Nathaniel Manheru: The Other Side—
I have made a pledge to you my readers. A pledge I will always endeavour to fulfil for as long as I write. That pledge is to raise difficult questions, break taboos, speak and spill the truth, so this society confronts its warts. And its weaknesses. There is lots of duplicity which makes our country Janus-faced. It is wrong for Zanu (PF) and PF-Zapu to unite; it is right for 18 opposition parties to unite. Violence by the State is wrong; violence against the State is right. Free and fair elections are right; the ballot is not the only way of bringing down a government. Joice Mujuru is bad; Joice Mujuru is good. Ahh! A clear line of deceitful symmetry in our politics and values. Deceitful politics, which is what breeds cynicism in the citizenry when it comes to public affairs. Ordinarily, an apathetic citizenry benefits the incumbent, in this case my party, Zanu-PF. I am supposed to regale in that. But I will not. For ultimately, the defence of the country — its Constitution, its values, its history, yes, its sovereignty — reposes in an active, engaging citizenry. An apathetic citizenry, one bereft of national consciousness, tempts those seeking to challenge a country’s sovereignty. If you don’t know that, know and learn it now.
Learning from China, Cuba, Chile
Learn from the Chinese. I am referring to what the Chinese national students body did after nato warplanes “accidentally” dropped bombs on a Chinese compound in the then Yugoslavia on May 7, 1999. The national spirit was roused to incandescence. America had to apologise at the highest level. I mean Bill Clinton, then the sitting President, made an apology to China. If you don’t know that, turn to Castro’s Cuba in 1993. I am referring to what the Cuban public did when a Cuban child — Elian Gonzalez — was abducted to Clinton’s USA. The Cuban national spirit was roused, burned bright and furious, until Elian was returned. The greatest bulwark against aggressive imperialism has always been public outrage, something Allende’s Chile could not do when America abused Chile’s sovereignty, and gave that recumbent society one Pinochet who bestrode it for so long. Even God, the maker of life, appeared to have forgotten Chile, giving its tormentor a very long life. And because God is never wrong, we say he punished Chile for an apathetic populace. In the final analysis, an apathetic people get the imperialism they deserve!
Reading CIA de-classifieds
If you don’t know that, read CIA de-classifieds, with all their distorting redactions. Still you will get a clear drift of things. Whatever interventions CIA does in a country, it never wants to pit itself against public opinion in the target country. Yes, it will penetrate it, seek to manipulate it, but it starts from a popular premise. That is fundamental to subversion. You do that, then the rest falls in place. In case you doubt my analysis, just look at the US Embassy statement on our riotous situation, and tell me what you make of it. The blame is on “economic policies” of Government, itself a shorthand for our land and indigenisation policies America has never supported. Thereafter, the statement dances like a civet cat, hoping to pre-empt a hefty government comeback. Yet the “sympathies” are very clear. With that kind of support, compounded by your own sense of anger against your leadership, you have no time for detail, for nuances, for caution. You accelerate to a tipping point, American cheers ringing in your head all the time. You self-destruct, burn your country, with it, your futures.
The story of one Kadhim Sharif Hassan Al-Jabbouri
A bit of history, instructive recent history. Iraq, Saddam’s Iraq. The Americans overcome Saddam’s army, and enter Baghdad. The year was 2003. One Kadhim Sharif Hassan Al-Jabbouri — an Iraqi — is hand-picked by the American military to de-stool and dismantle Saddam’s statue, using a borrowed sledgehammer. He does that, believing that Saddam Hussein was the sum total of all that was wrong with Iraq, a human summary of all that was bad in Iraq. What he did not know was that the summary had been written for Iraq by the Americans, underhand. Those of us old enough, media literate enough, recall events of that day of pregnant symbolism for Iraq. The American soldiers had just walked in, chests still heaving from battle effort. Saddam’s army had been overrun. America’s triumphal entry. In no time, the American servicemen went for the symbols of the regime, principally Saddam’s statues. And the statues were many, all over, what with a dictator schooled by the same Americans that power is kept through edifice complexes! I remember the images of that day, all of them piped into my office by CNN, the visual propaganda side of the American invasion. First to go up the plinth of the statue was an American soldier who started battering “Saddam” with maniacal American zeal. Saddam was stubborn; he would not fall, that dictator whose person was already in hiding! In the heat of things, something happened abruptly: the impulsive American soldier was pulled down from the plinth, apparently on the orders of his commanders. Equally abruptly, an Iraqi — Hassan Al-Jabbouri — was scaffolded up, and took over the battering of the statue. Saddam, presumably now knowing this was a hand from home, then conceded, soon giving way in a dramatic fall, head first, and exposing the thin iron rode that had festooned him to the plinth, seemingly immovably. The American military withdrew, leaving euphoric Iraqis to cheer their own downfall!
Between Euphoria and Epiphany
Fast forward to July 2016. BBC tracks Hassan Al-Jabbouri down to check on how well he was doing since that iconic intervention. Right in front of cameras, the man burst into tears. Deep regret. Remorse. “I wish I had not done it. We want Saddam back!” To this day he does not know when Saddam will return. What he knows is that to this day, Iraq has not risen from that fateful fall. But — thanks to the tragic naïveté of the Iraqis — a key lesson had been given to the watchful world: imperialism disguises its own agency by giving local hand, local colour, local anger, to events in a targeted country. More important, once a tipping point has been reached, an enraged people have no time for detail, for nuance, until destruction is complete, until fires are down and all is burnt. Only then does reality — trenchant reality — set in. Calculate the time span between the heady 2003, and 2016 when the moment of epiphany returns. The reality that sets in is never a beautiful reality. Not even handsome. It draws tears, shows earth discoloured by long spilt milk.
Where America will not tread
Libya. Another example. Again televised for our learning. The small spark that started in Benghazi, on the verges of the Mediterranean soon spread, aided by a UN Resolution, facilitated by key votes from Africa and the Arab League. I repeat: aided by UN Resolution and key votes from Africa and the Arab League. Libya is part of the African continent physically, part of the Arab League religiously. A member of the UN, as we all are. After Patrice Lumumba’s fateful Congo, American foreign policy forbids American boots on the African continent. Check that out. America will use the UN, never its forces to quell disturbances on the continent, to pilfer riches. That is the rule, its rule on the African continent. With a UN Resolution, with votes from African and from the Arab League, imperialism on Libyan soil was formidably disguised. For America, a further disguise came by way of former colonial countries on the continent: Italy, France, Britain, helped by Qatar and one other Arab state. These were more visible on the ground, invading Libya. Such that when the US lobbed missiles into Libya from the sea, it achieved its military objectives while upholding its policy of intervention by proxy on the continent. But the visible force — if one it was — was Libyan, never mind multinational SAS embeds from nato countries.
Two mysteries that history might reveal
What followed was a roller-coaster, until Gaddafi is pulled out from an underground sewer pipe, and killed. Two things remain unclear to this day: one, who the actual killer was, although the mainstream media claimed it was a group of Libyans in rage. What the mainstream media never told most of us was that Gaddafi was killed — had to be killed — on the orders of Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president whose re-election bid had been financed by Gaddafi, in breach of French political funding laws. There is compelling evidence that Gaddafi was killed by a French secret agent. Someday history will enlighten the rest of us. The second mystery is of course where in Libya’s vast desert they buried Gaddafi. They did not want him to become a martyr by making his grave a site of resurgent Libyan nationalism, some day. All those deployed to bury him are dead, each group killed soon after Gaddafi’s corpse had been handed past them, or finally “buried”. Gaddafi’s burial saw many deaths of forced undertakers. Much like bin Laden whose body is eased into the ocean, after some Moslem burial rites! I am emphasising the key fact that imperialism never wants to go against popular wind, to offend against popular beliefs, including religious ones. It tries hard to be proper, to be in tune with popular sentiment, especially in the beginning when the target nation still has its mind, is still able to see clearly. Before it slides into unthinking mass hysteria where anything becomes possible.
Removing all props from Kwame
Kwame Nkrumah, that Ghanaian pan-Africanist to whom we all owe so much. His last days. Again my source is not hidden. Just key in “Kwame Nkrumah and CIA”, and watch what your computer spews out by way of CIA de-classifieds. A set of misfortunes converge to make his rule ill-fated. Ghana is in dire straits economically. Nothing moves and national poverty levels cease to be a matter of statistical indices; they become palpable, daily walking up and down the streets, scrounging in bins before retiring into dimly lit hovels for yet another hungry night. The donor countries withdraw all aid props that had kept Nkrumah going, all on borrowed time. Including on a big dam project by which he hoped to lift sagging Ghanaian spirit, by which he hoped to restore Ghana to self-belief.
and then he cried!
In that dismal time, distracted Ghana receives guests: unknown, unwanted, by way of intelligence agents from both Europe and America. They infiltrate newsrooms, public gatherings, opposition offices. Fatally, they infiltrate the security structures. To set the stage, these invisible guests sponsor a line, a propaganda line: make every Ghanaian believe their predicament owes to Nkrumah. And of course the obverse: that once Nkrumah is gone, is out of the picture, all will be happy ever after! The CIA documents reveal heart-rending scenes of Nkrumah’s last days. So too does his last known publication: a leader completely isolated, distraught, even crying in helplessness. Sooner, Nkrumah is out of the picture, seemingly because of a local hand by way of the coup. Was it a local hand? Did everything become happy ever after? Today Ghana is trying to retrieve Nkrumah back, for national inspiration. They have built a mausoleum in his honour, erected statues, again in his honour. But Nkrumah is gone, with him Ghana’s post-independence chances, and Africa’s vision!
Looking good for America
Gentle reader, as I write this piece, parts of Harare are burning. Running battles between opposition supporters and law-enforcement agents. A VVIP visitor has just left the country. Two days before, Harare had scenes of riots, apparently a foretaste of yesterday. To the west of the rioting opposition youths’ gathering point is the sprawling Harare Agricultural Showground, teeming with families: fathers, mothers, children, all hopeful of a good fun-day at the Show. All radio stations are blaring from the Showgrounds, unprotected. They have never had to be, what with the peace that always reigns here. Meanwhile a few meters away, running battles between the Police and demonstrators! Why is that possible? How is that possible, against all prior warnings, against all sensitivities? Couldn’t the demonstration have waited? Or is a right delayed already denied? How about the rights of the teeming multitudes who broke day in the hope of fun? How about Zimbabwe’s obligations to citizens of other countries — leaders at that — under international law? How about public safety, law, order, life, limb? We sacrifice all that to look good in the eyes of the West?
The story, lesson of Syria
Before I come to my point, another case study. Syria, that troubled, burning land. The beginnings of the Syrian tragedy were pretty much the same as in Libya: by cause, claim, place, timing and agency. Aleppo is your Benghazi; Assad is your Gaddafi, only with a better reflex and will to live. The rebels are the same, only more in Syria. The fighting is the same, only longer in Syria. The early players are the same, the only difference being that Assad kept the goodwill of the Russians, the Iranians and the Chinese. The key difference though is that once the tell-tale signs of an uprising were evident, Assad moved in decisively to crush it. He may not have succeeded. He may not have saved his country, some of his people. But he saved the ethos, kept the fight to this day. And as things look presently, he might win the day, what with what Turkey has now realised, and what Russia and Iran have now done. Assad may have lost peace, lost development, but he has saved a country. The trick: crack open the wafer of localism which hides imperialism – legitimises its intrusion – and face the real enemy head-on. And don’t waste time for to decide is to govern. Unless you want to capitulate to anarchy, again disguised as democracy. We can’t all fall, one nation after another, to the same ruse. Surely the best we can do against imperialism is to make it evolve new traps, new stratagems. Not to be caught by the same trap, like unthinking mice.
The shepherd who saw far
A favourite story of my father went like this. A shepherd took his flock for a graze in the vlei. Once he reached the green pastures, the happy flock fell to deep grazing, ever thankful that it had a good shepherd who knew where the nourishing pastures were found. To the sheep, the flock busily grazed, all heads down. Meanwhile a distance away, a storm was gathering, its rumble still too gentle to register in the happy, grazing flock. The good shepherd cast his long gaze in the horizon and espied dark clouds that foretold a storm building up. He wasted no time, rounded up his flock, and made for home, well ahead of the storm. Soon after penning his sheep, darts of hailstorm hit him as he sped home for shelter. Before long came a downpour, but one that found him and his flock in safety. But as he drove the flock back to the pen, there was a lot of angry bleating. The flock – its head down and mowing – did not appreciate this rude interruption by the shepherd who saw far and understood the time, the place, the urgency.
Tiny, playful palm that touched its beginnings
This opposition mess has just gone too far. The leadership has indulged it enough and, like the proverbial child playing with hot embers, the fowl-run has been gutted down. But the fowl-run is in the yard where the family compound stands in a majestic Savannah thatch. But like the run, it is combustible. When it burns, much like the fowl-run, even the playful child sleeps in the glare of the inclement elements. Or another analogy. Every father knows it is the hand, the fingers you offer your child for filial play. But only the fingers. You let the child get to your crouching knees, play with them, soon you will have yourself to blame when its innocent palm reaches its beginnings! It is only mothers who can indulge children a bit far. Even then, only with their breasts. Happily, yonder I see the shepherd driving the flock back, well ahead of the storm. I am near enough to know, literate enough to hear “Enough!” in his yell. The line has been crossed. From now onwards, it shall be another country. This so “caring” world can go hang. We have a country to protect. And govern. After all, we have hit the bottom. We can’t fall.