Reason Wafawarova on Monday
It has become common practice that political foes often depart from the conventional meaning of common vocabulary with astonishing flaccidity, that one would think they take the world to be populated with retards that are so gullible that they just swallow contrived meanings for absolute realities.
The conventional meanings of such terms as dictator, tyrant, authoritarian, totalitarian, sellout, puppet, terrorism, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, patriotism, national interest, democracy, human rights, rule of law and many such terms are often far different from the political meanings that are contrived by one group of politicians against their rivals.
This is common in domestic politics of nation states as it is common in global politics. The United States would prefer to talk about “disproportionate use of force” when they feel they have to criticise the habitual Israeli atrocities in the Palestinian occupied territories, while most people have argued that Israel has habitually committed gross crimes against humanity in that region. There are several UN resolutions to back this, much as they have been ignored.
It, however, becomes so easy for the United States to use the phrase “crimes against humanity” when they are commenting on the Syrian conflict, or what we heard them say with the Zimbabwe 2008 post-election violence after the first round.
By definition terrorism has become an act of others against the “civilised world”. To some it has become the exclusive label that the West has bestowed upon itself as a targeted victim of this barbarity since September 11, 2001.
When Barack Obama drone-bombed 156 innocent civilians in southern Afghanistan in 2008, Hillary Clinton described the act as “regrettable”, and that was at the worst. There was no suggestion whatsoever that this could have been an act of terrorism. The perpetrators and the victims were vice versa, so it could not possibly be terrorism.
In fact, Obama just beefed up the US military with another 30 000 troops so that such an anomalous mishap did not recur ever again. That was the thinking at White House.
The official cause for the US military occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 has always been “pre-emptive defence” and it must make sense that the United States and its allies went into Afghanistan in defence of their homelands. That is of course ludicrous, but it would not do to say the US and its allies went into Afghanistan to install a puppet government of their choice, so they could encircle China, their greatest economic rival.
There are two reasons why what happened in Afghanistan was not an act of terrorism. Firstly, the victims were not Westerners; and most importantly the attackers were not Arabs.
That is the limited and contrived political meaning that has been attached to the term terrorism. It is always an act of others against the West, and cannot be an act of the West against others. We cannot say the bomb attack at White City was an act of terrorism without sounding funny. Terrorism as it is known today does not happen at stadiums in an African country, or so is the perception.
It has never really mattered that Guantanamo Bay is a state established torture base running on its own laws and virtually unaccountable to any authority. Real torture happens in primitive countries run by egregious dictatorial regimes.
There are very good reasons why Tendai Biti badly wants to paint Mnangagwa as a ruthless butcher of innocent and defenceless civilians, even throwing emotion-draining statics to back up that baseless label.
In order to ensure that Emmerson Mnangagwa loses Election 2018, Biti badly wants Zimbabwe’s leading Presidential candidate to be forced to wear the black armband of the country’s dark post-independence history. Him alone should wear that black armband, and him alone should atone for all the wrongs. If Mnangagwa is crucified politically, his demise becomes the end of the atrocities, the closure to the dark chapter — the ultimate price by which everyone’s shed blood is atoned.
Robert Mugabe and his sorry excuse for a wife can be exonerated and allowed to back Tendai Biti’s MDC-Alliance financially and in kind, while Mnangagwa is vicariously held accountable for whatever sin can be attributed to the Mugabe government of the eighties.
Genocide becomes a political term only relevant in fighting to win electoral battles. So it suddenly applies only to those politicians contesting elections, while those that were Commanders-in-Chief of the times of the alleged atrocities are roundly forgiven and embraced as allies by people like Tendai Biti.
So Biti and other people like Kate Hoey can freely anoint themselves custodians of all Ndebele memory, if only to demonise the person of Mnangagwa. Even Didymus Mutasa thinks Mnangagwa is a very unlucky man to be solely targeted as the chief architect of the atrocities associated with the Gukurahundi Campaign.
The man was neither the Commander-in-Chief nor the Defence Minister of the time, but somehow those that occupied these strategic positions are hardly ever mentioned when Gukurahundi is brought up as an election matter, not as a regrettable atrocity deserving a decent healing closure as the case should be.
It is when political rivals in countries like Zimbabwe become rowdy and lawless to the point of brutally attacking each other on behalf of politicians that we begin to hear that there is such a thing as “state systematic human rights abuse”. We know what violence did to our image as a country in the past dispensation, and we must celebrate the democratic space being enjoyed today as we head for the July 30, 2018 election.
We are coming from an era where politicians would feel free to declare anyone who did not support their own political party undemocratic or tyrannical while others would maintain that anyone outside their political party was inherently unpatriotic.
Even now we hear people who say supporters of ZANU-PF are insane or idiots, and we have seen Mnangagwa dissuading any labels on supporters of other parties. That is commendable.
For Zimbabwe, one gets this dogmatic obsession with the polarity that says all Zanu-PF supporters are a lawless undemocratic bunch of thugs, while the other side has largely held that MDC supporters are inherently an unpatriotic treacherous lot, and insidious by their very nature.
So by definition, a Zanu-PF supporter cannot be treacherous, unpatriotic or insidious; and likewise an MDC supporter cannot be undemocratic, lawless or a thug. These labels are used as political identity tags, not as rational terms based on merit of action by those so-labelled.
We hear politicians from the MDC-Alliance are by definition efficient and transparent while those politicians from the ruling party are by definition inept, corrupt, unaccountable, and a thieving lot. This is despite all evidence that merit and demerit are essentially found across the political divide. One is never meritorious by political affiliation, but by earned personal integrity.
The conventional meaning of corruption, efficiency, transparency or accountability does not matter in political circles; especially during electioneering periods like now. Only labels do matter.
It is such ludicrous labels that make politicians so unaccountable — labels that say MDC people cannot sin and Zanu-PF people cannot practise any form of holiness.
Until supporters of ZANU-PF can accept that ED Mnangagwa is fallible and capable of making mistakes, politicians will remain immune to accountability.
Until MDC-Alliance supporters start accepting that Nelson Chamisa makes as many mistakes as he makes sense, we can only create yet another generation of iconised and idolised unaccountable political heroes who will not hesitate to criminalise dissent and criticism. It is blind loyalists that create despots and dictators. There is no one who is born a dictator, and there is no one who can be a successful dictator without the support of willing blind loyalists.
A writer published by The Herald, like this writer is often considered biased and a lapdog of ZANU-PF, even before he writes the first sentence of any of his articles. The label says The Herald is a mouthpiece of ZANU-PF, and yet even Robert Mugabe attacked the same paper’s editorial policy during the last days of his reign.
Tendai Biti can rant and call ED Mnangagwa a “thief”, a “butcher” and a “murderer” and he will get hailing coverage in some papers. Terrence Mukupe labels Tendai Biti a sick man failing to take his tablets on time, and suddenly some people from Biti’s corner remember ethics and the rights of sick people. There is a sudden vociferous collective defence of all sick people and their esteemed rights because one of their own has been attacked on radio.
Of course, there was neither concern nor worry about any sick people out there, let alone their right to privacy as proclaimed. All this was a huge façade of contrived empathy meant to abuse morality for political expediency and gain.
If the plight of Gukurahundi victims can be hijacked for political expediency why should HIV/AIDS victims be an exception? In politics if your plight is dire enough to attract the sympathy vote there will be no hesitation to exploit it — no sense of guilt either.
So if you are Zimbabwean, you can pick any online anti-ZANU-PF publication and you can write and deride, vilify and ridicule anything Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF all you like; and you are still a very objective and unbiased writer worth of accolades and rewards. That is the mentality in our opposition supporters.
Issues of hate speech; bias and slander are limited as acts solely carried out by those perceived to be sympathetic to ZANU-PF. Only these are capable of egregious intellectual crimes.
One of the most sensationalised accusations one can ever face today is being labelled an anti-Semitist.
In 1988, the George Bush Senior campaign was marred by accusations of being littered with Nazis.
There was this part of the campaign that was called the “Ethnic Outreach Committee” which was aimed at organising ethnic minorities for support.
Obviously that did not mean blacks or Hispanics.
It meant Ukrainians, the Polish, Romanians and SOME such other important minorities.
It turned out that the committee was being run by a bunch of East European Nazis, hysterical anti-Semites, former Iron Guard Romanians and such other people, or at least the allegations ran.
When this got exposed some of the people were reshuffled, some were hidden in back scene positions in the Republican Party, and all just passed rather quietly. The Democrats surprisingly never raised the issue during the election campaign.
There was a very good reason why the Democrats did not say anything about the issue. They were silenced by such pro-Republican Party Jewish organisations like the Anti-Defamation League.
These organisations do not care in the least about anti-Semitism; what they really care about is opposition to the policies of Israel — or more precisely opposition to their own hawkish version of these Israeli policies. This is what constitutes anti-Semitism to them.
They are basically Israeli lobby groups and they understood that these Nazis in the Bush campaign were quite pro-Israel, so there was nothing to worry about.
The New Republic, which is almost a mouthpiece for these Jewish groups, carried out an editorial on anti-Semitism, and it referred to the fact that this committee was being run by anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and Nazis.
The editorial went on to say, yes; that was all true, but it said this was just “antique and anaemic” anti-Semitism.
To them this was not terribly important and there was no need to worry too much about it. They then argued that the real anti-Semitism that was a real worry were the “Jew haters” in the Democratic Party.
The evidence provided was that the Democrats were actually willing to discuss and debate a resolution calling for Palestinian self-determination at their national congress, and therefore they were the “Jew haters”, and that was the real anti-Semitism in the United States.
The Democrats got this message very clear and they went absolutely silent and they never raised a peep about the Nazis in the Republican Party. They were so scared of being labelled “Jew haters” that they avoided the topic altogether.
This writer has had feedback labelling him an anti-Semitist because of criticism for Israeli atrocities in the Palestinian occupied territories, and threats of all sorts have been issued in the name of fighting a “Nazi”.
This is how vocabulary is politicised for the benefit of those that wield forms of political power and their cheerleaders.
We used to have the West viewing the MDC as democratic and ZANU-PF as dictatorial, but that seems to be changing quickly since Mnangagwa took over from Robert Mugabe.
The MDC Alliance clearly does not want that the change, and that is why Tendai Biti keeps saying Mnangagwa is a murderous dictator by historical labelling. He cannot. and will not reform even if he does. Biti will not allow it. Zimbabwe badly needs a murderous Mnangagwa if the opposition will ever win an election. It is a risible analogy that serves well to the opposition’s propaganda model.
The first quarter of 2018 had the MDC-T dominating statics as the most violent party for the period. There is no party with a monopoly of violence in Zimbabwe, but the opposition propaganda model feeds on the rhetoric that says only ZANU-PF is capable of violent behaviour.
If truth were to be told, ED Mnangagwa has ushered in the most peaceful era in Zimbabwean politics since 1980.
Those that have always thrived on painting ZANU-PF in bad light are not happy with the current peaceful atmosphere in the country. They are dying to see violence on the political front; so they can discredit ZANU-PF for it.
This is why Nelson Chamisa absurdly claimed that the thugs that brutalised Thokozani Khupe and Douglas Mwonzora at Tsvangirai’s funeral were in fact ZANU-PF supporters. It was a laughable claim that did not impress at all.
It is important that we understand political language for what it is if we are going to develop real democracy in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death.
Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia