27 July 2012

Zimbabwe: When Caliban Becomes a Hero


The beauty about running a muscular column is that oftentimes you sting your opponents into an ungainly self-display. My bad friend Muckraker did just that this week. Stung by my exposé on duplicitous post-colonial white thinking, Muckraker warned The Herald against carrying such critical opinion on the white establishment.

The consequences are enormous, Muckraker helpfully intoned. "Oh bow-wow. So, if you are not a sharer (in the racialised Rhodesian economy), you will understand if a growing number of people who are sick of the racist posturing emanating from Manheru don't want to place their advertisement with The Herald?"

I like the way my bad friend exclaims -- Oh bow-wow! -- itself a nugget of Caucasian sophistry undoubtedly remarkably above my coarse African "mhaihwee-ee!", whenever I have to express surprise or disbelief. Well, we live in different habitats I suppose, never mind that we all issued from the same loin, came through the same dark opening of Dame Afrika!

White advertorial power

But Muckraker reveals a serious matter, that to do with reconstructing the editorial essence of the Zimbabwe Independent. I don't think Muckraker is worrying about "smalls" in The Herald, worrying about that advertorial part of The Herald meant for small, erratic advertisers like you and me, as we desperately seek to get rid of our little, cheap wares, most of them through repeated distress sells.

We live on the margins of insolvency, don't we? But our small, financially inconsequential entry into the marketplace would not worry my bad friend, vicariously worry him on behalf of The Herald. He is worrying about those big, institutional advertisements which are booked for long enough to affect the bottom-line. Adverts from big businesses, in other words. What he refers to as "a growing number of people . . . sick of the racist posturing emanating from Manheru", who because of that, no longer "place their advertisements with The Herald", are owners of those big businesses.

They are likely to be put off by articles which question the Rhodesian origins of their wealth, Muckraker warns confidentially! He is an insider, a sharer that I am not. And these big, squeamish people do in fact wear the thinking complexion of Eddie Cross and Eric Bloch, people fit to be called remnants of racist Rhodesia who now seek ablution in crass reasoning.

That is why The Herald must be careful. They wield advertorial power which they flaunt about, rewarding those publications which at the very least will not disturb or challenge their Rhodesian worldview, challenge their Rhodesian possessions. They wield advertorial power with which to punish those reckless enough to expose the Rhodesian origins of their wealth and predominancy. Like The Herald.

Endless white continuum

Of course Muckraker is speaking from a position of both knowledge and safety. He knows his market, how racially truncated it is. He has mastered the art of surviving as a publisher in such a racialised market: you trim yourself proper. Which means purveying a Caucasian viewpoint. Which means giving full expression to coarse white Rhodesian tastes. Which means extolling their reasoning, however stilted, however racist. Which means exclaiming the Rhodesian way. Oh bow- wow! Or the obverse: suppressing African thought; ignoring African questions, African quests. Thank you Muckraker for seeing my point about a racialised Rhodesian economy that reaches the native by way of advertorial crumbs so dearly bought through one's African soul.

That was my point, my only difference with you being that your coping mechanism takes the form of kowtowing. Enjoy it. Yet how one The Herald leads? Is the marketplace changing? Or has The Herald successfully put its foot down? And what are you trying to do? Incite the market against The Herald? Good luck! Need we wonder then that the issuance-to-talk continuum shows an all-white row: Clive Wilson, Clive Murphy, Iden Wetherell, Dusty Miller, Eddie Cross, Eric Bloch, etc, etc, all of them strategically placed on gates that need keeping? That seems key to retaining white advertisements. So much about Press freedom.

In the pantheon of white heroes

"You are a hero . . . Like Nelson Mandela, like Aung San Suu Kyi, like Xanana Gusmao -- you are one of the remarkable figures of our times." Plaudits to our Prime Minister, Mister Morgan Tsvangirai, dropping from balmy white lips of Madame Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia. Note, gentle reader, we are still in the white world. There is no running away from it, is there? After all the arms of the white man are long. They reach very far. So what is it that our Prime Minister did, or has done, to deserve such plaudits, to make him a fitting number in the pantheon of native heroes of the western world?

