EACH time I am low, I have this vivifying habit of raking and harassing the cradle of my credo, Marxism. It must give me answers. Or at the very least give me questions the search for answers of which must lead to new insights.
After a very disheartening week at the African Union Summit, I found myself in one such hideous mood whose nourishing side subsists in frenetic reading of heavy matter, really heavy, emotive matter that gets one agitated enough to purge the demon.
A beery debate
As if Addis was not upsetting enough, I got back to a beery debate, appropriately led by one Timba in the Prime Minister's office, possibly complemented to the usually sedate and thoughtful Ian Makone, again of the Prime Minister's Office. Between these two was some bizarre programme to get the whole of Government to retreat to NYANGA to discuss what in the MDC lingo is called GWP, Government Work Programme.
Comically, the Prime Minister was supposed to preside over this cerebral encounter. Comically because between these two, someone forgot that the Prime Minister "has a leg", which in conventional parlance is to say the Prime Minister is nursing a leg injury.
Reports speak of a twisted leg, so twisted, so nagging that this one aching leg has stopped the Prime Minister from doing many things, including attending the inaugural sessions of Cabinet. The world is still to know what rigours sprained our Prime Minister's busy leg. Theories run from a mighty fall off the treadmill, through to a hard putt at the golf yard, right through to chitsinga, that mysterious crippling bolt triggered from afar by some evil hand to break a man's leg.
How the two men thought the Prime Minister was going to hobble his way to Nyanga, reach Nyanga well enough to address the gathering, no one could quite say.
Dreaming of milk from another man's cow
But then so many other things were forgotten. Between the two of them, someone forgot that the bureaucracy is jointly run by the Chief Secretary and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, both who report to the President of this country. This is my roundabout way of saying these two small man from the Prime Minister's Office were busy building milky visions while their four languid eye relaxedly roved on the bursting adder of a cow belonging to a neighbour.
The President was not aware of this whole Programme. Heads of Ministries were being hectored by little officers seeking a greater size through this assignment and association with the Office of the Prime Minister. The Chief Secretary was away. The Chairman was unaware. What is more, this was a replay of bungling that had happened in previous years. You wandered whether these two men are capable of learning anything at all. As was bound to happen, the beery efforts of the two busybodies only obtained derisive mirth from exhorted ministries.
By Monday, the the writing of utter failure was quite legibly scribbled on the wall, even though those behind this project were still in denial. Of course the Prime Minister salvaged the Programme by sending an apology to you-know-who, who graciously accepted it before resetting dates for the same outing, this time properly organised and appropriately sanctioned and cleared. So the outing will take place next week or so.
Honey from bees, or flies
But the point has been made yet again. For as long as the promptings for such meetings are dubious - and much rests on the character of those organising them - the so-called GWP will continue to come to grief, thereby giving the Prime Minister's Office a grim foreboding for every New Year that opens.
The Prime Minister must know that flies cannot deliver honey. Bees do, without depositing maggots and faecal icing. GWP has now come to be viewed as the Prime Minister's attempt, through his bungling staff, to lay political claim on the bureaucracy. It is still to be viewed as a bona fide retreat for strategic planning in the bureaucracy.
It should be recalled that not too far back, the Prime Minister tried to pit such a retreat against a Cabinet sitting, after his party had decided to boycott Cabinet. That the movement to Nyanga this time around was scheduled to start on a Tuesday, a Cabinet day, again triggered a recall and a reflex. What was the Prime Minister up to again?
And for as long as the likes of Timba think they can use Government programmes to cultivate a narrow, partisan image of a Prime Minister who cannot submit himself to the head of Government and State, a Prime Minister who is about to take over the reigns of power, starting with the bureaucracy, there shall always be resistance followed by spectacular collapses.
Kiss of life from the bottom
The atmosphere had not been helped at all by another beery issue raised by the same quarters, to do with the reappointments of Service Chiefs. And the key word here is "reappointments". The MDC pushed a futile line which insisted that the Prime Minister would have a role in those reappointments which the formations self-delusively presented as "appointments", hoping leaving out the prefixial "re-" would give the Prime Minister some claim, some stake in the steps leading to resolution of the matter. For a whole week, the formations were pushing hard balls with their tender palms.
You could not miss the media orchestration largely pushed through the obliging yet unthinking private media. And as with beery balloons, you let them swell and swell on fumes, until only a fly's legs are enough to burst them. From the very beginning, the MDC formations knew they were pushing furiously breathing a dead matter to life, furiously breathing new life into a corpse from its weeping bottom. It was bound to be an effort that succeeds only in defiling the dead, in winning appalling appellations for the doer, never in bringing back life.
A matter long closed
Surely the formations should have known their customer, known what you can get out of the President and what you cannot. Much worse, they should have known whether their protests were ahead or behind reappointments. Why weep over spilt milk? Which Service Chief does not have a renewed contract? Which one? The President has no one to consult and proceeded precisely that way, namely alone, undeterred by who is inclined to flog a bolted horse.
This whole bizarre business of delaying the bursting of a falsehood hoping that time plays alchemy is, plainly quite foolish. Timba tells the local media that both the GWP and reappointments of Service Chiefs would be resolved "on Friday" at the National Security Council meeting. What National Security Council can Timba know? In the first place the NSC is convened by the President, not by the Prime Minister.
In the second instance, the President would never convene it as the first item for reopening Government from the Christmas recess. Thirdly, the Prime Minister is indisposed anyway, and Timba knows that. For how long shall he continue to take the media on the train of wasteful gullibility? Does he know the difference between agenda setting and agenda upsetting?
Africa's unused blueprint
Addis was a huge disappointment. It was unbelievable. Africa faced a joint Anglo-French offensive against itself, faced it mortally divided. The divisive issues related to the NTC of Libya, and the filling of the post of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, the AU's Chief Executive Officer in other words. You may recall that well before the raping of Libya and the subsequent murder of Gaddafi by Nato, Africa had tabled its own blueprint for peace in Libya as subsisting in a ceasefire, AU-mediated talks between the Libyan Government then and the rebels, leading to a Government of National Unity.
The AU emphatically upheld the sovereignty and territorial integrity or inviolability of Libyan soil through uninvited intrusive actions by foreign powers. When Nato hostilities, Africa was brushed aside as the Western sword decided matters on the ground. Throughout the conflict, Africa held strong and steadfast on its blueprint, making it the shibboleth for the eventual political outcome at the conclusion of hostilities.
When Africa buckled by agent
Of course the outcome was something quite different. The rebels then, reveling in Nato's loaned airpower, decided they could not enter into negotiations with Gaddafi and his Government. When the campaign picked pace and victory was in sight, the rebels set sights on eliminating Gaddafi to remove the need for dialogue the creation of the GNU. That dark wish was granted by fate and Nato. The eventual outcome by way of the NTC, the governing authority in Libya today is exclusionary, vindictive and already triggering a destabilising backlash. Libya is on the boil, with the resurgence of pro-Gaddafi forces piling up armed pressure on an already schismatic NTC.
Meanwhile Africa, through its lower organ called the Peace and Security Council had already moved in to recognise the incompliant NTC, less for settlement, more to be in sync with Nato countries who are also former colonial powers of the continent and current leading donor countries for Africa. These assaulting nations had already recognised the NTC. Africa had to measure up. Africa had thus been committed by its lower tier, thereby invalidating its own preconditions for the readmission of warring Libya.
The spotlight was both on the chairperson of the Commission and on the forum of African ambassadors accredited to Ethiopia, the seat of the AU. On this issue of recognition of the NTC, only Zimbabwe and Namibia objected, clearly telling the Peace and Security Council that the preconditions for the readmission of Libya had been set by Summit and thus could only be reviewed at that same level of Summit.
In practical terms, that meant the PSC had to hold on to its recommendations until the January Summit. It did not, as it proceeded to grant the NTC readmission ahead of Summit, all to please France, Britain and America. It is believed that Jean Ping, the Chairperson of the Commission, had buckled before French pressure.
One hell of an inglorious argument
Together with his spineless handling of Ivory Coast, Ping had failed to defend the African interest. As Chairperson, he kept decisions and resolutions of Africa on these two vital questions. Yet he succumbed to external pressure. Much worse, he felt proud about it, even using it to suggest his own re-electability. His campaign thrust was to warn that Dr Nkosazana Zuma, his rival for the job, was too strong-willed, too principled to be appealing to Western donors. The AU needed someone flexible enough to accommodate donors, as had happened over Ivory Coast and Libya, he said with a proud face.
One expected Africa to be disgusted by the man's argument. Yet Africa was not, in fact sought to reinstate the personification of its weakened position in the new global scheme of things by re-electing the pliant Ping. Ping beat Madame Zuma, albeit marginally, in the first and second round. What was Africa voting for?
When rivalry weakens a continent
Thank God the rules require the winner to enjoy two-third support of Africa. Ping was far from getting that, thanks largely to Sadc which voted as a block on both occasions. Then Zuma gracefully bowed out, hoping Ping would proceed to then raise the two-thirds. Still Ping did not, creating the impasse we have today, an impasse we hope shall be resolved in Malawi in August when the AU meets for the second time in the year.
The despairing issue is realising that the impasse was engineered by Europe through certain African states. The French, quite naturally corralled the vote of Francophone Africa. The British weighed in by mobilising the vote of some Anglophone countries, including Nigeria.
Nigeria was stridently for Ping not so much because she thinks Ping is such a wonderful Chairperson, but because she does not find the idea of a South Africa, herself a rival at continental leadership, perched atop the AU. After all, adds Nigeria rather patriotically, all the big powers on the continent must observe an unwritten rule never to run for the office of chairperson. Quite a selfless argument, until you get to know that in West Africa, Nigeria has made itself a permanent member of the PSC willy-nilly. Through such false rivalry, Africa found itself divided and pawned by Europe.
A frightened leadership
What is it that got France and Britain, themselves bitter rivals in the EU, on the same side on the continent? Did this have anything to do with what Ping has intrinsically, or the obverse, what Dr Zuma lacks intrinsically? Of course not. This had something to do with Anglo-French diplomatic calculus on the greater continent, a recognition that the unity that binds Africa organisationally in fact simplifies the control of the continent in one stroke via its Commission. And both the French and the British badly need to control Africa in order to access her resources. After all she is the world's last frontier by way of resources.
In Addis you did not get a sense of collective danger among Africans. You got a sense of a badly divided Africa in the hands of a parochial leadership whose vision hardly looked back to the founders, hardly looked forward a day beyond given terms of office to speak to Africa's futures. You also read lots of fear: fear that what happened to Gaddafi could very easily happen to anyone in leadership once Europe gets upset. Collective insecurity translated to collective acquiescence to Western whims in the hope of placating imperialism.
Africa became game, simply seeking refuge in a fraction by way of the two-thirds majority which proved elusive and thus a mathematical wand that saved Africa, for now at least. It is gloomy, very gloomy. Only one Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe had the courage of his convictions and loudly expressed them. The rest of Africa key quiet only choosing to register agreement with President Mugabe after the Summit, well away from the corridors of the Summit where it was deemed safe to do so. This is what remains of our continent by way of leadership.
Which Zuma, which South Africa
One did not get the sense that the President was addressing Africa's incumbent leadership, most of it guilty and thus feeling challenged by the address. One got a sense that the President was addressing an unpopulated future, a new Africa to emerge from the morass of a second colonialism. His interlocutors were thus not immediate, available, something that made his voice something of a lamentation in the African wilderness. And that got one to despair, got one to raise existential questions about the same continent the President had helped free, but about to be unfree again, to mighty indifference from its would-be colonised, its supposed defenders.
Even South Africa which had given us a candidate was a bundle of enervating contradictions. How had UN resolution 1973 on Libya and South Africa's naive and treacherous role in it impacted on Zuma's candidature? Or more accurately, how had this equipped her African rivals against her, all of whom ironically were in fact no different from her by way of givenness to white global agendas? And would Zuma the candidate take cue from the Mbeki-era type of principled politics or from South Africa's current flip-flopping, muddled foreign policy? Was South Africa aware that by squandering her African goodwill through monumental leadership failures on the continent, she was opening the whole continent to a dangerous assault?
Arming ourselves against betrayal
This is where a dive into my credo helped enormously. The other day I had a small discussion on how best to secure Zimbabwe's revolution, a question which begins to take on an overbearing relevance with each year that passes for the incumbent, President Mugabe. The panel toyed with many scenarios, ranging from succession to the military, from the futile hope and prayer for immortality to the law's meagre insurances.
An example immediately came to mind. Any President who enters Office in Namibia is made to swear to defend with all the means at his disposal Namibia's resources. How about that for Zimbabwe? How would that have assisted in our land reform Programme? How would that assist us in legitimately overthrowing leaders who end up selling away our collective heritage by way of land and minerals? Surely if the oath includes a commitment to defend the national resources, then frittering them away becomes indictable? Then surely it becomes easy to impeach and even impale by revolution a sell-out leadership?
God's first half?
The debate went on and on, with some suggesting that the irreversibility of land reforms and the issue of empowerment be written into the constitution. This is one debate not many people have grappled with in this country.
We have behaved as if we shall have the current leadership forever, the current leadership mind forever.
We have behaved as if leaders cannot betray the very tenets of the revolution that installed them, whether directly or by succession.
We have behaved as if the law casts in stone those values from our revolution we hope and wish to see made everlasting.
Or we have simply shirked debate on the matter out of fear, out of a sense of taboo, or fear of self-incriminating since power is within our reach. Or we think our own revolution is minded by some immanent force against betrayal and reversal.
We are God's first half, we think. Yet events around us, events on our continent show not just collective continental betrayal, but insistent inducements for it, including the inducement of fear, of self-preservation and of craving to finish one's term, however unheroic, however shameful and miserable.
Recolonisation without a whimper
And the continental trend can be quite bearing on national outlook, national practice and national defence. There is a very worrisome zeitgeist - worrisome dominant thought on the continent which blunts a sensibility for genuine freedom and a strong sense of freedom. It is beginning to legitimise the betrayal of a continent, in fact making it appear like the mark of modernity.
All succession scenarios are suffused by it. The core question is not how well or unwell a prospective leader is likely to work for his people. Rather, it is how well or unwell the new leader is likely to work with Europe. Our enslavement has become the measure of legitimate succession, or acceptable politics. And such a zeitgeist is what enables recolonisation without even a whimper. We have already seen Tsvangirai reaching out to conservative administration on the continent, courting the AU to play a strange role here, reminiscent of Ivory Coast and Libya. The time for existential questions may have come, may have reached or own shore line.
Harnessing the collective spleen
One very convincing answer I have got from the rabble of my credo has something to do with investing in national consciousness and national culture. It means building on our revolutionary tradition and assiduously nursing the culture of resistance to evolve from it so it seizes our people as a compelling national reflex to external intrusion, to internal betrayal. I prefer that above the law, above faith in the virtues of founding a leadership of rectitude.
A people must be able to recognise threats to their independence and sovereignty, and be ready to act in defence of both. It is such a sensibility which makes it forbidding for any politician, any political party to ever countenance reversing land reforms. Anyone who seeks to do that must grapple with forbidding scenarios, including that of a massive revolt, whether in the form of the Orange Revolution or something much worse. A people must have issues that activate their spleen, that relaunch their atavistic side in a mad, all-or-nothing defense of what they hold dear. Such a collective resource, in my humble view, is what defends a revolution.
Lesson from Cuba
Cuba has been the only country I can think of which came close to that set up. Under Castro, Cuba defined and propagate its own zeitgeist, making it synonymous with fighting, defeating and defending the motherland against Yankee imperialism. It is exactly the quality which the old Soviet Union lacked, which is why it collapsed. And the apostle of this amazing Cuban spirit has been Castro.
Asked if he harboured any fears about the reproducibility of the Cuban Revolution, Castro told Ignacio Ramonet: "I can tell you one thing: we are optimistic; we know what our destiny is: a very hard but very heroic and very glorious one. This nation shall never be defeated, that is what I can say. This nation will achieve levels of knowledge and culture, on average, that will be, if you look at it as a marathon, several laps ahead of any other country in the world behind us... We will survive by our human capital... You have always to be on your guard against dangers. You have to be almost clairvoyant, think and think and think, but think about alternatives. The habit of looking for alternatives and choosing from among the best of them is a very good habit."
But he aso warned: "But this country can self-destruct, can destroy itself. This Revolution can destroy itself. We, we can destroy it, and we would be to blame."
This or something like it is what I have faith in. To relocate the security of the revolution against internal betrayal of external assault in the people, a conscious people who are ready to sacrifice themselves for what they hold dear. We have done it in the past. We already have an apostle who reminds us that Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again. Shall we lead Africa, whether by keeping our freedom, or by playing vanguard to its recovery once lost? Icho!
Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald