columnBy Nathaniel Manheru
My deep, unconditional apologies to my readers for the mix-up last week. I am still to be favoured with an explanation by my publisher who by the way reserves the right to determine if and when the column should be published. I accept all the anger I got as a result, hoping we will all do better next time. One day in Addis
I hope I won't sound as flippant and TB, but I could not resist sharing this with you, dear reader.
It was this lousy Ethiopian day a couple of weeks back. I had the fortune of sharing this dinner table with two Zimbabwe Government ministers. I cannot quite recall what triggered it all, but the two ministers started reminiscing on some of the great ironies of Zimbabwean politics.
Like all literature people, I revel in such sudden twists, such unexpected and embarrassing subversions of convictions, routines and intentions. After all, situational ironies are one way God reveals His immanent will, indeed punctures human vanities, in the process reducing man to what he is instrinsically, namely some puny dirty thing with comic pretensions to invincibility, to directing affairs of this world. So I preened my ears, ready to harvest nuggets dropping from these figures of affairs. I was not disappointed, and hence this small anecdote.
Twists of irony
In one of her numerous trips abroad to present and defend the Organ on National Healing, Minister Sekai Holland found herself in Brussels, right in the heart of the European Union. Well imbued with patriotism, the outspoken minister was ready to sell her case, and that of her country Zimbabwe, of course from her corner as part of the triumvirate in charge of the Organ.
I am told she made a brilliant presentation to a rather skeptical audience, a greater part of which comprised activist-MEPs with whom she had shared anti-Zanu-PF platforms before the dawn of the inclusive Government, indeed before her appointment to serve her country under one Robert Mugabe, the leader of the much-reviled yet unavoidable Zanu-PF.
As I write this piece, I actually wonder whether any one day in her activist career she ever imagined she would take the floor to perform such a role as she found herself doing in Brussels. It puts paid to our self-vaunt as omniscient and omnipotent beings, does it not? What we propose for ourselves, great ironies dispose.
When history mitigates irony
Of course irony boomerangs with subdued vengeance on Sekai. She is shielded by history, is she not? She was there in the tumultuous days of the struggle in Zambia, one time bursting into KK's mighty Office to report that his brother, late national hero Richard Hove, had been killed in bloody internecine clashes between rival groups in the liberation movement.
The real irony was that Richard Hove lived long enough to see and serve a new Zimbabwe, then nearly a long decade away. The liberation movements were riven by multiple fractures and contradictions, while Ian Smith looked more than securely ensconced, in fact more secure than our good Lord in the high heavens. The wheel of fortune appeared to turn one way, to one result, that is, repeatedly flinging the African cause to its nadir, always to deeper throes and sloughs of despondency. So Sekai has some history in Zanu-PF, which is why it is quite easy for her to handle such ironic twists, such tossing and dizzying turns.
The great sob
So there she was, presenting the Organ as one innovative creation of the new Government, singularly intent on suturing weeping wounds from a scarring recent past.
Sekai had not noticed some familiar soul seated in the same hall, a soul fated to steal the floor from her in this most unusually dramatic way. Soon after the Honourable Minister's presentation, a black -- very black -- female figure shot from the floor, tears ceaselessly running down her caroused and furrowed cheeks.
Clearly the woman had wept enough, had wept too much in her life to a point where this saline discharge of grief had eroded her skin,and was beginning to burrow deep into her once high cheekbones. Then dead silence, soon broken by short, sharp sobs of gasping and ever mounting grief groping for words.
Another chunk of silence. More sobs farts, released less of tears, sucking in more of runaway thin mucous. A very short long while. And then grief finally mustered the courage to stammer, to speak haltingly. The hall listened, intently. Clearly the sobs seemed worth the tale.
Then a wail
This Zimbabwean woman who had limped to Brussels, all against imaginable agony -- little of it visible, more of it invisible, nay, claimed, had a heart-rending story to tell. She had been raped in childhood. Much worse, society's thick and suffocating duvet of womanly propriety had wrapped up this most heinous sin. Western sobs echoed her own, echoed her unkempt African sob.
Barely had these plaintive sobs run themselves out than she dropped another bombshell: her own mother had also been raped in her own youth, a sin similarly wrapped by the happy, dignified institution of marriage. But the sobbing woman did not go as far as telling the hall whether or not she stood right there as the result of that sin, that sin incarnate. Whereupon the plaintive Caucasian sob echo exploded into a raucous bawl. Here was a story that had just become too much for denizens of this greatly enlightened supple civilisation where womanhood is given saintly reverence.
The contrasting sensibilities
Our lady joined in the heart-rending cosmopolitan wail, all of it robbed of any harmony or rhythm by the unwritten but clashing mourning etiquette.
Come on reader, no white woman wails the way our African women do. Just picture them wailing after the death of a loved one, throwing themselves about indecorously, voice splitting the precious quiet of the village, thick, yellowish phlegm liberally oozing, all to no handkerchief!
Even fainting while recklessly sprawled on the floor, or rough ground, dress helm tenuously covering the essentials. We are expected to excuse grief's indecorous expression. These our wailing women! Contrast that with the white woman's synthetic weeping: gentle, dignified, well economised tearful sobs, emitted between heavily lipsticked thin lips, all to provoke a show of demeanour, advanced grooming and exquisite manners.
Of course to the side is a bosom friend, ceaselessly cooing those sweet, soporific nothings. And then a great speech, to be followed by a dirge done to great affectation. And it's over. No show of excessive grief. That's them, their white women.
When were you last raped
With time the hall of course recovered. Whereupon our lady seized the moment for the kill. "And my own grandmother -- may her injured soul rest in eternal peace -- was also raped!" Mai Mai Mai!
Who could take all that? Who? African male rape, aggressive masculinity running across generations, three all told? It is much easier to assert a similar fate for the fourth generation still to come, than to grant such a generation any kinder fate, grant it any benefit of doubt, however minute.
After all African culture is incorrigible, which is why it deserved the priest, the soldier, the ruler amd of course the teacher to humanise it! The hall wept for the already raped -- both living and dead -- wept more for those likely to be raped soon and long after, into the future. Clearly Europe was facing a condition -- all African -- aggressively persistent, unremitting in blighting young African women lives, across generations, across families, across centuries, both bygone and to come.
Our good minister could not utter a single word after this great show in feminine vulnerability. Gratefully the chair of the grand proceeding adjourned the meeting, for some recess. The minister who could not squander the occasion, dashed out to the washroom, ostensibly in answer to nature's necessities, more really to gather back her scattered faculties. A while later, she re-emerged from the toil room groping for her way to a bowled tap to do the hygienic. Little did she notice that treading softly but remarkably hard behind her heels was this doddering white lady.
With much ado, she made it to the tap, next to that of our Honourable busy dousing with Brussels' crispy waters her vanquishing sense of national shame. "Oh! Oh! Oh my poor thing from Africa!
"What a great pity! Oh! So, when were you last raped?"
Great team of top experts
As I am writing this piece, I have a great piece of news from London, selflessly broken to all of us by one Eugene Majuru. I quote the vintage intro for you, dear reader: "Zimbabwe Girl Child Founder Betty Makoni has been assigned a top expert job with the British government's Foreign Office.
She will be part of a team that will oversee a special international initiative on sexual violence . . . Makoni who is also an acclaimed CNN hero was announced by the much-dreaded British Foreign Secretary William Hague as a top expert (part of team) the government will hereafter consult to spearhead efforts to combat global sexual abuse issues.
William Hague made the announcement last week: "Today I met the team of experts the Foreign Office has recruited to deploy to conflict-affected countries as part of our Preventing Sexual Violence in conflict Initiative. This specialist team of over 70 people will travel to different areas to investigate allegations of sexual violence, gather evidence and help build national capacity.
