WITH more than 300 business executives from South Africa, London and the United States of America - most of them Caucasian - all in one room, who would begrudge Zimbabweans for saying their country this week had Euro many?
The more than 300 delegates, I am told, represented a cross section of investment capital, cross sectioned by attitude, by hotness, by time. To a breed of simple Zimbabweans, this meant Zimbabwe had arrived, and was soon to grow obese from a surfeit of Euro money! And there was abundant human symbolism and scent to back up such copious claims, wasn't there?
The Euromoney conference was billed as a great indaba of great people with great money, indeed billed as Prime Minister Tsvangirai finally making good his word that indeed he and his MDC have "friends with money". Whether those friends make the money Zimbabwean is of course another matter.
Sanctions speak ...
The MDC does not expect Zimbabweans to studiously ask such questions; it only expects them to be impressed by the associational proximity demonstrated this week. Of course I am not bound by expectations and will not hesitate to point out that from their first day in offices of Government, not a penny - not a single penny - has come from Europe or America to boost this economy. None. Only piles and piles of misery and words by way of sanctions and sanctionsspeak.
Only paid-up attempts and attempts at regime-change, each bringing greater failure, grief and frustration for its architects. I hope the Prime Minister is beginning to realise that having friends with money is not quite the same as having money from friends!
TB vs TM
But all that is for another day. Suffice to say we had emissaries of Euro money in our country this week, and many in the MDC formations had cleared their throats to bleat "eureka"! It had to be a high stakes venture, and the dogfight between Tendai Biti and Tapiwa Mashakada - between TB and TM - over "ownership" of all those fine representatives, bore this out, well beyond the sheer comicality of the dogfight itself. Some are fighting to own Zimbabwe while others are fighting to "own" those that seek to pilfer it, to steal from it!
Well, if truth be told, TB (not related to the dreaded disease) actually brought Euro-money people here, following his interaction with their leadership in Kigali, Rwanda, at the ACBF meeting a few weeks back. He briefed Government about it, thereby exciting TM (again no relative of Thomas Miekles) who went definitional to get the better of his colleague-competitor.
If the conference is on investment, TM reasoned, then surely it must unfold under his ministry's auspices, a ministry which houses the investment portfolio! Who would argue against such common sense? None, the same way Mangoma had no chance when the same Mashakada - hardly a week into ministerial office - simply told him the proposed economic policy Mangoma had toiled to wring out of Zanu PF-trained civil servants, simply needed a fresh pair of eyes!
That was the last we heard of the policy to this day, leaving many wondering what really suffers jaundice, the policy or the new pair of eyes. Anyway, regarding the euro people, the ball went back and forth, forth and back until the week of indecision wore out to the very day of the conference.
At which critical time a brilliant solution was stumbled upon: why not inclusive hosting, someone asked! For a cadreship that has been in an inclusive Government for two long years, that was a remarkable find, all done in remarkable time!
Virgin Unite ...
The actual day, a Tuesday. A massive line-up of euro speakers, glittered by a few local black mouths, mouths that have not been speaking lately, locally. It was an impressive line-up, calculated to combine local pleas and Caucasian arrogance and indifference.
At this moment, allow me to show you a whole world in a grain of sand! Somewhere in the rich million multitude was tucked a seemingly innocuous name, Paulus Deuticke, appended to the New York-based Virgin Unite. Few noticed. Fewer understood anything else beneath the organisation's funny name which amounts to an exhortation for unity on the part of all those still to be ravished. Virgin Unitee! Of course readers of this column may recall an instalment in which I exposed this as the Richard Bronson initiative.
The initiative sought to make forays into Zimbabwe using different cloaks, different guises, the most resonant of which included that of being Mandela and Graca's "Elders". Much later, it also sought to package itself as a post-inclusive Government's confidence building investment initiative. Its local face was one Isabel Matambanadzo, formerly a DJ, formerly with Reuters, eternally with MDC-T, and currently God-knows-who, what!
Drowned in such a multitude, Virgin Unite this time did not attract much attention, did not even require a local metaphor incarnate, which is why it came in that most probably Aryan alien name from the world's largest émigré nation, the US.
