THE Nobel Peace Prize, says the sponsor’s will, must be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
Indeed Nelson Mandela told the 1964 Rivonia treason trial: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Nonetheless, for these harmless words, he was immediately banished to an African Siberia in Robben Island where he was to be denied his youth, dignity, decent food and shelter; and family life only to be awarded a Nobel for the same “ideal” 30 years later.
Not only did he endure all this, but he remained on the USA terrorist register until just a couple of years ago — 14 years after winning the Prize.
Barrack Obama, who as soon as he had urged tyrants around the world to “unclench their fists” was sending soldiers to war in Afghanistan recently collected the 2009 Prize, albeit with reluctance.
Why is it that some actions and words attract prestigious awards and company, and yet others incarceration? Could it be that some words are more beautiful than others? Is the Nobel Peace Prize really attracted to democracy and peace, and vice versa? If so, how could Henry Kissinger and Obama have won it?
Twice, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister and MDC leader, has been nominated for the award and yet he never needed to do anything but be beaten once by the police, be detained twice (1989 and 2002) for no more than three months altogether, and for threatening to oust Robert Mugabe “violently”.
Would it be mischievous to say the world of awards — the Nobel included — is about whitewashing other people’s sad records and about concealing and confusing matters?
“Mugabe,” commented the Wall Street Journal recently, “has been abusing, dispossessing, murdering and most recently starving his domestic enemies for the better part of the 30 years. For much of that time, he was garlanded in so many Western honours it is almost surprising he didn’t win a Nobel Peace Prize.”
Why did it take so many years for Mandela to be everybody’s darling and less than a decade and close to nothing for Tsvangirai? Remember both threatened violence, but could it be that violence is detestable only when it is targeted at a certain group of people, and never others?
Why is the Nobel Prize and capital so much attracted to Tsvangirai? Could democracy really be worth as much as it has been trumpeted in the case of Zimbabwe? Never before in Africa has so much been sacrificed for “democracy” in such few years — in terms of both reputations and cash. If democracy is really worth all this trouble, why has it been left to bleed for so long in Congo and its cousin — Human Rights — overturned and commercially raped there and elsewhere?
We hear of a “breakdown of democracy” and of why Tsvangirayi must land the award for “rebuilding democracy and peace” in Zimbabwe. How can there be a breakdown and rebuilding of something which never existed? Talk of imaginary solidarities and sympathies!
Zimbabwe, despite all the earlier misplaced goodwill and pathetic pretences, was never really a democracy but a quasi-one party state dictatorship which has since veered into a quasi-military dictatorship camouflaged by supine democratic institutions.
Shall we propose a law to punish those who use the words “democracy”, “freedom” and “peace” in vain just as we have a law, elsewhere, to deal with those who deny the Holocaust?
Not only is the Nobel Prize some form of whitewash but a burden and a muzzle. Had Desmond Tutu condemned Mugabe for crushing opponents and for “manufacturing corpses” (to borrow from Maxim Gorky) in Matabeleland in the 1980’s, he would certainly not have won the Prize.
Today, Tutu finds himself having to utter the expired words which were due in 1984. Mugabe, says Tutu, has “changed in character” to “become a Frankenstein”. This is ecclesiastical deception.
Wasn’t Mugabe already a “Frankenstein” and a walking Auschwitz when the Archbishop collected his award in 1984? How many beautiful words have been either postponed or simply kneaded into puree before they exited through the mouth by the fear that uttering them would turn away the award and with it goodwill and cash?
Tutu had to steer clear and let the rulers of the world garland their darling Mugabe even as he was meting out medieval violence on civilian innocents.
Just as Tsvangirai’s victory would help whitewash the fact that the West’s main worry about Zimbabwe is not about Human Rights and Democracy but about other people’s discomfort and about the lost farms, Tutu has the burden of twisting the facts and revising the language to help those who championed Mugabe to ease their burden of guilt.
The Nobel is now a tyranny to scare Tsvangirai not to desert other people’s battlefronts or else he won’t be admitted into the Nobel League of Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther, Tutu, Mandela and the Dalai Lama.
Tsvangirai will win, not for excellence and distinguished service on the Human Rights front, but so that it can rub in on Mugabe that, by violently grabbing farmlands, he lost his place in the club of the eminent.
Would Alfred Nobel have approved of his award being reduced into a stick with which to beat the fall guys and a rag to blindfold history before she is force-marched into the service of the victors?
Your guess could be mine.
Mthulisi Mathuthu was recently in Cape Town and met Nobel Laurent Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He also visited Robben Island a few days before the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release