A few months back I wrote a piece in which I drew a distinction between those who govern and those who rule. I asserted that both before and after the inclusive Government, Zanu-PF continued to produce ideas that rule, ideas by which Zimbabwe has been governed.
I was even more daring. I asserted that in the inclusive dispensation we are under, the two MDC formations were heavily indebted to Zanu-PF for the governing ideas, never mind that they were failing to implement them. I gave the example of dollarisation, a policy which Zanu-PF adopted well
before the inclusive Government as a way out of the run on the national currency by forces of imperialism.
It is this policy which Biti has been trying to implement, has been milking dry since day one of his ministerial appointment. Of course he has run the whole thing aground, which is why last Thursday, he sought to cull a new mix of winning ideas from the ruling class, by way of what has been termed a Special Cabinet on public finances. The coffers are now empty, with Biti emptier by way of new ideas. Having pushed the golden goose to egg-lessness, he now fretfully asks why the bird does not have mammalian adders, tits so he can milk more. That is what outbursts on Chiadzwa amount to.
--------Creature of brawn--------
When you look at the proposals he tabled in his paper to that Session of Cabinet, it is clear he is a mere administrator of received ideas, never a conceiver of new ideas that can move society. It is beginning to show, is it not? The MDC formations have never been ideas formations, have never been responsible for any idea, have they? The ideas that launched them belonged to the three British parties, organised as the Westminster Foundation. The MDC’s was quite a grotesque birth: a creature of brawn bereft of brains, designed to batter and claw for ideas born of British brain!
Today the challenges of governance requires that the MDC thinks, and it is proving to be a tall order. It can only blink, spouting the hackneyed ideas of the World Bank and IMF. You only need to see the World Bank’s paper on public service reforms in Zimbabwe in order to appreciate the unthinking side of this party of brawn! But all this is an aside.
--------Straining for succour--------
We are going for elections. Evidence abounds. The national political temperature has been rising steadily. I find the debate on dates and timing for the elections quite inane, in fact too stupid to engage any reasonable person. Yet certain sections of our media have been pounding this one, pounding it to tiredness.
Beaten on this whole issue of an electoral termination of the inclusive Government, the MDC formations have been carving little victories of sorts, imaginary victories culled from fine distinctions, from clever rationalisations. These little victories need a gratuitously trumpeting media to make them read and sound enormous.
In that spirit, these formations think that not having elections in 2012, or having them in 2013, marks such a disastrous defeat for Zanu-PF, for Robert Mugabe! Marks such a momentous victory for them. They celebrate as if they have won the actual elections! They are straining for succour, stretching for some modicum of measly comfort.
--------When time is a metaphor--------
Anyone with some grey matter between his or her ears will tell you that Zanu-PF wants elections soonest, wants an end to the inclusive Government without any further delay. That urgency has been expressed through a demand for elections “in 2012”, a phrase which the two formations want to read literally, want to read in calendar terms, indeed as a mathematical magnitude. I don’t think we should begrudge them at all. If it gives them comfort, gives them an illusion of victory, why not grant them? As long as they fall in line with the frenetic election time-table which Zanu-PF desires, a frenetic pace best captured by the metaphor of “2012”.
The bottom line is that we are going for elections; we are ending this dysfunctional inclusive Government, and this because Zanu-PF — the ruler — has willed it. And you cannot miss the irony of it all: the democrats don’t want elections; the “tyrant” wants elections, wants them now! Setting pace, moulding the national agenda: that is what hegemony is all about, isn’t?
--------Parapet from sniper fire--------
One day history shall acknowledge that apart from dollarisation as a way of deflecting the withering attack on Zimbabwe by the West through sanctions, Zanu-PF made a strategic retreat by way of a compromise over the governance arrangement, a retreat beatified by Sadc. For the MDC formations, Sadc is a guarantor to that arrangement; for Zanu-PF, Sadc is a parapet against foreign sniper fire.
By bringing Sadc into the whole governing equation, Zanu-PF made its political stabilisation formulae a regional issue, in the process mobilising Sadc against the West. Today Sadc speaks against sanctions. That compromise arrangement was needed to give Zanu-PF a breather, to grant our stressed nation some respite. Above all, the compromise was needed to incorporate the MDC formations into the national anti-sanctions campaign, itself the principal agenda post land reform. The price was power-sharing, itself some little payment for Zanu-PF, but a staggering, befuddling reward for the two formations.
Having tested the sweetness of power, they no longer want to hear about elections. Today Zanu-PF can look back and triumphantly say, yes, all the political forces in the country have been mobilised, have been united, indeed have pronounced themselves against those odious sanctions. It is a milestone development given the multiple fractures of pre-2008, a classical case of unity in struggle, as Cabral would say.
The apogee to this whole thrust was David Coltart, himself part of the brains that authored the strictures, embarking on a solo effort to get the West to remove the sanctions. He beat the same path that Tendai Biti walked for the same cause. Even Tsvangirai has moved from denial couched as euphemisms to calling the thing by its proper name. Who would have thought that possible at all before 2009?
--------The lotus of power--------
It is very easy to miss the significance of this strategic move by Zanu-PF. The ruling party has in fact outflanked both the Americans and the Europeans vis-à-vis their illegal, unilateral sanctions, declared outside of the UN system. Now with all the political forces inside Zimbabwe agitating against sanctions, including those parties in whose name and for whose benefit the sanctions were imposed, Europe and America face this haunting question which they have to grapple with today: for whom are the sanctions meant? For whose benefit are they being retained, now that all Zimbabweans have consensually rejected them?
The facade has now been removed and the EU and the US may now have to own up, may now have to admit that the sanctions were never about Zimbabwe and her struggles for latter-day, retrofitted democracy, were never about the MDC formations and their much vaunted quest for democratic change.
They were and remain a blunt instrument for pursuing the West’s own narrow, imperialist interests, an old strategy in new garb, with new pawns. It is remarkable that Zanu-PF has been able to build this national consensus against sanctions in so short a time, while propagating the dissembling illusion called government of national unity. Structures for governance were tactical and the MDC formations, so inebriated by the lotus of power, never saw this, never dreamt an end to this sweet Elysium dream.
--------Clearing the West’s illusions--------
Inside the country, Zanu-PF’s victory is no less ringing. Given the amount of investment that had gone into creating the myth of “targeted sanctions” as part of the West’s “necessary illusion” on the Zimbabwean issue, Zanu-PF’s deft moves to pare down matters to sanctions only, to steer the national debate in such a way that it trims down to this one issue, is nothing short of phenomenal.
And the party went beyond just ideas. With hindsight, it is clear that the raft of concessions to the MDC formations, concessions which people like David Coltart misread for helpless capitulation, all these were meant to remove false issues so real ones would emerge and become the focus of the country.
Today all the outstanding issues which the MDC formations chafed about have been removed from the national mind. Today the MDC formations are in the governing saddle, flogging the obtuse economy, hoping for a miraculous stir. They run the economic ministries, a concession which Zanu-PF made quite early on, a strategic concession few grasped, let alone appreciated.
A good four years later, the formations have dismal graphs to show. It is all gloom, it is all doom. The welfare threshold which the Zanu-PF government had managed against all sanctions odds, have been significantly eroded, what with money so short, social gains inexorably eroding, the energy nightmare, declining infrastructure and, to crown it all, the myth of a recovering economy. The transposition has been nothing short of miraculous: governing party playing the role of opposition, but without losing power; an opposition party assuming the sins of governing, but without wielding actual power!
--------The men who fell---------
Against such gloom, Zimbabweans have had to turn elsewhere for answers. It could not have been the so-called democratic deficit which has been holding the economy back, surely? It could not have been the exclusion of the MDC formations either. It could not have been Zanu-PF’s fabled corruption to which the MDC formations were the supposed antidote. So what is it? Why has not 2008/9 translated to a welfare gain for the country, for the ordinary Zimbabwean? These are questions of disillusionment, but questions which have helped clarify matters. Zanu-PF has busted the myth of MDC as the panacea to problems that bedevil Zimbabwe. Luckily it did not have to do much. Apart from its own bungling, the MDC’s vapid materialism, the MDC’s blatant corruption at all levels, did handsomely well to discredit it as a solution for so long awaited.
