China’s decision to grant Zimbabwe a staggering US$950m credit barely a week after the Prime Minister’s dry-womb trip to the West, has sent tremors far and deep, certainly right into the sanctum of MDC-T.
His claim that his Secretary-General, now Finance Minister in the Inclusive Government, Tendai Biti, negotiated the deal, rings fatuous and ridiculous.
Why would he choose to go to the barren West when the generous East so beckoned? Why would he time the fulfilment of such a wonderful deal so close to the empty one of the West, all to invite such a damning comparison upon his all-time benefactors?
If anything, this claim confirms the tremors I refer to.
But first things first.
Let the parameters of this piece be made clear. Both the managers and hosts of the Prime Minister’s ill-fated trip undermined the trip’s claim to national status or purpose.
The trip was decidedly narrow, by composition, host preferences and by outcome.
That reality acquits me from any politeness, taking me right into the murky world of party politics.
Fate’s pace and parcel.
So, back to substance. Play the US$200-plus little the MDC leader got against the stupendous sum China has given Zimbabwe through Government, then you give the mathematical magnitude to MDC-T’s worries.
Here was a man who ventured out into the western world — first home to him — wrapped in lofty people-goals, all in the hope of what he mistook for guaranteed plenty. Politically, he hoped the trip would ram home his wish status as the only wielder of the golden key to the vaults of the "monied" West.
That way, he would have placed himself implacably high, well on the messiah pedestal, to great grief of Zanu-PF, great personal grief of President Mugabe.
But fate had its own pace and parcel for him. Instead of bagfuls of money, drums of enhanced leverage against Zanu-pf (PF), he came back limping, dragging a vast list of governance beatitudes and conditionalities the hungry and expectant could never eat.
For the face of an Inclusive Government which had risen and received embrace as "manna" from the West, all this hardly added up.
Today the MDC leader stands very short as a pathetic anti-Christ figure who dared to make a sermon on the mountain, without feeding the hungry five thousand, all of them down and to earth. It is going to be a long while before they are ready to forgive him.
Fighting the task and task-man
Zanu-pf (PF)’s propaganda mandarins did not help matters. Wrestling initiative, they framed the Prime Minister’s trip as Mugabe-initiated, as Mugabe-defined, a position Tsvangirai is still battling to shake off. They defined the trip around the twin objectives of getting the utterly illegal sanctions removed, and of securing soft loans — not grants — for the sanctions-wrecked Zimbabwe economy.
Against such a filling propaganda take by Zanu-pf (PF), the MDC leader and his acolytes were quite appropriately galled.
They frantically sought to challenge this forming and settling orthodoxy to the story, indeed to re-frame the whole trip well outside of the twin orders, twin purpose, clearly with enormous difficulties, in all attempts with ever diminishing success.
That included the wrap-up press conference given this week. For how else would one reframe the trip away from the twin objectives, away from the twin tasking executive — the Cabinet and the President — and still justify to the hungry the use of public funds? And to justify the more than three weeks this public figure was out of the country?
And if sanctions are the only outstanding reason for present penury, how would one distance the Prime Minister of this country from attacking them to enhance public weal?
You do not want propaganda which coincides with reality, much less one which leaves you rebelliously wondering directionless within its overbearing framework.
It was an unenviable bind, one spawning near desperate, multinational response by way of the Andrew Chadwick-led, USAID-funded newsletter, itself an utterly poor show which gave the MDC more headaches and fury.
The Chamisas, the Bangos, themselves real owners of the propaganda portfolio of the MDC, had been left out, and did not find this whole "white" effort exactly quite polite, exactly well-intentioned, would they?
Another second-level tribute to the efficacious Zanu-pf-PF propaganda mandarins.
In Zanu-pf-PF’s duodenum
Much worse, liberating the Prime Minister from the politically pregnant emissary status ascribed to him by unremitting media pot boilers, meant making him personally responsible for the whole trip and its disastrous outcome.
Much early in the Inclusive Government, in fact well before its constitution, the western world had warned Mugabe would suffer Tsvangirai in the power-sharing deal in order to use him to unlock the fabulously giving heart of Europe and America.
With enough silver and gold, they added, Tsvangirai would be dumped right into the chewing gut of Zanu-pf-PF, much the same way PF-Zapu went.
This propaganda by Zanu-pf-PF mandarins appeared to validate this visceral fear in the West. Had Zanu-pf-PF turned Tsvangirai into the thin end of the wedge with which to prise open Europe and America’s hitherto unyielding heart?
Was Tsvangirai and his MDC already on his way to Zanu-pf-PF’s duodenum, a deadly process whose preface was the fatal inclusive kiss of Pretoria?
Still the MDC propagandists reasoned it much better to free the Premier from emissary status and deal later with the full load of trip failure, well docked on the premier’s doorstep. Wakava mufakwose.
The trip did not convince the West the Prime Minister was his own emissary. Equally, the trip brought nothing back home, leaving him more vulnerable to swallowing.
The US$8,3 billion Biti claims Zimbabwe needs has become the shibboleth by which his boss fails the test. The US$200 million is now read against this enormous figure.
And how it falls far, far short! Jonathan Moyo, in Parliament the sole leader and member of Zimbabwe’s official opposition, was not slow to stick in the first deadly dagga.
