Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Zimbabwe and the greedy West: It's the minerals and land, stupid!

by: Nathaniel Manheru I Herald I HAVE just been reading C G Tracey’s “All for Nothing?”, itself a weeping autobiography by one of Rhodesia’s leading farmers and, especially after UDI, one of Rhodesia’s leading sanctions-busters. The book is tearful about the loss of Tracey’s Mount Shannon, aka Mount Lothian farm, apparently in the course of our land reforms. But the book gives one the sense that this land loss triggers a long introspection in Tracey, much of it coinciding with major turns and shifts in the life of Southern Rhodesia both before and after UDI. But that is a story for another day. My interest is one forthright sentence Tracey uses to introduce a chapter of the book. The forthright sentence reads: “Gold mining was the reason that Rhodesia was opened up in the first place, and agricultural development took place around that thrust.” Land to Niggers I was struck by the sheer clarity, the remarkably unadorned forthrightness of this simple statement which profoundly summarises my fate and that of my people and country, Zimbabwe. And of course one can choose to treat gold as a singular, specific mineral, or as a metaphor depicting the overriding mining interests that were at the heart of Zimbabwe’s invasion and occupation, at the heart of its long colonialism. And as Tracey’s matter-of-fact statement attests, the mining interests were bolstered by land interests. My mind then wonders back to the days of Cecil John Rhodes, the man credited with founding us, we who already inhabited the hills and valleys which his rag-tag army only reached for the first time in 1890. A white historian, one Patrick Keatley, quotes Rhodes as saying in a moment of candour: “I prefer land to niggers,” again another pithy, straightforwardly cold statement of fact and unambiguous white interest. The accent is on resources, land-based resources of my country, of my people. Highly Mineralised Country I wonder on, in the process stumbling upon the Rudd Concession whose wording in part reads: “I, Lobengula, King of Matabeleland and Mashonaland and other adjoining territories, with the consent of my Council of Indunas, do hereby grant and assign... complete and exclusive charge over all metals and minerals situated and contained in my kingdoms." I cast aside the duplicity involved in that whole document, a document so well couched in the language of English Law, yet purporting to carry the mind of an African Ndebele King, my king, my forbear. That, too, is a matter for another day. My real focus is on “all metals and minerals” which amount to the centre of this fudged, fraudulent agreement involving a monarch still to build a defending literacy such as we now have, or should have. To all these statements add Ian Smith’s pregnant but often overlooked statement of fact: “Rhodesia is one of the most mineralised countries on the African continent.” A clear, emphatic thread runs through: across time, across persons, across preoccupations, indeed across temperaments. And in all these utterances, you are struck by the simplicity of white mission, sheer clarity of mission and purpose. Contrast this matter-of-factness, this clarity with our own muddled thinking as Africans, muddled thinking in characterising the colonial rain that beat us, and by implication the sunshine that must dry us up in post-independence. We talk colonialism as if Rhodes and his variegated bunch of thugs and urchins invaded this country solely to misgovern us. They did not. To think and believe so would then imply the dialectic between us and colonialism is over governance issues, over structures of political power. Such a reading gives us a completely different national purpose. But it also misreads history, misreads it disastrously. History records that the so-called pioneers were disbanded soon after the September hoisting of the Union Jack at Cecil Square, now Africa Unity Square. Disbanded to prospect for mines and minerals. Disbanded to identify and take possession of the best land. Mines, minerals flowed from the myth of the Orphir — the legendary site of King Solomon. And the old workings done by our forbears gave these itinerant ruffians much clue, which is why most of the big mines of Southern Rhodesia developed from sites worked by Africans in their great trade with potentates of Asia, Middle East, Persia and, much later, the Portuguese. Producers of incredible rice History records that Mashona contacts with the rest of the developed world centred around trade in minerals and metals. We traded in minerals with older civilisations of Persia, Asia and the Middle East, trade that could have predated AD1200. The English do not exist at all when we enter this trade; they don’t even exist as a people, let alone as a nation. They only become a factor close to the occupation of Zimbabwe, even then following far behind