Today the MDC has failed both the competence test and the integrity test. It wallows in countless scandals, its officials now numbering among the richest, especially by way of real estate. I shall have occasion to trace for the reader this property labyrinthine traceable to MDC ministers who are hardly four years in their portfolios, on a paltry salary. Only then will it become plain that all the carping about Chiadzwa is but diversionary talk. The list is now about ready. That is the beauty about an election season, is it not? No holds are barred.
So Zimbabweans have had to face the reality of sanctions as the single strongest factor against their welfare. After all, even the MDC badly needs to propagate the story of sanctions. If they do not, how else would they explain their failure to bring about a turnaround to the fortunes of expectant Zimbabweans? This is the massive sea-change in national consciousness which Zanu-PF has brought about in so short a time. This is the single largest gain which the party has culled from its concessions, both at home and abroad.
--------The White Factor falters--------
It is a gain which authors of the MDC formations are beginning to see. That takes me to the issue of focus for this week. The behaviour of the white factor in the MDC as we drift towards elections. It should never be forgotten that while the MDC is a child of the white western world, the beachhead has always been the local white factor. This is the factor that bore the pregnancy after the western world had inseminated the womb, artificially. This is the fact which Bennett is studiously seeking to rubbish nowadays, forgetting his very doing so does actually validate that very fact. He is the white face that explains MDC's provenance. He won't be black, never will be! And he admits - uncharacteristically in my view - that white farmers, their infrastructure in the countryside, their vast workforce, their intricate network from the wartimes - all these resources became the organisational base upon which the MDC was launched and sustained. Today that infrastructure had been demolished, but to be replaced by NGOs which organisationally, have become the white farmer's alter ego. They draw their impetus from the multi-donor trust funds, the same funds Biti will not want reflected in national accounts. A virtual war chest to this ideas-free party. I am sure there are ways of blunting that NGO threat too. Egypt showed the way. Uganda has just reinforced that trend. We shall perfect it here so our electoral politics are played out nationally, neatly, justly too. But that is to digress. I want to deal with the white factor which is beginning to "see".
-----------The man whose moment passed---------
From about March this year, the white factor has been agonisingly coming to terms with the fact of MDC's ever diminishing electoral prospects. This receding hope has been well documented, with milestone opinion pieces there for anyone to read. One such milestone piece was done in March by Mark Scofield, himself an MDC activist-journalist. Quoting an unnamed western diplomat, he noted that "Morgan Tsvangirai's moment has already passed", validating this startling admission by a number of factors, including the 2005 split" which greatly weakened it (the MDC)"; rising factionalism; corruption which has "dented the MDC's credibility". Above all, Scofield refers the legendary paucity of ideas in the MDC: "Months before elections, the MDC has yet to articulate its election manifesto, giving rise to speculation among observers that besides removing Mugabe from power, the party may genuinely be bankrupt of any ideas on how to move the country forward from its political and economic stalemate." Notice, dear reader, that the same damning point is expressed later on by the mournful leader of the so-called CFU, one Charles Taffs, who had this to say: "What is the MDC's policy on Indigenisation, mining and land? It concerns us that all they want to do and will hinge their election campaign (on) is to remove President Mugabe and Zanu (PF) from power. That is what they have been trying to do in the past decade. At least Zanu (PF) programmes are clear-cut and well-known. It's about time the election became a contestation of ideas." This was in May, only a month ago.
