THE OTHER SIDE by Nathaniel Manheru
The national political pot sweats and effervesces. The faggots beneath burn wild and incandescent, heating up the medley soup inside which leaps wild, jumping past the giant pot’s rim, out to infinity.
There is a cacophony in the land, and everything simmers, hisses without settling. Many hands stir the giant pot, causing greater confusion. What a fine mess! Big times, small, uncomprehending minds.
“Deus ex Machina”
Let’s try and tackle the imbroglio. In old Greek tragedy, there was something called deus ex machina, a god from a machine. Often playwrights got carried away, creating complications that defied resolution, that nearly killed heroes who must not die. To resolve such plots, the hand of divinity would intervene in human affairs, spiriting out the hero, thereby saving him from sure annihilation.
The playwright, in other words, would invent a God who would emerge from a machine, to save a dying hero, for a happy-ever-after ending.
Biti is gone, lifted from the local political scene by the American god. Like most MDC officials, he has the papers, assuring him of multiple entries into the US, assuring him of timeless stay in that land.
It is a facility you and me will never have. A modest recompense for all he has done, and done for America.
Certainly a kinder fate, viewed against what America does to its paws elsewhere, both in history and nowadays. In Vietnam for instance, helicopters landed on a helipad Vietnamese people always mistook for the roof of America’s diplomatic compound.
Then airlifted, evacuated all Americans, but only a few Vietnamese collaborators, the rest being left to the vanquishing forces of Ho Chin Minh. It is not always that the American god rescues. It can abandon.
Back to student days
I thought I heard a bit of that on Al Jazeera only this week, this time on Afghanistan, where America’s Afghan translators, clerks, NGOs and some such war and invasion collaborators, have now been left in the lurch, as Uncle Sam, dainty-like, withdraws and wafts away in a typical fashion of remarkable indifference. Biti is lucky, and is set to join the Centre for Global Development (CGD), described by one of the newspapers as “an independent think-tank that works to reduce global poverty”. Hahaha!
Are we that gullible? Of course, the Americans and their western allies are back to the drawing board. Biti and his renewed team might have had long intellect, longer and sharper tongues, but they simply lacked the rough and tumble required to survive in politics.
There is a way in which the politics they adumbrated sounded decidedly airy, thrice removed from the political work-a-day world.
Not helped by the coming in of Welshman Ncube, a musing philosopher-Moses, armed with a scroll, a feather, an ink bottle, ready to daub new rules and commandments to a humanity that can’t read, that won’t care about erudition amidst the drudgery of daily existence.
Together with Biti, it became a spectacular renewal of student days, which is why the earthy Mangoma and Priscilla soon fell into utter obsolescence.
Streets versus boardrooms
But there is a way in which there was a deadly practicality to Biti’s scholarly appraisal of a world he was expected to remake yet was contend to philosophize about.
He spewed a deadly critique to all that Tsvangirai and his MDC-T sought to think, say and do. Not so much that the critique itself was corrosive, but that it enriched those who knew how to employ it corrosively. That is Zanu-PF.
That, in the final analysis, was not judged too beneficial to the Anglo-American project here. Biti had to be removed from the scene, to allow Tsvangirai to recover, rebuild and make another throw at Zanu-PF. After all, the swift action through Parliament demonstrated Tsvangirai had assembled an effective team to make up for his congenital weaknesses.
That is key to understanding Biti’s odyssey. As for Zanu-PF, well, it must understand that this is the consequence of its 2013 victory. Having vanquished MDC formations, vanquished them to the point of splitting them even further, there was a dire shortage of oppositional raw material for the West to work with. Fights ensued, to great consternation of the West.
Brutal fights which yielded salutary results for the watchful West. In that cauldron, Tsvangirai was able to show some lingering, redeemable strength, albeit in abundant weakness. In that cauldron, Biti was able to show fatal flaws, albeit in abundant intellect.
Tsvangirai showed will-power, staying power, and a clear hold on the demos. Biti showed a sharp, philosophical detachment which moved boardrooms, never the streets. And so?
