RUSSIA’S Vladmir Putin has won a new term into Presidential Office. With that victory comes a new ogre for Europe and America, both of which are already talking of discovering Putin’s vulnerabilities for a counter-attack.
With Putin’s victory comes the hope for a global safe and just order for the Third World, especially for independent-minded nations like Zimbabwe.
Throughout his campaign, Putin’s messages had all the right inflections: stiff opposition to external interference, whether direct of via NGO proxies; aggression against non-Western sovereignties in the name of Annan’s deadly “responsibility to protect” phrase, a phrase which has turned out to mean licence for the powerful to wantonly attack, attack without an iota of responsibility.
Not even Brazil’s counter notion of “responsibility while protecting” can redeem our imperiled world. Smashed Libya is there, firmly displayed in the zoo of effete UN with and its deadly resolutions, for all who doubt to see.
Prerogative of a harlot
Putin also attacked America and its selfish hopes to be the sole, unopposed force in, and of the world, wielding and wagging the prerogative of harlot: too much power, too little responsibility, as Britain’s late Baldwin would say.
So from Putin’s victory, one catches glimpses of a brave new world, rising on the rabble of Muammar’s Libya, coming just in time to save Syria, to save Iran, to bolster DPRK, to clear the path for Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, indeed to open new opportunities for little but forthright Zimbabwe.
It is a brave new world which is also defining new power players: powers alert to lurking international danger projected by aggressors in the name of siding with national grievances in targeted states, powers ready and quick to act to stop gathering aggression in its tracks, well before it fully deploys.
Watching the scintillating colours of such aggression, while transfixed, that was the fatal error of Muammar, was it not? He watched Benghazi getting armed, getting big, getting emboldened, getting on the offensive until Nato moulded a good cover for assaulting Libya, for getting at Gaddafi in the end. He did not act decisively and each day that passed, his world, alongside his fate, shrank to nothingness, inexorably. He did not build an effective counter-coalition the way Syria’s Assad has just done.
When Homs is not homely
Assad, himself a personification of this new, alert force, was quick to notice a small fire that would grow into a conflagration big and fierce enough to fell mighty trunks, to use a popular Shona saying. The home of this smouldering fire was Homs, its spearhead the Sunni ethnic portion in the Syrian army which rebelled at the instigation of the intrusive West.
And Homs is a geographical replica of Benghazi, perched right on the edges of the big waters of the Ocean, where anything goes, including sinister possibilities that crawl and creep beneath this vast watery dome. Western weapons were beginning to be shipped into Syria, surreptitiously through Homs and, as in Libya, demonstrations began to have the teeth of arms, while still being pampered by the evil Western media as civic actions, as peaceful, non-violent protests.
Syria risked a deadly ethnicised militancy on which Europe and America’s invading force, again hopefully made righteous by some UN resolution, would comfortably dock, all to the loud beating of cymbals of marching democracy, good governance, rule of law — in short, of the Arab spring, whatever that means.
And as with Libya, the so-called Arab League, ironically led by little Qatar goaded by America to punch above her weight, had treacherously become Syria’s point of vulnerability. They not only abandoned Syria; they provided the West with the draft resolution for the eagerly awaited assault meant to make the Middle East safe for untrammelled Zionism. Of course the wider picture was to use this as a prologue to an all out assault on Iran, itself the principal target.
Mercenaries of mercenaries
Much worse, Arab mercenaries, principally from post-Muammar’s Libya, all chaperoned by Western special forces such as the one Zimbabwe arrested a few weeks ago, were joining the so-called rebels of Homs, all to swell the rebellion.
These mercenaries of mercenaries imagined themselves as latter-day Che Guevaras, a claim quite an abomination on the sacred legacy of the great Argentinian revolutionary internationalist whose vocation was to fight world imperialism, never to offer his back for imperialism’s easy, safe penetration.
These were the ominous developments, potentially engulfing developments which created a decisive, martial leader in the otherwise suave Assad. He saw danger and correctly read it for what it sought to do against him and his country.