--------All in denial -------
A second landmark piece came from Alex Duval Smith in the same month of March. Again, Alex is no lover of Mugabe, and has, until now, been pushing real hardballs. But she was forced to admit after a long working visit in the country that indeed "Mugabe has soared back to popularity" on the back of the Programme of Indigenisation. Turning to MDC, Smith says: "...the MDC has suffered its share of corruption scandals. It has failed to reverse poverty or define itself as a reforming force within the power-sharing administration. And the Indigenisation Programme, despite its popularity, has divided the trade unions, the MDC's electoral heartland." Not even donor pumping of resources into the MDC-run social ministries has done the electoral trick for it. "With a few exceptions, Zimbabweans are limping along under the burden of an economy going nowhere." The tenor of the article is clear, an article that earned Duval Smith tremendous MDC rheum. She is, after all, an outsider, an outsider bought over by Zanu (PF) functionaries, they opined. They are in denial. Let's see how they are faring within their own stable.
---------The revolution that can't be changed-----
Almost a month later, in April, Tony Hawkins, a white economist evidently sympathetic to the MDC, did a piece at the height of what he terms "Mugabe-watching". He hit out at the futility of this burgeoning fascination with the bizarre: "The belief in Western capitals is that a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe will be a very different country. That is based less on thoughtful analysis of the reality on the ground than on the naive assumption that Zimbabwe can somehow go back to its past of the 1980s and 1990s. But the dynamics within Zimbabwe and the region have changed and whoever succeeds Mugabe is not going to reverse his policies on land and Indigenisation. It might be softened at the edges but Zanu (PF) nationalism runs so deep that even if he wanted to turn the clock back, which is doubtful, Tsvangirai would not be able to do so". This is as candid as it can ever be, with the white scholar paying tribute to the defensive depth of the Zanu (PF) revolution. He does much more. He nullifies Tsvangirai as a source of new governing ideas, even in unlikely circumstances of his ascension to power. Interestingly, the writer followed up on his analysis two months later, savaging the MDC for its fulsome claims that it was the reason the economy turned around, if it did at all. He wrote: "There is nothing that the MDC did in that regard to turn around the economy.... It was a result of dollarization (done by Chinamasa before the inclusive government). That is where the change came from not as a result of their implementing any praiseworthy policy." Of course as a scholar, Hawkins has an obligation to facts. He must recognize them for his own integrity. Except no one would charge him for not mentioning inconvenient facts. The issue is why he chose to go for the MDC at such an inopportune time. Could that indicate the depth of white disenchantment with the MDC? Yes of course!
----------Poor white hopes-----
So whither whites, whither the MDC? I have chosen not to factor in the ranting Bennett who sounds completely disenchanted with the MDC leadership at home. Equally, I have ignored Madhuku's startling revelation that western embassies are busy cultivating an alternative leadership within the MDC, a literate leadership which they are hoping for. I actually wonder where the abysmal performance of last week leaves these western interests, with their high hopes on academics. The white factor in Zimbabwean politics has come to the realization that the MDC cannot, cannot rule, will not govern. The white thrust has been both strategic and tactical. Tactically, the white factor has been playing up Zanu (PF) weaknesses, imagined and real. That seems like a strange posture to take, what with elections so near. One would have hoped the whites would play up MDC strength. Yet it is not strange. The idea is for that tactical position to feed into a strategic one, namely to reduce the margin of Zanu (PF) electoral victory for two possible outcomes. One which they view as most likely is a second phase of compromise politics which would ensure their ward - the MDC - gets a second lease of life. This is why Eddie Cross talks about a second inclusive Government. It is a holding position for white interests, hopefully while the deck is being reorganised. Even then, it is a poor white's hope. After all Zanu (PF) did more damage to white interests under conditions of inclusive politics. The second option is to get a Zanu (PF) which is weaker at the polls and thus one softened enough to engage towards a moderate social Programme. This scenario takes on board the succession issue, all in the hope that a successor to President Mugabe, working with a reduced margin, is likely to compromise. In that regard, the recent changes in Malawi offer some kind of fillip, provided one decides to sweetly forget the defensive depth I have alluded to, a depth so unlike and so incomparable to the little changes, more rhetoric of waMutharika. We wait to see. But the fact is the white factor has lost confidence in the MDC, something which darkens the prospects of both white interests and the MDC itself.