Nathaniel Manheru — The week has had a number of strange twists, all of them presenting some interesting points for commentators. The only problem is that not everyone comprehends reality in its interconnectedness, which is why we need commentators. Like me of course! Can someone tell me how a country like Zimbabwe continues to have a Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) with no membership, farmers or any unity? Where is the land for these racially exclusive "farmers"? Where is their produce? They want to unite with other farming unions, from what, from where?
Since when has real law, real governments so dignified nostalgia, so dignified a dash into a by-gone past?
Their white men's keepers?
The political intention is very clear, although not always graspable by many of us. It is to keep the hope of a reversal of land reforms alive, a colonially-derived racial grievance alive and on the agenda or in the subconscious in readiness for a better day. The July 31 elections deferred that better day.
And of course with each successive defeat, the CFU mutates into something genial, something helpful, constructive, indeed something seemingly a-political as if we don't know that historically, CFU has always been a paramilitary, para-political bedrock of white, land-based politics.
You miss that as a Zimbabwean and you are no good for your country, for your people. The latest CFU mutation is that of itself as a source of skilled advice to the new farmers whose unions it seeks a merger with it, as an equal. After all, says Taffs its current president, most of us white farmers are too old to go back to the land! Until of course Vice President Mujuru suggests all indebted farmers must be granted a loan reprieve by banks so they can go back to the land.
There and then Taffs gets roused from hoariness, from the slumber and languor of landlessness. No, the suggestion is no panacea; it will kill banks, it will deepen indebtedness, naturalize and reward bad farming practices, he says! Most of us miss the racial undertones in the argument, miss the historical reality that white farmers had their loans rolled over in succession. You would think Taffs speaks for bankers, not for the very farmers he claims to want to prosper. He goes further.
The land must be granted title so it is trade-able. You have to be very daft not to see where this argument takes you, dear African. And this is when the game gets given away.
When will that day be?
Any suggestion that helps the new farmers recover, grow, prosper, actually threatens the CFU as a caretaker of a white agrarian class wedged between proxy defeats and setbacks, awaiting a new white day. And any such recovery on the part of the new farmer makes land more real as an asset, something worth fighting and dying for, both electorally and militarily should matters come to that.
Unwittingly, we are conscripted to keep the Rhodesia's racial, titular "farmers" fire burning. We are so conscripted as holy men carrying CFU's false overtures to those in authority; as journalists seeing more reality in the CFU than in ZUM which died a long time ago; indeed as misguided union officials who think a group of a handful of landless whites is worth hundreds of thousands of us put together, unionised as new African farmers.
When do we exorcise this baneful complex where a white man and his weird ideas must always hover above and around us, shining inauspiciously like an evil moon? When? We must wake up, hey Africans! Why is CFU still registered? What is it doing today? Where? Come on guys! Are we their white men's keepers?
A one-man duel
Readers would have witnessed the beginnings of a one man-duel about to unfold in our courts. I am referring to the Munyaradzi Kereke story which appears to pit Zanu-PF against him. And "appears" is the right word! The short background to the saga is that Kereke won primaries against Musakwa in a contest for one of the Bikitas.
It then emerged that his erstwhile party, Zanu-PF, had a preference already, a preference well before the primary polls. I honestly don't know how preferences ever come into play in electoral processes, come into play without nullifying the very notion of competitive elections upon which a democratic culture hinges. Or how anyone, whatever their station in the Party, can direct against party primaries in any situation, in any part of the country, without suggesting he or she is the people!
To my mind, it is only when a situation does not yield contestants that a candidate is duly declared a winner, unopposed. Frankly, I harbour no regard for Kereke, no ill-feelings for Musakwa. I don't care which is them gets gored, which lifted. But I care for the Party, my Party and how it should never get weakened over individual members, however big, however small. The doctrine of the supremacy of the Party is real, should be real. On these two comrades, it stumbled lame, leaving the Party on a limb. That limb is what I seek to cure through unvarnished talk. Too bad who gets gored.
Like a zebra!
In quieter settings, I have often wondered why Zanu-PF trips itself or its members by inventing so many criteria for qualifying for elections, criteria which, quite often, are competing, mutually invalidating, mutually stupefying, apart from creating a formidable web for undemocratic, malicious entrapment. It used to one for every two (or was it for every three?) by which the fortunes of women aspirants, it was hoped, would be raised.
For every two posts held by men, the third one had to be reserved for a woman. Today there is something called "the zebra formula" by which posts and opportunities are distributed equally between genders within the party.
Picture a real zebra. Its stripes are black and white, consecutively. Taken as a political metaphor, it means posts and opportunities are apportioned interlarding-ly between man and woman, or is it between woman and man? The metaphor assumes knowledge of what gender the black stripe is, what gender the white stripe is. Or what colour begins in this dual mosaic of colour succession.
Or worse, a successive colour combination to lead towards what outcome?
No, its opposite!
And when you listen to proponents of this political metaphor, you would think all these above questions are a settled matter! Including the existential one of whether God created zebras and gave them those successive consecutive colours so Zanu-PF would cull answers to it's vexatious political questions from the animal kingdom.
It strikes me as an abuse of animals, an insult to the majestic Zebra, totemic-ally celebrated as a creature of superlative beauty -- in Shona "manjenjenje, ganda revasikana" -- in English, "the refulgent one, so ornately and delicately coloured like the tender skin of a nubile girl".
And nature tells you that the chief end of those colours on a zebra is for its survival in the jungle. Always the lion's favourite dish, the zebra survives on speed and its colours which confuse the lion's deadly eyeball. Colours on the zebra thus augment its life chances, they don't limit or weaken them.
The story of a girl who eloped
To the zebra, you can add all sorts of other clashing criteria: around duration of membership, around age groups, around residential status, and, soto voce, around "rules of origin", in reality a reference to one's tribal and regional identity.
My face almost split with laughter the other day before the July 31 elections. Amai Mnangagwa was eyeing a seat from her childhood village in some area of Mashonaland Central. The curt response from the provincial leadership was: go back to where you married and let your in-laws find you a constituency. We don't promote daughters who have eloped, daughters who prosper other families! Well, poor lady, she is now a Mrs Mnangagwa, the wife of Midlander of Shumba Murambwi clan!
Realising she would not win the argument (even though she stood a hugely good chance to win the home seat), she obeisantly turned to the Province of her in-laws, turned there for political succour.
Thank God, the in-laws were hospitable; they obliged and she got a constituency to run for. She won it, not just by a huge margin against his opposition opponents, but also drew very high votes for the party numerically. That way Zanu-PF ducked and staved off a debate which could have demonstrated the sheer absurdity of some of its criteria.
When the zebra cannot be bridled
Let not this column duck the matter too. After all Zanu-PF won the elections, nothing threatens it now except a false unison, a false consensus around wrong, un-debated and therefore untested values. How does a provincial leadership disqualify Mai Mnangagwa on grounds of rules of marriage without implying matching disqualification for Vice President Mujuru who stood in Mashonaland Central and yet is betrothed to Mashonaland East, so to speak? Would the leadership dare a whole Vice President of the Party?
So why introduce a criterion which take the debate so uncomfortably to the leadership, without that leadership ever asking for it? Anyway, how does a party of the zebra philosophy suddenly nullify and withdraw that same criteria by chaining the very women it seeks to emancipate and empower to who marries them, to where they go in marriage? It is a criterion that reinforces women as chattels, does it not, really making them happy and rewarded victims of a patriarchal philosophy, is that not so? Why pretend all is well against such a myriad of exacting criteria, all of them clashing, all of them unevenly invoked, all of them unfulfillable even by those who compose them?
The day Bikita gave itself an election
Back to Bikita, the real focus of this part of the piece. Thankfully the trial visited Bikita West, a constituency so used to such controversies. I hope the dear reader remembers one Great Makaya, again from there, a few elections back.
That fateful year involving Makaya, the Party got mired in a representation controversy which today shows itself as a harbinger to the Kereke-Musakwa controversy of today. True to a free-spirited tradition, voters in Bikita West forced the hand of the Party by demanding and actually giving themselves a primary election, all against Party directives. They did much more.
In the primaries, they crowned the unwanted Kereke, thereby presenting the Party with a brittle dilemma. Thereafter matters unravelled in ways that exposed the Party even more. Both contestants successfully registered with ZEC on nomination day, creating a situation where Zanu-PF had two candidates for one constituency, a situation that could have favoured the opposition had it not been for the fact that the opposition had long slid into comatose. To salvage its lame directive, the Party wrote to ZEC demanding that Kereke be dropped.
ZEC refused, obviously knowing such an action would lay it open to an un-winnable contest, apart from nullifying its claim to being an indifferent arbiter that it should be in the electoral season. Bikita had won against the gods, much like Milton's Satan who declared better a Dungeon than a Heaven without democracy.
It was Satan's parting shot before an eternal dive into the bottomless pit, towards whose bottom the scriptures tell us he is still journeying.
De jure, De Facto
Beaten on that front, Zanu-PF could only bark with the fury of embitterment. And given that the Politburo had judged Kereke out of line and had in fact dismissed him from the Party, the Zanu-PF party leader, R.G. Mugabe, had no choice but to uphold the party position. This he did, and openly told Kereke he would stand expelled from the Party, whatever his level of support on the ground, whichever way the poll result went.
That was in Mucheke stadium, a week and a few days before the main poll. Kereke did not budge. He stood and won the seat, nominally and de jure as Zanu-PF's rejected or unwanted candidate to the extent that his nomination papers bore the logo of the Party, substantively and de facto as an independent to the extent that having been rejected by his party, he could only stand by and for the constituency that had redeemed and subsequently enthroned him. Comparably close to the two Jonathans but without their straightforward fates as independents, initially de jure, de facto sequentially, later de jure, de facto at once!
An outside string for a broken bow
Soon later, Parliament opens and Kereke is sworn in, alongside all other elected and nominated parliamentarians. Again soon later, the Party Secretary for Administration writes to the new Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, disowning Kereke by advising the head of the august House Kereke stood expelled from the Party.
From the addressee of the Party, from the substance of the communication, only one conclusion is open to surmise, namely that the intended effect of the communication was to get Kereke dropped from Parliament, thereby precipitating a by-election in which Zanu-PF would have a second bite at the electoral cherry. And because the address was Parliament, it is clear Zanu-PF was now seeking a new string for its broken bow, hoping to find such a string in parliamentary rules.
Put differently, it now sought supplementary disciplinary rules from outside of its own code which had failed to serve it by convicting, by outlawing, and by ruining a person it had dismissed.
Some little buzzing insect
Immediately this brought out two inclinations in the Party: one very dignified, another very mean. By upholding its decision on Kereke in spite of an electoral outcome which went against it, Zanu-PF escaped the charge of opportunism.
It came across as a party of unbending, unbent principles, something quite edifying. At the same time, by pursuing Kereke beyond his dismissal, beyond his membership in the Party, indeed by seeking to expel him twice, Zanu-PF showed a very mean urge for vindictiveness.
An urge all the more condemnable against the background of its overwhelming win and presence in Parliament which made Kereke something of some little buzzing insect on a hard, elephantine rind, some little insect buzzing below the hind of this stupendous mammal busy reaching for luscious branches above. The threat or consideration could never have been parliamentary; the precipitous action could only have been something to do with the Party's internal dynamics.
Was the floor crossed?
But was the turn to the august House advisable, an augmentation to Zanu-PF armour? Sadly not. Parliamentary rules are very clear. A targeted MP has to have transferred his loyalty from one party to another, more accurately from the party on whose ticket he won the seat on, to a different one he was not sworn to at the time of the polls.
The spirit and letter of the rule is the voter, the constituency which is deemed to hold a collective opinion, which is deemed to have and wield the only legitimate preference on who stands for it in Parliament, and under what political banner.
In other words the rule puts primacy on preferences of the voting constituency above the whims of an MP or his party. They key issue boils down to whether or not there was a transfer of loyalty between parties. Zanu-PF and/or the Speaker would have to prove that Kereke went to the polls as a Zanu-PF member, prove that he had now become something else in Parliament thereby inviting the letter such as was written by its Secretary for Administration.
It is an argument that implies the party had rescinded its earlier expulsion of Kereke, well before the July 31 polls, in which case he would be found guilty of having gone either independent or MDC after winning on a substantively Zanu-PF ticket. Zanu-PF or the Speaker would have to prove that the electorate did not know that Kereke had been expelled from Zanu-PF when they voted for him! If that can be proved, fair and fine for my Party. If not, Kereke will state in court that he was voted into Parliament by a constituency which very well knew of his altercation with his erstwhile party, which knew about his expulsion from it thereafter and in consequence.
He will argue that in spite of this adversity, if one it is, his appeal to the voter did not diminish, implying the people whose will solely decides who goes to Parliament and who does not, voted for him regardless of his shunned status in party membership terms.
Was the floor crossable?
De facto, he will further argue, he went in as an independent. The big question is whether he has ceased to be one, or whether an independent is at all capable of crossing the floor! I used the word "appear" advisedly.
The papers which Zanu-PF have filed suggest the Party has woken up to the absurdity of its actions. It is conceding, more or less, which is what makes Kereke a lonely duelist whose real challenge is to win the duel against his own propensity for big headedness. I hope he develops a long term view of politics, in which case he would quickly know that the only way to duck a one-term fate is to belong to some party before 2018.
No prerogative of conclusions
As for my party, ha ha ha! It seems to want to dirty itself more and more. As I write, the Masvingo provincial chairman and one other have been suspended over the Kereke affair. True, Zanu-PF is within its remit to exercise disciplinary action over its members as and when it sees fit. It does not have to wait for processes elsewhere, however related these maybe. But it does not hold the prerogative of conclusions. Nor is it the last born of voter affection.
Once voters adjudged it as a party of unfairness, disaffection follows naturally. Without prejudging the Kereke matter, the result of the appeal to the Supreme Court will, quite inevitably, reopen debate. And the debate will not be about Kereke; it will be about Zanu-PF and its democratic credentials. Or lack of them and how this want impacts its political futures. In fact well before judgment is handed down, whispers are already filling the resonant airs: is the suspension of Matuke and Mhere about the Kereke affair, or is it about the looming provincial executive elections whose outcome should be predetermined through technical knockouts? It takes me back to ZANU-PF and its myriad criteria, conflictual criteria, but criteria so ductile as to serve all ends other than those that were honestly intended. Trust my Party: when it finds itself with no enemy, it ingeniously becomes one itself! Against itself!
Aroused more by soft power
I said the week has been pregnant, very pregnant. We had the Africa Summit in Addis just last week, whose deliberations were only debated in the media since the beginning of this week.
The Summit had something to do with the International Criminal Court, ICC for short, and Africa's membership of it. To date, the ICC has chased Africans, arrested or summoned them for trial at its headquarters which is across the seas and oceans, in far off lands owned and run by a pale race of our woes in recent history.
The chase has come closer home, haunting sitting heads of State and Government, implying the African leadership seat is indictable, offers no immunity. This is what has stung African Heads of State and Government. Of course I find their languid arousal quite strange, ridiculous in fact.
The whole lot fears ICC and its laws, is aroused by the threats of white lynching laws masquerading as international justice, when they could not be aroused by a lethal rape of the continent by way of what happened in Ivory Coast and, more gruesomely, what happened in Libya.
Surely the ICC represents a polite intrusion? I mean these guys can just march in, fly in, roll in, break into a marked African State House, and pull out dead a targeted leader, before redeploying to resource-enclaves of that same ravished African State for systematic pillage while, post-Gaddafi Libya-like, the affected African natives distractedly turn on each other in a bloody orgy of civil war.
Post western intrusion civil wars have become some kind of macabre dance of self-immolation, have they not? By contrast, ICC amounts to an exercise in soft, kinder intrusive power, mighty power's first resort before armory rolls. Surely? The intrusion of quieter, couched in learned arguments, with only one or two people getting abstracted, leaving Africa undistracted from her grinding chores! How are we roused by these threats of imperial soft power, we who have already endured its baneful hard power?
Rule Britannia Rule
Let's put aside this one absurdity and take the debate within its parameters. Here is what irks me. Surprisingly it is not the fact that 34 votes that got the ICC to kick in came from Africa, including from Kenya the latest country to fall foul to the same ICC, indeed the first country to demand a review of Africa's relations with the same ICC.
Much could be written about that, but not by me. Nor is it about the fact that a mere 6 countries out of the Security Council's powerful 15 have ratified the ICC protocols. Among those who have not is mighty America, today the principal sheriff of a court it does not belong to, of a court whose principles it does not subscribe to. Among the few who have ratified is Britain whose ratification included an iron-clad proviso, namely that none of its leaders would be hauled to that court. Rule, Britannia, Rule! A Slave Never Shall Be! Of course there are better hands to write about all that.
What really irks me is the way debate on the matter has evolved on the African landscape. Against deafening silence from the culpable West which has not ratified ICC, we Africans join the debate furiously for the same West, poorly regurgitating Western arguments against ourselves. And "ourselves" does not mean our leaders, most of whom stand indicted anyway for chaining this continent to this unjust, imperial court, indeed for salving their blood-soaked consciences by mortgaging us to this court of skewed, alien justice.
Surely there is a way of rejecting and denouncing the ICC without supporting bad African leaders, whether expressly or by default? Sample this excerpt from Desmond Tutu, a former South African bishop: "African leaders behind the move to extract the continent from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) are effectively seeking a license to kill, maim and oppress their people without consequences.
They are saying that African leaders should not allow the interests of the people to get in the way of their personal ambitions. Being held to account interferes with their ability to act with impunity to achieve their objectives.
Those who get in their way -- their victims -- should remain faceless and voiceless. They are arguing that the golden rule of reciprocity -- do unto others as you would have them do to you -- should not apply to them. And nor should any legal system. But they know they cannot say these things in public, so they say that the ICC is racist."
Unintentionally, the good bishop uses the right word, "extract". Just who had entangled Africa into the web of the ICC? African elites of course, African leaders to be precise. So the responsibility to "extract" Africa out of this web is theirs, surely? Which would seem to make the Addis Summit corrective, and thus praiseworthy if "extract" is taken to mean removal from an entanglement! But that is not the drift of the holy man. To him the extraction is unjust, "a license to kill, maim and oppress . . . without consequences". Ex-traction only follows in-traction, surely. If extraction is that heinous in Tutu's eyes, what of those who refused to in-tract in the first place, the Europeans, the Americans? They surely are guilty, guilty in a more aggravated way that Africans who are only seeking to get out now after getting in to begin with? Or the ICC was never meant for these chosen ones, these chosen ones whose conduct is not audit-able, is not indictable? Not indictable because it is flawless? Not indictable because their actions are above the ICC? Which is which? To pull out of a court of justice surely can't be worse than not to belong to it in the first place, can't be worse than to repudiate it out of hand? And the repudiation was not a secret.
It was done in the full glare of human knowledge, holy knowledge of Desmond Tutu included! Alas, alas, the good bishop was never aroused to lash out at this preordained impunity, this globally hierarchical sense of justice where powerful nations are forever prosecutors, judges and jailers, whether directly or by African proxies. That is vastly different from Africa which already once bitten, is now twice shy.
From a holy portion of Africa?
As the good bishop readily knows, the last decade and half saw European and American leaders, acting both jointly and severally, killing, maiming and oppressing without consequences. But the real difference is that all these outrages were not against " their people", something Tutu finds unpardonable. They were against "other people": the Ivorians, the Libyans on our continent; the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Pakistanis, the Syrians the Yemenis beyond our continent. Going by Tutu's holy and sacramental argument, the charge of impunity does not seem to arise! The ICC, it would seem, is not about ending international impunity. It is about dealing with domestic outrages, even then on select continents, by selected, pre-condemned offenders who happen to be black. It is an irksome point to come out of Africa, from a holy portion Africa at that.
When one man is better than the continent
The argument gets worse. The "extraction" of Africa from the ICC defeats "the interests of the people" of Africa, indeed leaves African victims "faceless and voiceless", says Tutu. There is also a presumption, a presumption by reverse precept, that ICC actions amount to doing unto the African leadership what wrongs that leadership does to me and you, the wainanchi, to use Biti's newfound Swahili word. Is it being suggested the court lynching of Charles Taylor, Gbagbo, the trials of Bashir, Uhuru and Ruto advanced or shall advance African interests, indeed made or shall make Africans have a face, a voice? It is an incredible argument to make. How has the Ivory Coast become less of a French neo-colony, more indigenised by the hauling of Gbagbo to the ICC? How is Kenya going to be less of a neo-colony, more of a land owned by those from Kibera after the Uhuru and Ruto trial by the ICC? Liberia, has it become less of an American backyard simply because Taylor -- that African black cow -- is now penned in an ICC slaughterhouse? Or, to bring the question uncomfortably closer to Tutu, how have the victims of Marikana died any happier, with a face, a voice far better than Liberians whose leader was indicted and tried by the ICC? But the real fraud is when western media play bigger host, place bigger weight on non-institutional voices of people like Tutu than on voices of African governments, singly and combined as the AU.
How is Africa's viewpoint weighted? Why do arguments that convict or condemn Africans suspended when Blair and Bush kill people from other continents? Hameno.