opinionBy Caesar Zvayi
Harare — THERE is a new man at 172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare, the United States Embassy, and he is one of our own, at least as far as skin colour is concerned.
Dare -- not Gillian please, but dare as in presume -- dare we hope he will be different from the blundering Christopher Dell, the only diplomat to be put under 24 surveillance after becoming a de facto opposition activist?
I say "we" because I know progressive Zimbabweans share my sentiments. We hope James McGee's engagement will be more than skin deep. To this end Zimbabwe, welcomes the Son of McGee and hope he will not shame the ancestors in whose loins he crossed the Atlantic to his adopted home. McGee should never forget that he is descended from slave ancestors and those who enslaved his forebears are the same people trying to preserve ill-gotten colonial gains in Zimbabwe today.
As they say, a man is known by the company he keeps. I know back home in the impoverished ghettoes not many black brothers and sisters share McGee's regard for the Republicans on whose brief he was posted to Harare. Republicans, as exemplified by George W. Bush, are too rightwing, which is why many African-Americans have traditionally voted Democrats courtesy of the synergies struck during the tumultuous civil rights campaigns of the 1960s.
Which reminds me, McGee is African-American, meaning he is African first before he is American. I hope that realisation, particularly as there is no European-American but just American, will guide him as to how he can dispense his duties here.
I am, however, under no illusion that McGee is his own man since the post he holds was bestowed on him and he is answerable to those who sent him here.
I must hasten to add, McGee need not follow the destructive path that was pursued by his predecessor Dell, a man whose unbecoming behaviour saw him get demoted and posted to the conflagration in Kabul where he can't risk the "absent-minded" wandering he had become accustomed to here as the Taliban would make him mincemeat in no time.
If Dell was an honest man, he would have told McGee how free Zimbabwe is and then maybe McGee wouldn't have made those misguided utterances before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on September 19, where he described the Government as "undemocratic, authoritarian, repressive", among other epithets.
During his confirmation hearing, McGee sounded very much like the disgraced Dell down to the refrain "If confirmed, I would continue our government's efforts in assisting the people of Zimbabwe in their pursuit of a democratically elected government that respects human rights and the rule of law . . ."
However, when he presented his credentials to President Mugabe on November 22, McGee was singing a different tune saying, among other things, he wanted to work with the Government and people of Zimbabwe.
While the double-speak may have been part of the parochial understanding of diplomacy Western envoys seem to have a predilection for, McGee must remember that Zimbabwe will not suffer his double standards. By presenting credentials to President Mugabe, he recognised him as the legitimate Head of State and Government of Zimbabwe, any pretensions to the contrary will be just that, hot air.
I see McGee is a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he earned three "Distinguished Flying Crosses" during his six-year "tour of duty" bombing hapless villagers from 1968 to 1974. We all know, as fellow black brother Muhammad Ali aptly put it, that Nam was an unjust war which, as fate would have it, Uncle Sam lost, and lost dismally.
The same is happening in Zimbabwe where, true to his rabble-rousing tradition, Uncle Sam is engaged in another unjust war with Zimbabwe, albeit a cold one, and McGee has, just as was done with Vietnam, been sent to the frontline. I just hope he is not looking for any medals here. If he is, he might do well to ask his predecessor Dell, the "wisdom" of such pursuits. He is also free to get a second opinion from one Sir Brian Donnelly, a British "gentleman" who had to drop all pretences at the gentlemanly behaviour his honorific denotes by leaving Zimbabwe in a huff without bidding his hosts farewell. This followed his unsuccessful attempts at trying to abet the illegal regime change agenda.
During his Senate hearing McGee, like Dell before him, boasted of his "experience with pro-democracy groups in Swaziland, Madagascar and the Comoros".
He was in Madagascar just after the fight between current President Marc Ravalomanana and Didier Ratsiraka, and presided over disturbing skirmishes between the government and opposition. In Swaziland, McGee was brash, going to the extent of holding a meeting with the leader of the banned People's United Democratic Movement, one Mario Masuku, something no ambassador in Mbabane had ever done.
In his defence, McGee gushed: "This is normal diplomatic practice. Swaziland's ambassadors should be doing the same thing in the countries where they are posted." I wonder what would happen to the Swazi ambassador in Washington if he were to hold a meeting with representatives of Al-Qaeda, I just wonder.
That aside, as testimony of our democratic values, McGee will find there is no banned opposition group in Zimbabwe. In fact, anyone can wake up and proclaim to have formed a party. The party does not even have to be registered, which is why we have fly-by-night parties like Egypt Dzinemunhenzva's African National Party, as well as "Iron Lady" Isabel Madangure's Zimbabwe People's Democratic Party.
McGee's predecessor, however, ended up abusing that freedom by mistakenly thinking he was ambassador to Harvest House, which is why he only bade Tsvangirai goodbye.
As fate would have it, McGee joins us at a time we are heading for a crucial election in March next year, during which Zimbabweans will choose their representatives at all levels of government, and they would want to be left alone to choose leaders of their choice.
I have no doubt McGee will find that our elections do not produce contested outcomes as happened with the two that brought and retained George W. Bush in power.
Tsvangirai only makes noise to mollify his backers. If McGee has familiarised himself with developments on the ground, he will have realised by now that Zanu-PF and the two MDC factions or fractions are engaged in serious talks aimed at managing that process, and the message from the Sadc initiative is clear: only Zimbabweans can resolve their domestic problems. Westerners can help that process by removing their illegal sanctions and stopping meddling in our internal affairs.
I see McGee, just like Dell before him, loves to harp about US "humanitarian assistance" to Zimbabwe. Said McGee: "We must also continue our humanitarian assistance to the Zimbabwean people and ensure that it reaches the people in need. In fiscal year 2007, United States food aid amounted to over US$170 million. Today the United States is helping to feed nearly one-in-five Zimbabweans. Non-food aid humanitarian assistance is approximately US$5,1 million, and HIV and Aids programmes were increased to US$31 million in fiscal year 2007. This funding is helping to deliver anti-retroviral treatment to 40 000 Zimbabweans. These actions demonstrate the generosity and compassion of the American people."
No McGee, such duplicity demonstrates the hypocrisy of the racist administration in Washington. What Zimbabwe needs is not "humanitarian assistance"; it needs to be freed of the ruinous sanctions your country imposed; it wants Uncle Sam to stop meddling in its internal affairs; most importantly, it wants to be left alone as a sovereign nation to chart its own course.
The "humanitarian aid" you harp about is designed to serve and perpetuate one stereotype, the one espoused by that poet of British imperialism Rudyard Kipling in his 1899 book, "The White Man's Burden", in which he suggest the white man has a burden to "civilise" and look after the "primitive" races.
I hope you are not consciously perpetuating that stereotype, mukoma (brother). After all, you are black like me.