The Other Side: Nathaniel Manheru
It is very easy to think it is the flash, not the flame; that burns big logs. The local media excitedly reported on the resignation of an aide of Mujuru’s Nats, in the process missing the actual burning flame of the whole story.
I mean, does it really matter to this country that a long suspiciously viewed aide to a struggling opposition politician eventually resigns?
Or that he does so after bashing open his mate’s knee-cap? What the hell has that to do with Command Agriculture? Yet there was something incredibly important in that seemingly two-phased story, which the local media totally missed.
Presumably because our sleepy media is given to conflating news with personalities, nay, given to conflating news with conflict. Which is why for them the story was the brawl, and the resignation that came in its wake.
Meanwhile a real story was unfolding near, but beneath that little brawl, the story of “a ZESN-EU workshop”. Incredibly it went unreported, even though it was itself the proverbial flame that burns deep and far!
For as already warned, the beast is in heat again. It is ready to mate, thus on a dangerous prowl. The vivid metaphor is borrowed from Bertol Bretcht who used it in a poem composed amidst ominous signs of Nazi political and military resurgence which gave the world a second major war eventually.
Not that the EU’s meddlesome politics here will create anything a quarter as cataclysmic. It is ill-fated anyway, but important nevertheless when reporting national processes, and how the meddlesome West relates to them, relates to our sovereignty.
Incredibly important in the wake of the so-called Brexit, itself a non-event for the West when it comes to the West’s neo-colonial political designs here. If that isn’t a big story, then tell me what is? And lest we share in the local media’s short memories, the resigning aide used to be with ZESN, before he left it in a huff, left it seemingly after burning bridges.
He is now eligible at its meetings! Herein lies the significance: altercations — past or present — don’t matter much for imperialism’s continuing project here. Nor does it matter from where and how you serve it. For as long as you do, which is why aides who resign, aides who get bashed, or aides who stay, can’t be the story.
Did that not happen in the MDCs before? What changed? What’s key is keeping track of the wiles of meddlesome imperialism, all the time checking its “GPS”, often made manifest through its indefatigable incarnates.
Beneath do-good stories
Or it’s dissembling moves. Such as when it pretends to feed the hungry, or support the sick, all in order to disguise huge dole-outs that oil its regime-change machinery here. It is very easy to miss the fire of imperialism, in the blinding flashes of its humanitarian gestures, all of them seemingly respectful of the sovereignty of marked, assertive nations.
Not even the public media is always immune, far more politically conscious though they may be. Only yesterday, the public media carried a “do-good” story on Sweden’s so-called $165 million, five-year official aid pledge to Zimbabwe after a long, sanctions-while.
“I have very good news to announce to you today,” opined Sweden’s Ambassador Sofia Calltorp. She added: “This is something that has been discussed for a long time (not put off the table during the sanctions hiatus!) and today the (Swedish) government made a final decision on . . . development co-operation strategy. So, I am extremely pleased to tell you that Swedish engagement in Zimbabwe is growing (read resuming!)”
Waxing lyrical about her meeting with Vice President Mphoko, the ambassador added: “We will work in three areas: the first one is democracy, human rights and rule of law, the second one is health and the third one is environment and climate.”
Nordic Trojan Horse
Now, now, now! Read this together with a recent release from USAID, claiming it saved two million hungry Zimbabweans. Then back-forward to the much-publicised EU agreement with the Zimbabwean Government in 2014, that one which foregrounded agriculture and health, while sneaking in €6 million support to political NGOs whose disbursement has since started, and then tell me what you see!
Back-forward again to comments of Britain’s lady ambassador only last week on Biometric Voter kits and again, tell me what you read. Then combine all these and extrapolate the meaning of the so-called Western development assistance to Zimbabwe!
Assistance predicated on a belief that we need more for the ballot than we need for the belly; that pledges only actualise just before we go to the polls. I hope you are not misled by the identity of nation-states of the West when it comes to Zimbabwe; that you know the game at play.
If not, then know ye that the Anglo-American regime-change political strategy here has always depended on erecting a Nordic Trojan Horse. I hope you know that, gentle reader. But all that is by the by. There is a more important issue to examine, one quite portentous for our region. A little detour though.
