30 October 2010

Zimbabwe: Nobel Laureates - Controversies, Omissions


Harare — E M Forster writes in Howards' End: "Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer..."

According to Wikiquote, this means people should connect without bitterness until all men are brothers.

Judging by responses received on the article "Nobel Prize gone to the dogs", there was a general feeling by some that Nobel Prize nominations or winners should not be questioned.

More specifically, responses implied that this writer should not have questioned the merits on why MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai was considered for the prestigious award.

They looked at Mr Tsvangirai vis-à-vis President Mugabe and/or Zanu-PF, and argued that I was one-sided.

But, history records that "to the surprise of many, Nobel's last will requested that his fortune be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the "greatest benefit on mankind" in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature".

Surprised, because he made his fortune from one of his inventions -- dynamite, which is a chemical explosive.

Naturally this makes the issuance of the awards an explosive issue.

Wrote Vimbai Kamoyo, "No sister the Nobel peace (prize) still has its gloss . . . Firstly I object that sanctions were invited by MDC and also that they are the major contributors to our misfortune. Zanu-PF is. The economy was on the downside well before 2000. Remember the food riots, there was no MDC then? . . . Tsvangi deserves the honour because he has saved this country from civil war".

And, Tom Ngwenya said, "Your article 'Nobel Price gone to the dogs' was spot on. I loved it save for one small issue that spoiled the otherwise great argument."

"What I find very surprising is that you also ignore the fact that Zanu-PF invited sanctions on itself through its undemocratic ways of doing things -- just think of all the things it has done from Gukurahundi to even this year. Think about the 2008 elections, it's well documented! . . ."

He advised, "Why don't you write something on why Zanu-PF is reluctant to get these sanctions away -- it's them who have to do something -- honour the GPA they agreed to, and then they go away.

"I think Tsvangirai has been on record saying Zanu-PF also needs to do something. It can't entirely leave the process to the MDC . . .I agree MDC also is to blame for the sanctions -- only to the extent that it encouraged them".

"But I realise you are writing from a state controlled media, I might just as well be wasting my time just in the same way I often waste my time with others who hold different views.

"But, even those working for government controlled media are free-willed human beings at the end of the day, they aren't robots, so my sense is that you still have a conscience within yourself . . ."

George Mavunga also responded, "I must say I find your analysis of the lack of fairness in Mandela sharing the Nobel prize with De Klerk very balanced. This is, however, not the case when it comes to your argument as to why Morgan Tsvangirai should not have been considered for the prize both last year and this year."

"In my humble opinion your analysis is not only one-sided but also completely disregards recent Zimbabwean history. Firstly, Morgan Tsvangirai, as I am sure you remember, was assaulted while in police custody."

"For him to agree to enter the GNU after that assault and share a cup of tea with members of the previous government, I think shows he is a forgiving person who deserved at least some consideration for the prize . . . Secondly, for the MDC-T to agree to share power with both the MDC-M and Zanu-PF after the 2008 harmonised election was to some of us a major step in ensuring that peace and tranquility prevailed in Zimbabwe. I will not argue on who won the March 2008 harmonised elections because that is now water under the bridge . . ."

Therein comes the connection element.

As much as the writer appreciates and respects the writers' views, this rebuttal is meant to put certain aspects of the argument into perspective.

The major problem is that Nobel prizes are mentioned quite often (a cliché almost), with people understanding very little about what they mean: then, now and into the future.

Only the prestige and money that come with them matter. The underlying political economy in most cases is disregarded.

However, Nobel awards are full of what has been described as "overlooked achievements; controversial omissions and refusals and constraints".

History records that in literature when poet Sully Prudhomme was nominated for the first Nobel Prize, a group including 42 Swedish writers, artists and literary critics protested against this decision, because they thought that Leo Tolstoy was the rightful winner.

In 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre voluntarily declined the Literature Prize arguing: "A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honourable form."

Some of the controversies on the Peace Prize include the 1973 Nobel Peace which was jointly awarded to US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger and Lê Ðoc Tho of Vietnam. Lê Ðoc Tho declined the prize, claiming there was no real peace in Vietnam. When Kissinger's nomination was announced two of the Norwegian Nobel Committee members resigned in protest, arguing that Kissinger was responsible for widening the Vietnam war.

Since 1901 when the Nobel Peace prize was awarded, very few Africans have been recipients.

Those awarded include former president of the African National Congress, Albert Luthuli in 1960.

The second South African to get the peace award in 1984 was Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Then in 1993 the peace prize once again went to two South Africans.

This was when ANC leader and former President Nelson Mandela and President Frederik de Klerk jointly shared the award.

It is ironic that two South Africans were awarded the Peace prize while the apartheid system was deeply entrenched.

Even the Mandela/de Klerk prize was awarded before the democratic elections that ushered in a new South Africa had been held.

In 2001, it was the Ghanaian and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. And in 2004 the Peace prize was awarded to Kenyan Wangari Maathai.

So, how do we connect the Nobel peace prize, Africans and the sanctions regime in Zimbabwe?

This is what the previous instalment was interrogating -- asking Africans in particular to think outside the box, and begin to see the bigger picture in these so-called noble causes.

The background information is a pointer to the fact that Nobel awards are full of controversy, and the one raised by this writer about Tsvangirai was not unique.