Bronson, it appears, has realised the value of anonymity in business, more so given our most politically sonorous environment. Of course he must budget for watchers whose business it is to study silence, to exhume such corporatised subterfuges. We must never lose sight of this fundamental linkage between these so-called investment initiatives and MDC desperate attempts at re-branding itself through such platforms, seemingly de-politicised platforms.
Boateng of Ghana, Britain
But there was more. Similarly tucked and hidden in the clatter of many was a name that was curiously African: Honourable Lord Paul Boateng behind whose black forehead rang the title of "Non-Executive Director of Aegis Advisory of South Africa"! Of South Africa!
This column once made fleeting reference to this man from Ghana who is now a Briton. That makes him a Ghanaian Briton, assuming that make sense. He is part of a rich family line which began in Nkrumah's Ghana and is now fated to interweave with the blood of Albion. The family and Paul himself had great moments, both in Ghana's post-independence and in New Labour Britain, which is what gave it fame well beyond its Akan village. Boateng the father was a minister in Nkrumah's Ghana. Boateng the son, and now Lord, was the first black minister of Britain under Blair's New Labour.
Nearer home, Blair despatched Sir Boateng to South Africa, as Britain's High Commissioner to that country. It does not take much surmise to establish that Blair made the appointment with troublesome Mugabe and his Zimbabwe in mind. He stayed in that country from 2005 to 2009, during which time he held fast against pressure on him to attack President Mbeki for defending President Mugabe.
Of course Boateng had strange ideas about the Zimbabwe land issue, a subject for which he was tackled by this column. Let me be fair to him. He comes across as a real foil to Britain's pliant black embeds like Baroness Amos who stabbed furiously for embittered New Labour, all to gain acceptance, even ascendancy. Boateng's career as New Labour's African in South Africa, was restrainedly suave to a point of being colourless.
I doubt very much this had to do with doubtful efficacy on his personal part; I suspect it had much to do with the family's history in the era of Nkrumah's pan-Africanism, much to do with what Zimbabwe represents in the second wind of change. It is not difficult to work out why he landed in Harare, wearing a softer tag of South Africa.
There has been a change of guard at No. 10 and Britain is seeking to tactically re-engage, but without losing sight of its strategic goal of emptying the Zimbabwean tin of its dregs of radical liberation nationalism which has been such a remarkable upset to its interests here. Together with Ambassador Canning, he represented the abiding nexus between corporate Britain and political Britain, indeed between state apparatus and personages on the one hand, and board members and their boardrooms on the other. It is very easy to miss the vital political grain in the chaff of business rhetoric.
Washing up warted undergarment
Why Euro mourning? Well, many commentators have been furious with the Prime Minister for an address which sat incongruously on both the event and his interlocutors. They accuse him of transposing a local message to an international audience, indeed of holding up to generalised scrutiny Zimbabwe's warted undergarment.
They compare him to a spiteful woman who, on arrival of in-laws, reopens a quarrel that in the past has won her a few bruises. Such action amounts to daring her husband when he is most compromised, they argue. The issue to do with sanctions, the GPA, elections and violence did little to help impress the visitors who should have met with peace, love and happiness in the house of stones, for them to widen the mouth of their purses, those criticising the Premier argue. I don't know. But it must never be forgotten that on that day of in-laws, impudence was not only with the wife. It was with the husband too!
Staging the play without Hamlet
For Zanu PF to send the pugnacious Kasukuwere to deliver to these delicate euros a hard message on indigenisation and sanctions, and to deliver it from hard knuckles, amounted to little politeness, surely?
Together with the fact that Zanu PF's Politburo chose the second day of the conference to debate and pass its policy on indigenisation and empowerment, the message to this euro crowd could not have been ambiguous. Zanu PF was setting up a counter-site. Equally, the absence of the President at the conference, however well justified, still rang devastatingly loud to the conference attendees. It is not like they do not know which man matters in the Inclusive Government, which man to speak to for a definitive position.
And they left before seeing, let alone hearing, from that man. Minor actors rarely move the plot, except as a throng, except as foils to the main actor. And when you put all these together, here was a husband loudly murmuring about wives who bear children with foreheads that resemble that of the man next door, murmuring such anathema when a visiting mother-in-law is within earshot. So the deficit of politeness was on both sides, and neither need cry in my view.
