columnBy Nathaniel Manheru
The Other Side
Putting your ideas in the public domain always has its pains. You are called names, given jabbing identities, misread...you name it. And you have to bear it all, meekly as behoves a humble
columnist. But the hazard has its hilarious moments, such as I had this Monday, following a robust reaction to my last piece on "no post succession without poll success". I shall not share with you, gentle reader, the first reaction which remains classified until such time that I pluck enough courage. But I give away a small, innocuous hint: it concerns a big man from Manicaland who poured out his full heart regarding parties, posts, positions, politics, progress and prospects. So many "pees"!
The Candid man from Manicaland
All a lack of all these by dint of strange twists and twirls, unexpected movements in the body-politic which fling some men off near-pinnacle, down to below motes of dust, while of course raising others from the swirls of suffocating dust to dizzy heights, often unmerited, often un-fought for, although happily dropping down as beneficent fragments from larger fights even higher above.
But this unshared story relates to a soul feeling entrapped in a big post that cannot take him any higher, and all this in a season of brisk, frenetic upward movement for others. As one general called it, it is the tragedy of "fly-pasts" in which your erstwhile contemporaries continue to rise, joyfully occupy and then die, leaving behind an upward highway you yourself cannot walk in spite of proximity, but a road which those below you, for various extraneous reasons and criteria, are happily fated to walk...walking past you to become your new seniors. It is a dynamic which Zanu (PF) needs to handle with very great care, lest another fatal diversion overtakes. Dear, reader, I have been helpful, have I not? You work it out.
The day Charamba fell pregnant
The second hilarious one, I share with you without any holds. You remember that the greater but less meaningful part of my last piece anticipated the coming together of the two MDC formations? Yes, and that drew quite some robust reaction, including an unkind but most hilarious one from Welshman Ncube, leader of one of the formations, who reluctantly responded to my piece through a British-based website. To contextualise his reaction, I must remind the gentle reader that Professor Ncube suspects that I, Nathaniel, son of Manheru, am not my father's truly begotten son.
He thinks I am a fraud of biology and prefers to call me George Charamba, even swearing by those from his lineage who rest departed that I am he that is notoriously fastened highly up, within the bureaucracy of the Government of Zimbabwe. Exactly my opening point, that columnists are called names, only literally in this case! So working with this name by which he prefers to call me, Professor Ncube told the news portal it was far easier for Charamba to fall pregnant than for the two MDCs to come together once more! What greater laughter can one ever hope for in Zimbabwe's cerebral politics? Tell me, while you enjoy it!
Confirming it in spite of himself
Until I got to my Monday prayers with my most Superior who after hearing this jab from the learned Professor asks: "Did he say George, the son of Charamba?" "No, Sir, simply 'Charamba'," came my wounded reply. "Well, tell him indeed the Charambas do fall pregnant! Surely the whole clan - mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters, wives - all these can't all fall barren?" I don't know much about the Charambas, and their ability to fulfil the divine bidding: Go ye and multiply! But I see and read about many of them in different places and sexes, in overwhelming numbers suggesting the family tree has not been smote by a curse, as the biblical fig tree. It bears shoots, in prolific abundance too! As the late Bernard Chidzero put it, the good Lord who bade us to multiply, forgot to tell us at what formulae, which is why most of us took that of the amoeba! Thank you, Professor, for the witty confirmation and yes, the two MDCs will reunite. After all, even though the Ides of March may be come, it is not yet past!
Pushing democracy beyond Athens
Let's keep matters light-hearted for this week. After all, we are fated for a happy referendum, are we not? One poll where agonising predictions or opinion polls become superfluous, indeed where the result is known beforehand, but without anyone answering to the charge of vote rigging! This is called native genius, an unmatched growth in the science of democracy, well away from its Athenian roots, to make good our pan-African pledge of "African solution to African problems"! You keep GPA-ing, GPA-ing until national consensus and harmony takes you to that stage of democratic perfection where the ballot follows the result! Oh Zimbabwe, my lovely country! Perish William Blake with his foul dictum of "without contraries is no progression". Perish Karl Marx and his henchman, Frederick Engels, with their false dialectics. Here we search, find and thus start with synthesis, before we declare the stage set for a dialectical battle between thesis and antithesis. Of course it costs some US$20million or so, only. But what's that to a new precedent? What's money to beautiful test-tube dialectics which Marx never lived to see?