the Portuguese and the Germans, the latter represented by Karl Mauch. In his record of travels, Mauch makes the following entry: “The high-veld of the watershed consists of a grassy plain with trees that can be easily counted. Towards the north-east, the Mashona tribe, which is partly subject to Mosilikatse, produces an incredible amount of rice which served us as an unexpected addition to our everlasting dry meat-fare.” Clearly the land was in use, very productive use for surplus. Native miner, native beneficiation In July 1867, the German geologist made an even more dramatic entry which I shall quote in extenso: “... Hartley brought me the news that, when following a wounded elephant, he passed several pits dug into quartz, and that he suspected that the former inhabitants of the country had dug for metal there, but what kind of metal he had not been able to discover. “Following Hartley’s description, I should be able to reach this site from our camp in one day. And so I started the following day, armed with a hammer, to search in the indicated direction. I passed a small river at a distance of about 4,5 English miles, the rubble and sand of which stemmed from ‘talk’ gneiss stone. “On the other riverbank, I came to a bare patch of brackish soil on which, at a distance of 1,5 miles, a distinct white line across the burnt black ground could be made out. On my approach this proved to be a quartz vein which protruded in places to a height of up to 4 feet. I soon came to this line, and a few paces alongside it, I came to a site which I recognised as a smelting place. This was about 10 feet in diameter and contained slag, quartzstone, pieces of clay pipes, ash and coal. There were some pits 4 to 5 feet deep at a distance of about 50 paces, placed in openings of the quartz vein. Yet further on there was one pit 10 feet deep, but, this was filled with two feet of water, which probably prevented any further digging by the natives. “On examining some of the recovered stones, I found ‘Bleiganz’ which was extraordinarily shiny, and had a small silver content, and GOLD. I looked at the extension of the vein and made speculations which, later on, proved to be correct. Highly pleased, I put my hammer into my belt, shouldered my rifle and ran, rather walked, back to camp to impart this good news.” So was found the Tati goldfields, themselves the focus of Rhodes’ pioneers soon after hoisting the Union Jack. The natives in question are ourselves, already engaged in mining and minerals processing well before Rhodesia. What followed this Western discovery was what historians have termed the “shovel and sieve” age, with gold-seekers working extensively on both alluvial deposits, and on deposits more deeply embedded in the hard African stone which make the backbone to our country. Dear Zimbo, mining did not happen after us. It began with us, making us masters of rock, masters of metal. Always bear this in mind when you interact with the world. Challenging heresies of colonial history And of course the occupation of Zimbabwe followed well behind a wave of gold-seekers and treasure hunters who invaded and ransacked the country well before Rhodes dreamt of colouring us pink, British pink. I restate, we were invaded and occupied for our minerals, with colonial misgovernance attaching to the whole mining enterprise as a concomitant, an incidental, necessary, bothersome evil needed to stabilise matters for quieter, more profitable mining and much, much later, more profitable, monopoly farming. Serious farming only takes place after the First World War, with colonial reports clearly indicating the settler community lived off the produce of industrious African farmers. We are people of the land, sons and daughters of the soil. Let no one deceive us; let no one propagate the heresy that we learnt about the soil from the white man, the heresy that this land was empty, unused until the white man came. Simply, it wasn’t. Small but significant quarrel Today, we talk and think as if the firstlings of settler colonialism in Zimbabwe was governance. That is very flawed thinking, so monumentally flawed as to spawn a train of other lethal mischaracterisations, including and principally an existential one. Do we know why we exist, given our historical circumstances? We have just celebrated 32 years of Independence, a quarrelsome lot. And what was the quarrel over? It was over the theme for the commemorations. The committee responsible for State occasions recommended “Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment for Social and Economic Transformation” as the theme for this year. The recommendation went up to Cabinet for adoption. It was adopted virtually uneventfully, with a small but telling suggestion coming from MDC-T. The small but significant suggestion was to trim the theme to “Social and Economic Transformation”. What is now being recorded as MDC-T objection to the theme was a belated protest, an obligatory afterthought that only came well after a decision had been made by Government. Still, that does not lessen its importance and what it portents for the politics of this country. Old culture of expropriation The MDC-T objections are quite telling: “We are not opposed to the day, but we are strongly opposed to the message of indigenisation and to use a national day to launch a Zanu PF theme; that is what we are opposed to.” Morgan Tsvangirai went further: “We have disagreed in this government because there are others who want to perpetuate the old culture of expropriation, looting and self-aggrandisement clad in new and misleading nomenclature such as indigenisation.” The scope and line of attack is clear; it encompasses land reform as “the old culture of expropriation”, attacks the indigenisation of the mining sector as a new name for an old vice. It is an attack which, as should be clear from the foregoing, is rooted in the history and politics of this country, specifically rooted in composite white colonial interests as they relate to the land which they viewed as better valued than niggers, indeed as they relate to metals and minerals which they gave better regard clean, honest international relations with the Ndebele state. The only difference is that while in the foregoing I was, of necessity, restricted to culling quotes from white players, this time around I find there is a black mouth, black tongue articulating the selfsame white interests. Our independence, your sacrifice And there is an implied mission in Tsvangirai’s frustration with the theme: that MDC-T was put into the inclusive equation to empty the national day of any radical, national message, to give the national day a new, innocuous meaning. Otherwise how does one embrace the day and oppose the message? After all is the day itself not the message? But one is also hit by the man’s lack of irony. He proceeds: “It is regrettable that Independence Day has been monopolised and personalised by one political party. This is a national day that is greater than Zanu PF, the MDC, Mavambo or any other political formation. Independence Day is a day greater than Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe, Welshman Ncube, Arthur Mutambara or Simba Makoni . . . To adorn Independence Day in a Zanu PF robe is to rob it of its national character and its universal appeal to the diverse people of Zimbabwe who are all too aware of its mammoth significance to the story of this land.” Maybe we have been too polite for too long. The struggle, with all its horrendous toll, was monopolised by one party, united Zanu PF. No one worried then, including Tsvangirai who was not only old enough to go to war, but as near to the border with Mozambique as Mutare. He bravely chose to stay inside the country, leaving the reckless Zanu PF to monopolise the fight. He worried more about the education of his siblings, he tells one of his white biographers. Today political colonialism has fallen and hey, our man bravely thrusts himself into the frontline, ready to be mowed down by deadly bullets of post-liberation peace, post-liberation premiership! Well, let him get it today: only the united Zanu PF is the source of Zimbabwe’s Independence. It fought for that Independence; it sacrificed for it, mobilised for it and, what is more, continues to defend it to this day. Let that be pressed home. Neither time nor memory will ever redistribute this historic achievement by Zanu PF, all to benefit little, latter-day parties, least of all those speaking for, and defending white interests. Never! Those that stayed home, those that betrayed the struggle even, please demand with humility. This our-glory-together-in-independence, your-sacrifice-alone-struggle, shall not wash. To each according to their contribution, that is the mantra. Biti lipsticks the status quo But I am running too far ahead. The MDC-T has said more. Tendai Biti, its secretary general, thinks Indigenisation law is “absurd”. “It wasn’t well thought. Due process not being followed, we need to go back to the drawing board and say how we can empower our people. The best way to empower our people at this present moment in time is to expand our economy to create as many sectors as possible.” And then his real point: “The transfer is for value, which is good, but in a situation where the majority are poor, you are just transferring shares from a few rich white people to a few rich black people.” Significantly, Biti was addressing a Washington think-tank and policy group called Atlantic Council. Enter Ibbo Mandaza, enmeshed in bitterness Gentle reader, I advert your attention to another opinion on the same matter, that of Dr Ibbotson Mandaza, who signs off as “a member of the Zimbabwe National Liberation Movement from the 1970s to Independence and later a senior civil servant before he was forced into early retirement”. Writing in the Zimbabwe Independent (April 20-26, 2012), Dr Mandaza