Grappling with the horror of anti-sanctions
But there was euro mourning in a deeper sense. Tsvangirai's message was well out of sync with the occasion and with his interlocutors. He delivered a domestic message; he addressed a domestic challenge that needled him. And that challenge had to do with an occurrence on 2nd March, somewhere near the Sheraton Hotel which haunted him well into the Euro-money conference.
The "speculation" on his position as Prime Minister on the issue of sanctions surely could never be harboured by the 300 or so Euromoney delegates? The man was addressing Zimbabweans he does not seem to know. If he did, why would he think there is a single Zimbabwean who still speculates on his views on sanctions? What political reputation "at home and abroad" did he risk in raising the issue of sanctions he maintains do not exist?
Assuming for once there is "human rights abuse and non-implementation" of the GPA, how does that confer on those whose reputation he seeks abroad the right to impose sanctions? How does recompense for abused rights and unimplemented GPA come to him and MDC through Western sanctions? And if no section in the GPA "is more important than the other", why is the sanctions section precisely that in his party's reckoning? Why is his party denying the existence of the very sanctions whose existence his party confirmed by its signature on the GPA document? One did not get a sense of a man who had since found a good enough counter-argument to what happened on that fateful Wednesday. Or a better cause and occasion for overwriting that mammoth event.
Trimming ourselves to anorexia
Much worse, he thinks we must trim ourselves to improve our appeal to investors. For that to happen, those agitating for empowerment become "thugs" who blunt his and Minister Mzembi's promotional effort. For that to happen, the 51% indigenisation mark must only be an eventual goal, not the floor shareholding. For that to happen, elections must be deferred, democracy must be deferred! For that to happen, the existence of sanctions must be repudiated, much like a fart which must burn one's insides to avert embarrassment! All these add up to a worldview which posits a servile role for the Zimbabwean.
But that is an easy point to make. The less obvious one relates to connecting the role and impact of sanctions to the creation of conditions ideal for the penetration of capital which the Prime Minister and all his men are agonising about. This, in my view, is where our economists have done us a great disservice. The debate on sanctions has focused unduly on western resources block and denied by ZIDERA and some such measures. Little attention has been spent on how sanctions fit in the overall scheme of the penetration, distortion and stunting of domestic economic activity by imperialism, all to soften a target society for a subsidiary role in global affairs.
Sanctions and domestic credit
Far more significant as regards western sanctions in Zimbabwe has been how these measures have undermined local savings, local capital formation and local investment. These sanctions have not only blocked capital inflows; they have attacked local capital formation by incapacitating local corporate initiative, indeed by attacking the State's capacity to support such initiative. Both the LSE selling effort and the Euromoney initiative have been made possible by a Zimbabwe of very low liquidity for national enterprises.
We have become one country where sanctions measures have not only depressed stock, but have also created a desperate appetite for externally infused liquidity. This craving for foreign capital expresses itself by way of crippling loans or take-over shareholding, both of which results in net national disempowerment. While elsewhere the west has relied more on the debt-trap, here they have relied on sanctions to induce an appetite for foreign money, much of it hot and thus uncommitted to this country in the long run. Sanctions have led to deliberate contraction of internal credit, made worse by foreign banks operating here hoarding the little credit, or externalising it in the name of dividend. Both LSE and Euromoney could only have come now, a good ten years after we have been sufficiently softened by sanctions.
Our real power
As if we are not spongy-soft, we have over 300 voices telling us we are still not soft enough, all bolstered by our Prime Minister who thinks we must keep shedding weight, more weight for a euro suitor who finds anorexia quite sexy. There is no reckoning that the much worshipped investor is in fact aware that he can only find cheap platinum in Zimbabwe alone and nowhere else.
There is no reckoning in our Prime Minister that cheap diamonds are only found here in Zimbabwe. No reckoning that cheap chrome is found only here in Zimbabwe. The same for copper, for coal, for nickel, for gold, for uranium. Indeed that this is true of a whole raft of other minerals. And the operative word here is "cheap". We are a net low-cost mineral deposit, which bolsters our comparative advantage world-wide.
