Manheru: When a Fool is my Colour, Name, Totem

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THE past three weeks have seen the articulation of four key thoughts for me, all of them taking the African debate a rung up. Don’t get me wrong, describing them as “key” thoughts is in no way endorsing them. I have very vigorous views on each of the four thoughts and that will hopefully come through in this article and two others to follow hopefully in as many weeks. The key thing is to relate these thoughts to Zimbabwe, my country, our country together. I will give you all the four thoughts in this instalment, but will comment on just one for now. The first thought came from Thabani Nyoni, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson. He told participants to a three-day civic groups’ Ideas Festival exhibition show held in Bulawayo last week that it was a hallowed vocation of civic groups to seek regime change in Zimbabwe, adding such a pursuit is lawful.
Changing Thabani’s regime
In his words, or more accurately in the words of those who sent him: “As  civic society it is our role to push for regime change. There is nothing illegal, that is why we have elections in this country. Why would we go for elections if you don’t want to change government or governance? We are really proud to push for regime change.” He became even more bellicose: “We will not apologise for our push for regime change because there is nothing wrong with that, in fact we are now seeing the fruits of regime change. I was in rural areas in Tsholotsho recently and I saw Zanu-PF people telling their colleagues not to politicise food aid. That is something that was unheard of.” And he proceeded to situate his principals’ thinking in the just-ended seismic poll: “The elections have come and gone and left many realities that we have to deal with. It is therefore important as a country that we stop and think about what kind of republic we want and what kind of Zimbabwe will work for us.”
What colour is your rose?
The second key thought came from Strive Masiyiwa, Econet’s boss and one of the five African businessmen lined up for Forbes Person of the Year Award. He is a Zimbabwean and rumoured to be a billionaire. Last week he addressed the Obasanjo Foundation and told African leaders that the colour of the investor no longer mattered as focus on the continent must now shift to employment creation. I will let Masiyiwa speak: “More than 50 percent of the population of African countries is below the age of 25. That means we have to create more than 500 million jobs over the next 10 years. If you ask me what sometimes makes me wake up at night, it is that challenge. It is not just the purview of politicians to worry about these things; it’s about jobs, jobs, and I mean decent jobs. Last year, Africa got about $50bn in direct foreign investment, and whilst this was 10 times what it was a decade earlier, the truth is, if we are to address the problem of poverty and youth unemployment we need to be running at 10 times that level, NOW!”Advertisement

When the cat has no colour
He skilfully played the colour metaphor, initially literally, factually: “As a company, we are “foreign” investors, in some 17 countries around the world (except Zimbabwe my homeland). Even in other African countries, we are technically foreign investors, there are no special considerations given for the fact that we are an African multinational . . .  The world has changed; foreign investors are no longer just companies from western countries. In our business, our most fierce competitors come from countries like China, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Nigeria, as well as South Africa. For these companies, America and Europe are no longer off bounds, to invest in.
We for instance have business interests in Europe, New Zealand and the US, and yet we are an African company; the world has changed.”  And then colour metaphorically: “One of the most inspiring leaders of the 20th Century was Deng Zhaoping of China who in opening the door to foreign investment, said, “I do not care what colour the cat is, as long as it catches mice”. For me the “mice” are “decent jobs” for the youth. I shudder to think what China, would have been like, if he had not opened up the country to massive investment, and creation of jobs.” He contrasted Rwanda’s sparse resource endowment with its leadership’s thought expansiveness, evidenced by a refocus on jobs. Nigeria, too, was hailed for its pro-investor policies which Strive regards as enlightened.
Marikana and the scarlet colour
The third thought came from South Africa, our neighbour, at the very least geographically (after President Zuma’s exhortation to his people not to think like Africans, I am a bit unsure!). Advocate Dali Mpofu has left the ANC for EFF, Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters. There is frantic speculation about the Sandton lawyer’s latest move, a few moons ahead of South Africa’s crucial, potentially directional poll. Dali shot to fame following a leak that amorously linked him to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, then wife to Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon. Today he consolidates his fame by representing the survivors of Marikana shooting at the ongoing Farlam Commission of Inquiry. The miners were shot at the behest of London Minerals, a multinational investor which unlike Masiyiwa’s cat, gave South Africa a scarlet colour.