Founding a classless society
Which reminds me of Madame Nkosazana Zuma, now Chairperson of the AU, then Foreign Minister of the sister Republic of South Africa. The time was one of near-antagonistic conflict between Zanu-PF and the two MDCs - or to put it more accurately, the time before we had invented this results-in-first, ballot-later approach to solving national issues. She was helping the then President of her country, Thabo Mbeki, mediate on the so-called Zimbabwean question. So-called because this was and remains a British settler question really, only wearing a local costume for absurd theatre and some comic relief. In giving her summary on developments in Zimbabwe for the period under review, she added, to enormous laughter from those in attendance: "Excellencies, I am happy to announce that our region has, for the first time in human history, and well over two or so centuries after the death of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, founded a classless society by way of the sister Republic of Zimabwe (Zulu pronunciation!). There, the ordinary government worker under the newly inaugurated GNU earns about US$150 a month; the President of the country takes home US$200!"
Madame Zuma will happily know today that fortunes of the President of that same country have showed up a bit somewhat. He is now worth US$4 000,00 monthly, with prospects of some modest rise this coming month! This is the same country where another miracle has just happened, namely that of starting the democracy chain with results and then ending with voting, all for a meagre US$20m we don't have! Let's make merry.
The bane of gin traffic
I have just been reading an old book by a founding figure from the Mashonaland Mission, a collective name given to the pioneering missionaries who either came just before, with, or just after, the so-called Rhodes pioneer column.
Apart from many other ills associated with white presence in Mashonaland, not least smallpox, one other reprehensible ill which came with the white invasion of the country was what came to be known as the "gin traffic": the massive importation and introduction of strong alcoholic stuff into native populations, taking the phenomenon of drunkenness to new, hitherto unheard of levels. But let's not proverbially blame Samanyika for Summer's thundery drizzle. There was lots of drink in the country before the coming of the white man. We knew the art of tough brew, enjoying copious amounts of that scientific break-through. We knew how to ferment the small grains until they frothed away our senses.
A Beery past, but nothing like it
Lobengula's capital brewed and consumed lots of native beer, copious amounts of which were shared with white hunters, gold-diggers and concessionary seekers, all to great lethal amity. Shonas, too, were known to brew some thick, porridge-like vile intoxicant which elsewhere missionaries dismissed as "poisonous, unwholesome compound". No amount of devotion weaned them from it. But the new, clear, burning brew imported into this new territory by white traders notched higher levels of potency, almost always yielded lasting folly and bad behaviour on the part of those who partook of it. And the whites who before had found the natives rather unbridled, had this wonderful belief which became a truism in all climes where the coloniser-colonised encounter occurred: "You will never tame the native till you bring drink among them." And there was lots of work to do, work requiring tamed horses of instruction, as Blake would say.
Pit mines had to be opened and worked on; settlements had to be built, and when gold could not be found, massive hectares of land had to be cleared, apart from the rail and telegraphic infrastructure which had to be laid across the country, the former under the legendary George Pauling, the winner of the skewed contract floated by the BSAC. The money belonged to Rothschild anyway. Who cared?
Fusillades and brandy
But there was a dire reading to the above truism. Up north, up east, one colonial founder had published a book on Abyssinia, the present day Ethiopia. He wrote: "We must help to make the natives disappear . . . by intermittent fusillades and daily brandy."
Here in Southern Africa, this beery intervention had demonstrated its deadly potency in Bechuanaland, the land of the Khamas. Not this talkative Ian one, but his great, grandfathers. By then a British protectorate, Botswana had a significant white population, including unscrupulous gin traders who viewed themselves as suppliers not just for local drinkers, but also as forwarding agents to the new and ever burgeoning settlements of the largely spinster, permissive colony of Southern Rhodesia. There drink was the dominant pastime, second only to the abuse of native girls.