guiltily locates our current problems in two main factors. The first factor relates to the “colonial legacy and the political economy it bequeathed”. The second factor was resultant, and Dr Mandaza sums it up as “the neo-colonial framework” which rendered the post-colonial state neither a nation-state nor a nation, but ‘simply a state’” moored to interests of the former colonial and other metropolitan powers. Discounting the self-serving last two paragraphs of his article, paragraphs which can easily be understood as triggered by the bitterness implied in the man’s self-introduction, Mandaza raises from the first weakness an argument which seems to respond to Biti’s founding postulate against Indigenisation: the persistent extractive, white-bourgeois-led colonial state in post-colonial circumstances “stymied” the indigenous people from “developing a national bourgeoisie that would be the anchor class for the post-independence enterprise of nation-state-in-the-making”. Mandaza emphasises the colonial binary of a political “and perhaps even more so, an economic agenda”. And this aborted anchoring national bourgeoisie is what Biti decries as “a few rich black people”. For Mandaza, this class is a national deficit of post-colonial politics, for Biti it is the reason Indigenisation is flawed, gets flawed. This is the muddled national thinking I am talking about, one so remarkably contrasted by the pithy clarity of white Rhodesia. Slurring the tall men of history Let’s take off the gloves and knuckle in a few hard ones for the thinking side of the MDC formations. Independence is not a day to which you add the adjective "national". It is a people, a nation, a destiny, a legacy, an aspiration. Above all, it is proprietorship, ownership. You cannot be independent when you don't own what your flag proclaims as your own. And many Zimbabweans know that, which is why they have been angry with Zanu PF for breeding and expanding poverty by simply managing and even reinforcing the colonial state in post-independence. I thought that is Mandaza's gripe, albeit tinged with personal bitterness. And that this is the dominant understanding of Zimbabweans was shown by the massive turnout on Independence Day. The unhappiness of Tsvangirai and his party about the theme was simply cast aside, in fact played tonic to participation. That gave a sinister meaning to Tsvangirai's peroration that Independence is larger than all politicians, himself included. Clearly his views, his unhappiness, did not matter, shall never matter. And for him to associate his rejection of empowerment with a person like Herbert Chitepo is simply to crave for an associational value resting outside history. Has he had time to listen to the Herbert Chitepo lecture on land as the essence of class struggles throughout human history? Do his speech writers reflect on his script? How does he seek association with a figure of history whose pronouncements extol what he himself calls "old culture of expropriation"? And does he not, by that very phrase, repudiate Independence and the symbolic day that marks it? Defending own expropriation Secondly, historically what is the cut-off point for this "old culture of expropriation"? 2000? 1890? Clearly by his own reckoning, the old culture is a post-independence phenomenon, which means Tsvangirai exonerates colonialism. How does an African whose legacy is shaped by colonial expropriation emerge as a strident defender of that expropriation, indeed emerge as a stout opposer of anything, anyone who challenges such expropriation, who seeks to right it? And on a day marking the demise of politics that underlay such expropriation, why would an African stick their neck out for colonial forces? Why? And if a people do not own resources, how do they attain, let alone celebrate peace, itself a theme which the MDC-T would have proposed as an alternative? It sounds very much like colonial kitchen-talk, guffaws and mouthfuls in the acceptable. Neo-liberal illusion Thirdly, and this one for a Tendai Biti who would know better save for his lost politics, how does stopping value from transferring to a few rich blacks end obscenities of "a few rich whites" holding national wealth against the majority who are poor? When do "absurdities" begin, end? When value transfers from rich white to rich black, or when a status quo of "few rich white" against majority black poor remains? Or both? Why haven't we seen Biti hacking at the present colonial legal regimen which preserves "few rich whites" as "absurd"? That would have been quite a revolutionary message to give to the American Atlantic Council on Zimbabwe's national day. Surely? Biti makes a deceptively-wrapped white argument made in the name of the very victims of white economic power. He thinks the alternative to Indigenisation is "to expand our economy to create as many sectors as possible." What is this lawyer saying in real terms? Who can salvage just a single grain