Unlike Mandela he does not have a statue erected in his honour in Parliament Square, in the heart of London. Unlike Aung San Suu Kyi, he never went to Oxford, let alone marry a white Briton to ensure the blood of the superior race reached dark corners so much in want to redemption, so much in need of upliftment. No, he never. Nor did he serve in the army of the "mother country" as did East Timor's Gusmao when he enlisted with the colonial Portuguese army for "national service" in 1968, to last until 1971, having risen to the rank of a colonial corporal.

And unlike Gusmao who divorced Emilia Batista with whom he had two children, for more proper betrothal to Kirsty Sword -- an Australian and thus one of Madame Gillard's loyal subjects -- our Prime Minister only "divorced" Locadia Katimatsenga for another native woman. He never married outside the race or ethnic pen. So why such fulsome analogies?

Flattered against your own

There is a more fundamental question to ask: when does a native from a former colony of the English ever rise to become "a hero" not just of the white world, but of our times? What are the credentials? How do you relate to such a rare apotheosis? By way of widely spread, contorting laughter of self-satisfaction as did our Prime Minister (see pix in New Zimbabwe.com)? Or in self-disgust as he did not do? To unpack that one, let us look at Robert Mugabe, himself supposedly a foil to our white "hero". And this is a deserved comparison. After all Tsvangirai's portrait in the Western world is supposed to be a not-so-quiet chastisement of Robert Mugabe, his supposed antipode. After all, President Mugabe has already commented on Tsvangirai's black dust-to-white pinnacle rise.

He said: "Vamwe vanobva vatonzi you are a good leader. Being equated to Mandela! Aah hauwone kuti you are being fooled to increase your capacity to fight against your people. Mira nehunhu hwako. You are an African. You are a Zimbabwean. You are a revolutionary. Urikushandiswa kurwisana nevanhu vako." And he made reference to scars borne by those who fought the colonial white world: "Mavanga tichinawo. We have scars caused by colonial assaults, grave injuries and disabilities."

When Mugabe was a hero of whites

Where does all this leave us? Robert Mugabe was himself a receiver of similar plaudits from the white world. These plaudits came soon after Independence, right up to the early 1990s. He received honorary degrees. He enjoyed countless state visits to many Western countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

The British Queen even honoured him by conferring on him a knighthood he recalls in derision. It was just laid on a table in Buckingham by the Queen one evening. He was told it belonged to him by a giver who did not expect him to have an opinion on the matter. To this day he does not know where his staff put both the scroll and the gown. Or whether the verminous reddens have respected it.

The same with the honorary degrees. You address him as "doctor", he looks around him to see who your addressee is. And when he discovers he is the only one around, he remembers he got honorary doctorates from many Western universities. He turns to you with the scorn reserved for a philanderer.

Whys and wherefores

But in all encomiums he enjoyed in those halcyon days with the West, the running thread was his policy of reconciliation through which, in a magical instant, rebel white Rhodesians -- real war criminals -- stood cleansed and unconditionally forgiven. In an instant, he had brushed aside black vengeful anger, made it a non-issue of post-independence. He had balked all expectations.

Mugabe the bloody Marxist had been expected to cut white throats, to unleash an unspeakable racial pogrom, including embarking on wholesale nationalisation of the white-controlled Rhodesian economy. His policy of reconciliation thus was a pleasant surprise. Whites who had packed their bags to leave, began to unpack.

He had saved white throats, cleansed white sins that stank to high heavens. He had saved and defended the white economy. He would serve the same for well over a decade, all in the name of "phased-in socialism" which never came, to this day! The UDI excesses, while a constant embarrassment and irritant to the British Government had nevertheless not snuffed out the strong cords of kith and kin.

In spite of her anger over UDI, Britain still wanted a place in the sun for her kith and kin here. Beyond the crime of UDI, the Western world still wanted to see a white-owned, black run, post-settler colony. After all Western multinationals were very active here. They had long realised before Ian Smith that the best way of redeeming their predominance was through a black government.

After all Zimbabwe remained one of the highly mineralised ex-colony. It had to remain a jewel in the British crown, albeit disguised by a black flag and a black Prime Minister and President. Independence was thus not a threat, not contradictory to the pursuit of white interests in the country.

Preserving white land

But this motif was time-honoured. It was not going to endure for all times. More accolades came Robert Mugabe's way by way of the much-vaunted agricultural miracle. In a short space of time, he had managed to transform smallholder agriculture like never seen before. The peasants had responded tremendously to a raft of measures that had transformed tired tribal trust lands into swathes of staple plenty.