Only a few months back Dali represented Malema in a disciplinary hearing of the ANC, a hearing which got Malema ousted from the Youth League initially, and from the ANC subsequently. But Dali never lost colour after it all. Before that Dali had successfully represented a Free State faction of the ANC that sought to interdict the Free State delegation from voting at the elective Mangaung Conference of the ANC. It should not be difficult for my readers to understand why Dali’s joining of the EFF can only be so fraught. Stephen Grootes, a well-known anchor to South African talk radios, and a senior political correspondent for Eyewitness News, went as far as suggesting Dali’s desertion of ANC and subsequent joining of EFF could be an augury to more high-profile detections from the ANC to the EFF. And the speculation has been on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who is well linked to both Dali and Julius — politically linked, that is.
Hanging on to a sentiment, a name
But all that is not my interest. My interest is the reasoning which Dali shed in leaving the ANC, or the converse, in joining the EFF. Among other things he said: “Internal paralysis (in the ANC) is such that it’s a question of time before it (the ANC) renders itself irrelevant to the broader revolution.”  And he names the revolution: “I believe that the radical policies that are needed should deliberately favour the poor, the working class . . . and those who have not enjoyed the fruits of freedom. We have to accept that addressing the needs of those people (the poor of South Africa) has to be done at the expense of those who have, so that we can have the hope of achieving stability.”
He asserts that the ANC’s adoption of government’s National Development Plan at the Mangaung elective conference put on the saddle an era of “neo-liberal” vision for a South Africa so deeply fractured by racial inequities: “The path we are going to follow between now and 2030 is in my view the wrong prescription . . . So I don’t think we have to wait until 2031 to say this was not the correct prescription. By then the patient we are dealing with may be dead”. And he foresees more resignations from the ANC, adding: “My only prediction is that in the fullness of time, they (those still in the ANC) will see that they are just hanging on to the sentiment and the name”.
Mugabe’s out-of-wedlock son
The last key thought is in the latest issue of the Afro-centric magazine, New African. It comes from a very unlikely voice, Yahya Jammeh, the President of The Gambia. By age and pre-presidential profession (a middle-rank soldier), I never associated him with a thought of such continental expansiveness. Never! And today I call him Mugabe’s out-of wedlock son, politically that is. He has just taken his country out of the Commonwealth, stressing: “I am saying we are not going to be part of any institution or organisation that has that legacy (of colonialism) or that  is a representation of the colonial era, because colonialism brought us nothing but poverty, backwardness, exploitation, and slavery. In fact, we cannot in today’s age, continue to be associated with a country that was responsible for slavery in the first place. And while the Jews have been compensated and other people are being compensated, nobody is doing that for Africans. We have not even received an apology from Great Britain, which orchestrated slavery in the first place, and then brought us colonialism. Colonialism and slavery go together”.
When Africa needs a billion years
And he puts his bitterness in historical perspective: “The British were here in The Gambia for 400 years, and in that time they built only one high school (Armitage High School named after a British colonial governor, Cecil Hamilton Armitage) . . . So let us do the mathematics: if one high school was built in 400 years, how many years would it have taken us to add a college or a university? Nearly a billion years?” He cannot think of any African country that has been prospered by colonialism. Or its post-colonial variant, neo-colonialism: “Africa’s relationship with the West has seen Africa losing and the West gaining, and that will continue as long as we do not take a stand.
But for me and The Gambia, we are no longer going to follow anybody else, but our religion, our culture, and our beliefs. We need to question and act on why Africa is the richest continent in terms of mineral resources, but the poorest in terms of the bank balance. Everyone knows the status quo and that the current relationship has not benefited any African country but the Europeans. Now who are the Europeans that they should always teach the Africans what to do? From colonialism to now, they think that they are the gods of Africa, and that they should continue to tell us what we should do. The Gambia is saying no to that.”
One hell of a trip
He takes a dig at African leadership and its propensity to join any cause, any value, any principle, any institution, with remarkable thoughtlessness. Such as the International Criminal Court about whose operations Africa recently congregated to review: “We become members at a stroke of a pen, ratify our allegiance first and then read the text later, and only then do we realise what we have got ourselves into”. And he clinches it beautifully through a bus metaphor: “We jump into every bus (sic) without knowing the destination. And then when the driver stops in hell and asks the Africans to drop off, we find ourselves asking: why are we here? We have accepted everything created by the West without even questioning anything”. And his moral to Africa: “If you follow others, you can never lead”.