for me? Why is he not doing that if that is possible under the status quo? What is he waiting for? And why is Indigenisation and the expansion of the economy to create many sectors mutually exclusive? Zanu PF will point to the expansion in agriculture, the expansion at Marange as cases in point. What is the case in point - one - from his neo-liberal verbosity? It is an argument of live-in-poverty and let-live-in-white- opulence, status quo argument, indeed a cry of defeat, of the political henpecked. It is not an argument of independence, much as it can be made on Independence Day! Erring on the side of capital Fourthly, why does Biti suddenly become such a sharp lawyer in critiquing black empowerment programmes when he is such a supine bulldog in tackling a colonial status quo so badly requiring overthrowing? We are very incisive in showing why we should not be empowered under the present law which all parties and all MPs, Biti included, supported and passed. Was the easy passage a way of blessing a weak law in order to delay or even defeat empowerment through fatal litigation? We saw this at work in the land saga, with certain elements deliberately inserting fatal clauses in the law to make the whole land reform programme legally vexatious? And why - you a black man - open the flanks against your kind by raising the first legal doubts? Why this legal punctiliousness? Why this reluctance to err on the side of the poor black? And when we go back to the drawing board, does the white man stop eating our heritage? This is one case where permission for continued exploitation is granted through delay. But it does not work. When Zanu PF gets bogged down in courts of law, it goes to the highest court in the land, the people who are the final arbiters. When the world moves As I write, Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner, is about to nationalise that country's oil and gas company, YPF, which belongs to Spain. The Spaniards are furious and are threatening retaliatory action at diplomatic, industrial, and energy fields. But the lady who recently won a re-election by landslide is not for turning. She wants the energy sector to enable greater growth of Argentinian economy which has miraculously recovered on a model which is completely opposite to a neo-liberal one, backed by the Chinese. The Spaniards, much like our own hoarding so-called investors, have been speculating to the detriment of much needed energy expansion. Besides, Spain is broke, with its limited capital beginning to circumscribe Argentina. This is the growing global ethos. Nationalisation is no longer a dirty word. Kgalema and his new crusade As I write and right on the day of our Independence, Deputy President Kgalema Montlanthe of South Africa is pushing for State participation in mining houses. "Contrary to the view that there must be less State involvement in the economy, the lessons from the recent economic and financial crises are that more State involvement is sought," he told the ninth international mining history congress in Johannesburg. And of course those for more State participation derive greater joy from the fact that the American government has just recouped handsomely from the bailouts it made at the height of the global financial crisis. What a fillip! Does the MDC-T read all these developments, more important, read the mood in the country? More importantly, does it notice that its age and health arguments from which it has been hoping for electoral manna are being rubbished by the President's age-defying ability to unleash energy crippling through youthful and aggressive ministers under his fold, something Tsvangirai cannot do? Indeed as the Prime Minister recently saw, President Mugabe does not need to be in the country for his agenda to press on, unremittingly. We are dealing with an institution, dealing with an ethos, indeed a zeitgeist! Tribute from one Hawkins If they doubt that, I refer them to one of their own - Tony Hawkins. This is what he said this week: "The belief in Western capitals is that post-Mugabe Zimbabwe will be a very different country. That is based less on thoughtful analysis of the reality on the ground than on the naive assumption that Zimbabwe can somehow go back to its 1980s and 1990s. “But the dynamics within Zimbabwe and the region have changed and whoever succeeds Mugabe is not going to reverse his policies on land and Indigenisation. It might be softened at the edges but Zanu PF nationalism runs so deep that even if he wanted to turn the clock back, which is doubtful, Tsvangirai would not be able to do so." Of course the professor is too white to accept the fact that the coming elections may be Tsvangirai's last to lose. Meanwhile, if only my people could be half as clear that it is land, metals and minerals, not independence parades. Icho! Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald. E-mail:

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