An African tragedy

OPINION – Of course, like every other shallow one of us, I hark back to days of Zambezi lager, sodden Kariba cruises, watching Glen McGrath bowling to nine slips and a rotund Zimbabwean chicken farmer and sipping exotic teas in the verdant Vumba.\r\n

Of course, like every other shallow one of us, I hark back to days of Zambezi lager, sodden Kariba cruises, watching Glen McGrath bowling to nine slips and a rotund Zimbabwean chicken farmer and sipping exotic teas in the verdant Vumba.

Yes, we hark back to the old Zimbabwe (not Rhodesia, when – yes I know – there was electricity, law and order, department stores, a robust stamp collecting society and everyone knew their places). But many of us have a strong fear that the worst is yet to come.

Reports that Morgan Tsvangirai is prime minister, bespectacled Tendai Biti has done very well with an emaciated piggy bank and Bovril and Melrose cheese spread are pouring out of overstocked supermarkets far from reflects the state of the nation. Yes, I know you can get petrol in under a few days and you can watch the Stormers vs Bulls at the Keg and Maiden (despite the fact that membership is right down at the Red Lion next door), but any succour taken from this is akin to serving the last gin and bitter lemon before the Titanic hits the iceberg.

The Titanic is a poor analogy, because the country has been going through hell since the first invasions and halcyon days of that remarkable pig and aptly named war veteran  Chenjerai ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi. But the Government of National Unity, other than allowing Spar to sell Tuc biscuits, has been a complete disaster. Born out of desperation, it has been so mean-spirited and so grim and unhappy as to be a disaster. It has probably cost so-called Prime Minister Tsvangirai boundless political standing in that he has been bitched by good old Muggers and his cronies.

In fact, the clamour of concern around Tsvangirai’s leadership is growing. The people are bemoaning the absence of a charismatic, powerful, fearless opposition leader who is probably tasked with the unenviable task of taking on Goliath and his equally large friends with a packet of raisins.

The sense of doom is based on several factors other than a poorly organised opposition – largely a result of the fact that they are a brutalised opposition. (If I had the soles of my feet cut off, I would happily be at the next Zanu-PF sing-song.)

Firstly is the fact that these bastards have dug themselves in. It’s like when you lie about having done your homework and then your teacher wants to see it and you have to say you left your book at home, so he says bring it tomorrow. But you can’t, you say, because the dog ate it. One little fib becomes a litany of lies to cover up the original.

This is the case on a far larger and more barbaric scale in Zimbabwe. Those securocrats are absolutely petrified of being held accountable for their crimes, which just get worse as they cling to power in order to avoid this accountability. It just becomes a self-perpetuating whirlpool of brutality.

Muggers may want to nod off in the sun on the marble porch of his North Korean US$16-million mansion (which shows remarkable financial skill based on a state salary of less than $15 000 per year), but his lieutenants are petrified. What about us, sire, what will become of us?

Secondly, just as they had got their massive heads around that fact that there would be change and a rearranging of the deck chairs, oh mercy me, they found the richest diamond vein in the world. They were not going to let anyone else get their snouts in the trough. Let alone the people.

Thirdly, there is both a new constitution and an election coming up. Given that Thugabe beat and bashed his way to a narrow loss in the previous one, he is said to be letting nothing to chance for the next one, His police and the Green Bombers are polishing truncheons, stocking up on car batteries and human-bone shredders in anticipation of Zimbabwe’s next dance with democracy.

Fourthly, there is South Africa. Nine years ago President Mbeki was talking of quiet diplomacy (because apparently there is “no such thing as noisy diplomacy”). But there is a fundamental, maddening liberation loyalty that is hard to explain, that allows for the maltreatment (and worse) of millions just north of Polokwane.

Peter Godwin, in his thoroughly depressing account of the previous elections, The Fear, is lucid and passionate on the damage that South Africa’s inertia (at best) or support (at worst) over Mugabe is doing.

Of course we all want to see millions gathering in Unity Square pulling down statues and Robert Mugabe doing a Mubarak, but it’s not going to happen. The people (peace-loving by nature) are brutalised, the security apparatus is gleaming, merciless and now – thanks to your wife’s earrings – paid for.

Instead Mugabe is not going to leave anything to chance and is going to fight his way to an election victory.

When you read about tomahawk missiles being able to hit a cornflake on a spoon, it’s a pity there aren’t a few subs off Inhambane. Naughty I know, and it won’t solve anything, but the alternative is also dreadful. -iafrica.com

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