The real regime change
On July 31 this year, Zanu-PF won the harmonised elections resoundingly. Today it revels in that victory which has ravaged its enemies at home and abroad. The two MDCs are in throes, bickering bitterly around own leadership crisis which this stunning Zanu-PF victory has triggered. That means the ruling party has not just stunned its opponents; it has trounced the foundational values and personages around which its adversaries revolved. A real regime change in the MDC formation, if you ask me! Or at least the beginnings of it. Its victory has triggered a real fundamental question in the opposition, a scurrying for new values. Abroad, the British have admitted to being stunned, which is not quite the same as saying they have accepted defeat. Empires don’t accept defeat from their underlings. They only suffer them for a while; they withdraw to fight another day. And, if their underlings are not careful, they may win some day. They have a long-term view of conflicts. So, Caveat Emptor!
When parties no longer matter
And this sense of a continuing western challenge to Zanu-PF is key. It qualifies the July 31 result, does it not? Zanu-PF’s victory may have scattered its opponents, but it has not removed opposition. And opposition need not assume the form of parties or organisations, at least for now. After all parties are just but one form of organising opposition, of challenging values and a given hegemony. It is significant that the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and other NGOs got together for an Ideas Festival at which Zanu-PF emerged the target and butt. Who needs MDC  formations in such a situation? And with a bold warrior like Thabani Nyoni, who needs a Morgan Tsvangirai? But this teaches Zanu-PF to look beyond adversarial parties in its threats assessment. Today western oppositional ideas are being pursued under different organisational forms, through different discourses, different speakers.
Of course Thabani Nyoni is plain wrong, or simply duplicitous in equating a change of government to a change of regime. Regimes are never changed by superficial events like elections, even though electoral outcomes could very well point to, manifest or even precipitate a change of a regime. It takes deeper processes, more sustained processes to change regimes if these are conceived of in ways that Thabani never does, or can’t do. And to change a regime is not quite the same as to change a government. It is to overthrow an obtaining value system, to dismantle the ramparts of an order that has endured, that was a reigning ethos.
Where governments change, and regimes don’t
In economics we talk of shifts in demand as opposed to changes in demand. And you are always told that a shift changes direction, that a shift is seismic, a real departure from a given curve, while a change in demand is some mere movement along the demand curve. Thabani would or should know that 2008/9 changed a government without changing the core values, the core rules or ethos around which the Zimbabwean society is founded, constructed.
Those elections, Thabani, changed a government without changing a regime. This is why MDC formations came unstuck in the recent polls. They failed to dislodge the Zanu-PF ethos the same way that the 2008 hung result did not amount to, or become the same as hung values, a hung ethos, a hung experience, a hung perspective for Zimbabwe or Zimbabweans. Similarly, until about 2000, the regime of the colonial phase of this country remained intact under a Zanu-PF government inaugurated through the 1980 election, and repeatedly reinstated in five year electoral intervals. The 1980 electoral landslide did not become a regime landslide or landfall. Regime change is something more fundamental than disappearing into a ballot box for a few seconds, much more than a vote count.
And when the colonial regime finally changed here, the theatre was the countryside, the booth an old farmhouse, the voter an axe-wielding war veteran. And hey Thabani, the regime preservers were NGOs, were NGO personalities of various shades. Like You, Sir! Today we have new rules, new values, new personalities, new practices, new experiences, new property relations in that key realm of our lives. Yet even then we only have an enclave of a changed regime, never a regime change.
The regime that stayed
The British and their American cousins have never equated regime change in Zimbabwe to MDC electoral successes. Such successes would only mean the capturing of government, no doubt in itself a significant gain and resource for those working towards regime change. One key factor for those intent on regime change is capturing levers of the State, of which Government is one such. That was the reasoning at Lancaster when the Patriotic Front felt a transfer of power amounted to a minimum gain which could be leveraged later for maximum gain. But as they soon discovered, gaining political power gave them a mere potential for regime change, never the change of regime itself. Significantly President Mugabe for a long time spoke about the coexistence of socialism with capitalism, causing commentators like Andre Astrow to speak of a “revolution that lost its way”.
