Nathaniel Manheru The Other Side
I WILL share this one with you my reader. After all, my performance in the past weeks has been culpably erratic.
So this other day a friend taps my shoulder, a sure sign aida kundibatisa (to confide). I demurred and this is what followed. Pal, you are aware Tsvangirai was in the US?
Yes, it was in the press, I responded, careful to warn him against taking me for a dunce, careful not to put him off, this treasured fund of original humour.
And you are aware that in the past each time he made such visits, he would be quick to post on Facebook pictures of himself and US dignitaries of various shades, shapes and rank: “Tsvangirai with Albright”, “Tsvangirai with General Clark”, “Tsvangirai with General Collin Powell”, “Tsvangirai with Johnnie Carson”, “Tsvangirai with Condoleeza Rice”, etc, etc.
No, I responded, again confirming firmly a long-held view that I remain a vibrant dinosaur, one given to fulsomely glorifying antiquity, while pugnaciously castigating modernity and its futures.
Yes, that is what he routinely did, came the response. Until this time around, said the same voice, entering a caveat. Being an adept story-teller, my interlocutor deliberately introduced and inserted a considerable spell of silence, all to build a sense of drama and anticipation.
Not too willing to suffer acute high dependence on his whimsical narrative, I shifted, seemingly exhibiting disinterest, seemingly turning to other more interesting preoccupations, all to turn the narrative tables against him.
It worked, and the nub came faster than his manipulative pace would have recommended. “This time his posting read: “Tsvangirai with White House!” In literature, we have something called anthropomorphism. This is a literary technique by which inanimate objects are invested with human attributes, are addressed as if they are living beings.
I am sure this is what “Save” never hoped for by this inadvertent aesthetic contrivance! And of course in the zone of creative writing, prepositional rules make way for poetic license.
History’s greatest euphemism
Zimbabwe needs to remain alive to goings-on in the global village. There are momentous developments happening, thanks to the ever rising China.
That Asian giant has finally pushed through its goal of setting up what it terms an Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank (AIIB), an idea mooted as far back as 2013, to acerbic cynicism by those who think they lord over the neighbourhood.
If the bank performs to intended goals and levels, one day history will judge the Chinese people as masters of euphemism. AIIB is meant to be more than Asian, more than infrastructure. It’s goals are expansive, indeed globally encompassing.
Far more than being a specific banking institution, it is intended as a marker and genesis of a new global banking mores, a drastic rearrangement of global power through a new architecture in global finance. AIIB is meant to rival the Bretton Woods institutions, thereby shifting the global financial epicentre away from Washington, well towards resurgent Asia, home to ancient civilisations, home to the world’s half.
It is set to be a key rearrangement, one boding well for the Third World, until now impaled by squeezed entrails on those two monstrosities of Bretton Woods. And the signs on the ground are promising. America tried her damnedest to ensure this Chinese idea withered on the vine.
It even got as far as intimidating her European allies against subscribing to the idea, let alone to the bank. All in vain, for at launch, key European economies, led by Germany, have bought into the bank, making them founding shareholders. And the motives are mixed and varied.
Altogether, these are shareholders desperately eager to be clients of the bank, given the enervating anaemia paling their financial sectors. They are short of money, and have been turning to China anyway. This time they hope to be shareholders wielding borrowing prerogatives.
And of course the massive power over borrowing nations, power consequent upon sitting on the table at which the fate of borrowers is decided. It is a power which US, followed by Japan, has been enjoying, founded on there being no Chinese wall between lending powers and leading pressures, between donors and dominance.
Who in the Third World, Africa especially, does not know that a recalcitrant balance sheet has been the way to taming reluctant leaders? Of course a more sinister goal is to be inside, to restrain the dashing dragon through shareholder rights and influence, clearly a diminishing hope against so clever a player.
Looking East, not transatlantic
But there is a key point. Europe has begun to shift focus, to challenge loyalty to and dominance from across the Atlantic. It is now looking inside, or East. More East than inside, if the recent politics of Greece are anything to go by.
Against falling economies, austere prescriptions, Europe has entered a phase of de-consensus, an age of interstate rancour such as we saw between Germany and Greece.
Against biting social conditions, the era of popular demagoguery is come upon Europe, with individual countries looking abroad for material with which to build bulwarks against the Greek contagion. I watched with fascination as Angela Merkel shuttled to US, all to pre-empt the effete Obama’s proposal to ship armaments to Ukraine, a move sure to escalate conflict in Eastern Europe, sure to draw the bear’s Russian rage.
You can’t do that, the German lady told America. You don’t live in Europe; you leave across the Atlantic, safely so far away from any likely European war. It worked. Obama cooled, much as he wanted to pose and play knuckle-hard. As it was with rumours of war, so it is now with the economy: America does not live in Europe. Nor is it geographically closer to Europe than Asia!
David versus Rasputin
But that is all to see matters from the European angle. There is the Chinese angle. To break Europe’s link with America calls for more than normal diplomacy, more than average global influence.