"The team includes police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors, forensic experts, gender-based violence experts and experts in the care and protection of survivors and witnesses. Today, we heard from members of the first deployment to Syria in December. From this first report, it is clear that the team are (sic) already making a significant difference to the lives of people and communities affected by sexual violence in conflict areas."
There you are, Mademoiselle Hove; what will you say now? When I read this piece to one of the two ministers, she had this to say: "Where I come from we say: Kwarisingazihwe rinonzi tibatireiwo mwana!" Got that? Chitokoka ichi! Roughy translated it means "Where the monster is not known, the innocent trust it to mind and rock their babies!"
When Syria is just next door
But of course the British are too clever to be unknowing. They do not just invite you to their already crowded little island for nothing. The bills must be paid, sooner. Zimbabwe is about to go for elections very soon. Going by fibs of the last two elections, yarns on election-imputed sexual violence and abuse played such a major role in delegitimising the outcome, in building outrage against an unwanted election result, an unwanted winner.
And as with all propaganda, evidence does not have to be gathered, produced.
All you need are blackened faces making heart-rending testimonies in distorted voices. That way you sell your propaganda, overlaying it with a brooding sense of citizen insecurity, which is what excuses the evidently murky testimonies.
Those providing the testimonies cannot be identified for fear of obvious victimisation! Zimbabwe is not too far, which is why Syria, the team's first port of call is just a country next door. Before actual physical assaults of nations, imperialism's moral corps has to blacken.
Old hisses already in the air
Already the European Parliament has started its reflexive anti-Zimbabwe hissing, a few days before the little awaited EU review of illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe. Listen to MEP Geoffrey Van Orden: "Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have recently stepped up a campaign of violence and intimidation against those that dare speak out against them, including the arrest and detention of human rights activists and the targeting of MDC supporters.
The international community must maintain pressure on Mugabe in this critical run-up period to a constitutional referendum and election. Suspension of the EU's targeted measures will only come about if there is clear evidence of a marked improvement in the political and human rights situation. There must also be a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum and electoral preparations that meet recognised international standards.
And then the real nub of white animosity towards Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF "I am also calling on the World Bank and the Zimbabwe government to respect international court rulings. These relate to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICISID) court ruling in April 2009 that granted compensation to those who were illegally and often brutally thrown off their lands by Mugabe. Settlement of these claims will build confidence with international investors that arbitration rulings for investments, no matter how small or large, will be respected. This is important for Zimbabwe's future economic growth and prosperity." It has been about land; it is about land; it shall always be about land.
A new rendition
But there is a lot more at stake. Did anyone see a story that seems completely unrelated to the one above, that to do with deportations of Zimbabweans who have lived in the UK for many years, a good number of them on the easy ticket of asylum seeking? Zimeye reports that these deportations were triggered by advice which the UK Government got from our Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai who said that Zimbabweans should return to Zimbabwe as it was "now safe", and that they should help to rebuild the nation. Here is one story which has generated lots of diaspora anger against Tsvangirai, as well as exposing some very unethical measures which the UK regime has adopted, principally that of drugging deportees for an event-free rendition to Zimbabwe. Well, I am positive that Tsvangirai is looking at boosting his mortally declined voting pool at the expense of the livelihoods of these fake asylum seekers. I mean I fail to understand how the MDC-T leader can now pronounce Zimbabwe "safe" when he himself lives in it, together with tens of thousands of Zimbabweans of British stock who have or would kill to remain in the country.
The truth is that these voluntarily stateless Zimbabweans have been a political football of the MDC-T, often willingly so. Today they shall not be heard to refuse to be kicked in any direction the MDC-T party thinks is where the goal post is.
Bite 'n' lick, the British way
But that is not my point. My real point relates to the great show of compassion with which the British always sell their own self-interest based foreign policy. If one of your own nationals is appointed to serve on "an expert-led team" created by the British Government for such an out and out humanitarian preoccupation of global proportions, who remembers some little asylum seekers who are thrust on the next flight to Harare, willy-nilly, for a drugged wafting to Harare? I am sure if you once spent a night in a grain house -- hozi as we call it -- you know the finesse with which a rat nibbles away your toe ends. Each bite is bracketed by a soporific wind blow and wet lick. That is the British way.
When principals take the saddle
Now that the draft constitution is as good as passed by both houses of our Parliament, we can now candidly answer the question who won. No one can undo that document at this stage, is that not so? Not even the planetary Madhuku! Let's have the bare-knuckled facts, with little regard to whose cow is gored. Firstly, there is an uncontested role for the Principals in the scheme of things, is there not? What was all that media brouhaha about? Little boys and girls in the newsrooms hoping to stir great passions against men and women they have allowed to lead? Not even of their own editorial accord, but by instigation by little politicians whose marbles have long been displaced by aggravating maladies.
This country has a leadership firmly in place. You cannot wish it away through little editorials. Nor should you be gullible to think that there is any principal who abjures role and the power which that implies, for some childish interpretation of the doctrine of separation of powers.
The so-called usurpation of legislative powers by principals was never a genuine argument, merely a negotiating posture for political parties. Was it not significant that those supposedly self-denying principals never spoke, with their self-abnegation uttered for them by their weakly-schooled spokespersons? That should have been enough cue to serious newsrooms. It is clear that the political beat remains inscrutable to our scribes who think they have grasped it.
Who craves to be a eunuch?
Second, practically all the important amendments which Zanu-PF sought have been granted, have they not? All! After all there was never any real objection to the inclusion of those amendments by the other parties which, anyway, accepted Zanu-PF experience and leadership in constitution-making.
The weeks that followed were expended in mock-battles which the media took too seriously. What was being negotiated was how to concede to, and incorporate, those amendments without making some lose face and others walk away with a brag. And the weeks and weeks of false deadlocks was part of the charade which the media never quite grasped. Those are called rituals of legitimizing outcomes.
The debate on presidential powers was most absurd. Which politician was ever going to support a "eunuch" clause without implying an ungainly confession to own defeat in the impending election? None of the principals feared a strong executive.
What they all feared was their own ambitious colleagues in their respective parties hoping to remake the Presidency in order to enhance their succession prospects. And a common fear unites, in fact makes strange bedfellows. Why would any thinking scribe imagine that the issue of the prosecuting authority would split parties? What is the high stake there? Or running mate? Or to imagine that Welshman Ncube would pull out of anything because of devolution? If he could, why hasn't he? What is the effect of the preamble on the section on local government on the notion and praxis of devolution? What does renaming an already existing provincial structure do to the smelling rose? Clearly what was at issue was granting each party an illusion of winning, while urging the actual winner to wear the toga of humility. And RG does that well, trust me!
The soul of the draft
Has anyone read the section on land, itself the soul of the constitution? Read that historical background which underpins all litigation on land? The removal of the right to contest land acquisition? The irreversibility of the process? The placing of the burden of compensation on former colonial power? Has Van Orden read all that? And the issue of citizenship, itself another of the soul of the constitution? The sexual rights? And when all is said and done, has anyone bothered to read the new draft against Lancaster and the 2000 draft? It has been a very winding route to saying "I do"! And of course once you say I do, you are done! Which takes me to my main point. The real issue cannot be the constitution. It has never been. See with what remarkable indifference the Zimbabwean people have related to the whole process, including the outreach. Don't get matters wrong, even during the outrreach, the accent for the masses was not so much to make a new charter as it was to voice a critique on how Zimbabweans are governed presently. What you only credit our drafters for is their ability to turn futuristic expectations out of the here and now. Out of a disappointing yesterday even.
So expensive a superfluity
What you also credit political parties for is their ability to ride on a pseudo-constitution making to size up their constituencies, ginger them up, and use this process to draft their manifestos. Beyond this, all was an altercation -- and a dull one at that -- by a pseudo-middle class using an esoteric subject matter for political dalliance. A combination of cabinet, parliament and Copac, gave the fractious petit-bourgeois stratum multiple interaction and socialization levels. Good for Zimbabwe, would you not say.
But all that does not take away a basic fact which made the whole exercise a remarkably expensive superfluity: any party which wins the next polls can dump the bloody thing; can invest the document with an aura of God's whisper, or can begin to cut out, cut in, cut and paste, cut and cut and cut . . . ad infinitum. The future belongs to the winner, and that's key.
Tutelage of one Hob Mike
Real politicians have their eyes fixed on elections, winning them by a straight fifty plus one! I notice even the MDC-T has come to the same conclusion, if their recent retreat under the tutelage of an American CIA operative -- let's call him Mad Mike or Rob Mike or Hob Mike, which ever one you like -- is anything to go by. Of course Hob thought Rupurura was a dead zone, until he remembered -- or should have remembered -- that in the beginning was the African Word! That retreat produced three scenario-outcomes which I shall share with you reader, when the appropriate time comes. But there is a clear recognition that we are headed for the polls, sooner, itself the third outcome which answers who won. We know who was asking for an early poll. We know who reserves the constitutional right to announce the dates. I notice that is the next great disclosure, after the referendum which should come very soon once the March sun rises. And we have almost always had our polls before Independence. Or soon after on very few times. The epicenter has moved and we all now know who causes the weather.
Good reading, poor response
It will be very foolish for any part to worry about the referendum result. In the first place it is foregone, so why hold a bet on shape of the rising sun on the morrow? But there is a way in which the behaviours during the referendum are crucial to fine-tune readings and strategies.
This is key, but one which makes the constitutional matter even more peripheral to its stated role and value. As with its earlier processes, it shall be used not as a search for a timeless document, but as a timely platform for the here and the soon-to-come. Which is why I can quite perfectly understand what the pro-MDC press is trying to do so badly.
That section of the press is right to rev itself into campaign mode, but so wrong in the campaign itself. You have a headline which cries: "Tsvangirai begged to save the summit", to refer to an encounter between the complaining Tourism Minister and an effete Prime Minister whose party secretary general is a complete wreck as the country's finance minister. The finance minister goofs so disastrously when the Tourism minister is on a hard sell of UNWTO.
The Tourism minister does the sensible thing, namely to go to the owner to remind him of the virtues of a leash on his rather mad dog. What you have is the headline above. My goodness! And of course what comes to the reader's mind is vicarious culpability of the Prime Minister, not the wished-image of Mr Fixer. Or was this meant to announce Luke's comeback? If so, then he has come back with a real big Bang, only on his master's well rounded bouncy head!
Any cheers for betrayal?
Or a similar one on Tsvangirai's messy trip to Australia, a trip so replete with personal controversies we only refrained from revealing out of politeness. That debacle is now being headlined as what triggered Australia's promised review of illegal sanctions it slapped on Zimbabwe as mandatory sympathy required of it as a British dominion. Who can ever view this as a breakthrough for the MDC-T leader? I mean rolling back damages you brought upon this Nation, and you sit back expecting accolades? My foot! That one assignment which the MDC formations must embark on, complete with heads wilting downwards like branches of a willow.
It is shameful assignment undertaken in remedial spirit by persons and parties that have betrayed their motherland. The modern word for that is traitors, a crime punishable by a guillotine when the world was still French! So you have these editors
sit down to compose such a headline thinking they are making the Prime Minister great.
But as I have said, they are right to recognize that President Mugabe has moved the nation -- singlehandedly -- towards a decisive poll. By the way, is it true that Moxon has donated vehicles to Zanu-PF ? Awonei? Is it also true that the indigenisation-compliant PPC is set on a US$200m expansion project? It is a tall order when the whole market moves towards validating a manifesto. Or invalidating a manifesto. Icho!