Equally, the policy of reconciliation was a way of placating the old order which could not be wished away. Zanu-PF’s interpretation of taking over the commanding heights of the economy amounted to a baneful inheritance of Ian Smith’s loss-making parastatals. And of course land, itself the pillar of the Rhodesian regime, was constitutionally protected for a good 10 years, the same way that white minority seats were entrenched for the first seven years.
Changing tact, changing discourse
Significantly, the West’s campaign for regime change has focused on key areas of property relations, goals and the value systems, and affinities and alliances. The attack on national leadership, party leadership, security leadership, the war veterans, national institutions and nationalist parties have all aimed at removing enablers to this unwanted property, value and alliance regime. Try and look at Zidera from this angle, and much gets revealed.
Zdera has never been a prescription or manual for democracy. It has always been about preventing or dismantling a new, nationalistic bundle of values, rules and goals, has always been about dismantling a nationalist regime where it has taken root, pre-empting it where it seeks establishment, in the process imperilling a neo-colonial setup. If not why would elections here constitute “a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to US interests”? And from 2000, we have noted how the campaign message from the West has been changing more and more towards a less dissembling, more brazen discourse.
In the early 2000, the message was democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law, all of them fads and facades. The accent was on rule of law because western interests still wielded properties here which needed a pliant State that would police the environment for the safety of those interests. Then, the hope was that with a little pressure, Zanu-PF could be nudged into running a neo-colonial State it had adopted at Independence. A little later, we saw a campaign that was pitched on the mantra of “sound macroeconomic policy”, and which exhorted Zimbabwe to account for its policies through international financial institutions.
The strategy was to use the Bretton Woods institutions to change the book of economic rules here in a way that would pre-empt Zanu-PF’s attempt at overwriting old rules, writing new rules. It is not fortuitous that President Mugabe’s last campaign message this year challenged western economic orthodoxy with its overemphasis on capital, know-how and technology, all at the expense of natural resources which would shift the balance of power in favour of resource-rich Third World countries. Of course war veterans became the face of the alleged State profligacy when in reality the idea was to break affinities between a people and its fighting force in order to make reconquest easy, easier.
A Parapet for negative forces
Much later we saw a shift towards a more value-led campaign initially crudely named “de-Zanufication” and a little later, Security Sector Reform. The latter was more elaborately thought out and featured prominent Rhodesian soldier-thinkers and white thought institutions in Britain, America and South Africa. Both phases in this value-led campaign sought to overthrow a whole value system and tradition that fed into and stoked up the spirit of national resistance to imperialism. A key contribution to imperialism by the MDC formations was not so much their entry into Government after 2008; it was their role in writing a new rule book called the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which gave the pursuits of imperialism some semblance of national legitimacy.
The GPA allowed the West to excoriate and nudge Zanu-PF towards a neo-colonial setup while appearing to be acting within the law, consensually in national terms, and in good faith vis-a-vis its adversaries-turned-partners. Conversely, it allowed the two MDCs — pawns of the West — to push forward this borrowed imperialist agenda with some modicum of national respectability, away from their quisling identity. More significantly, it gave right wing, anti-liberation tendencies within Sadc and Africa a comfortable platform for opposing a sister State and/or sister Liberation movement without losing face or grounding in the eyes of their peoples.
The benchmarking of Zimbabwe’s electoral processes on Sadc and AU judgment by the West was founded on an expectation of using Africa and its processes to legitimise the destruction of an African revolution. Another key contribution by the MDC formations to imperialism was by way of the new Constitution whose drafting tellingly boiled down to a battle of values and direction, a battle between a neo-Rhodesian, a neo-liberal agenda and on the one hand, and values of the liberation struggle on the other.
Leadership and regime change
Of course there was a thrust to attack personnel and institutions which imperialism had marked as responsible for engendering anti-neocolonial values, or for implementing or defending them. Foremost was President Mugabe whose removal became a necessary and wished-for endgame, one pursued even in terms that suggested his physical removal. Beyond the many sinister plots against the President which shall be written about one day, imperialism’s death-wish for the President took the repeated form of fawned concern about his health in ways that were meant to naturalise his demise should it come as they hoped it would, or at the very least in ways that would make it thinkable.