Assad secured sophisticated air defence systems from Putin’s Russia. He deployed the full might of his army against the rebels and Homs. He activated artillery battery against an invasion that wore the false garb of an internal rebellion. Homs had to be destroyed to be saved. It is getting quieter, with it creating a saved Syria.
Coalition of the assaulted
More decisively, he invited Iran into the whole equation, which promptly deployed a deadly armada to barricade Homs against a deadly cargo from the West by way of war material for the rebels. Many thought Iran warships were just for solidarity. No, they had some job to do and the job was done.
Most importantly, Assad mobilised the world, Russia and China especially, to defeat Satanic West’s deadly wiles deceptively enacted in the UN chapel, aka the Security Council, and later re-enacted in a broader UN church called the General Assembly.
Expectedly, the General Assembly was hopelessly divided, so hopelessly compromised both by fear and bribery, that the West secured a symbolic resolution, more to pile propaganda pressure on China and Russia, than to get an instrument for real action against Syria. Only few small states, among them Zimbabwe, dared oppose this aggression couched as a moral resolution.
With the stage that set, Assad worked decisively on the rebellion, undeterred by calculated maudlin sentimentality from the West propagated through its captive media. And since the media so craved to carry vignettes of atrocities with which to damn Syria, with which shock and move the world, Assad obliged, making sure a handful of journalists — all of them European — would themselves become casualties, for once living the very story they are so wont to convey to the world with disembodied indifference.
Today, Western newsrooms know better and will not venture into Syria, behind rebel lines, behind infiltration lines of the West. Such adventures started in Iraq, expanded in Lybia, became forbiddingly fatal in Syria.
How Rome handled dissent
Through Assad, the world now has a blueprint. Through Russia and China, such a blueprint seems secure and protected enough to be a new ethic, a new ethos, nay the beginnings of a new world. It is only in our little, small parts of the world where democracy is made larger than the very survival of the nation-state that must live it, that must enjoy it.
Back in the days of old Rome, dissent in times of danger, dissent when Rome was under attack, was treated as treasonable treachery fit for gallows. That same rule still obtains in new Rome, which is why Europe and America suspended all civil liberties as they “fought” an ailing and long-finished bin Laden, but conveniently a thousand times enlarged and lifted to the level of a titanic, cosmic danger through mediased propaganda.
As always the West uses the fear factor to create universal panic that moulds an easy-to-harness herd mentality so vital in winning elections for otherwise unelectable elites.
New truth from Pakistan
As the latest documentary by a retired Pakistani general will soon show, Bin Laden was never a real danger for the West, was never well enough, popular enough to command a cosmic army against the West. Quite the contrary he was a danger the ruling West created, the ruling West painted to frighten its restive masses, so badly smitten by economic woes.
Once this mythologised danger had accomplished its mobilising role, Bin Laden — its palpable human form — had to be set aside through a long, premeditated attack carried out by America’s supposedly deadly unit, but deployed against a kidney-ailing polygamist further weakened and distracted by the bicker in his household.
But as a myth, bin Laden had helped Europe and America subdue civil liberties, roll them back, in readiness for dealing with the impending winter of social discontent, reminiscent of 1848 Europe. Without bin Laden and the era of suspended liberties which he justified, Britain would have had problems in dealing decisively with her underfed, angry marginals, who turned out to be the larger half of that nation.
That is how tenuous stability is in boiling Europe, instability requiring a strong state we are never allowed to wield here. So our masters keep telling us democracy is an instrument of the state, never the state’s reason for existence, but we never seem to learn. We need to realign our politics, big time.
Why Zuma is coming
All the above makes a good entry point for some examination of Zimbabwe-South Africa relations in view of Zuma’s much-hyped visit. But let us clear a misconception which has abided for rather too long, much of it cultivated by our mono-track media which, carpenter-like, imagine the whole world shaped like a nail head.