Well before 100 days
Donald Trump, the new US president has lobbied tomahawk missiles on Assad’s Syria. Fifty-nine, all told. The excuse for that “conscience-driven military action” has been a sarin gas attack in Syria’s Idlib province by as-yet to be identified culprits.
The UN which oversaw the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal during the Obama presidency, was supposed to investigate and establish who the real culprits are in this latest outrage.
Meanwhile, just by her latest military action, Trump’s US thinks the UN investigations are superfluous, and should not stand in the way of flying tomahawks, fifty-nine times. Meanwhile judging by the glee in the camp, the otherwise by now neutralised, sarin-hoarding, anti-Assad, American-armed Syrian rebels, think zvavo zvaita! America has been brought into the fray, and on their side!
An American president who had indicated only a few days ago that his country was not necessarily opposed to a continued Assad presidency in its fight against ISIL terrorism — a position long taken by Russia — has been chocked by this latest sarin attack into changing his position, to signal that change of policy through force in the form of missiles lobbied from the Mediterranean Sea.
Not that the attack amounts to much militarily. But its implications are both dire and far-reaching. And this column warned that the Trump’s defeat of the very badly intrusive Neo-liberal politics of Hillary Clinton and her Democrats would not presage a better, a safer world for small peoples.
It warned that even when it gets introverted, US imperialism would still go to war, aggress little, less powerful States with coveted resources. It is already happening, even before Trump’s hundred days in office.
Those little beautiful babies
Here is a snapshot analysis before we hurry elsewhere. Domestically, the attack repairs damaged relations between the new President and pro-war Washington neo-liberals who control the military, the media and the global moral bank.
Typically, Trump waxes lyrical about “beautiful little babies” killed in the sarin attack, the same children against whose entry into US as refugees he is busily erecting a legal and physical bulwark. The fallout with the war-hungry neo-liberal media led by CNN and New York Times, now stands repaired, now is cosily reset amidst the current war jingo that must unite America.
Domestically, too, investigations on Trump for his alleged association with Putin’s Russia in the run-up to American elections, stand decidedly deferred, if not blunted. By this action alone, against a country which is perceived to be a Russian ally, Trump has demonstrated he can start a proxy war that resets Russia as America’s arch-enemy. I mean, how does anyone hope to govern, even pacify, restless America without the bogey of a threatening Russia?
Domestically, two-too, the generously expended 59 tomahawk missiles need to be replaced speedily, quite a good way to ramp up the languid defence industry for the much-promised “jobs for America”.
It is not about “the beautiful little”, off-white babies of Idlib; it is about ashen-white youth of America already losing their majestic lustre from years of joblessness and economic malaise.
Late December last year, Raytheon — an American missile manufacturer — was awarded a US303,7 million contract to produce 214 tomahawk cruise missiles and spares for the US navy. By the latest attack on Syria, Trump has added 59 to that number, raising hopes of even more such grisly products, such happy jobs!
Tomahawks are less deadly than sarin gas, as the hundred Iraqis incinerated in rebel-held territory of that country will readily testify from the cemetery! Yes, domestically three-too, Trump today sloughs off the wimpy image that has dogged him from day one in office, while also balancing that off with a humanising image of a conscience, godly-led commander-in-chief of an equally God-fearing, reluctantly warring Nation. This pleases America’s far-right, all of it white!
So many birds with one tomahawk
In terms of foreign policy, well, Trump can now parade before the doubtful American people a veneer of coherence and militancy in his inchoate foreign policy. And foreign policy was his chink in armour when and as he ran against Hillary Clinton.
Today he has simplified it to generals, warships, tomahawk missiles and jobs! No need for intricate arguments, nuanced position papers! More important, he can quietly withdraw from a stand-off with China, without facing the charge of chickening out or of being weak.
Equally, he can appear to thump the nose of Russia, even after painstakingly ensuring Russia was briefed well before the attack to avert any likely fallout or confrontation in Syria, possibly beyond. And above all, he can now boastfully say to his jittery NATO allies, I can play tough, even though I am still angry you haven’t balanced books on the defence pact which is heavily weighted against America when it comes to spending.
At another level, the action requites Russia for intervening in Syria at a time when America was distracted by its ballot. Today Trump can also say I got in when Russia was distracted by the terrorist attack on its soil, in Pittsburg. And to that add the seemingly conflictual response from Russia and Turkey, suggesting strategic Turkey which in American eyes had been lost to Russia, is slowly being won back into the America fold, or at the very least getting alienated from Russia once more, given its support for this largely symbolic attack on Syria.
