15 February 2014

Zimbabwe - a Reading Beyond Sanctions


Bruce Wharton, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, is a very interesting man to serve in Zimbabwe at this point in our national life. He has been here before as some middle officer working for USIA, United States Information Agency, under which falls that Government's overseas information service, USIS. He was part of the decision to launch Studio 7, that American pirate radio station which has come to symbolise America's intrusive policies in Zimbabwe. That puts Zimbabwe in the same league with countries like Cuba, which have been on the receiving end of US destabilisation policy for many years.

Zimbabwe's real sin

When one recalls that George Bush's habitually renewed executive order against Zimbabwe accuses Zimbabwe of "posing a continuing unusual extraordinary threat" to US interests, the above response is hardly surprising. A colleague wondered to me why so small a country like Zimbabwe -- a mere 13-million strong -- looms so large in US policy of global bellicosity, when countries like North Korea, Iran and so forth can still be engaged, albeit temporarily. I reminded him that before American eyes, Zimbabwe was an ideological oversize. Its philosophy of restitution for colonial wrongs, its policy of asserting the primacy of resources over capital and technology, its philosophy of asserting its sovereignty, challenges a whole economic world order founded on imperialism, and without which the whole edifice of current economic orthodoxy would crumble.

I added that the moment the Chinese proclaimed capitalism with Chinese characteristics as their global policy, they made the world safer for China's rise, which is why the US policy towards China is one of persuasion, even tactical partnership, against so-called emerging global challenges. Of course China remains a strong economic competitor and even a rising military challenge to US global dominance.

But the US takes comfort from the new capitalist model of China's rise, albeit founded on the agency of an entrepreneurial state. Of course all this is not to belittle the many other advantages which China has over the US, including her stupendous demographic value which it has used so skilfully to manage world affairs.

The horror that is already come

Not so with Zimbabwe with its aggressive restitutive and redistributive politics which challenge the order which capitalism in its imperial phase has ordained. That is the threat whose face is one Robert Mugabe. Immediately, this puts Zimbabwe on the frontline of a global tussle, makes it an example that must never succeed, that must wither on the vine.

Hence the concerted hostility from Europe and America, expressing itself as trenchant, full spectrum sanctions. What is a real wonder is that Zimbabwe has survived this far, even successfully coping with the democratisation process within a robust regime preservation framework.

And while it may be difficult for Zimbabweans to read what they have done to the world, those viewing events from outside are beginning to pick up vibes which posit the country as an emerging model of alternative politics of liberation.

And judging by the recent African Union Summit, it is clear that Africa, willy-nilly, shall find itself gravitating towards greater resource assertiveness. The US horror might already be upon it.

Un-needed after July 31

Back to Wharton. I said he grew up as a Cold War warrior, and on the propaganda front. I hope my dear readers have had opportunity to read The First Resort, a book that traces the philosophy and evolution of USIA in America's quest for world dominance. But Wharton has since outgrown that, having now assumed a direct ambassadorial role. Something involving him happened towards our July elections.

The Washington-based boss of Studio 7 came here, came down to plead with Wharton and his junior at USAID for new, more resources for the anemic Studio 7. America was on shutdown. Even before then Studio 7 which has been funded from the Harare USAID sub-vote, was really struggling.

More money was needed and could Bruce please stretch a hand, the Studio 7 boss pleaded. Wharton's response was stunning. No, he couldn't. After all, he added, after July 31, we will not need you guys. MDC-T will have taken over ZBC! The rest is now history.

Only raping you kindly

Of course he was not alone in that mistaken view. Deborah Bronnet believed so too, as did her Australian counterpart and co-conspirator. Today Bruce Wharton is in the news. He is telling Zimbabweans: "My fundamental point in all of this is that Zimbabwe has the right and the power to make policy decisions . . . Some of these have had significant demonstrable effects on the economy, effects far greater than targeted sanctions." Well, cheer him up for this maiden admission that there are sanctions with "significant demonstrable effects on the economy", albeit arguably less so than Zimbabwe's own policies.

We have moved some way, however small, towards opening Paul's eyes, the biblical Paul, that is. Those who live in snowy regions will tell you glaciers move slowly, imperceptibly even. There is a further key concession: "The US takes great care to minimise any unintended consequences from targeted sanctions and I can tell you that my embassy works hard to try to resolve any that may arise." What an admission! So the sanctions are there? So the sanctions do have consequences, both intended and unintended? So his embassy is here to "minimise" those consequences which are "unintended"? Not to stop; only to minimise. So, what are the intended consequences, Mister Ambassador? You see it is very easy to get so inured to an evil deed that you loudly proclaim that you only intend to make the rape friendly, less bloody, ears expectantly waiting for a rousing cheer! A whole ambassador is here to "minimise unintended consequences" arising from illegal sanctions!

