THIS column has in the past highlighted United States and other western manoeuvres in central and the horn of Africa, all under the guise of fighting Joseph Kony and that will-of-the-wisp called Al Qaeda.
It has also emphasised that Al Qaeda does not need to be real, a monster of specific shape or time. Al Qaeda is anything, anyone defending or asserting own rights, a posture which America and the West interpret as threats to their own global interests.
Naturally, the form such self-assertion takes over space and time is bound to evolve and change, which dialectically translates into ever transforming challenges to western interests globally. So the effective tactic for America and the West is not to name and not to distinguish Al Qaeda, itself a moving, changing target.
The real tactic is to have a label malleable and sticky enough to be pasted on anyone, on anything perceived to be standing in the way as America and the rest of the West prowl the globe.
Two novelties of Sahel
Mid-last year, we saw a surprise deployment of American forces into Central Africa. We also saw western action in Libya, leading to the tragedy we all know and can now see spiralling to the rest of the Sahel region.
The mayhem in Mali is an offshoot of the “precious” stability NATO created in the Sahel region by bombing Gaddafi’s armoury into the hands of asymmetrical forces of all causes and shape.
The Tuareg fighters who are now advancing towards Bamako, fighters who precipitated an amazingly childish and fragile coup in Mali, are well armed, heavily armed. They even have sophisticated multi-barrelled Stalin’s Organ guns, thanks to NATO operations in Libya which loosened keys to Libyan the armoury. Just as NATO gave us the novelty of rebels with a multi-national Air Force, Mali today gives us the novelty of rebels towing heavy armour.
The real story is not the coup in which our own minister, ironically on an AU Peace and Security Council mission for the Sahel, was caught up. The real story is the looming overrunning of the Malian government, which ever it will be when that happens, by the rebels. Or worse, the carving out of a break-away Tuareg state in the Sahel.
The gun that led the rig
But my real introductory focus is American and western manoeuvres in central and the horn of Africa. I share with you, perturbed reader, that the whole mission is beginning to show its real promptings. Remember the French have been leading airborne combat operations in Somalia, even though they have not declared their entry into that war. They have lost men and equipment, including aircrafts.
The British, too, are heavily involved, albeit covertly. I don’t need to write about America’s involvement, which is so obvious and ineluctable. And the concentration of these operations has been central Africa, principally the triangle touching margins of Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Central Africa Republic and the sprawling Democratic Republic of Congo.
What has been hidden behind the human parapet of one Joseph Kony is the frantic oil exploration which has been going on in that same region, exploration led by British and Canadian firms, principally Tullow Oil of Britain and Africa Oil Corporation of Canada. And the search now appears to have been rewarded. Oil has now been found in Kenya’s Turkana region which is to the north-west, closer to Uganda.
Clearly, the gun has been forerunner to the rig, in the process consolidating an old ethic in global imperial politics. And this find has lifted the fortunes of both companies, with their share values skyrocketing to the stratosphere, on the back of this vital Africa resource find which Africa may never have.
Sap of Economics or the dust
Writing in 1924, seven years after the Bolshevik Revolution, Leon Trotsky noted: “Culture feeds on the sap of economics, and the material surplus is necessary, so that culture may grow, develop, and become subtle. Our bourgeoisie laid its hand on literature, and did this very quickly at the time when it was growing rich.
“The proletariat will be able to prepare the formation of a new, that is, a socialist culture and literature, not by laboratory method on the basis of our present-day poverty, want, and illiteracy, but by large social, economic, and cultural means. Art needs comfort, even abundance. Furnaces have to be hotter, wheels have to move faster, looms have to turn more quickly, schools have to work better.”
Further, he warned: “If the dictatorship of the proletariat should prove incapable in the next few years, of organising its economic life and of securing at least a living minimum of material comforts for its population, then the proletarian regime will inevitably turn to dust.
“The economic problem at present is the problem above all problems.”