Lastly, Trump has tested and stretched global will against military action which is mounted outside of the UN framework. The weak response from the rest of the world means US which needs to war abroad to support its domestic industries, and to create jobs for Americans, can do more wars in future with impunity.
Compare all this with George Bush (Jnr) and Barack Obama presidency, and tell me how different Trump is. Or better still in what way Presidency makes a difference in how America is run, or relates to the rest of us.
Meanwhile, “the beautiful little babies” whose death had “a big impact — a big impact” on Trump, have been saved!
Standard and Poor ratings
South Africa has been rated “junk” by some “global” ratings agency called S&P. And S&P stands for Standard and Poor! What a tragi-comedy! “The downgrade reflects,” S&P reported, “our view that the divisions in the ANC-led government that have led to changes in the executive leadership, including the finance minister, have put policy continuity at risk . . . This has increased the likelihood that economic growth and fiscal outcomes could suffer.”
S&P is referring to the recent dropping of Gordhan, all along South Africa’s Finance Minister, and his little-known deputy in the Treasury. Seemingly without any sense of irony in the context of South Africa’s “raced” vocabulary, Business Day, which panders to white business interests, called it “a black day for the country”.
And much has happened at a symbolic level, including racist calls for black Zuma to go back to “the trees”, and Zille’s attempts to deodorise colonial apartheid. The Monday on which South Africa’s rating would be reduced, civic and opposition leaders had urged South Africans to dress mournfully black!
Soon later, on the same day, South Africa is then down-rated, triggering #blackmonday, and #zumamustfall, themselves two sides of the same coin, and both of them white-framed and driven. It recalls our own “Black Friday” in the wake of our Land Reforms and DRC interventions, although ours came much earlier than the hashtag fad.
It recalls, too, the 1980 ABM, Anyone But Mugabe, itself another white-led campaign acronym, well before this hashtag craze. But what’s in hashtag anyway? Maybe Pastor Mawarire can tell us!
By geography, colour and by history
Let me be very clear: South Africans reserve the right to love or hate their Government, their Cabinet, their President, their leaders, even their country. We do so here. They, too, reserve the right to enjoy their rainbow, even without the colour black though that rainbow may be. They are free to self-efface, whether born before, after Mandela, before 1994.
They reserve a sovereign right to do their politics as they deem fit. Like we do here, which is why we don’t countenance any interference from any quarter, themselves included. But to comment is not to interfere. Also South Africa is a part of Africa; the majority of its people are Africans. Like us. Its geography, its history and even its dominant colour, links it to the continent, and thus to the rest of us.
That puts a caveat to its latitude in doing or performing its politics, a caveat to its political discourse in so far as it implies a generic framing of blacks, of Africans, their struggles and African independence.
By the same token, we cannot wash our hands when it comes to its existential fate. And that is my entry point. Brace up, and here we go.
One reads a number of broad types of responses to the “junk” rating of South Africa by S&P, and the looming threat of more such harsh ratings.
Firstly, there is the South African government response. Expectedly, it contemptuously rejects it. That is not my point. My interest is in observations made by the South African government in that rejection.
Nomvula Mokonyane, a minister in the South African government, said: “ . . . the West can’t dictate to us . . . These junk ratings have nothing to do with financial ratings. It’s political ratings.”
Even more expressive was Gigaba, the new Finance Minister. He had this to say: (Treasury) policies, its management, its communications, must be accessible to all South Africans.”
He promised “to radically transform the South African economy, such that it works for all”, adding “there need be no contradiction between inclusive growth and radical economic transformation”.
President Zuma, his boss had early on made the other related point, but stressing the need to change the constitution in order to deliver land to South Africa’s landless: it can’t be a good constitution that creates or leaves the vast majority poor and landless. Let’s leave that for a while and move on.
Like Botha, like Berlusconi
The predominantly white-controlled and led media, closely wedded to the white business establishment gives a different argument to the development. Best typified by the elitist, Financial Mail, itself part of the so-called BDFM with which Deputy President Ramaphosa is intimately associated, this genus of reaction compares Zuma to apartheid-time PW Botha and his “Rubicon” speech, and is bitterly upset that Zuma seems to be escaping Botha’s political comeuppance, thanks to failings of both his supine cabinet and an incompetent opposition.
