WHAT do you do when you lately realise you have put the wrong boy in the stocks? Such must be the painful reality the western world is facing presently over Zimbabwe.
The past week saw Patrick Chinamasa, Elton Mangoma and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga going to London, all on the hospitality of the British government through its Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Of course, there was another seemingly causal acronym, FOZ, in long hand Friends of Zimbabwe, better known as the Fishmonger Group, after a delicious restaurant at which they are habitual congregants for a “friendly chat” on Zimbabwe.
It is in Avondale, and “they” refer to a group of ambassadors accredited to Zimbabwe, principally Europeans, of British Dominions, of America and the Japanese. I must refer to Norway which while in Europe, does not belong to the European Union. In due course we shall test whether or not this group deserved the causal status it is accorded.
Of the three ministers, I bet my bottom dollar it is Chinamasa who must have enjoyed the trip the most. For so long, Britain had become a forbidden fruit for this Minister so securely sat on the illegal sanctions list willy nilly! When your tormentors appear to relent — unaccosted — the feeling is always great and you step on their soil with vengeful vehemence.
I would have done that had such an opportunity come my way. Or done worse — mess the chamber pot deliberately so I acquaint those sons of Albion with the colour of my dung after so long a separation!
And the British made the feeling sweeter. They paid for everything, even extending stipends to this brainy cog in Robert Mugabe’s grinding wheel. More dramatically, Her Majesty’s Treasury had to temporarily amend a law – the Zimbabwe Financial Sanctions Regulations of 2009 – to allow Chinamasa to go shopping. And hey, the amendment was hand-delivered to Chinamasa, a native boy from Maungwe, by er…eh..er Her Excellency Deborah Bronnert. Tell me, who would not yell ‘Mama! Come see what I got!’
Undoing the British hate knot
And this VIP treatment was a foretaste of sweeter things to come. Patrick was the cynosure, the focus of all British attention, including the hosts. Mangoma thought he knew what pleased his handlers. He was wrong. By beginning of second day, the Brits literally suffered him. He had no audience, triggered no interest.Advertisement
The MDC-T has lost its lustre. Priscilla, while much more circumspect, still suffered anonymity in the whole drama. And on a comparative scale, the British were left in no doubt as to where quality stood, where power inhered. And thus who their real interlocutors had to be if matters were to be different henceforth, if matters were to turn for the better for them.
The media line-up availed to Chinamasa, not least the epochal BBC ‘HardTalk’ programme, clearly showed the British needed Chinamasa more on a vocal walkabout in their streets and their homes where a truculent magnitude existed, than in their boardrooms.
This was truculence which the British government, aided by its servile media, had studiously cultivated over the years, all against little, innocent yet important Zimbabwe. The British had invited Chinamasa to help them change public opinion – British public opinion – to allow for greater room for a change of policy on Zimbabwe.
For so long, the British establishment had trained its citizens to hate Zimbabwe, loathe Zimbabwe, its government, its liberation party and its leadership. Or the obverse: to laud and adore the opposition MDCs, warts and all. And this induced hate and cultivated love respectively had been a 14-year effort, ever relentless.
Both impulses are now well entrenched. But today, the British look back and around, ghastly realising hate has not eliminated their perceived enemy; love has not borne them anything more lovely that the grotesque MDC.
In fact both impulses have cost them an economy; cost them influence, while bringing in alternative power, alternative capital, alternative politics quite unwonted. Such is the knot which needed a Zanu PF minister to undo.
The war option Britain could never brook
It has been a long road since 1998. Give it to Great Britain, its foreign policy wreaked havoc for us in Europe and in America. It even shook our African support. But all that proved illusory, prolonging the fight in a way that built higher forms of resistance, newer skills and means in tackling powerful enemies, in defending old loopholes created by national complacency borne out of a belief that the world shall always be kind to us, indeed owes us fairness and goodness.
In all this, the British government forgot one cardinal rule of realpolitik: while governments may relish longer fights, economies don’t, can’t. This is why for Wall Street, short, sharp wars are always better, always preferred, to a drawn out standoff. And that is not all the British forgot.
They also forgot that those who have already hit the ground cannot fall anymore. By 2007/8, Zimbabwe had already hit the ground and couldn’t fall anymore. It could only rise, or stay down. And the only way out of this stasis was for Britain to go to war, something which Britain was not prepared for. After all her generals – and that included Lord Guthrie, the man who would have fought such a war – had been here soon after our Independence, as young officers serving under B-MATT, the British Military Advisory Training Team.
They had a good grasp of what was here. They never thought it sexy, and did a good job in keeping the mad Gordon Brown, madder Tony Blair, under leash. Even the recently retired British General – what’s his name? – was here, too, as a young officer. So was Mr Bronnert, hubby of the current British ambassador to Harare.
The three decisive factors
Three key factors are at play, shall remain at play, thereby shaping Anglo-Zimbabwe relations and, with them, Zimbabwe’s relations with the rest of the West. Politically, Britain under the Conservatives – themselves congenital realists – has realised that in or out of power, Zanu PF cannot be wished away. Nor can the MDCs be wished in, after such a disastrous show of governance competence and moral turpitude.
Zanu PF is rooted, and shall be, for a long time to come. Above all, it is the loadstar of Zimbabwean politics and even beyond.
Economically, Zimbabwe is highly mineralised, something long acknowledged from as far back as Cecil John Rhodes’ era. It is an economy one would rather befriend than seek to destroy and antagonise. And Britain, Europe and America had done just that.
Geopolitically, the era of colonial backyards and mono-mega economies is over. The world has become poly-centred, with key new players emerging in alternative markets of Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Business interests in the western world could not take any more costs from hostile foreign policies pursued by their governments.
Western cohesion against Zimbabwe was beginning to fail, with Britain taking the blame for it. These three facts have been key, made more critical by the fact that Zimbabwe has been smart enough to leverage them. The initiative by, from, to, London had to come when it did.
Taught by the enemy
And it is noteworthy that Minister Mark Simmonds made it clear Britain was now pursuing a bilateral policy on Zimbabwe, quite a departure from the multilateral EU parapet it was sniping at us from. Britain agreed to drop a lie which had sustained the Labour policy for all these years.
Equally noteworthy that the British establishment never raised a finger when Chinamasa aggressively made it clear he had come to mend a bilateral injury founded on the divisive colonial land question.
Clearly, the establishment wanted this message to sink home into the British collective psyche. And it did, ironically from the lips of her supposed enemy. The British government wants to turn over a new leaf on Zimbabwe, and this is the matter we have to address henceforth. Is such a change of policy desirable? What form must it take? How do we protect our interests and policies against gratuitous goodwill some within us might seek to offer the British, forgetting they least deserve it?
Revolutions are most imperilled when they sit down to negotiate.
I have just been looking at a letter sent to the Zimbabwe government by Johnnie Carson, the American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
The letter does four key things: it acknowledges the Zimbabwe Government after nearly a decade and half of a standoff; it acknowledges and hails our national electoral process, itself the excuse for hostile American policy here; it pledges to recognise any government to emerge from the forthcoming elections, a position quite different from the absurd Morgan-Tsvangirai-must-win stance and mantra of America from Powell to Hilary Clinton. Well, Tsvangirai will not win and the western world is beginning to come to terms with that.
Lastly, Carson’s letter suggests America is willing and ready to initiate dialogue on the removal of sanctions provided Zimbabwe admits foreign observers, including paring down this demand to inviting proxy observers of the American government, such as IRI or NDI.
In respect of the last issue, of course Carson is tantalising us with the offer of a process which he himself cannot trigger or even influence. Such an offer is thus duplicitous and must be thrown away with the contempt accorded to anyone seeking to condescend. But that offer, however false, shows how we have exhausted America’s influence here. But that is not my point.
My point is for our strategic thinkers to now grasp the moment we are inhabiting, and fashion tools for advancing our interests and policies without flying into a birdlime.
Only Zanu PF win can lose
I close this instalment by making the following key points. Whilst Zanu PF has an upperhand already, it can only assume unassailable ascendency once it finishes a clean poll well in the lead. And the key is the word “clean”.
A violent poll cannot be clean, which is why Zanu PF must do much more than avoid violence; it must prevent violence from whichever quarter. Lovemore Madhuku is right, the MDC-T sees its chances slipping away, and shall do any trick in the book to soil the poll, including provoking, sponsoring, staging violence. That must be stopped, as it shall be Zanu PF and Zanu PF alone to be blamed. To lose.
I have no fears over our capacity to run a technically clean poll. We have already shown that capacity, making even our worst enemies recognise this. And they are in a bit of a bind, are they not? How do you acknowledge this excellence without destroying your case for the invitation of foreign observers?
The friends who would be enemies
The so-called Friends of Zimbabwe are not causally related to the thawing relations between us and the West. They cannot be. They are part of that frozen quantity which needed and needs thawing.
If they are a fleck off that glacier, it all owes to our clear, strong and insistent foreign policy which has warmed the glacier, which has got us this result we see playing out. They reflect our victory, they did not cause it.
These are friends who would be enemies. We know what mischief they have been up to here, are still up to in this country. Left to themselves, they don’t mean well. They have been made to play well. That means our strength is not in compromising gratuitously. It is in keeping us strong, stronger and steadfast so our suffering under sanctions for a decade and a half may not have been in vain.
Wrong boy in the stocks
Lastly, we have managed the sanctions issue quite masterfully. The West’s pawns here have come to realise the disutility of sanctions to political canvassing. Zanu PF has used this negative so well in mobilising national support, provoking national sentiment and tapping from it. It must continue to do so, to a thunderous outcome such as was secured recently by Uhuru Kenyatta who awaits swearing in as Kenya’s President on Monday.
Not so much for itself as for national outlook. We must get to that threshold where it becomes a norm that whoever works with foreigners harbouring interests opposed to ours, should be made to smell foul in our electoral politics.
Never again should any politician count on foreign support to win power. Or to threaten any genuine power wielded in the interest of an historically disinherited people. Only then are we able to end the scourge politics that animate the MDCs presently.
And of course end the false righteousness of the likes of Munyaradzi Gwisai who think they are more enlightened than Tsvangirai when in fact they do no better when pitted against encroaching, lewd foreigners.
An uneducated politician can only be cheated; an educated collaborator spouting the language of Karl Marx and struggling workers, is a downright cheat. Europe and its illegal sanctions has created a situation where those originally meant to benefit from their imposition, find themselves having to defend themselves from voter charges of treachery against their own people. It is, indeed, the case of the wrong boy in the stocks. Icho!
Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald. E-mail him: firstname.lastname@example.org