Mugabe picked the hunger prize for that, again from the white world. He was a continuing hero. The year must have been 1986/7. Zimbabwe became the model, exportable model through which hungry, but independent African leaders and nations were chastised by the West. Why can't you be like Mugabe? Like Zimbabwe? What many people did not grasp was the fact that Mugabe was being praised not so much for fighting hunger, as for creating a surplus illusion in congested tribal trust lands so Rhodesia's white-dominated dual agricultural economy could be saved.

After all attempts in the late sixties and early seventies to decongest tribal trust lands, or to create a multiplier to their output per hectare, had hit all limits, thereby threatening Rhodesia's black/white agro-Maginot line. From nowhere Mugabe had invented a way of securing the 4 000 whites on rich agricultural land, while pacifying the horde of natives huddled in tribal trust lands through this surplus illusion! More praises. More white plaudits.

When family planning came into it

You also saw a myriad of other measures to freeze Africans demographically, so the land applecart would not be upset. History is still to inventory the fabulous amounts poured into family planning programmes in the early eighties, for which Zimbabwe again became a role model. The programme which was co-ordinated by a sister of the late First Lady, Amai Sally Mugabe, was sited next to Harare Hospital.

It ensured the black demographic peril was kept in check, even though rules of economics exhorted for a greater national demand market through a greater population. Zimbabwe's optimum size population was never a function of its landmass; it was a function of a Rhodesian designed racialised economy of land.

The US and World Bank-supported population policy programmes, coupled with greater access to education up to secondary level, made Zimbabwe a stable and sustainable neo-colony whose over all dynamics could be managed within the land use goals of the supposedly defeated Rhodesia. All that made President Mugabe great, very great in the white of Rhodesian and western eyes. To that add the dual economic model which was pursued soon after Independence, which only saw the new government take over Smith's parastatals while leaving the rest of the white-controlled industry and commerce untouched and intact, and you have the full ingredients of immediate post-independence honeymoon and its then black hero, Robert Mugabe. The West pastes greatness on natives where it sees fit.

The real Mugabe re-emerges

But the ballroom politics of the eighties and early nineties missed the cat-and-mouse game at play between Mugabe and the West. Against IMF advice, he had poured money into black education.

Surreptitiously, he had also nudged African farmers towards more scientific commercial cropping. A whole pool of skills was being formed, in anticipation of what? Regionally, Namibia had become independent.

South Africa would soon follow. And with the decolonisation of Southern Africa accomplished, Mugabe the supposedly good African was beginning to rattle the nationalistic sabre.

The black man had to get back his place in the economic sun. IBDC was launched, marking a feeble start to the politics of economic participation, the politics of empowerment through enlarged ownership.

Mudhara Nkomo was active, chastising black youth for frittering precious times in night clubs, while white kids were retreating to places like Kariba, to plan the next generation of businesses, planning to retain predominance as under Rhodesia.

This is how the likes of Strive Masiyiwa, the Bokas, the Chidhawus, the Kamushindas, the Maponderas, the Sizibas, were born, very few of them ever making it to the first year of their birth. Mudhara Msika intoned with his famous "Nhaka yemapenzi inodyiwa nevakangwara" saying. Roughly translated it meant the heritage of fools soon falls into the hands of the clever ones. A new momentum was building, and with it new heroes, new villains.

Spectacular debacle

The high mortality in the first generation of black candidates for black businesses clearly showed this had been a revolution too soon, a revolution whose time had not come. The intended black beneficiaries lacked the discipline of business, the ethics of a hallowed cause.

The prosecuting black Government lacked both the finesse for successful affirmative action measures, lacked the courage to see and live side by side with a new rich black class, especially given its irritating immodesty.

And both had no grasp of industry and commerce. The debacle was spectacular, but an idea had been sown, one that pared to flimsiness white support, white recognition. What was the native up to? Was the civilisation implied in the humanistic policy of reconciliation all put a mere patina? Going back to his ways?

The story of Roger Boka

There was a retreat to the more familiar. Land. The error of the first attempt lay in tackling the esoteric well before the ground rules had been grasped.

You did not need to squint your eyes to see black corporate carrions strewn all over the vlei of African post-colonial endeavour. Including the once promising Retrofit, a construction-cum-engineering outfit run by Strive Masiyiwa.