The language gets harsher, quite intemperate: “Not only is the head of state venal and ignorant, he also appears to be beyond the influence of advisers. Zuma has indeed gone rogue. His attitude and actions are the opposite of patriotic”.
Ordinarily, this would pass for an angry editorial, something politicians are or should be used to. But when read against the South African constitution, which provides for impeachment and no-confidence vote, and the groundswell of organised resistance to the new executive changes, the editorial is heavily suggestive of remedies which its white constituency is pushing for, possibly with grave stability consequences for South Africa. And that this constituency even dares the authorities, including reminding Zuma that “the fact is that in South Africa, the Finance Minister is not in charge of the economy”, clearly means the stakes are growing.
The Zuma contagion
The third response type comes from within the white “vlok”.
It is divided on degree and strategy, but united on goal and endgame. Hardly enamoured of Zuma, hardly recovered from the race sentiment of apartheid, it wants Zuma out, but wonders how.
Closely reminiscent of our post-Land Reform politics here, it recognises that its vastly diminished demographic numbers need to be made up for through a mobilisation and manipulation of black anger.
For that reason it has been behind #zumamustfall movement, has been behind the civic movement, the unions and the opposition-led #shutdownsouthafrica marches attempted yesterday.
We immediately recognise that, don’t we? As here, this response needs the sanction and cooperation of white businesses and white employers, who must allow their workers to leave their posts for demonstrations, but without losing their pay or daily remuneration. Except the South African white community there seeks is to do much better than our bald white farmers and industrialists did here a few years back.
It seeks to be a lot more nuanced, a lot more sophisticated in presenting its case, and in mobilising black numbers for public show of disaffection. Playing up the spectre of a “Zuma contagion”, it seeks to mobilise blacks both by anger and visceral fear. And to ensure Zuma is isolated by his racial kind, or that South African blacks do not re-group against a new type of apartheid racism now playing out in what is supposed to be a Rainbow Nation, the argument treats Zuma as a monster created by the much-hated apartheid, and thus a monster that South Africa must get rid of through an across-race, united action so as to overcome and to outlive its apartheid past and the post-apartheid grotesquery which Zuma incarnates.
Illustratively, here is Peter Bruce: “He (Zuma) epitomises the human, social, psychological and emotional damage that colonialism and apartheid did to too many South Africans.”
Still, the pseudo-centre to this racist argument hardly holds: Gigaba (the new Finance Minister), says Bruce, will find himself throwing money “at all kinds of stupid ideas”, one of which is “to get 100 black industrialists by October — none with a unique product or market”!
Walk beside, walk behind, angry blacks
A more nuanced argument from this “vlok” comes from one Hilton Johnson.
Prefaced by a disarming denunciation of all ills of apartheid, this argument even makes radical gestures meant to de-radicalise African discourse within Mandela’s rainbow spectrum: “Power is not equally shared in this country and that does not change now that we have a black government.”
Adds Johnson: “Sneering at and dehumanising Jacob Zuma and his acolytes with thinly veiled racialised stereotypes is not the right way to go because it speaks to a broader history of dehumanising black people and acting like they are ‘onnosel’. Don’t act like there is not an incredibly painful history here and don’t be self-righteous and insensitive.”
Then Johnson and his ilk expose the grand plan: “Show that you have some inkling of their (blacks) pain and that, with our history of dispossession and cruelty, you are willing to walk beside or behind them in terms of finding a way forward from here. Note that when you just respond when the finance ministry is under attack it looks like you are defending the status quo, where you have and continue to benefit”. And he clinches the strategy: walk beside, or behind, create a “broad church”.
Penultimately, we have the response of an affluently salaried or “stipended” black stratum, including those who have dressed an otherwise all-white establishment.
They know why they are there, why they have been abstracted from mainstream poverty, from township backwaters to be fastened on the margins of white privileges.
All of them above average intellectually, they know how to play their designated roles, how to bedeck them by a seemingly formidable nationalist argument. They don’t see themselves as an anomaly, but symbols of prospects for enterprising blacks living under the shadow of a long economic apartheid.
