years, it has acquired a personality of its own, a leadership which has existed and agitated outside of the MDC, albeit with some coordination and mutuality. It has run its own budget, acquired its own donors and yes, developed its own taste and appetite. More importantly, it has staked a claim in the present outcome. All these will not go away. The same is true of ZCTU. But I make special mention of JAG and its women’s league, WOZA. Through it, white Rhodesia’s landed interests projected their politics and organised for their furtherance. What is the MDC-in-government’s attitude towards this whole advocacy? The ZCTU. Already unhappy, already sidelined, but with a serious suitor, the ZCTU will want to see how the anxiety of Rhodesian capital, which dominates the economy, will mean in terms of labour policy or stance. The 2009 budget appears to have set a stage where MDC will --- sooner than later --- have to take a position. After all, the Finance minister will have to find the money for wages. And as Tsvangirai walks to Munhumutapa, he leaves behind men and women who are only too happy to stir the pot against him. I hope he is following what is happening to Makoni. Having been made mbato by elements within the ruling party, that same connection is now being used to damn and evict him politically. Will someone cry "MDC: the revolution which lost its way", a few months down the inclusive government? We shall see.

Which way Manheru?

I saw a rather naughty letter in the Financial Gazette wondering what will become of my pen, now that Tsvangirai is coming into Government. The letter went much further. It visualised a role for the police in my destruction, taking as proof the alleged cheer from "the police" as Tsvangirai addressed his supporters. Let us grant that such a cheer came, much as I know it did not. What is the writer’s understanding of the inclusive government? One in which Tsvangirai and his MDC hold sway, un-sharing? One in which the police are used against writers, un-caring? That is the inclusive government and democratic change he had been waiting for? Well, I will try and be polite. The Nathaniel Manheru column has been anti-Rhodesian, robustly so. It has busied itself with Tsvangirai and his MDC to the extent that both agreed to be white Rhodesia’s Trojan horses. Born differently, bred differently, this column would not care a hoot what they do in, with, their ambitions. But Rhodesia must die and for as long as it is not dead, Nathaniel Manheru will expose, attack and hopefully bury. The return of Rhodesia, under any guise, is what the struggle is all about. Apart from becoming itself, Zimbabwe must never regress to white rule and white dominance. The white millennium is dead and gone. It must never come back.

Raking Biti’s muck

The editor of the Herald must have had a chuckle after reading Muckraker. Correctly, the columnist attacked Biti’s squeamish recourse to the law against normal journalistic questions that dog all politicians. Biti renounces ambition, denounces any imputations to strategies for political self-elevation. One wonders why he is in politics if he does not have or do all those things. I suppose he is hoping for a second Zvobgo suit. But that is to wander off the point. As with all seeming praises from enemies, Muckraker does not take long to bite the Herald. "The Herald, whatever its manifest shortcomings, especially when it comes to inventing stories, is perfectly entitled to speculate about supposed plots within MDC-Tsvangirai. That is the stuff of politics. It just looks a bit daft when the story remains exclusive to the Herald’s political desk." Whaooo! Until one reads page two of the Independent where its own Constantine Chimakure writes about the same "daft stuff". Or those South African papers through which its news editor, Dumisani Muleya, moonlights, but without declaring those earnings for tax purposes. Now we know the spread and reach of the Herald political desk.


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