In Bechuanaland, the harm on the native Tswanas was horrendous, too horrendous to be missed by their great Chief who had converted to Christianity as a teenager, and had thus became monastery-like in moral outlook. Khama thought the flow of this baneful substance could be stopped by simply meeting concerned traders and telling them to restrict their import to the white community. And by warning his people against partaking of it, a warning backed by corporal punishment which exists to this day to BaTswana's sense of crime and punishment. But the great king was wrong. A whole new economy had developed around the sale of brandy, an industry too lucrative to be stopped by sheer moral fastidiousness. Greater volumes still came in; more Tswanas got deadly drunk, and cattle posts went unattended. A whole people were being drank to a collective grave.
Khama's great letter
Khama decided on a more drastic measure. He banned the substance in his country, banned it completely. Whoever would be guilty of bringing in gin would be banned from "his" country, he warned. Of course Khama's country had become a British protectorate, which is what made the threat quite ridiculous. And he knew that, which is why he thought of plugging that remaining, potent hole, and did so in a way worth recalling verbatim from history. He wrote a letter to the representative of the great Queen of England, resident in the protectorate itself.
A portion of that letter, I reproduce from a missionary's book I will not name: "Your Honour (The British Administrator) will permit me to point out that it is not the same thing to offer my country to Her Majesty to be occupied by English settlers - Her Majesty's subjects governed by Her Majesty's ministers and to allow men so worthless and unscrupulous as . . . to come outside of all governments, and flood my country with their drink, after all the long struggle I have made against it, withstanding my people at the risk of my life (the Bamangwato would kill to get their brew!), and just when they have themselves come to see how great a salvation my drink laws have proved to be. It were better for me that I should lose my country than that it should be flooded with drink . . . I fear Lobengula (the Matabele chief) less than I fear brandy. I fought Lobengula and drove him back, and he never came again, and God who helped me then would help me again. Lobengula never gives me a sleepless night. But to fight against drink is to fight against demons, and not against men. I dread the white man's drink more than the assegais of the Matabele, which kill men's bodies and is quickly over; but drink puts devils into men, and destroys both their souls and their bodies forever. Its wounds never heal. I pray your Honour never to ask me to open even a little door to the drink; and . . . desires that, and has always desired it. That has been my constant battle with his firm (which imported gin)".
The only man of the Bamangwato
A bit of background. Khama had been born around 1830 to one of the many wives of Sekhome, chief of the Bamangwato. He was the heir. He grew under the spell of Gordon Cumming who taught him to shoot and hunt. After hearing about the news of the great teachings of Dr. Moffat who was in South Africa, he placed himself at the disposal of the Lutheran missionaries who taught him about the new God and the culture of his anointed ones, the British. He got baptised as a teenager, thereby knowing his God the Christian way.
He got westernised, again as a teenager, thereby getting to know his British. With the new faith, new fighting skills, new vision, he was able to defeat Matabele impis in 1862, largely because of superior firepower he had borrowed from British guns. That victory got Mzilikazi to acknowledge Khama as "a man", the only man among the Bamangwato! It did much more.
And then the emperor ruled
Among his own people -- the Bamangwato -- it caused a seismic shift away from their old ways and gods: "Today, those who pray to God are our leaders", shouted his people as they welcomed him back from a great war. This was fatal for his father who would soon lose power to his own son, albeit without a violent ouster. And the son would in turn lose sovereignty to the British monarch whose urchin subjects would soon seek the death of his people and nation through gin.
Equally, this was fatal to all of us who lived to his North. When Rhodes decided to march against our country, the springboard was Botswana, and the nucleus of the invading force was the Bechuanaland Border Police. Khama did worse. He reinforced the Force with 130 mounted men, and between 1700 and 1800 dismounted men who received a shilling a day and rations! That way we got divided, and the emperor ruled!
The small gunpowder that conquers
Now the great lesson. It is not the "intermittent fusillades" which risk making the native disappear. It is not "the Martini-Henry rifle" which tames and subdues the native.
Rather, it is the colonial bible, "the daily brand", the "stove-hat and broadcloth coat" in the searing heat of the Savannah, that subdue, tame and perish us eventually. Those things we consider most mundane, most innocuous, most seemingly delinked from what we fear will hurt us most, things we consider most seemingly linked to what we take great delight in, and for which we are grateful to the white man: it is all those things which are gravest to us as a people.
The Bible and the bullet
You read the memoirs of Bishop Knight-Bruce of the Church of England as it came into our clime, and you are struck by how the seemingly kindly daily intercessions by the church in defence of abused natives in fact reinforced colonialism, made it like-able even, thereby staving off liberating rebellion against its onset.
He wrote, this holy man: "I have said that the benefit of missions is in no way lessened when they are associated with the coming of the white man; indeed, then they are all the more important. In Basutoland, for instance, the native sees the righteous government of the white man working side by side with the religion that, acting on the white man for many centuries, has produced that government.
He sees, in so far as it is possible, every bad influence and demoralising power excluded from the country. The whole race, materially, morally, spiritually, is progressing under the joint influence. It is an object-lesson, showing both to European and African what can be done when natives are taken care of as they should be."
I have already shown you the great battle which Khama waged against the white-controlled beer industry to save his people, a struggle which this white bishop misappropriated to emblazon colonial missionary civilisation with goodness. Bishop Knight-Bruce even provided an anecdote on the role of the church as a stabilising appeal board for natives suffering colonial excesses: "Once, when living near a European camp, the natives would come to us complaining that white men had ill-treated them.
Well, it didn't mean much, but it was proof that they felt that, though they might be ill-treated by one class of white men, they had sympathy from another. But it is only right to say that on the same camp there was an English officer to whom they also came with their troubles just as much as they would come to us, because they knew that he, too, would help them if he could. All of which shows that a higher influence is most valuable, even when the tendency of white men's conduct would be to drag down the white man's religion."
The notion of higher council at work
I am quoting from writings done in the 19th Century, in the beginnings of our colonisation, showing amply the complex way in which the colonial system seduced, subdued, killed, murdered, forestalled, pacified, won over, confused and managed consent.
I wonder whether most of us realise that the coming in of the EU with its routine but meaningless review of illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe, amount to Bishop Knight-Bruce's "higher influence" so valuable "even when the tendency of the white men's conduct (read British Government) would be to drag down the white man's religion" (read neoliberal capitalist values). How many of us see matters that way? Zimbabwe has been under sanctions since 2000 (Reason Wafawarova insists since 1998).
These are illegal sanctions to the extent that they have been undeserved and have not been authorised or recognised by the UN. These have been British-initiated on grounds of British land--ed interests here by way of her white settler community which lost colonially acquired land-based advantages here. Spare me that nonsense about land being bought after 1980. So what? What is 1980 but a political benchmark? Did it, could it, ever alter the settler political economy?
So this bilateral dispute rooted in colonial relations was taken by Britain to "higher influence" to make it sound like it was founded on high values, universal and nobler principles which are nation-and history-blind. That way a very specific, historically fraught dispute, was washed clean of any such connotations. The Americans joined the dispute, ran ahead even of the bereaved, in order to confuse matters, in order to muddy waters.
That suppurating syphilis wart
And the recourse to sanctions instead of war marked a shift from fusillades to daily brandy-like substance. Sanctions came in by daily sips, invisible, gently cumulative yet inexorably baneful. Whoever saw the assegai of sanctions, its gaping wound soon after assault. Until we all got inebriated, a time-honoured process.
And that we are, which is why a good many of us repudiate the existence of sanctions, deny sanctions as real. And if and when we finally admit to their reality, still deny that they are banefully wholesale, we the blighted! No, they are targeted, and we like them! The punish the evil ones in our midst, thanks to compassionate Europe that continues to carry the burdens of the native, as in history. A
fter all, how does it matter to the sober children and household that the white man's gin has got the better of their father, we ask with amazing innocence. The debate on European illegal sanctions against our country, as conducted within our own ranks, has been a vicious cycle, immensely self-aggravating. It is part-denial, part-acknowledgement, much like a syphilis wart surreptitiously scratched beneath a giant overcoat.