One of them is Sipho Pityana. To discharge his group obligation as a “conscious” black South African, he attacks, albeit in passing, apartheid as colonialism of “a special type”. Thereafter, he settles to his real existential purpose, namely to create a new bogey that muddies the waters, and creates false consciousness so the oppressed blacks cannot define or see who the real enemy is. He writes: there is a new special type of colonisation in post-apartheid South Africa, namely the “recolonisation of South Africa by a family of foreign traders who have captured our president, his family, and many of his associates. Remarkably they have gone from running a computer dealership to running a country.”
You guess right, he is referring to “colonisation by the Guptas”! By controlling the president, the fiscus, the finance minister, parastatals, and through a propaganda array in the way of New Age and ANN7, they have committed the “biggest heist” in South African history.
“It is time we accepted that the Guptas are no different from the string of Dutch and British governors who stole land, robbed us, denied us our national sovereignty and installed their own governors.”
Curiously, Pityana does not hesitate to sign off as “Chairman, Anglo Gold Ashanti”.
Lastly, we have a group of black writers who wonder how the landless, the poverty-stricken black mainstream, can ever join in demonstrations which are framed and led by rich, propertied whites, who soon retreat into their leafy suburbs of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape, Town, etc, etc, after the marches.
They leave their poor black darlings to troop languidly back to Soweto, Alexandra Park etc, etc, still as poor, still as hungry, still as homeless, still as landless, albeit after bouts of ephemeral white street affection.
This group harkens to the huge racial divide wrought by long apartheid, and which the successive ANC leadership has been unable to tackle or resolve.
This group, too, wonders how an argument built around ratings, around poor exchange rates, around multinational boardrooms, can ever accommodate their daily grinds and toils, they who cannot fly out on holiday, shop overseas and thus with the need for and exposure to exchange rates.
Yes, this group, too, wonders why the now roused whites are always socially apathetic when they themselves or their kind are mowed down by guns at Marikana. Or mowed down by spiralling cost of living as white businesses chase super-profits. Such is the complex discourse terrain one reads in present-day South Africa, read amidst its recent ratings downgrade. Hardly exhaustive given the sheer complexity of its struggles, dynamics and resultant perspectives.
When I wish I was there
And now to tie up the various strands. How I wish I was South African, black South African living there, now!
Without sounding haughtily condescending, I very much doubt if black South Africans grasp what is happening to them, more accurately, what is being done to them beneath this veneer of so-called non-racial, all-Nations civic protests.
I doubt that they see the racial import of this grand spectacle, this non-racial charade. This march against corruption, against a venal president, a captured fiscus, indeed against a black Monday, against “junk” status.
See that the grand spectacle amount to a happy self-immolation to white cheer? That much more important than their so-called march against junk status, is watching and seeing who is marching beside and behind them? Seeing who else worships in the broad church they think they have built or are building? To see how painfully excluded and bracketed they are in this argument which seems to encompass them?
To understand that both before and after Mandela, both before and after the Guptas, they have survived under a captured state, one which they cannot recapture under the ensuing politics as framed?
That they remain small pawns in a bigger game of a long apartheid? That the current attack on Zuma, itself hardly different in motive and make-up from the previous attack on Mbeki, which Zuma fatefully disguised, centres around white privileges which must continue undisturbed, and which their leaders are supposed to police against getting upset by themselves as “the black peril”? That a Zuma or a Gigaba who seeks to moderately transform a minuscule public sector can’t be the problem?
Same waters, crocos in the river between
Yes, that the politics of the distracting so-called xenophobia, and the equally distracting politics of ratings and Gupta colonialism are sponsored by the same entrenched forces who want underprivileged South Africa so continually on the boil, so introverted and so self-blaming, to see and read where the rain began to beat it? That the apartheid-time racial stereotypes have barely changed? That the struggles up and beyond the Limpopo are today the same struggles beyond and below the Limpopo? That beyond sharing Rhodes, we share the same settler history, get evenly framed by the same settler arguments? Above all, that the same tactics foiled here a decade ago are the same tactics being employed down there a decade later?
Does it matter that ours was a Black Friday without a hashtag, yours a #blackmonday? Matter that ours was ABM, yours #zumamustfall? Not matter that it is civic organisations, labour unions, whites and alienated business elites-cum-intellectuals on both sides of the Limpopo? Even that there is a Limpopo between us, same waters, same crocodiles in the river between? So many questions; so many perspectives, so many red-herrings. Indeed, so many struggles, false politics. I wish I could be there.
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