The man who looked for himself
Zanu PF has every reason to feel triumphant in respect of its Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment thrust. This is proving to be a winning idea, an electric one sure to galvanise the whole nation. I mean the whole nation. See how Tsvangirai has been forced to go round and round this compulsive theme which won’t go away, all the time exposing his duplicitous politics, his deepening political vulnerability against this steamroller theme.
Within a short space of two weeks, he has repudiated indigenisation as a “badly crafted policy”, while applauding it as a good programme for empowering locals to enter the national economy.
He said the former in front of David Cameron, the British Prime Minister. He said the latter in our Parliament, here at home. Is it schizophrenia, is it complexity?
Or simply duplicitous politics?
I don’t know, but you get a sense of a man searching for himself, a man lost to himself. There are very powerful forces sponsoring his politics. There is a powerful sentiment unleashed back home in the country, a sentiment which is too overbearing to be ignored. I raised this issue of compulsive sentiment the other day, using that hard-to-pronounce-German word, zeitgeist.
Embodying spirit of an epoch
Let me bring back Trotsky who talks about the same phenomenon in a less opaque fashion. Writing about what he termed “the social spirit of an epoch”, Trotsky emphasised that any “profound break in history” which he sees as occasioned by “a rearrangement of classes in society”, shakes up individuality and establishes new perceptions and compulsions. But this social spirit of an epoch works “imperceptibly and independently of the subjective will”.
“Of course in the final analysis, this spirit is reflected on everybody, in those who accept it and who embody it, as well as in those who hopelessly struggle against it, and in those who passively try to hide from it. But those who hide themselves passively are imperceptibly dying off. Those who resist are able to revive the old art with one kind of antiquated flame or another. But the new art, which will lay out new landmarks, and which will expand the channel of creative art, can be created only by those who are at one with their epoch.”
Gigantic paper progress
With the Indigenisation genii now out of the bottle, the tractive power of the social spirit of the epoch is now apparent, overwhelming all those who have sought to ignore or to resist it, sidelining them even. And manoeuvres to resist have been many and varied, not least among them attempts to impart new aura to old, staid policy arguments.
Lately we have seen a flurry of so-called policy initiatives, all often climaxing into fanfare-filled launches. The two STERPs, MTP, computerisation in schools, lately National Trade Policy and Industrial Development Policy. To all that add numerous investment conferences, whether here in Southern Africa or as far afield as Britain.
In between add day — or two-day seminars of officials in Government, and you get a sense of busy bodies studiously working towards momentous paper progress. Characteristically most of these papery efforts are mum on the ownership issue, or at best make perfunctory or obligatory deference to it.
Ownership does not seem to the organising ethic, with Ncube’s papers conveniently hiding behind the nebulous appellation of “Zimbabwe”. No one can fault him for saying “Zimbabwe has not value-added for full export value; Zimbabwe must. . . blah, blah, blah!”
We are all there in that magic word Zimbabwe vicariously, aren’t we? Tisuka anhu acho?
Policy pantomime on stage
But you and me know that Ncube’s exporting or industrial “Zimbabwe” has long noses, big ears, is whiter than an evil moon! And if you have been around long enough, you will read in all these documents stale ideas the Zanu-PF government has dabbled with in the past, all to nowhere.
The only difference is that they are on gloss, and have been made more sonorous by new, emerging fads and lingo from latest international conferences. It is one gigantic attempt to eclipse the new matter on the national agenda, that on indigenisation. Need we wonder that even the President’s prefaces are more honorific, more a matter of courtesy than projection of real wish, real direction?
But there is a fundamental difference now in the politics of the country. Amidst all this policy doggerel, there is a party once bitten, clearly now twice shy. That party is Zanu-PF. Missed by a whisker in 2007/8, it now knows that real politics, that the real winning formulae in elections is ensuring “at least a living minimum of material comforts for the people”. It cannot now be distracted by the policy pantomime on stage.
The kid who got live faggots
Then of course comes a retreat into the spiritual in the hope of smuggling in hegemony founded on christian symbolism. Chitungwiza, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Mutare, so much prayer, so much hymning. The rule is simple: put on the face of righteousness, be seen in frocked company and build an image of holiness. Yet so much sinning, so much of the same sinner.
