Zimbabwe: The curse of foreign affairs illiteracy

Cde Mutasa

Cde Mutasa

The Other Side with Nathaniel Manheru
I have just been reading Didymus Mutasa’s interview with the South African Mail and Guardian newspaper, and two things stand out in the welter of words he spewed.

First, the pronominal “we” is slowly sloughing off, drying and dying as the former Secretary for Administration begins to come to terms with the hard fact that his may turn out to be a long, lonely meander to nowhere.

The only being he can only count on is his loyal wife from the seventies. Not even his much talked about concubines. The imaginary throng he visualised, sadly has given way to inchoateness, both at home and abroad.

Costly face, tongue

Equally, he is realising that beyond shared grief, there is little else that binds him to the “rest”, assuming the word does not suggest some modicum of coherence to those thrown out at the December Congress.

If anything, the former Vice President is waking up to the huge cost that Mutasa is as the face and tongue of her post-Congress politics, whatever these may be.

With his UK-derived media antics of grabbing headlines through the outrageous, Mutasa is the worst face and tongue for a fledgling cause, the worst face and tongue for the tortuous political courtship by which formative politics are launched, which is probably why the Danish and Swedish backers and advisers of the political experiment would rather the ex-vice president relies on tongue-less doers like Goche.

No mind, no words

Much worse, he is just realizing that he does not have the mind to evolve an encompassing vision that both vindicates him beyond charges of bitterness and loss of patronage, while mobilising the broad masses for a “sugarcandy” mountain-top that enraptures him, that transports him into lonely but delectable salivation.

Put simply, Didymus Mutasa is an arthritic thinker, plain and boring in speech, a put-off by way of visage. And I am not talking about handsomeness, which would not redeem Makoni, his home-mate.

I am talking about ability to mobilise one’s features into appealing political histrionics. Tekere did it very well, reinforced by pithy, yet loaded political phrases. Didymus is no Edgar.

Not at all, which is why he shall remain behind self-made bars!

Renouncing the land

Second, for the first time, his messaging went beyond personalities to address policies. He regrets passing the land reform policy. In his own words: “We have taken away people’s land and we are not making good use of those farms”.

People’s lands? Which people? White farmers? It is a repudiation of the struggle done in few words. And for a man who fancies his political glory around the person of Rekayi Tangwena, our National Hero and face of land rights, that amounts to a profound self-recast, well away from liberation politics.

Could this throw a hint at his real politics? That his extreme posture on the land issue was a fraud by a Rhodesian hand? Where will he be buried, now that he has divorced the land?

The powerful man who did not know

He regrets the Look East policy. In his own words: “I have always wondered about our Look East policy that confines Zimbabwe to Russia and China”.

And then his overall lamentation: “You then see how faulty some of our policies are.

“You never think about them clearly and they are given to you in a memorandum and when you meet your Cabinet and Politburo colleagues to discuss them, you are told there is no time and we move to other issues”.

He has taken a dig at two key policies of Zanu-PF, more specifically of President Mugabe.

And regrets any association with them, in fact pleads that these “faulty” policies were hurried past him in the name of time insufficiency.

Hurried past the Secretary for Administration? Hurried past the Minister of State Security?

Hurried past Minister of Presidential Affairs? Hurried past a former Minister of Lands?

Ha ha ha! And he sat there, glistening like a happy Buddha while wrong policies were gliding past him, this man who is our hope for cleansing Zanu-PF!

This man who only sees faults when he is thrown out of the laager? It sounds remarkably dishonest, hardly the kind of politics that edifies, let alone mobilise.

Reshaping for Europe

Yet there is some rhyme to the madness. Firstly, poor Didymus is on the beauty ramp, coquettishly selling his bodily wares.

Around the ramp are numerous suitors, each looking for something bold and beautiful.

And because the suitors are all Westerners, they needed the missus to be trim in built, splayed at the back. Pity this African model, what with her roundedly fecund African bodily features.

So to win, she has to inhale, to suck in her African-ness so she reshapes the European way. And she knows what appeals to European tastes. The fight between Zanu-PF and the West has been over Land and the Look East policy. Didymus knows that.

He knows, too, that those who clean a smelly toilet cannot have something between their hind muscles! They need a wet wipe first, which is what this poor man from Headlands is trying to do.

In one interview he had sought to reshape. But with soiled hands, soiled, broken tissue. The attack on the land and Look East policy was a bold but bald attempt to attract Western political and financial patronage.

And what a huge cost to himself and the ex-Vice President.

Defeat that inverted governing policy

If truth be told, what we now get from Mutasa as criticism of the status quo, is in fact a filtered disclosure of the policy blueprint the cabal mobilised around, and hoped to govern with, had their project succeeded.

It is that blueprint which had won them western support, indeed that blueprint which made them birds of a feather with the MDC formations. I hinted at that in one of my instalments.

But many of their followers did not know about this. They were going to reverse land reforms. They were going to reopen Zimbabwe to western business interests, indeed govern by playing subaltern to those interests.

The symbolism of ACR in the whole equation is quite instructive. The symbolism of Innscor, the personification of Kaukonde, have to be borne in mind all the time, when working out the political lineaments of this group. The symbolism of joint ventures in sprawling conservancies, too, is instructive.

Some day, we shall knead together these business interests to trace and explain to political mores which animated the group. But Mutasa has given away a bit, maybe too much for comfort. He, too, has armed Zanu-PF, clearly revealed what he means by “cleaning” Zanu-PF.

I am sure the PC will have a field day. Over to you Big Youth!

Like grade seven illiterates

I have closely followed the way Zimbabwe’s ascendancy to AU chairmanship has been discussed and reported, and my heart sinks, sinks deeper and deeper.

When it comes to Foreign Affairs, we discuss and debate like Grade Seven literates. I blame it on an opinionated media which seeks to reproduce its own shallowness by riding on ignorant activists who masquerade as intellectuals.

The sites of opinions have become habitual, and therefore predictable. And the human form of these sites hardly number beyond the unwise, the uneducated ten. I could name them for you, gentle reader.

A collection of reflexive Zanu-PF and Mugabe haters who know nothing beyond spewing vitriol. And an intricate subject like foreign policy reduces to angry expletives, personal hate! Cry the beloved country.

Don’t we deserve better, this country with so many multiple masters, so many PhDs, so many retired ambassadors and diplomats, so many retired diplomat-scholars?

Does anyone in the media know Professor Hasu Patel? Why would you invite those dimwits to yell and prance, yes, to crowd out real huge minds who know?

Opponents and surrogates

Certain sections of our know-it-all media exhibit a strange kind of narcissism.

Like creatures of vanity, they love to see themselves reflected in their mirrors. They hunt for opinions that echo their own deeply held hates and prejudices.

We are Daily News, and wedded to MDC; we only look for opinions that belittle Mugabe, Zanu-PF. We are NewsDay; we must never be seen to pay a cheer to government. That amounts to supporting Zanu-PF.

We are Zimbabwe Independent; we can laud foreign Governments, work with them even, but never with our own as that amounts to being less independent. Real habitual journalism, carrying no shifts, no surprises, for anybody. All this creates two reflexes: a ruling party that dismisses offhand, that no longer listens, to such media; an opposition that expects surrogacy in what is supposed to be a full estate in its own right.

It makes the one obdurate, the other expectant, both damaging to the fourth estate. The sum is a cynical, polarised country in which buying, reading and holding a newspaper, becomes a personal political statement.

Lamentably, Zimbabwe evolved split, evolves unserved by a media one could call national. It’s a mutually reinforcing and legitimating downward spiral.

Professional self-immolation

The facts are plain. After so many years of low-profile, even self-engrossed politics, Zimbabwe emerges doubly crowned.

She is chair of Sadc. She is chair of the African Union.

And her people see nothing in both honours, except a Robert Mugabe who must be tripped, reviled incessantly, even to levels of denying and repudiating these two achievements!

Is it not possible to cheer for your country, while indulging and savoy ring your hate impulse for a politician you don’t like?

And what is supposed to be a national discourse on an international honour reduces to village expletives? Is this how small and self-flagellating we have become?

Or more accurately, how we have allowed intensely self-frustrated persons to fill public space, dominate national discourse?

And as already indicated, it is a very narrow circle, a small group of little, angry men and women, clearly ignorant, unremittingly bitter. For them reality begins and ends with Robert Mugabe, Zanu-PF. There is no President of the State of Zimbabwe, only president of Zanu-PF for; there is no Zimbabwe, only Zanu-PF!

And this bitter cabal will poison debate on practically anything, efficiently syndicating their bitterness, personal failures and predicament, in order to make it sound like a national condition.

When sanctions will go

The truth of the matter is that Zimbabwe stands tall, thanks to deftly executed foreign policy moves that have left sanctioning Europe in a quandary.

Both at a subregional and continental level, the West has to reckon with a leading Zimbabwe. And that means the West will have to reconcile this hard fact with their illegal sanctions against us.

Whatever equivocations the West might indulge in, by this time next year European sanctions against us will be a matter of memory, and effete threats.

Europe cannot go back to that ruinous policy, ruinous to it and to us. And this is not a sudden shift. It is a process which has long been underway, with Europe making key concessions, little by little.

Most of these went unnoticed by our carping seers who imagined European policy on Zimbabwe was about cuddling and keeping the so-called civil society afloat. As if the civil society mattered to Europe, mattered at all beyond being a tool for keeping white farmers on the land, the Chinese out of the mining sector.

Today, while these ignorant commentators are transfixed with Mugabe and Zanu-PF, none of them notices that Europe has released its EDF to Zimbabwe, with bridging finances going directly to Government, no longer via dubious NGOs!

That is key and telling whither these relations are going.

What the Sadc and AU chairmanship did was to reinforce the anti-sanctions bloc within the EU, while weakening and creating a big dilemma for the UK and her handful of obdurate allies.

Clearly foreign policy has redounded to domestic politics and prospects. Maybe that is why there is this visceral anti-Mugabe feeling within these narrow quarters.

Dislodging neo-liberal thinking

Secondly, Zimbabwe has got more than two chairs. It has got its philosophical outlook on Africa embraced. Tried and tested at home, this high-stakes outlook, whose key tenets are founded on full sovereignty, has now become a Sadc issue, an AU issue, and thus a continental preoccupation.

Influencing Sadc would have left the other African subregions unaffected. Assuming AU chairmanship thus gives Zimbabwe the locus standi for selling its vision to the whole continent.

The issues of resource nationalism and resource beneficiation, matters we have been grappling with nationally, are now firmly on the continental agenda.

We have sold a governing ethos, the first time ever that the hitherto abiding neo-liberal thinking has been challenged and dislodged on the continent. It is a seismic shift, brought about by political defiance now seeking economic expression and a buttress. And to get the AU to fund itself: by way of the recurrent budget; by way of 75 percent of its capital budget; by way of 25 percent of its peacekeeping efforts, is to make the first step towards greater autonomy. To pool efforts towards value addition of Africa’s primary resources is, without doubt, to deliver a telling blow against age-old dependency. Above all, just to get these items up on the agenda, programmatically so by way of Agenda 2063, is a major blow against neo-colonialism.

When Rome does not see its greatness

You cannot pooh-pooh such a major epistemological and programmatical breakthrough on the basis that Zimbabwe’s chairmanship is year-long. To do so is to exhibit ignorance on how international bodies work, and how their resolutions shape succeeding leaderships, succeeding times.

Where both Sadc and AU have been such perfect creatures of continuity, contriving such a creative rupture amidst an abiding inertia, is victory enough.

That Zimbabweans have not woken up to this key contribution by its leaders, to the African cause, need not diminish the contribution itself.

And that the foreign policy breakthrough is beginning to benefit Zimbabwe, raise her prospects even, this will happen regardless of what editorial direction our media are wont to take. And having hit the bottom, Zimbabwe can only rise. The late Dr Mudenge used to put it well: that Rome has not woken up to its greatness, does not diminish it.


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