Readers have to check how much dust was raised last year when the award went to US president Barack Obama.

There was a failure to understand why Mandela was used as the entry point in arguing why the MDC-T leader had to be considered for such an award.

Luthuli and Mandela put together, do they compare with what the MDC-T leader has done, and for how long?

The other African Nobel laureates were deliberately omitted in that discussion because the aim was to show a glaring element in the awarding system.

Africa's founding fathers, those brave enough to fight the settler colonial system and ushering in democratic systems never seemed to be worthy candidates for such awards.

When they were detained endlessly, tortured and some killed in detention, there were no human rights organisations to record that, and neither was there an international media to market them as victims.

Mandela was also the best example because the Nobel prize system failed to realise that the ANC that fought the apartheid system could have shared the prize with him.

He survived the brutality at Robben Island because there were structures outside that encouraged him to fight on - especially his firebrand ex-wife Winnie.

If other organisations have won this coveted award before, why couldn't the ANC and other liberation war movements?

Coming to the Zimbabwe issue, why wasn't Sadc considered?

When a presidency suffered the way the (Thabo) Mbeki administration did in order to bring a negotiated settlement, why could they not consider Sadc?

When other liberation war heroes could not be considered, we ask whether it was a question of whether Mandela was a better "terrorist" than the rest of them put together despite the fact that the United States Senate only "removed" his name from the list of terrorists a few years ago?

That article was testament to the fact that the Nobel committee's terms of reference has no room for people who challenged the colonial system.

Then comes the perennial question on why Africans think that they are only good when the West tells them that.

Why can't Africans tell each other that they are good, and that they do not need to be refereed by outsiders to prove that they are worthy, especially when the terrain is skewed in the evaluators' favour?

In this case when one reflects on the support accorded the MDC by Nordic countries, you don't need extra sensory perception to smell a dead rat.

While Africans cry and go to town about trinkets awarded by outsiders, when will Africa organise itself so that it awards worthy personalities in its midst, and also award these trinkets to Westerners based on their own benchmarks?

Let them also compete for African awards, instead of us making ourselves look and feel very important each time we are awarded some medal, etc from outside.

We raise many questions about the MDC-T leader because some in our midst have chosen to selectively post-date Zimbabwe's fight for democracy.

Selective amnesia in Zimbabwe's history is destructive. To some it is 1999 when the MDC was formed. To others, 2000 not because the land reform programme had started in earnest, but because of the "No" vote against draft constitution.

The same "historians" forget that Tsvangirai registered his first defeat when he contested parliamentary elections in his own home constituency -- Buhera.

If we forget such critical details barely a decade after they occurred, then God help us.

In 2002, he registered another defeat.

But of course, he could never be a loser since Zimbabwean elections are "rigged".

It is only when the opposition wins that you hear of free and fair elections.

When people also want to twist the constitution to suit their motives, then we end up with a constitutional crisis.

Regarding the 2008 elections, some of us have failed to read and interpret Constitutional Amendment No 18 where the 50 percent plus 1 was incorporated.

Even the MDC-T leader has realised that the foreign media could not make him win an election when the Zimbabwean constitution says otherwise.

Finally, the sanctions issue, where it now feels very safe for some to play the blame game.

When someone supports the imposition of sanctions by the West then you wonder whether they are Zimbabweans, and whether they have become so blind to see the ruinous effects caused by the illegal sanctions.

If they are "targeted" or mere "travel bans", why should it be a matter for the United Nations Security Council?

Why should it be a matter for Sadc and the African Union?

Why would South Africa's foreign ministry on October 19, 2010 say that it would again vote against United Nations sanctions on Zimbabwe if the issue came before the Security Council during the country's next term in January. In 2007/08, South Africa blocked sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Those in a sanction denial state need to wake up and smell the coffee. When presenting arguments, they should tell us which other nation had a leadership where travel bans were imposed, but the net effect was the collapse of an economy, closure of factories massive job losses and degeneration of all systems and increased poverty levels.

They should also read Article IV (Sanctions and Measures) of the Global Political Agreement of September 15, 2008 of which Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai appended his signature.

If they go online on , a website of the US Department of the Treasury of Foreign Assets Control it would help if they read the documents on Zimbabwe titled "What you need to know about US sanctions."

Executive Order 13288 - Blocking Property of Persons Undermining Democratic Processes and institutions which states that "On March 7, 2003, as a result of actions and policies by members of the government of Zimbabwe and their supporters to undermine democratic institutions and processes, President Bush issued Executive Order 13288 imposing sanctions against specifically identified individuals and entities there . . . Executive Order 13288 prohibits US persons wherever located, or anyone in the United States, from engaging in any transaction with any person, entity or organization found to be undermining democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe . . ."

This is not international law, but it is country specific. Its interpretation lies with the people who promulgated the law - the US.

When this Executive Order says " . . . as a result of actions and policies by members of the government of Zimbabwe and their supporters to undermine democratic institutions and processes", who are "their supporters?"

Does this refer to millions of Zanu-PF supporters? So why this denial?

George Bush is out of office, but the Executive Order is still operational. Why?

As Cde Coltrane Chimurenga remarked, the EU and other Western nations did not have to enact like manner laws.

They took their cue from the US. If the US decides to remove sanctions, they will also take their cue from them. End of story!

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