Buffeted by the lashing wind of indigenisation, the MDC-T today seeks refuge in the church, forgetting those that frequent that holy dome, inevitably deserve to be judged by the ten commandments. And in spite of frantic prayers, holy protestations, they all come across not as redeemers, but as false Messiahs who badly need to be saved.
I don’t think anyone needs to worry about those gatherings, least of all Zanu-PF. By now Zanu-PF should know what dries the pond, what merely ripples it. And Shona puts it so well: never waste arrows on guinea fowls when real game is on its way.
There is nothing untoward in the President gracing all those non-events, and he has attended them with such dignity and charm. Let the boys play, keep a mature watchful gaze so they do not get near to live faggots to end up gutting the whole village. And one kid is threatening to, which is what the party must deal with. That kid is MDC-N, led by its Welshman Ncube.
Absurdly versatile structures
MDC-N is pushing the devolution issue in the draft constitution. It seems to do so in all earnest. But that is fire in the hands of a kid from a thatched village. The elders cannot continue to banter drunkenly around the earthen pot scrawled all over with tears from frothing wise waters. The banter has to make way, the froth in the cup must wait. There is a real danger brewing in the village. The sequence of events is that the constitutional process got bogged down over four or so issues, including on the role of the Attorney General and devolution.
These matters were referred to the management committee by the select committee. Still there was a deadlock, giving rise to a decision by the management committee to dissolve themselves and re-incarnate as negotiators.
This is as versatile as these structures are, as absurd as they may work in the work-a-day world. Only then was progress made. The real issue became that of devolution which strangely enough has now become a matter from one region.
The MDC-T would not kill for devolution, and waited for a cue from MDC-N throughout the discussions. Zanu-PF was firm, will be firm, on this one, even if the price is the GNU and GPA itself.
The sinister beneath rigmarole
And one begins to understand the mischief in the drafting. Zimbabwe is defined merely as a “sovereign” state, with reference to it as a unitary state tucked much deeper inside the small intestines of the gigantic essay. Curiously, its territory is dimly described as “territory comprising Zimbabwe on the effective date and any alterations defined by an Act of Parliament and as recognised under international law”.
The young ones would exclaim “whaz that”! Outside its daft rigmarole, this is a description which anticipates alterations of the territory we call Zimbabwe in the future. In fact it inspires it. You only need to read it together with the devolution sentiment from MDC-N in order to fully grasp that we are up to something sinister, all of us led by a whole professor towards it. I shudder.
One versus the rest
But I fully understand. Clearly MDC-N has calculated it risks a total whitewash, not just in this election but for all times. It has no foothold on national politics, except what good fortune has given it by way of the GPA. It is not always nice to owe your whole being to an altercation between two bulls, especially if the environment is not nourishing enough to grow you into one, now or eventually. Welshman is a cattleman and grasps that metaphor better.
MDC-N is acutely aware of that, with its contested leader making it plain unless elections are delayed to the limit, MDC-N risks being wiped from the face of the political earth. And increasingly, Zanu-PF insistence on election now has not been bringing much comfort to the edgy party. Faced with this fait accompli, its survival instincts have hatched another survival tactic, a very dangerous one this time around.
Why not push for region-based power sharing, never mind that no other region in the country’s eight regions is agitating for the same. Never mind that the national report which derives from the outreach programme is emphatic that Zimbabwe must remain a unitary state. It is an argument where one seems bigger than seven, in fact bigger than the whole, and a whole professor does not seem to see the awkwardness of it all.
But he also does not seem to realise this is one matter which in fact may deserve a real referendum, well ahead of the so-called draft constitution referendum. It is profound, existential, if you ask me.
Much worse, it harbours deep emotions, indeed is a reservoir of so powerful a sentiment that it can alter the direction of this country, all for worse, never never for better. Yet Welshman risks it, in the process lending dignity to potential irredentism. And his calculation is that if he loses out nationally, he will hang onto a regional parliament and government in his furious downward tumble, a parliament and government emerging from devolution.