The 300 men and women who came here were not doing us a favour; they were obeying hard-headed recommendations arising from sober global analysis of natural resource availability. Investors do need to make themselves attractive to Zimbabwe, Mr Prime Minister, Sir! And the moment you realise that, Mr Prime Minister, is the sooner you creep out of your servile politics which only make you worse by way of reputation at home and abroad.
Frankly, Richard Bronson does not care a hoot about the GPA, assuming he knows about it. Or that you have bashed each other in Mbare. Or own or lost elections which are neither free nor fair. But he cares if you begin to make noise that reaches his boardroom. That he cares.
Euro-pimps or masters?
We have clout, something these guys in the MDC do not seem to comprehend. The flurry of investor activity in our country arises from our endowments which can no longer be assured for the west by the mere fact that Zimbabwe has no domestic capital large enough to exploit these resources. That era of splendid isolation is gone. That era of splendid native poverty is gone and gone forever. There is hefty appetites out there and there is a stampede, a mad rush for resources we have, we must own if we are to be kings.
But listening to our voices at the conference, you met self-unconscious kings who thus behaved like common paupers. The critical question in Zimbabwe today cannot be how to attract investment, any investment. It is how to attract right investment with the correct attitude, investment which coheres with our broad national goals. And our national goal cannot be to be labourers and decorated managers. We have been all that both before and after Independence. We surely seek more? We seek domestic capital formation riding on the back of countries with capital but with no resources. We seek to build a middle class, genuine middle class of black, black Africans. Us! And that cannot happen through a philosophy yekunyengwa navarungu as if we have no worth beyond folded butts.
We cannot be euro-pimps, Mr Prime Minister. We are kings of vast riches! See how Americans frighten themselves about our uranium which they think is about to go to Iranians, frighten themselves into stupid threats to us! That is our worth. See how that black American girl Page ploughs all those vast distances to accost little Zimbabwe about the KPCS, about our diamonds. Even getting to a point of admitting that Zanu PF has a role to play now and in an eternal future. It is not generosity, Mr Prime Minister; rather, that is our value, untapped value.
Investment within parameters
The sanctions will not go because we have been sexy to the Americans and their European allies. The sanctions will go because we have learnt the art of using our natural resources muscle to extract concessions in defence of our interests. And we do not do it by kowtowing. We do not do it by fearing a debt of a mere US$7,6bn dollars which is the worth of one modest mineral among plenty.
We do not do it by worrying about proceeds from small diamond sales when we are platinum pound foolish. Worrying about dollar-worth road toll when some white man is turning US$100,000 worth paper on our fabulous Lusulu coal deposits into US$18 million! Does that have to be a white man? The signature on the Special Grant comes from a black hand, blacker than the coal it denotes. The coal itself is in Binga, our Binga. But the gain is in Cape Town, pilfered by little white fellows who know value better than us.
Much worse, as Euromoney conference was going on, Ncube was sealing a multibillion dollar deal with Indians. Not Euros. Indians who are as dark as inini. Those Indians undertook to take over our debts with Germans who because of sanctions, will not write it off. Germans were part of the much vaunted Euromoney Conference. Do we realise our value, our friends, friendly investment capital? Do we?
Wooden leg on piglet
Casting aside our value, we allow the British, the Europeans to insult us by claims of great deeds of philanthropy. How they have saved us from aids, malaria, starvation, dirty water, etc, etc, we the rich kings. Maybe I need to bring in Eduardo Galeano who warns that the moment you hear imperialism wax lyrical about its philanthropic goodness, check your pocket.
"International charity does not exist," he says. "It begins at home, for the United States as for everyone else. The role of foreign aid is primarily domestic - the US economy aids itself...."
He gets more sarcastic: "Aid works like the philanthropist who put a wooden leg on his piglet because he was eating it bit by bit."
We must deal with sanctions firmly if we are to assure the so-called GPA. I hope the Prime Minister has since realised sanctions do matter and will always obtrude in the Inclusive Government, will always come back to haunt him. He had better moved positively on this one matter.
Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald