WHAT nuggets of wisdom can EU’s outgoing Van Damme possibly conceive and donate to this society? He has been here for well over his term, all the time brewing untold mischief only blunted by efficient counter-measures in defence of the Republic.
True to character, this last act was to sponsor a vexatious challenge against the national broadcaster, a challenge fronted by the dutiful MISA.
Undeterred by its dubious standing as the Dutchman’s organisational prop, MISA availed itself for the brusque Dutchman’s valedictory megaphone diplomacy which no one in authority took notice of.
Long suffered, much out of diplomatic currency, he possibly couldn’t have spoken for the EU, itself Zimbabwe’s interlocutor in the field of diplomacy. That made his seemingly well-meant advisory for unity and political accommodation solicitously impertinent.
Seemingly because in reality, he sought to make a case for the rescue of his sinking wards, after their disastrous street and legal shows which he not only inspired and instigated, but which he also funded and then defended when they started to unravel.
An envoy, scholar and cleric at a garage
And he tried everything under the sun to show up Chamisa and his makeshift political outfit, to whose overburdened fragile frame he kept fastening additional loads, including from quarters he would have denounced or have nothing to do with for the larger part of his tour of duty.
But desperation and adversity makes strange bedfellows, which is why all were welcome as additional matter into the ever thickening political medley, one far richer and more noxious than a witch’s brew.
Apart from the opposition and MISA, he also mobilised numberless IGOs – Inter-Governmental Organisations – including Heal Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Counselling Services Unit, to attack Zanu-PF and to vilify the country and all its democratic and legal processes.
We also saw money that bore his colour changing hands in newsrooms. It was terrible and leaves a baneful legacy in all newsrooms of the Fourth Estate of this country. Van Damme’s “elderly” “advice” to this country thus arose from a realisation that his time was up, and that his project, whose cast vastly included a well-known Catholic cleric, as well as South African-based Zimbabwe Institute’s Maphosa, had all but collapsed.
It thus was a salvage operation for all players in his employ, an I-am-sorry, let-me-do-something-for-you operation. Apart from being a salvage operation, it was bedimmed by the very terrible things Van Damme and his office did, in flagrant violation of the requirements of the Vienna Convention.
The advice was thus never about this country, which is why no right-thinking Zimbabwean must ever concede, let alone prodigally impute goodwill to this tall man of taller, destructive tales.
Soft props of imperialism
Which provides an opportune moment to remind us of age-old subterfuges of imperialism, which though often forgotten, are well illustrated in and by our own history. From slavery right up to colonial conquest of our continent, imperialism always worked behind soft, lofty humanitarian props both to claim moral high ground for itself, and to minimise domestic opposition for national mobilisation for its wars abroad.
The false justifications for slavery and its abolition are well documented to warrant repetition here. Suffice to say that at the height of slavery, blame was placed on African warrior tribes that fought and brutalised lesser communities, and never on trans-oceanic slavers who created and armed demand for African slaves.
And when returns from slave labour began to diminish, further aggravated by serious violent insurrections best typified by slave communities in Haiti, the enslaving West invented a William Wilberforce to develop a saving, disengaging ideology out of slavery. Either way the West won, and still wins by way of chronicles of self-sponsored Eurocentric historiography so rife in our unreconstructed schools curricula.
Saving a dark, heartless continent
The West – so goes this perverted historiography – saved captured African slaves who would have been butchered anyway, had they remained on so violent a continent. No mention is made of the labour needs on vast Western plantations which were at the heart of slavery. No mention of horrid killings and dreadful rapes before, during and after dehumanising transoceanic journeys.
The same West – continues the narrative – stopped slave trade in order to import and impart missing humanity on “the dark and heartless continent”. Again no mention is made of the diminishing returns from slave business, including labour displacements because of growing mechanisation from the industrial revolution, the latter which raised the spectre of a restive black underclass in the heart of the Western world.
Scar on conscience narrative
And when honest history threatens to overtake this dominant but false do-good narrative, a human contrivance by way of an emblematic contrite Tony Blair is dispatched to mournfully regret “this scar on the conscience of the world”, thus providing a new entry into revised historiography which is meant to project the West as a remorseful civilisation.