Zuma is coming on a rescue mission. Not to rescue Zimbabwe which he knows does not need any rescuing. Or if it did, which he knows he could never rescue single-handedly. That is why he is a SADC facilitator, is that not so?
He is on a mission — fairly desperate — to rescue South Africa’s candidacy for AU Commission chairperson. You recall Dr Nkosazana Zuma is South Africa’s reluctant candidate sold to Sadc? Early this year, she lost marginally to Jean Ping who also failed to meet the two-thirds majority required of him to become or retain chairpersonship. He would not get that number even after Zuma bowed out, all in good grace.
That means while Africa would not support Zuma, Africa registered deep reservation for Ping’s leadership.
Later, sometime in February, West Africa organised an informal meeting in Cotonou, Benin, way outside rules of the AU, at which support for Ping’s second term was mustered and consolidated. SADC knew about this meeting, and had decided since it was not being convened to AU rules, to withdraw its participation.
South Africa was part of that decision. Yet South Africa proceeded to Cotonou, breaking ranks with the rest of SADC, on a matter involving its own candidacy. One would not have had any problems with this if this was a snooping mission, or if South Africa had come open with everyone regarding its wish to attend Cotonou. Except South Africa was represented at Head of State level!
Once there, the anti-South Africa mood was quite apparent, stirred by Europe, led by France, assisted by rival Nigeria which is supporting a second term for Ping more to spite South Africa. As the latest tit-for-tat spate of deportations between the two states shows, their relations are souring, thanks to South Africa’s characteristic bungling.
Today, much of West Africa is lost, as also is Francophone Africa and much of Central Africa. East Africa could be won. With the exception of Algeria, most of Arab African states are as good as lost. The numbers are ranged against SADC and South Africa. The attitude against South Africa on the continent doesn’t appear warm enough to mobilise support for its by far superior, tried and tested candidate, for whom Zimbabwe has such huge affection and respect.
Outside the anti-South African sentiment which is running high, Dr Zuma would readily win. She is the better proposition, the best personality to lead embattled Africa’s continental bureaucracy.
A sober South Africa
All of the above is nothing new. SADC had these facts, and kept warning South Africa which, far from cultivating a collective spirit which has always characterised SADC, started broadcasting aspersions, including on Zimbabwe which ironically played such a decisive role in mobilising support for Dr Zuma at the AU, in spite of the fact that a Zuma win would have prejudiced her own female commissioner-candidates, as per AU rules.
Zimbabwe happens to be the dean of SADC too, which is why her role is quite crucial. Once beaten, twice attacked by West Africa in Cotonou, South Africa has sobered up to learn that once its national becomes a SADC candidate, the campaign for that candidate becomes SADC’s.
Now a team of countries is now in place, ready to work on Zuma’s candidacy, and Zimbabwe is a member of that team. That puts Zuma’s visit in perspective, a visit meant for his own country, not for Zimbabwe as wished by negative interests in Zimbabwe.
Too fine a distinction?
But there is a lot to excuse the media for using this trip to speculate on the Zimbabwe-South Africa relations. And the South Africans themselves have done a lot to justify such speculative wonder. Firstly, by making Zuma’s mediation in Zimbabwe appear like a matter for the South African government, and not of SADC, South Africa is courting ill-will it does not require at all.
Both Lindiwe Zulu [President Zuma’s special envoy] and the South African foreign minister [Maite Nkoana-Mashabane] have no direct role in the mediation effort of their president, except as backroom staff. That appears to be a hard-to-comprehend distinction for South Africa where little officials appear to want to jockey for visibility in the West. And while Zimbabwe restrained itself for a very long time against repeated provocations from these South African officials, the pot could just have started boiling over.
Do we look for another adjective?
Secondly, South Africa’s mediation is also enacted through a consenting Zimbabwe. It cannot be foisted on an unwilling Zimbabwe. So if Zimbabwe is unhappy about South Africa’s style of mediation, the solution cannot be to canvass for such a role in other SADC states. She can still be rejected in spite of that regional consent. Or else her facilitation would be coercive, in which case we would need another adjective. That is not the SADC way. Nor is South Africa capable of, or ready for such peremptory, intrusive politics which are sure to be resisted here.
Zimbabwe’s membership to SADC permits a strictly graduated surrendering of its sovereignty in agreed areas, on agreed principles, and to an agreed SADC-wide ideal founded on the community’s anti-imperialist nationalist agenda. That sensitive sovereignty cannot be surrendered or denuded through coercive diplomacy or to a neighbour who might think they wield a trump card over Zimbabwe, in whatever form. Those high-handed politics do not fly here.
The region has a precedent of a mediator who got rejected for pushing matters outside goodwill and consensus. Even if there wasn’t, Zimbabwe would not hesitate to provide one such precedent once she felt that her sovereignty was being offended, was being ridden roughshod in the name of facilitation.
The power she does not have
Thirdly, against her rather deplorable role in the Libyan affair, South Africa needs a bit of humility and circumspection. After all, in terms of statecraft and international diplomacy, she is the youngest state in the region, one to whom illusions of greatness are imparted from an economic prowess it is yet to incorporate into her overall post-apartheid apparatus, both for the benefit of her own people and her own region.
As the current wave of instability inside South Africa itself shows, this economic prowess does not fall within the calculus of Government, within the power matrix of the South African government. In fact, it contradicts it; it contradicts the aspirations of the new democratic dispensation inaugurated by the ANC in 1994 which the South African government seeks to mind and further.
In that country, political power and economic power stand apart, stand antagonistic even, with the former amounting to an enclave which, hopefully Zuma can grow in due course. It would be plain wrong for the ANC government to pretend to wield power it does not own or have, much worse, to seek to wield such power as a symbolic whip against fellow liberation movements now transformed into older, more experienced states and neighbours.
Alien to quid pro quo
Libya showed the humiliation that visits a country that breaks ranks with the rest in order to curry favour with the West. In two ways: By way of the appalling turn of events in Libya once resolution 1973 had been attained. By way of Europe’s current hostile actions against South Africa over Zuma’s candidacy. By now South Africa should know that Europe knows no quid pro quo. After all, it would be quite shabby for South Africa to seek to browbeat Zimbabwe into compliance with its facilitation whim by waving the threat of a Libyan-style intervention at it. Such a stance amounts to the sorry sight of a native bragging with Europe’s maxim gun against fellow natives.
As history shows, such a collaborationist stance against one’s kind, however bad you perceive them to be, did not save Botswana from colonisation; it only made it a protectorate that was a colony nevertheless. The ANC government knows history enough to learn from it.
The Siamese who don’t know
Fourthly, if the governments of Zimbabwe and South Africa will not recognise their shared destiny, circumstances continue to conspire to remind them of that intertwined fate. From the days of mfecane, through to the days of the colonisation of Zimbabwe by the BSAP, right up to the days of the liberation struggle, the fates of the two nations have always been inextricably connected, often in spite of their people’s disposition or the predilection of their governments.
And as if this is not overbearing enough, much in contemporary politics is happening to deepen and further entangle the skeins. Just last week and this week as Zimbabwe was tackling Zimplats from above, through Saviour Kasukuwere, South Africa was tackling Implats from below, through Zwelinzima Vavi and his affiliate union for the mining sector.
Both the son and the father were being tackled from both sides of the Limpopo, the former through State-led action, the latter through labour-led action, but both sharing the same incendiary redistributive rhetoric, both glimpsing a brave new African world inhabited by a master people, never again by a race of chattels. The agendas continue to overlap in spite of both of us.
True, the South African government is yet to embrace this new dimension of struggle about whose prosecution its citizens seem way, way ahead, but sooner rather than later, it will have to come to terms with it. By exiling Julius Malema from the ANC, Zuma appears to have helped Malema transform his medium and message beyond the ANC towards the national.
Malema’s appearance in the just-ended toll-gates demonstrations underlines the immutability and versatility of what Zuma may have mistaken for an idiosyncratic message which is in fact a message of the times, of the region.
Interestingly the ANCYL got solidarity messages from many Youth Leagues of the region. These are the new politics that amount to a very wet umbilical cord feeding into, feeding these two, unaware Siamese.
Boer cause or African cause?
By history and the present, the corporate interests that Zimbabwe’s own indigenisation laws are targeting are domiciled in South Africa. At law they are South African citizens sure to seek protection from the South African government. We saw a bit of that with our land reforms when a landed Boer and English colonial gentry which historically had been Rhodesian, then Zimbabwean, got further transfigured and sought to be South African for purposes of enlisting protection from the South African Government both by treaty and litigation.
Indeed, the South African government was put to its defences in white-dominated South African courts, over Zimbabwe’s land reforms. That created a new situation where the ANC government had to choose between forsaking these fair weather citizens, or adopting them at the risk of antagonising a fellow liberation movement government on behalf of such white colonial interests.
We also saw the same ambivalence here when South Africa’s newly-appointed envoy sought to press home interests of the same farmers against our own land reform programme. Zimbabwe, he maintained, was creating a social situation for South Africa by disinheriting these white farmers, he said, apparently without seeming to care a hoot what social problems the continued retention of the same land in white hands would have created for Zimbabwe and her million landless.
While the land issues may be behind us, we may be set for another round of potential conflict as South African-domiciled corporates seek to mobilise the ANC government to save their skins. And as the Malema case shows, the anti-imperialist forces in South Africa will increasingly turn to Zimbabwe’s radical politics for inspiration, in the process creating an impression Zimbabwe is behind those politics. Both sides need visionary leaderships able and willing to interpret the region’s empowerment moment.
Locating the real bone of contention
It is a real dilemma which, however, is needless. All the ANC government needs to do is to re-read its Freedom Charter so it is able to dock its politics in the national-popular, and to connect with fellow liberation movements seeking to complete the decolonisation process while resolving the national social questions.
All the ANC government needs to remember is that the conflictual politics in Zimbabwe which have sired both the GPA and Zuma’s mediation, stem from the issue of dismantling settler economy for national empowerment.
Owe to those foundational politics so neatly sequential to those of the liberation struggle, politics pitting a former colony against the emperor who in self-defence fastened notions of democracy, good governance, rule of law, press freedom, security sector reforms and constitutionalism as what people like Chomsky would call “necessary illusions”. They do not stem from the Zanu-PF/MDC power relations which Zuma thinks he is mediating. That is how a bilateral issue of decolonisation became internationalised. South Africa would not want to be party to that charade, surely?
Midwifery to neo-colonialism
South Africa would become a part of that charade if it places and defines its relations with Zimbabwe around the so-called GPA, itself a tactical step in the survival and evolution of the Zimbabwe revolution. That can’t be a fine distinction for a child of struggle like Zuma, surely? Rather, whatever assignment SADC gives Zuma, he should know that his relations with Zimbabwe shall be shaped by the need to jointly challenge structures of white power which keep black Southern Africa in chains, long after political Uhuru.
That relations shall be forged around crafting a way out of the willing-seller-willing-buyer legal integument we both received on the eve of decolonisation, which we must shake off now. That relations shall be forged around widely acclaimed constitutions we adopted at Independence to sell ourselves as civilised successors to white settler regimes, yet which in the course of governance turn out to be new shackles against the sacred aspirations of our people.
South Africa is already doing that. Its attitude towards similar struggles here cannot be one of inflicting the same neo-liberal constitution which it is seeking to overthrow at home. Or to play midwifery to a neo-colonial dispensation here in the name of facilitation. Surely, surely?
Meanwhile Putin is now a factor of global politics. Harare cannot be another Benghazi. Let us not be unduly fretful. Icho!
Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald newspaper