But the most dramatic illustration of the gallant failure of the epoch was the Boka empire which spanned across sectors. It crumbled spectacularly, together with its indefatigable owner, the late Roger Boka.

It would take his children, plus a couple of bruising lawsuits, to get Boka up and running again. But a major gain had been made on the rabble of this tragic debacle.

Roger Boka had dismally failed as a pioneer black businessman in post-independence. But he had succeeded as an uncompromising, inspiring ideologue for the policy of black economic empowerment.

I still recall this short, aggressive wrinkled man invading offices of the national leadership armed with stones that glittered, armed with dirty, broken maps he said he had got from the Russians.

He had a vision of a black-miner led economic recovery and growth. Today few know that Roger Boka was the forerunner of the idea of empowerment as it related to the mining sector.

He was never a hero of the Western world, never will be in spite of the fact that he left us a rival tobacco auction floor, rival to the then white-controlled TSF.

Single-handedly he had tackled economic Rhodesia, but had been fatally bitten by it.

Today that floor symbolises African entrepreneurship, vindicates the land reform Programme, as evidenced by the recent article by one Lydia Polgreen in the New York Times. But its owner came to grief and ignominy. He died broke, haunted by creditors, the law and undisclosed ailments. Boka and those of his times became the grain of wheat which had to die for a new shoot to sprout.

And Strive Masiyiwa?

I said Boka was not a hero in the West, never would have been. But Strive Masiyiwa was. After his Retrofit failed, he went into telecommunications when few knew it as the industry of the future.

He linked up with Nordic interests, in some partnership which did not quite endear him to government. Worse was to follow. He sought to start a business in an area traditionally reserved for governments, but an area which had begun to evolve in the direction of deregulation, well before the Zimbabwe Government knew it.

The evolution followed at a dizzying pace that left government vertiginously confused. And in typical government fashion, the safe instinct was to block new ventures, private ventures. Masiyiwa's project thus met grief, less from ill-will, more from ignorance made hideous by arrogance.

He was blocked through law and political pressure. He even divided Government. He became the face of corporate persecution, an identity that gave him instant appeal in the West. And being the doughty fighter he was, he took on Government, winning in the process, setting himself up lawfully but in a way that was clearly politically defiant.

The West which was increasingly getting worried about the empowerment rhetoric from Harare, saw in this noisy and embarrassing altercation the makings of politically sustainable challenges to the Zanu-PF monolith. Strive Masiyiwa became an instant hero of the West, the way Boka would never have become. He became the first face of Zimbabwe's corporate Diaspora. Much worse, he would get entangled in the politics of opposition, but always in a way that recognised and respected the business essence of his involvement.

Today he is great in the eyes of the West. I deliberately leave out Mawere from this narrative. After running with the hares, while hunting with the hounds, today he stands orphaned by both the West and the Zimbabwe Government.

He looks tragic, but without the heroism of Boka, without the endorsement of Strive Masiyiwa. I include this corporate side of heroism to complete the picture. I could also deal with the numerous activists who have been honoured by the west.

Outfoxing God's Englishman

I said Mugabe retreated to the more familiar ground of land. He did, in the process looking horns directly with local whites and their kith and kin in the West.

The neat, causally coinciding timetable between the decline of Mugabe as a Western hero on the one hand, and the rise of Mugabe as a national agrarian reform hero, is one development which Western reportage and historiography never want to acknowledge.

To acknowledge it is to unlock the mystery behind the West's ascription of glory and villainy to third world, post-colonial leaders and systems.

It is also to admit that what the West had celebrated as heroism in Mugabe of the eighties was nothing but a deceptive tactical retreat by the same man as he sought and waited for an auspicious moment for reinstating his strategic goals deriving from the days of the liberation struggle.

It amounts, in other words, to an admission that Milton's legendary "God's Englishman", David Livingstone's "salt of the earth" -- the whiteman -- can be outfoxed by a native. But the connection is very clear and unavoidable. And the denial of it took the form of blaming genes -- Mugabe's genes -- and not the cause against whose realisation Mugabe's actions are not only perfectly sensible, but also understandably cost him his western ascribed glory.