As in countries like Lumumba’s Congo, Nkrumah’s Ghana and Allende’s Chile, in western propaganda terms, the removal or demise of Mugabe became synonymous with improved prospects for Zimbabwe. The idea was to create within Zimbabweans a reflex of wishing their leader dead or out of the way. When nature proved a coy or reluctant player, the focus shifted to knocking him out of the race through constitutional provisions.
That, too, did not work although all this confirmed Mugabe’s centrality in the defense of a nationalistic regime in Zimbabwe. I can also cite figures in the military, principally Chiwenga, Shiri, Nyikayaramba, Chedondo and  Mugova who came under sustained attack, with clear suggestions to have them dropped from the military to enable security sector reforms, itself a key pillar in changing a regime, its values, its defences. Jabulani Sibanda became the butt of the anti-war veteran campaign. Nor was that all. The Judiciary came up for round attacks, with the Chief Justice, Judge President, Justices Bhunu, Hlatshwayo and others coming under attack. The institutional thrust of the attack should be all too obvious by now, and clearly showing a thrust to change the national ethos, not government as Thabani superficially thinks.
When imperialism grants a fool
All of which means what? Well, that either Nyoni does not understand what he is talking about or that he was sent on a bravery mission that didn’t require him to comprehend anything except to heroically naturalise and make mundane a very sinister agenda of imperialism. And both are very likely. How else is one to understand the courage that comes with articulating such a dumb position, and in public too? Or the quiescent acceptance of it all by his interlocutors. Something else but intellect appears to have been at work in the minds of both the sender and the receivers.  Otherwise why would self-respecting Zimbabweans tolerate such a brazen, anti-nation message? Unless it has itself authored the knowledge, imperialism prefers ignoramuses to push its national agenda.
They are never restrained by knowledge or scruples. We saw the crudest form of that in Idi Amin of Uganda; saw that here in the internal settlement arrangement where ignorant bishops and chiefs were turned into “key” players. We have seen it in the leadership types chosen to lead the MDC formations, principally MDC-T whose leader America tells us requires “massive hand-holding”. I don’t know how literate this Nyoni boy is. But if for him an election, any election, which changes governments is the same as the pursuit and fulfilment of regime change, then one safely concludes that he is a very basic tool in foreign hands.
Even his own words rebel against him, as does his own argument. If going for elections legitimises and meets the requirements of regime change, then why proudly seek the same a mere four months down the line? And if we are already eating the fruits of “regime change” by way of Zanu-PF people telling their colleagues not to politicise food aid, then the polls changed the regime by keeping it the same! And if the people polled for a change that preserves the same, who, really is stopping to think with Thabani about “what kind  of republic we want and what kind of Zimbabwe will work for us”? Who is  “we”, who is “us”, this “us” who appears not to have participated in changing the regime on July 31, who appears not to have been represented by the outcome of July 31 polls? Indeed he who appears to reside outside of the people of Zimbabwe who voted, but who appears more important than all of them as to still want and deserve regime change after an electoral one?
The joke is on us
Nyoni appears to represent interests inhabiting a realm outside the national one outside one inhabited by its populace and filled by its national processes. For these interests, the July 31 result did not yield a regime change; rather, it yielded “many realities that we have to deal with”. That seems to do two contradictory things. At one level it seems to repudiate the efficacy of elections as a source of regime change, indeed as marking the fulfilment of one. Yet at another level it seems to suggest a deeper grasp of the “regime change” notion than what the functional Nyoni may be allowed to have.
He was sent to tell all those employed in the western-sponsored NGO sector that the July 31 elections were superficial vis-a-vis the endgame of regime change, indeed a mere faint marker of an effete phase in an old campaign that must continue. This is a very good warning to Zanu-PF which has been behaving as if it has reached “the end of history”. But a warning whose ironic twist is both comical and tragic. Comical in that the purveyor of the warning is a man who exhibits monumental ignorance at an Ideas Festival. Why did he, a cripple, join such an intricate dance? Tragic in that the ignoramus is a black Zimbabwean, is one of us. Hark, I hear peals of white laughter! That means the joke is on us, does it not? Icho!