You have to have positioned yourself in such a way that haughty countries overcome prejudices of colonial history and geography, in such a way that the once mighty begin to equate you with the future, the future of nations.
Hitherto, this is what America has been vis-a-vis the whole world. But not any longer, however, doting its traditional admirers in our midst might still be, and still think. This is a Chinese Century, a fine hour for Chinese diplomacy, indeed a clear indication that its global leadership has been accepted, and is set to be suffered by its main rival, America.
What Putin has been enforcing by hard armour, the Chinese have been securing by being hard charmers. And with the way Russia has been battering Ukraine, itself an American protégé, with the way America has been kept busy in Afghanistan, itself America’s slough, bogged down in Africa: Libya, Somalia, now Nigeria, and in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, it is clear its powers to fight China economically continue to diminish and to dissipate.
It’s the old guns and butter story. Which is what might just end American global bellicosity: the fear of what China gains through peace, what America forfeits through unpopular, unjust and un-winnable wars. Quite often the way to tame a bully is not by being a little David in the ring; it may very well be by being a Rasputin in the king’s bed: very soft, intimate, ecstatic, yet most wounding! America yanyengewa. Kikiki!
Back in heat
If you have been long and discerning enough to remember the tumultuous years beyond 2000, you will, I am sure agree with me that the bitch is back in heat. The provenance of that rich saying is German in years leading to the Second World War.
The signs of rising Nazism were ample, everywhere, in fact yielding characteristic traits and attributes. Post-Weimar, the Nazis had gained significant foothold, etching clear marks on German landscape. Their ways were well known, recognisable.
Then just before the outbreak of hostilities, a percipient poet had long foreseen the return of Nazism, through its unsettling signs. He warned his compatriots, wrapping the dim message in the characteristically vivid imagery of great poets: the beast of Nazism was in heat yet again!
The world had to brace up for tumultuous days. But this was Europe under the sway of Chamberlain, Europe given to appeasing evil, never to confronting it. Churchill was yet to come, far yet to come. Sooner, Europe was inching towards war, small step by small step, until it found itself in the middle of a long war, now reckoned in western historiography as a World War.
How Europe, America, plus a tip of Africa which came under Mussolini’s uneventful assault, becomes the world, only Western hegemonic knowledge can say.
Humour and lunacy
The story of some Zimbabwean maverick called Itai Dzamara gets stranger with each day that passes. With negative fame culled from an illegitimate stay in the world of journalism, Dzamara sought to ape the legendary Dambudzo Marechera who in his UR (University of Rhodesia) days, mounted a solo demonstration against Rhodesian settlers.
He, with trade-mark un-inventiveness, dubbed it “Occupy Africa Unity Square Campaign”, clearly revealing the American ancestry of his borrowed, sensational politics clearly showing us the nation whose attention he craved for. He does a few lonely demonstration forays into the once-Union Jack bedecked or etched park, after which he successfully attracted the frowning eye of the authorities, who quickly obliged by giving him a few hard massages on his belly sides.
And the authorities always get it wrong. Why some little, not-so-sane boy is ever dignified by official anger, that always boggles my mind. Was this not one instance for a bit of a humorous response? Like sending some beautiful junior police officer with a plateful of sadza and mazondo to assist the young man continue with his vigil, on a full stomach.
And then pitching a small tent with rudimentary bedroom paraphernalia for a private meeting between husband and wife, again to assist the vigil by granting it a worker brimming with satiety. After which you ferry the maverick’s mother, sack full of groundnuts on back, thereby adding a motherly or maternal touch to the whole affair.
There is too much baton-ing, too little bantering in our politics, law and order. Where protest takes such lonely, lunatic forms, the State needs a bit of creative, demobilising humour!
Again as in Highfield in 2007
Two or so weeks ago, Itai made an appearance at an MDC-T rally, all to read a solidarity message, I suppose on behalf of Occupy Africa Unity Square. Whatever the contents, that action openly placed his politics within the MDC-T camp, something the authorities knew from his “journalism” days.
For Itai was among a team of activists whom the MDC had deployed into newsrooms to give a civic ring to their provocations. Soon after that rally, Itai was reported missing, with the MDC-T taking a strident lead.
The act was perfect, well orchestrated, obviously preying on that age-old belief that he who yells “thief” first, can’t steal. And for a Government with so little goodwill in the West, it was very easy to secure a deafening mantra of guilty-until-proven-innocent in respect of the Zimbabwe Government.
Had the rally not taken place in Highfield, again where Tsvangirai had launched his sagging political career by goading the authorities for a disproportionate response which he thankfully got? This time he gave the authorities an alter ego, by way of Dzamara, whose solo demonstrations the MDC-T sponsored.
Indeed we heard a few Western embassies issuing statements in dutiful condemnation.
The next round came in a form all too familiar: by way of youth and student demonstrations. And then building publicity around Dzamara’s supposedly distraught wife, all to trigger maudlin sentimentality.