Tsvangirai went out on an ego-trip, as a Prime Minister of NGOs, cut in the lethally persuasive Jonathan!
One liner that was such a dramatic and humiliating shrinkage for a man whose stature would have risen beyond the dust of party politics to the pinnacle of national leadership.
Diminishing leverage, stature
Now the hard facts. After a three-week sojourn in the wild Worst — sorry, West, MDC-T comes back with a hugely diminished stature and leverage in the Inclusive Government.
So does its embattled leader whose options have shrunk to a mere two: that of disappearing deeper into the smothering arms of the dictating West, or shrinking to a second-rate Mugabe through latter-day, catch-up radicalism.
Founded on claims of wielding the key to ending "isolation" and mobilising resources — re-engagement and mobilising transitional assistance in MDC lingo — the trip which saw Tsvangirai limping home on empty, simply made him and MDC party as much victims of sanctions as Mugabe and his Zanu-pf-PF.
The only and soon-to-prove decisive difference being that Tsvangirai and his MDC are viewed as careless and deserving victims who invited sanctions, again in the vain hope of plenty, while Zanu-pf-PF is seen as carrying the cross for daring assert a national good.
Across continents, across leadership temperaments and personalities, Tsvangirai was told in very clear and no uncertain tones that sanctions would not come off, with the same voices adding soto voce, unless the goals for putting them in place are met!
He seemed to agree that Zimbabwe had not done much to deserve relief. This was mildly complicit.
Thanks to McGee, the whole admission was transfigured into downright incrimination when the restless US ambassador, in a remarkable verbal miscue, put it plainly, bluntly: Tsvangirai would not seek the removal of sanctions because he knows and shares in the purpose for which the sanctions were put in place in the first place!
And precious little was left to imagination.
The sanctions had been put in place for two goals: the reversal of land reforms, and delivery of Mugabe’s head on a platter, the second being a prime enabler to the first goal.
And during the trip, a new word entered the political vocabulary of Zimbabwe: "incremental".
The MDC-T’s purpose in the Inclusive Government in the about four months that have gone by, has been to subtly loosen President Mugabe’s hold on levers of power, in the ultimate hope of pushing him off and out, while "incrementally" enlarging Tsvangirai’s hand on the wheel of the vessel of State.
This is what young Chamisa meant when he said — ungainly in my view — we agreed to share power in order to "take it". Victoria Falls "bonding" was a power-profiling and assessment exercise in the bureaucracy, pending a sequenced, surgical attack on carriers of the State.
Innocent STERP was the facade. After it, an observation post (OP) or sentinel disposal strategy for the bureaucracy was worked out: plaint players in the bureaucracy getting won over, brittle ones meriting a bad name — "hardliners" — before being hanged! You want to
understand the attack of the likes of Gono, Tomana, JOC and lately information leadership, in that context.
A different strategy — charm and technicality (land audit) — is being attempted for the land sector.
When angry Tapa was set on him
The burden on the MDC leader was to convince his Western funders that the strategy was working, was delivering.
Or so expected the West. Plainly, he did not. If anything, he irritated them: by denying any land invasions; re-characterising Mugabe as a big, kind heart, rare and reserved for statesmen; denying any human rights abuses, in fact making Mugabe’s and his own fate Siamese.
He made the fatal error of honesty in a world accustomed to deceptive politics.
After all the game plan had been made plain: the stage-managed Amnesty International visit and damning report; the cold reception in Holland which set the tone, the debate and subsequent more-sanctions resolution in the US Senate, the false Human Rights Watch report on diamonds, already known but to be published later.
All these efforts were to be underpinned by a Tsvangirai full of complaints against Mugabe as an untrustworthy partner in the Inclusive Government. Tsvangirai did not shore up this
political position and livid Albion set Tapa and all on him, at Southwalk.
This is the broad context within which to appreciate what China has done to the politics of Zimbabwe.
Globally embattled, globally vilified, the Zimbabwe revolution seemed orphaned, condemned both in the East and in the West. Although those in Zanu-PF knew better, China appeared hostile, or at best reticent.
Russia appeared languid. Both seemed not too keen to go beyond gestures in the Security Council, although admittedly very important at the time. Zanu-pf-PF’s Zimbabwe appeared easy to rescue, harder to nourish and defend.
But with what has happened this week, China has moved in emphatically, clearly showing the sun truly rises in the East, dies in the West. Morgan Tsvangirai’s beatitudinal West! And China has done it in such a way that even the common man in Zimbabwe visualises how foreign policy matters domestically.
China’s guns which only yesterday brought freedom to Zimbabwe, have today flowered to trigger real, unconditional welfare for the liberated. The credit touches on welfare pillars, development pillars so, so sorely lacking. What remains to be seen is whether Zanu-pf-PF can be helped. Will it have the courage to reassert the role of the central bank on the back of this credit? Indeed to end this Multilateral Donor Trust Fund, itself an economy within an economy, indeed a government within a government?
Indeed to reassert the place of the new farmer, the nationalist entrepreneur, both of them orphaned by the inclusive Government?
Or will it, as before feed the treacherously fawning managerial bourgeoisie that had so quickly abandoned it for a new suitor, a new benefactor?
Those who had taken to platforms to denounce Zanu-pf-PF and its leadership at Trade Fairs are already dusting their party regalia, sharpening their words for another round of praise poetry. For the daffodil is blossoming again.