Beyond the electoral avenue
Well, you want to understand the stage at which we are thought to be by western planners, Anglo-Americans especially. They think the distance between us and the tipping point is a wafer away.
The economy has become turgid, unable to look after the citizenry. Much worse, unable to pay or support the governors. Given such a scenario, they reason, the future belongs to the streets, will be shaped from the streets.
There is a way in which western interests here are working for social unrest as midwife to the very changes the MDC formations and divisions in Zanu-PF could not secure for them between 2013 and now.
The floor-crossing action in Parliament, which opened the way for countless by-elections, which, in other words, raised the spectre of a stronger majority for Zanu-PF, beyond what 2013 gave it, comes about at a time when an electoral avenue for gaining or losing power in Zimbabwe has been discounted in western calculations.
The so-called dilemma in MDC-T on whether or not to participate in by-elections, is a false one. Of course the British, Americans and Germans want MDC-T to keep away, while the French would want it to participate.
The promise of wanton violence
The MDC-T will allow by-elections in Manicaland and Mashonaland West to proceed, uneventfully. This is not to discount the support they will secretly extend to Temba Mliswa, not so much to help the Mujuru side, as to help their cause by piercing the veil of invincibility which Zanu-PF has built from 2013.
MDC-T is waiting for processes leading to by-elections in the remaining 14 constituencies it regards as its own naturally, and by 2013. Most of these are scattered in urban areas. It will not register to contest. It will not interfere with the registration.
But once the stage is set for campaigning, the MDC-T will unleash violence of serious proportions, all designed to discredit the electoral process minimally to press for electoral reforms, maximally to wrestle power through public insurrection.
It thinks the hard social conditions are a good keg! and the vendors in cities good fodder. For such a campaign, the West does not need a Biti. It needs a Tsvangirai, which is why he must be allowed to rebuild towards such a portentous eventuality without being sniped at by the likes of Biti.
Of course Welshman Ncube seems to have caught whiff of this strategy, which is why he has given us a long-winded piece on whether or not the opposition can lawfully sidestep the electoral process to bring about changes they desire.
It is an advance counsel, one he hopes will redeem him in the eyes of the opposition. Zanu-PF must prepare not so much to win the 14 by-elections, as to retain power beyond them.
How to do it within the limits of lawful state response, how to do it without losing international goodwill, that is the question.
Pathos, no pointers
I am not so sure who it is that is writing Mai Mujuru’s spasmodic statements.
Or what those statements are meant to achieve. Following her dismissal from Zanu-PF, she has since released another statement whose meaning seems to repose in pathos than in pointers for bold steps towards opposing Robert Mugabe.
I have no problem with pathos in politics. After all she is a mother figure: the symbol of the milk of human kindness. What I fail to understand is how a statement so full of maudlin sentimentality, so full of moral overtones, helps her cause.
She is inviting the world to ponder the morality of a political party which evicts a widow on the eve of Easter; the morality of bad-mouthing the dead, indeed the morality of taking a decision on her membership to the party, instead of sparing a thought for the “missing” Itai Dzamara.
The realm of questioning is decidedly moral, a thrust sealed by her implied claim to be a God-fearing church woman.
Certainly where all things are equal, this line of questioning the ruling party actions could piece together some card of sympathy for her.
Home to podium
But the ceteris paribus premise fails so abysmally in her case. There are ugly questions from home, questions leaping in front and too ugly to be dodged in whatever larger questions she may reserve for the world, worst of all in the domain of morality.
She just has to reckon with the ugly fact that a huge elephant stands indifferently in her way, and that is the issue of her late husband’s will, particularly those ugly allegations that have been made against her by the late general’s issue.
She is accused of, firstly hiding the dear departed’s will, an allegation made by the late general’s own lawyer. Secondly, she is accused of altering that will to suit a portion of the general’s issue. I don’t know whether or not those allegations are true or false. It is not even my business to know.