And then court injunctions that are heavily reminiscent. The latest in train comes by way of pulpits of pseudo-biblical activism, all to galvanise the conscience industry. And of course the human rights NGO sector, all along incapacitated by a filching guilt, has not hesitated to jump onto the bandwagon, into the fray, hoping for good waters to wash away their sins.
Only tandem status
Externally, we have seen how all these developments at home, open new avenues for Tsvangirai’s foreign campaign. Hard on the heels of this, Tsvangirai left for the US, reportedly to meet with the authorities of that country, secretly to raise funds for his broke party, all this ahead of 21 by-elections which his party has precipitated, all to bite off Biti, his nose, in order to spite his MDC face.
The real story lies in the renewal of the executive order by Obama recently, which has been read in MDC-T circles to imply continued US hostility towards Mugabe and Zanu-PF. And for them, American hatred for Zanu-PF must mean American love for MDC-T. In their reckoning, the Americans know no other group in Zimbabwe on which to predicate their interests, something likely to lead to a shocking realisation on MDC-T part.
Of course the recent report by the US Council on Foreign Relations shows an America which sees Zimbabwe as on the cusp or eve of unstructured change, one providing opportunities for the furtherance of US interests in the country and region. The focus has shifted towards dynamics within Zanu-PF, with the best that the MDC-T can ever hope as being to play tandem to whatever force US hopes to support for overwhelming traction. This possibly explains why our man had to be “with White House”.
Default button now gone
Let’s get the various strands together. Above, we have already identified the various actors who constitute the cast. And for those with good political memory, the actors are strongly reminiscent of post-2000 drama: provocateurs, demonstrators, students, churchmen, human rights NGOs, embassy staff, researchers, journalists, screaming tabloids. And of course Tsvangirai’s Western forays must be adorned by perfunctory overtures to Sadc and Africa, two bodies which Mugabe leads presently.
Think-tanks, gloom and doom think tanks are back in service, circulating their abysmal prognoses. Bereft of the incisive calculations of Tendai Biti, saddled with blunt-as-mallets intellects of the likes of Mwonzora and Gutu — men of sharp, repetitive expletives, dull politics — Tsvangirai today deploys same post-2000 tactics to new, changed politics of post-2013 where the dominant Western view is of a severely self-weakened and roundly discredited opposition, and an explosive yet fabrile Zanu-PF whose divisions continue to baffle all prognoses.
With that kind of scepticism of possibilities through the opposition, the MDC-T can no longer abduct and even kill its own, as happened in Hwedza and in Mashonaland Central in the run-up to 2008, hoping blame attaches to Zanu-PF. After all the westerners know how many deaths and abductions have been traceable to MDC-T itself, in the hope of precipitating external intervention and greater funding.
Much worse for the MDC-T, unlike in previous years when there was no lines of communication between Zanu-PF and the West, this time around the two do play tango, daily, something quite worrisome to some of us who dare imagine futures without the West. The default button is now gone. The MDC-T has Dzamara. He is their activist. They have kept him to this day, hoping that would give some umph to their faded fortunes.
They will most probably keep him away for a while, spirit him into exile like they did with another such, a few years ago. Or at worst, they can kill him, to make a desperate point. Well, let them know that to do the worst is to shed blood needlessly, given that there are no takers anymore. All eyes are now trained on Zanu-PF, not for blame, but for the future which they West wishes is post-Mugabe.
Counting urgent options
Zanu-PF must do a few things to strengthen its cause. Immediately, it must work to win a significant portion of by-elections which have come uninvited. To campaign hard, on the ground, not to hope for a divided MDC vote. Biti is finished and closer to polls, a good many of his fellow rebel MPs will defect back to MDC-T, motivated by a combination of pecuniary motivation and coercion. Many more trips to Botswana shall be made, during which MPs will come back after a Damascus trip.
Let Biti learn from Welshman, his mate in ruin. So Zanu-PF must work hard, to convince, to regain, to win. That smashes MDC-T wished-for script as a party on the rebound. That, too smashes its own rebels’ script of projecting it as a party whose hegemony has been diminished by splits and divisions. With one good result, Zanu-PF can batter two opponents: one to do with ascension, another with succession.
Secondly, Zanu-PF must handle dissent imaginatively. The Police are a weapon of last resort. There are many tools of first instance. These, not telegenic force, grow in value and frequency in a democracy.
Thirdly, engagement with the West must continue, not so much to recover the economy, but to remove western-induced obstacles to that recovery. With a better handling of the Chinese, the Russians, with a more imaginative resolution of the key questions of policy, a turnaround is graspable. The current state of the economy is not sustainable at all. The unimaginative handling of the mining sector, itself the investor’s cynosure, repudiates it as a source of forceful economic traction.
The slow pace of reform on NASSA, with its billions, denies the economy of huge possibilities. Our playing slow and shy on infrastructural projects with so many takers, are keeping children away from employment. And then the issue of currency which I can’t broach in the last paragraph, penultimate sentence, need boldness, depoliticisation.
There is just too much pressure on the citizen, too little options for survival. We are tense, too tense because of ever diminishing options for gaining livelihoods.