And to more. A whole industry of “Truth and Reconciliation” is unleashed upon the world, ostensibly to perfunctorily and psychologically atone for white sins of the past at no cost, but fundamentally to commission and popularise a new global ethic and standards for trying and convicting children of the same enslaved race of Africans – now in self-governing, post-colonial circumstances.
Those brutalised in the past at no reparation, get hurled into second dungeons on legal and moral precepts founded on misdemeanours of the slaver! Donor funds – again from the same sinful West- are poured into the continent to fund NGOs agitating for “truth and reconciliation” a.k.a. “transitional justice” conveniently defined as post-dating slavery and colonialism, and immovably stuck in post-independence political circumstances.
Three Cs, three Gs
Fast-forward to the onset of colonialism. Van Damme’s predecessors clothed the discourse of a new kind of conquest around the three holy Cs – Christianity, Civilisation and Commerce. And to clean the last C – Commerce – of any imputation of ungodly greed and impiety, commerce becomes a new global measure and standard for the Civilisation of nations, while also being purveyed as a humane antipode to slavery.
Once couched that way, the likes of Livingstone, the Moffats, Knight-Bruce, Depalchine, etc, etc, easily waft and oscillate between gospel and gold, without any sense of sinful contradiction. In fact three Gs are also invented to complement the three Cs – God, Glory and Gold.
As with the last C, the last G is turned into a universal standard and base for transactional value, thus making its pillage and accumulation an entrepreneurial imperative and a baseline of a “dismal” science called economics. In the “free world” dismal because of its dire conclusions; for erstwhile slave and occupied communities dismal because of its violent foundations.
Goose and gander
Gentle reader, the import of this dash into history should not be lost to us. It is to warn you that when the West – through its representatives like Van Damme – go moral, it is time to pull or draw your revolver! For there is no Western do-gooder, indeed no good advice from that quarter.
If there was, the likes of Van Damme would have been ministering the same to the United Kingdom in the aftermath of Brexit, and to Australia whose leadership turnover today defy all historical precedent. Why is GNU not the panacea for all divided nations, foremost those in the West? Surely charity begins at home, and not in ex-colonies? And if it is so good for the slave, why is it so bad for the slaver? So, caveat emptor!
God was not in it
The Constitutional Court sat to a flawless live-cast by the national broadcaster. Barring the Van Damme-sponsored, MISA-fronted court challenge which was happily dismissed with costs, the whole sitting proceeded smoothly. We now have the court’s judgment – a unanimous
one at that. ED’s win stands confirmed, confirming that for the losing Chamisa, God was not in it! The Almighty could not have been happy, what with the false, Pentecostal piety that dressed a naked and precocious love for power. But that is not my focus, as it is not my wish to aggravate the state of double defeat.
Our South African advocates
I know a good many of my readers took home different things from the proceedings, which in my estimate is more critical than the fairly predictable conclusions of the court. It is fair to surmise that some in our midst concentrated on the arguments relating to the merits of the case, especially once the preliminary points had been deposed and retired.
Still others concentrated on two lonely and seemingly bemused advocates from South Africa, both hyped beforehand as part of the complainant’s “A” legal team. I happen to know a thing or two about these refulgently packaged South African lawyers: professionally they rank low, rank so low in South Africa’s current and recent legal history that one wondered why there was so much hype about their inclusion in the Chamisa legal cast.
Ask any lecturer in local law faculties if at all either of the two advocates are associated with any path-breaking case or argument, and what you get is a scornful scoff. It is this propensity – almost creeping to national notice – to grovel before anything foreign, however grub, which I find not too good for national self-esteem. We must believe in our own, sing praises for our own.
To issue or not to issue
And this attempt to slight Zimbabwe’s sovereign decision not to issue permits to the two. Why? It is no secret that Zimbabwean-accredited lawyers are not allowed to appear in South African courts. And South Africa is right to debar them. Which is what makes it imperative for Zimbabwe, minimally on grounds of reciprocity, to do the same.
Each jurisdiction has its own requirements which must be respected, which build its own sense of superiority, however ill-founded or unmerited. Those requirements express confidence in own standards, and advance own economic interests, apart from underlining a country’s sovereignty. Litigation is big business, and it is no sin for Zimbabwe to claim a portion of it.
Between Chitepo and Kanengoni
What was my take-home? Well, basically two-fold. Foremost was this massive display of national intellect, much of it lodged in youthful craniums. I felt good, still do. Very good to share the same political and jurisdictional space with the fine men and women who represented the vying sides.
That sense of pride got impregnably fortified each time my eyes roved across the men and women who sat on the Bench. The blending ages; the blending and well-balanced gender; the probing minds. I repeat: here was gargantuan national intellect on show, making any foreign legal inputs both superfluous and a spiteful smack on earned and deserved national honour. Zimbabwe has got intellect, arguably second to none. Until one reads this national faculty against history, one is inclined to dismiss this as an inane brag by an incorrigible nationalist. It is not.
Those who went to university in the early 1950s – colonial ‘50s – will tell you of a strongly held white view that Africans were incapable of reading law. The African mind, so went this white lore, was concrete, cognitively speaking. Too concrete to grasp abstract concepts on which the whole discipline of law revolved.
I was going to say “fulcrum”! We have come a very long way to be here; we carry many wounds and bruises, many of them still weeping. Between Herbert Chitepo and young Kanengoni lie generational piles and piles of racist spite and disdain, which is what makes this faculty worth celebrating. Well done our legal system, and all those manning it.
Not a fragile, failed state
Secondly, Zimbabwe is a functioning State. It has institutions that are fully functional, and that are a formidable prop to its democracy and rule of law.
A functioning State shows in times of great challenges when great and far-reaching decisions have to be made.
Frankly, I don’t think the court challenge passed for a great national question. For me what was is the ante-ceding plebiscite, out of which emerged this electoral dispute, one completely needless in my view. Except democracy does precisely that: throw up needless vexations which are meant not so much to resolve anything substantive, as to test and broaden a nation’s threshold of tolerance.
And its capacity for dispute management and resolution in readiness for a rainy day when real, substantive matters arise. Beyond this, nuisance trials such as the just-ended one before the Concourt, are an opportunity to demonstrate to a doubting world that Zimbabwe is no candidate for responsibility to mind and protect, itself a new neo-colonial precept passed under the watch of Kofi Annan, the late departed.
This is a key message to people like Van Damme and systems and values they represent and espouse respectively. For here was -in process, deed and decision – a confounding answer to an abrasive Western scholarship that Zimbabwe is at best a “fragile” state, and at worst a “failed” state.
Better than walking on water
Its legislature gave it the legal framework within which to hold a complex result whose sheer integrity was borne out by the hard-to-predict, hard-to-reduce, even harder-to-interpret result which the July 30 plebiscite gave us.
Its Executive orchestrated a plebiscite where its institutions would step back from association with the ruling party, all to lay ground and context for an even contest. Now, its judiciary has stepped in to resolve a dispute arising from a contested outcome and process, all in ways that uphold the rule of law, and done in full view of a stunned world.
Justice has not only been served; it has been seen being done and being served, literally! All the three pillars of the State have played their respective roles, all in sequenced symphony.
Within a period of seven short months, Zimbabwe has delivered two telling miracles, arguably far more astounding than walking on top of water. What began as a doubtful and fore-damned process, has turned out all good, too good to be ours for the likes of Van Damme. Yet it is, whatever unhappiness this delivers on the detractor’s doorstep. Or lap.
Enter the Second Republic
Let me situate these two take-aways in the larger national scheme of things. This column ran foremost in boldly rejecting as superficial marketing the notion of a “new Dispensation” by which the post-November 2017 political order was popularly known. There were three compelling reasons for that emphatic terminological rejection.
First and obviously, ages of nations are not known or labelled that way. Secondly, the post-November order was sired by actors and actions right from the womb of the pre-November 2017 political order. Nothing about actors was bodily novel, save the ideals which moved them. For here was at once a rupture and continuity, which is why the notion of “legacy” sat comfortably on the succeeding or supervening order.
Thirdly, the seven months preceding the harmonised plebiscite amounted to a tail-end of the 2013 post-poll order, but also a hyphen or interregnum between two phases: one known and largely lived and reviled as old and un-innovative; the other speculative and barely glimpsed, but awaited with angst or mixed feelings.
To call “new” what was still speculative and barely glimpsed, or even dignify it by an epochal epithet “dispensation”, was to forward-judge that which was yet to come, and doing so from the vantage of this earth while pretending to wield the omniscience and omnipotence reserved for the heavens and the heavenly. I find no better word to describe that than preposterous!
August the first
Now, against what has just happened, both by way of a landmark plebiscite and by way of the subsequent Concourt, while adding both to the policy temperament or predilection of the winner by way of how he means to run affairs of our great nation, there is sufficient grounds for anticipating the coming in of a new dispensation meriting the title of Second Republic of Zimbabwe.
That means the unique plebiscite and unique standard of operationalising the delivery of justice in sum play harbinger to the Second Republic whose countdown now begins.
In the plebiscite comes features of an enduring democracy predicated on free, fair, credible and non-violent elections witnessed by all and any keen to. In the Concourt comes the primacy of open justice and rule of law that must be the avenue for resolving disputes as and when they arise. And both constitute a new, defining ethos.
Of course in between the two events sticks out August 1, to spell to us the ugly things that may beckon should we depart from either. Not just ugliness.
Also fissures that provide room to indefatigable meddlers personified by Van Damme and his ilk. The choice should thus be obvious. True, blood was lost, which is regrettable. Except emerging political order is often coloured by blood. We are lucky not much of it did in our case, if one reads August 1 as an aftershock of November and July. And I am not being callous, only being historical.
For whom are all these messages meant? Frankly for all players. For winners who must ensure the dictates of democracy and rule of law must be entrenched and deepened for non-reversal and all-time enjoyment from the Second Republic going forward. That any regression on either, let alone both, repudiates any claims to a Second Republic.
For losers who must know that challenging authority of the State which they need and by which they would still need to govern in the event of winning, is both foolish and futile.
And the authority of the State is not just challenged through use of missiles, however rudimentary or modern. It is also challenged by dint of who you pick for allies, especially if these are outsiders. I repeat: outsiders have no place where siblings fight over their mother’s tit. None whatsoever.
Obeying the bridle of national laws
From the era defined by the 1989 World Bank report on governance on the continent until now, emphasis and focus has been on “softening” incumbent authorities for democratic governance.
Methinks the new and emerging challenge on the African continent is to cultivate a loyal opposition which submits to the bridle of national laws and courts, indeed to the bridle of national values by way of agreed pledges and other mechanisms of building respect and amity in competition.
This is the missing link, one which allows reckless politicians to over-read into their finite support base, to falsely claim the nation which, ironically, they hold at ransom and back.
For no election commands 100 percent turnout; no contestant, whether winning or losing, ever gets more votes than there are citizens. That means no contestant – not even the winner – wields the right to speak for “the nation”.
Not even all contestants put together. In our case a mere 5 million people voted, against a population of about 14 million who include non-voting stockholders, principally our children. They matter even more than votes and voters.
Those on the terraces
A big lesson for many of us on the “terraces”. Put in inverted commas because in this era of social media, the boundary between player and spectator gets blurred. Far more strident and self-righteous than the real voter was the twi-voter. He voted many times, and watched all voters without inhibition of time and space, yet without a sense of cheating or presumptuousness.
He did it all, saw it all, witnessed it all.
Above all, he judged and condemned all, he the infallible twi-voter, twi-siding officer, twi-monitor, twi-observer, twi-zec! And finally, twi-judge in the court of frenetic twi-gossip. And the winner is finally announced, there is no losing MDC Alliance voter!
Everyone was Zanu-PF, real of twi-! There is a way in which both the cheer and jeer from the terrace incites those in contest. Even more disheartening was to see churches and churchmen – themselves peace-makers and bridge-builders – entering the ring of combat and sloughing off the skin of temperance they daily propagate.
So, so sad when gold rusts. Yet democracy comprises magnanimous winners and gracious losers, both tempered by a temperate populace. We need the three ingredients to move forward. Well done Zimbabwe! Ngachirire.