The great denial
And the scratch starts sweet and even soothing. Until the wound radiates, weeps, suppurates, before finally forcing a visible limp that draws the attention of relatives and eventually passers-by. Soon the wound needs words to corroborate it: I don't know, it is this small pimple on my leg. Then, aa-ah I don't know, it is this small wound between my legs. And then, muzukuru, things are not well, it is this wound riri kuramba richinyenga. Hapana zvaungaita here mwana wehanzvadzi? We have seen our people in the MDCs doing exactly the same: from denial, then to euphemisms like "restrictive measures", "graduated lifting" of restrictive measures. Finally, they talk of sanctions and even begin to campaign against them. Where is Khama?
Measures which don't make sense But that is not my point. My point relates to the many, small, incremental steps taken purportedly towards removing the illegal sanctions by Europe. Today we are told the EU met last Monday to review sanctions. Then we are told 21 victims of this gross illegality had their travel bans suspended. But they remain on the list of the sanctioned. That means they are free to travel, but as sanctioned individuals! And the travel bans have been suspended, not dropped. They could be brought back depending on what happens during the forthcoming referendum. Let's suppose things that don't meet the approval of Europe happen, and one cannot fathom what these are, then what happens? They are re-suspended?
Which makes them responsible for those things Europe considers unsavoury?
Those four ministers and the seventeen other individuals?
And if they wield such power as to mind the direction of things, so why keep the sixty-something innocuous ones, including the President, on the list? Do you appreciate how illogical the whole thing is?
Antwerp versus Surat
And ZMDC? You suspend sanctions against it, but into some future, precisely a month after harmonised polls! What is that? You have illegal sanctions whose suspension or removal depends on the conduct of the victim of that illegality? European justice!
But also sanctions which can be removed if their implementation begins to hurt the economic interests of the one imposing them? But I thought they were in the first instance prompted by selfless considerations of helping Zimbabwe's oppressed? Except they seem predicated on what assets your subsoil contains, who exploits them and with whom you trade them, or don't trade them with? If Antwerp is excluded, which is to say if Surat begins to enjoy a buoyant diamond market, then these sanctions slapped on us in our name, become reviewable? Sanctions, therefore, founded not on any higher principle, but on a basic,foundational one called economic self-interest, much of it pursued in not so enlightened a way!
A very good moment for Zim
But it's a good moment for inebriated Zimbabwe. Europe's figures are looking good, very good. They are just out. The European Commission has just reviewed all its forecast figures for 2013, the year of our elections. Its collective GDP will shrink by 0,3percent, a huge figure.
Very few European countries are above the zero line, even then just marginally above it. Probably only Germany, Ireland, Belgium and, oh warring France, delicately just above zero growth. Italy is in the negative, and depending on what happens on polling day -- Italian polling day -- matters could take an irreversible plunge or a marginal gain.
The rest are in the negative, Greece, so many moons after its marathon winners, leading on all fronts in the dizzying plunge. A very good moment for Zimbabwe. The illegal sanctions will go unconditionally if their continued implementation deny gasping Europe a critical transfusion of blood. It is now anaemic. And there is enough to suggest this desperation. In all fairness, how do you benchmark a review of sanctions against management of a referendum we all know to be a foregone conclusion? Smile, Zimbabwe Smile.
Those who pray to God
Except Zimbabwe should not miss the larger point of this piece, all of it drawn from living history. There has been a shift from fusillades to brandy. But the goal is the same, one against our own people. But we seem not to have our own Khama who after enslaving his people, still petitions the reigning monarch for compassionate, sober slavery? Where are you Morgan? Secondly, please note that when imperialism seeks to undo its runaway damage originally meant against you, it creates "higher influence", higher levels of appeal within its same structures of injustices.
This may be missionary, maybe an officer, who is made approachable. After approaching that structure or person, you walk away filled with deep gratitude, satiety and an overwhelming sense of repaired injury. We wind up eternally grateful that imperialism is just in its injury! It is that sense of saying blame this bad white man, this bad white Government -not the European Union which plays safety valve to the current global system of western hegemony. You say to yourself after all, the EU meets yearly to review its illegalities, promises to meet soon after our referendum to review the same illegality against us. Nay, promises to remove all illegality after our harmonised elections, provided of course they are made to monitor them, tick them to give a good nod! Ha ha ha! Today those who pray to God are our leaders.