It is not clear for now whether his goal is to work back to the national thereafter, or work bad out of the national. Secede in other words, building on the sentiment and foothold of devolution. And it does not have to be Welshman. Or his tenure or time. But the fact remains he will have commissioned a break-away sentiment, given it infrastructure even.
Spare us rules of origin principle
Let’s remove the gloves a bit so we alert one another when time is still on our side as Zimbabweans. The trouble is that if such matters become electoral issues, they run faster that reason, easily creating conditions for potentially devastating conflict. We are a country still building towards nationhood. Our circumstances are very delicate, very easy to upset.
And as tribes we have come in variously, come in differently and time has not passed long enough to make those origins non-potent (or is it impotent?) factors both for history and contemporary sensitivities. But we have also met one another in that short history, not always to laughter, to happiness, to peace.
There are tears from not far back, blood still smoking from freshness. The wounds are still weeping, scars still visible. We need to be careful, very careful in how we handle our past, our present and from both, Zimbabwe's futures. The past need not redeem us, unless we redeem it.
It can save us if we can spare it. Welshman knows the concept of rule of origin and how it is useful in international trade. Let's keep it there, guiding us as we interact with other nations, never with one another as Zimbabweans.
After all by origin, by tribal identity, we all have skeletons in the cupboards we now seek to rattle. We won’t like what falls out which cannot be a matter of conjecture for Welshman and his age group, let alone for those before him whom he leads in his party. We have seen what falls out, whether in recent history or shortly far back, by the life we have led as a people, by the life we are set to live as a people. So, no Comrade Welshman, retreat on that one. The elders of the village have abandoned mikombe, have left the beer party, faces creased with deep worry. Ndapota hangu Mukanya, the one of the Monkey Totem.
Larger space against narrowness
Much worse, it is a false issue out to duck and crowd out the real one around ownership of resources and what it bodes for Welshman’s Programme of industrialization and international trade. A bit of history, Sir. Both the Risorgimento of Italy and the unification of Germany under Bismarck came from industrialists and merchants who felt hamstrung by both countries’ little scattered principalities well before unification.
They needed larger markets, an impulse which then pushed Italian and German politicians into unifying those little states into larger polities. It still does to this day, which is why we have the EU. Under the chairmanship of a man in charge of industry and commerce, portfolios always looking for lebensraum, looking for larger living space, Zimbabwe ironically finds itself thrown into an argument of parochialism, ironically in the name of seeking to bring justice, redress and to empower, a region.
It is a complete mischaracterisation of power, indeed an inexplicable retreat and shrinkage from nation-state, itself already such a small unit in global terms, to something a little worse than a dot founded on unscientific affinities of imagined tribe, language and region.
It gives empowerment an odious name, which is why Zanu-PF must studiously guard against the subversion of Zimbabwe as a unitary state all to give us new, false preoccupation that would give mineralised imperialism another day longer in our country, on our resources.
When it’s all good enough
Which takes me to my main point. Zanu-PF embodies the new spirit of the epoch, that of Indigenisation. It says a lot that just this last week alone a convicted Munyaradzi Gwisai, while quite thankful for the solidarity he got from Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, still found time to berate him for opposing Indigenisation.
It says a lot that in the same week Biti, himself MDC-T’s secretary general, contradicted Tsvangirai over the same issue, all in fovour of Indigenisation. I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that Biti is doing it for his own reasons. Still I don't care. It says a lot that young Kombayi, now at the helm of his father’s estate, now a loyal follower of Tsvangirai, affectively berates Zanu (PF) for indigenisation policy he fears might not reach him.
I don’t care about the berating. The issue is that Kombayi supports the policy. It says a lot that against all that internal opposition, Tsvangirai himself has had to doff to the same policy. Again, he could be plainly duplicitous, indeed doing it for his own narrow calculations, whatever these may be.
Still, still I don’t give a hoot. The policy has yielded a social spirit independent of subjective will and whoever endorses it, with whatever amount of impurity of intention, paradoxically takes it forward, deepens it in the national psyche.
For me that is good enough. Zanu-PF is at one with the epoch it has created, as indeed has always been the case in our short history. That is what attracts Manheru to it. And false messiahs are falling out or in; falling in, falling out as history hurtles forward, inexorably.
Where do we go from here?
Zanu-PF has this nasty weakness of getting detained by tactical breakthroughs, to the detriment of large, more strategic goals. We cannot all be joining Kasukuwere in agitating for the ceding of shares to indigenes. He has already done a good job of that.
If there is anything still outstanding, the young minister has shown enough stamina and adrenalin to deal with it. Let us leave him to it. But the real work begins and someone must think ahead, beyond breaking backs of multinationals, beyond symbolic offers of shareholding. Just where do we go from here, practically? What are the vehicles of transfer, of various ownership, of exploiting that ownership, of growing it while linking it to notions of industrialisation, international trade and broad, even development in ways that back up our claim to nationhood? How do we get Indigenisation to validate the revolution we have preached to the downtrodden indigenes, downtrodden from long history?
Let us debate the framework, let us put in place concrete structures so the rituals of boardrooms, rituals to which our Kasukuwere was our emissary — a good one at that — begin to flower, begin to feed the children, clothe them, employ them, create enduring livelihoods for each and all.
The awaited miracle
Amidst this current wave of triumphalism, the masses are waiting to see that ink on Indigenisation documents alchemically turn into drops of water, into a morsel of sadza, a gulp of milk, a stretch of sweet honey. And they wait from a long spell of hunger, anxiously wondering whether ZIMPLATS — now theirs — shall go the Shabane/Mashaba way, or the Anjin, Mbada, Marange Resources way?
There is deep angst, unsettling cognitive dissonance which Zanu-PF, through speed, application and integrity, must alley. And the greedy ones, organised variously, named falsely to sound natural beneficiaries of this sweat expectation of generations, begin to bicker, barter and even break.
The fight in the AAG is but one example of the greed that stalks this hallowed policy. A firm hand is required to deal with these long, salivating mouths with no shame at all to eat stout, well ahead of hungry children.
Pharmacopoeia of history
Above all, it may well help for Zanu(PF) to take to heart what Trotsky says in the opening of this piece. Politics and policy must now feed on the “sap of economics”, all to build “a material surplus” that is necessary so people keep the faith, so people believe. Otherwise, the revolution so heavily challenged, will inevitably turn to dust.
The Welshman bicker grows from, or feeds fat on, unfed mouths, long unmet needs. We now have a chance to get that revolution of Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda, Joseph Msika, Tongogara, Chitepo, Moyo and Takawira to begin to feed the masses, in the process stabilizing national politics.
The times are dangerous. Imperialism does not hesitate to make war, and to work through us, through our institutions to make that war. It is interesting that when talking to Tsvangirai, Cameron placed the whole burden of peace in Zimbabwe on South Africa and SADC.
These two, he said, must take a lead. We hope it was a sincere deference to principle of non-interference, not an attempt to prepossess the two. We hope he was thinking of Sadc, not Libya and the Arab League.
Thankfully, the South African envoy, one Vusi Mavimbela, this week made it plain South Africa should not feel threatened by Zimbabwe’s Indigenisation policy. That seems to suggest the ANC government has chosen to dock our bilateral relations on liberation wartime goals, never on white interests.
That is a huge development, against many attempts, including the latest one from the so-called Southern Africa Litigation Centre, to provoke a brawl between the two movements, between the two cousins, the two neighbours. Zanu-PF must remain focused on real issues, whether by way of threats, or by way of opportunities.
Above all, it must remember it must retain State Power to protect it revolution against a reversal. But not in its present, so-called inclusive form.
No. Never. And the way to do it is to solve the material needs of the people, indeed to prove to its slightly skeptical national constituency that indeed, it has in its hands the pharmacopoeia of history. Icho!
Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Herald newspaper. E-mail him: email@example.com