And this synthetic glory could only be lost the more as Mugabe moved from expropriating land from whites, to demanding a bigger moiety in mining. I think this narrative is beginning to permit answers to our opening question: when does a native become a white hero?

In white cause

Well, simply when he fights gallantly for the cause of the white man! This is why plaques commemorating the world wars bear the face and complexion of a black askari. Go to Harare Gardens and you see what I mean. You have to have distinguished yourself in the service of white cause. That is why my big father merited a huge, yelling Zoba watch after his stint in Aung San Suu Kyi's Burma.

This is why the West showered accolades on the President in the early years of his leadership, hoping they had made a big catch for their cause.

They hoped he would use his aura to keep the native pacified while Europe ate. This is the role prescribed for African leaders after Independence, is it not? Indeed this is why Mugabe lost all his "luster" the day he decided his own people's interests had to come first before all.

By way of land, by way of the economy. Interestingly, the obverse neat, causally connected timetable which Western reportage and historiography again refuse to acknowledge, relates to the rise of Morgan Tsvangirai on the one hand, and the rise of politics against land reforms on the other. This is in spite of the legendary video clip of infamy in which a white farmer clearly equates financial support to the MDC with investing in politics that will protect his continued ownership of the land.

Soon after that bold statement, the white donor farmer hands over a cheque to Morgan Tsvangirai. Thereafter, Morgan Tsvangirai's career veered ineluctably into the white world. And of course the requirement for that was that he turns his back on the interests of his people. This is what makes the Australian episode another tragic part in African history.

The Australian connection

Australia is a very interesting country vis-à-vis the politics of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe. Throughout the UDI days, both Australia and New Zealand stood staunchly behind Ian Smith.

This is not to overlook the illustrious role Malcolm Fraser played in opposing UDI, and in eventually persuading Margaret Thatcher to formally settle the Rhodesian question.

It is to underline that in such fluke foreign policy stances, the Australian government would always find itself at odds with the dominant pro-UDI sentiment in the country whose own politics paralleled those in most settler colonies.

This is why most of Rhodesia's war criminals fled to Australia and New Zealand at Independence, and found a comfortable home in the obtaining politics, indeed why MDC-T has found a good funding base in these countries by way of these embittered Rhodesians who think Morgan Tsvangirai is the horse to back. That is the basic message coming from Stephen Chan's latest take on the sanctions saga.

Albion sniffs, Aussie coughs

Secondly, Australia has a strong mining presence in the country. It would want to see its interests defended and secured. More so this particular Prime Minister, herself installed by Australian and global mining houses, following their bruising fight against the ultra-nationalist Kevin Rudd who sought to bring mining interests under national tow. It should be recalled that one reason the Prime Minister was invited to Australia, together with Gift Chimanikire, the Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, was to expose him to Australia's mining laws hopefully for suitable influence back home. The immediate hope is that Tsvangirai will continue to oppose Indigenisation from within, for as long as the inclusive Government lasts, hopefully delaying its implementation on the ground.

The long term hope is that he will prevail in the forthcoming elections, thereby forming a government that is pro-Australian mining conglomerates straddling platinum and diamond business, most notably. And the effort, bland in view, to prettify him electorally is evident.

This Eurasian leg of Tsvangirai's itinerary is meant to place him at the centre of the bid to remove sanctions.

The Australian trade minister and the New Zealand prime minister were at pains to cast their inevitable review of sanctions as occurring at the behest of Tsvangirai.

That is meant to give him consequence, both abroad and at home. But choreography forgot one small detail.

Being British dominions, Australia and New Zealand are obliged to echo British policy shifts. Britain has shifted its policy on Zimbabwe, or more accurately, is about to. Not as charity to Zimbabwe, but as realism to salvage her interests here. And because Albion has sniffed, an Aussie cough must follow.

The long echo

Much worse, as Tsvangirai was being enthroned a white hero, Robert Mugabe was busy launching five community share ownerships in Manicaland, all of them compelling foreign companies to cede resources to the Zimbabwean people.

It seems like a contrasting sense of heroism, one grounded in dusty bowels of ZIMUNYA-Marange.

It remains to be seen where the echo is louder, from the hallways of Canberra right across the ocean to the shores of our continent and into the ballot booth, or from Chiadzwa into the ballot box.

In the meantime Biti raves tormented, baffled by an economy that refuses to be pliable. Icho!

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