But where a politician raises moral issues, those in turn invite an all-round scrutiny of their own actions: from home all the way up the podium.
Whatever she has or does not have, whatever she has done or has not done, the issue is the family matter has leapt into public domain, creating a yardstick against which she stands measured, now and in the future.
Has she been a good guardian, a good mother, to Solomon’s issue? Is she perceived as playing fair at home, for her to promise fairness in the wider world?
That is the key question her minders have not addressed, in fact appear to be exacerbating inadvertently.
Sweet fragrances about her
Secondly, no matter how hard she plays the politics of social conditions inhabited by Zimbabwe’s poor, no one, I repeat no one, views her as one amongst them.
She is viewed as a rich widow carrying about her fragrances of plenty, never the odor of want that stalks those in Zimbabwe surviving on tutsawona. She will never be read as empathising with the poor; rather, she will be seen as cynically playing on poverty for power politics.
Secondly, she is never viewed as vulnerable. Rather, she is viewed as a powerful woman who has wielded power since 1980, and has been growing it ever since, all the way to Vice-Presidency, until this last December, only last year.
And to suddenly see and speak the language of the poor three or four months into your demise, is to suggest you are now able to deal with question of poverty now after those four short months into your demise, deal with the same poverty whose sprawling you happily watched and witnessed from 1980.
In fact the same poverty which may very well have created a rich will for you!
There is a way in which the general’s heirloom indicts, compounding her already indictable status as one of the longest serving member of Cabinet from Independence, and one whose conduct is being impugned.
An embittered Secretary for Administration
Beyond her own person, the amplification which her statements enjoy from her aides, principally Mutasa and Gumbo, does not help at all.
You get a distinct sense of two contrary sensibilities which are unaware they are thrusting contrapuntally, to use a term in musicology. Her latest statement converges with Mutasa’s argument founded on being “original Zanu-PF”, whatever that means. But original Zanu-PF never had “People First” as its suffixing acronym! Has the group conceded ground, admitted they are a contorted shard off the main block? And the suffixing acronym is much more than a name; it is a statement on unity, an affirmation of the 1987 Unity Accord.
What is being suggested by its reinterpretation? I have recalled how one day a conversation with Mutasa revealed him to be an embittered Secretary General.
He complained that the late Msika was his equivalent once upon a time, as National Chairman.
Following the death of late Vice President Nkomo, Msika “zoomed” past him to become the next Vice President. The late John Nkomo became his equivalent in the same Office of National Chairman. Again death intervened and John Nkomo “zoomed” past him, creating a new equivalent by way of S.K. Moyo. “Now that Nkomo is dead”, cried Nyati, “am I to witness S.K. zoom past me again? Ndofira pahuSecretary for Administration because of the Unity Accord? Chimbopawonaiwo tezvara!”
This conversation, seemingly playful then, now so decidedly profound in hindsight, adds to the portends of dispensing with “Patriotic Front” for “People First”. And then you have a whole paranoid rhetoric built around liberation credentials, whose extravagant dimensions include claims of founding the party.
Surely zanu was not founded in the 1970s? And anyway, what has that to do with your electability?
Not so to this point
And the fatal reference to alliances with MDC formations. A fatal reference to Itai Dzamara. A blackmail argument that strip me of vice presidency and I begin to ask questions about how my late husband died! Is that all it takes for her to accept her husband’s death? Or to reject it after so long a sweet silence?
The debacle around Mutasa’s nomination for the Headlands by-election suggest absolute confusion. Your very court action over your dismissal limit your electoral options? Meanwhile the first round of such court action makes the viability of the course itself doubtful? Where are you headed for? Clearly the sharp anger coming through Gumbo and Mutasa, both her ecolytes, suggest mounting frustrations, not an unfolding strategy.
Whatever else happens, it is clear that Mujuru and company are set to be bystanders, bystanders from their so-called Mount Pleasant safe house. But one would have hoped for a better strategy, much better political pronouncements from her.
Not so to this point.