Oral Pothole

And for that he adds: "We are also willing to work with members of the Zanu-PF government that are willing to work with us." Of course he does not miss a chance for potshots: "But, blaming targeted sanctions for Zimbabwe's serious economic challenges or for issues such as potholes and road accidents is diversionary." True. But he did not go as far as telling us to blame the MDC-T in charge of potholed towns and cities, including revealing his mistaken electoral wish that they govern all of us! Why has America been so unable to teach its political tenants good governance?

For all those lessons at the Kennedy School? But I agree with him on one small point, which is that on what he terms "Zimbabwe's agency", defined as "its ability to address its challenges and to mobilise its magnificent natural resources and human capital".

Although I disagree that all the challenges facing Zimbabwe are its own, I certainly take his point that we have done deplorably bad and little to exercise our agency against American sanctions set against us. That also includes taking good decisions regarding ambassadors who have hurt our country.

Where silence cannot do the trick

But Wharton is making these comments in the wake of the European Union meeting in Brussels meant to review illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe. Obviously he is aware of that backdrop and would want his statements read against it. He is also aware that the EU meets Africa in Brussels this April. Zimbabwe has been invited in a show of rare militant solidarity by the African continent, against European whims.

I am never upbeat about the outcome of EU deliberations. It is also not good to get the national psyche to see liberation as acts of charity by the oppressor. But we have fought, given the Caucasian world a good, determined fight. Come Wednesday, we might get to know what decision the Europeans have already made. But the forerunner to it all has been the gesture of allowing President Mugabe to go to Brussels.

Meanwhile, British dogs of war have been stoking up the anti-Zimbabwean sentiment which Blair and his successive Labour governments cultivated, manured and watered in their long, war days at Number 10. That factor alone prepossesses the Conservative-Lib Democrat British coalition government.

The room for pursuing their policy desires is severely constricted, what with the sluttish Kate Hoey howling. But they have walked a very tight rope, seeking to balance positive signals to Zimbabwe and the fair-minded world on the one side, and seeking to placate trenchant domestic opposition to any changes to sanctions, on the other.

The British Prime Minister's principle instrument for achieving that balance has been silence - golden silence - while lower levels make perfunctory noises. Until of course an EU/Africa Summit is called, with Zimbabwe as deputy chair for both Sadc and AU! Silence ceases to be golden, to be workable And here is what Zimbabwe needs to fully grasp and appreciate.

Silencing the human rights drum

Cameron is up against a strong, near-unanimous anti-sanctions block in the EU. What that widespread opposition to sanctions within the EU does to British foreign policy is that it circumstantially makes the whole tiff with Zimbabwe bilateral, something the architects of Britain's sanctions policy have struggled all along to avert.

All that unmasks the real essence and motive of British policy towards Zimbabwe, that it is fully steeped in economic interests, all of them erected on the emotive pedestal of kith and kin. For the first time, Mugabe may have achieved what he has struggled to realise in more than a decade, namely to show the world that his fight with the British amounts to a continuation of the unresolved colonial question.

That it is a bilateral fight. Instantaneously, that silences the extraneous but convenient human rights drum. Or nips the short white hands beating it.

And of course once that happens, it means the swelling wave of economic self-interest will soon burst the banks of sanctions, burst the banks of the Thames, something the Antwerp diamond auction sale is already beginning to do, causing massive flooding down Somerset! Europe has had enough and Britain will be unable to hold the sanctions centre. Which means what?

No longer standing still

Well, some sanctions measures will have to go, including on most persons, possibly leaving behind the first couple, again largely to allow Britain to save face. May be most of the companies on sanctions will be allowed free, save possibly ZDI, the Defence company.

Again, that would allow the British to brag that their "conscience" policy on Zimbabwe is still intact. Europe cannot afford to remain standing still. But for me the key thing is whether or not the EU will restore EDF, the European Development Fund, itself the principal vehicle for development assistance to Africa and the Third World.

Or agree to make overtures pointing towards its eventual restoration. That would be a game-changer. So, yes, there might be some movement, or important pointers towards some movement, but all clinically balanced against the need to retain some modicum of face and decency to steeped British policy. A good sign has been EU delegations coming into the country under various guises, most of them led by nationals of southern European states.

And the invitation to our business people to visit Europe to drum up support against sanctions. The business intervention does create some neutral ground for what would have been an uproarious retreat, does it not? Read the times.

We have crossed the Rubicon

Back to my friend Whartog, sorry Wharton. Well, he risks misreading the Zimbabwean situation yet again. Soon and very soon America will be left alone, pursuing a solitary sanctions policy in the same way it has done so on Cuba. Hers will be a policy founded on the power of might, never of right. A policy regardless. Or i-regardless, to use Zimbabwean elastic English! Then Wharton will need a very big public relations budget to show and prove the monster has a conscience.

A bit of food to peasants in Umguza; a bit of money to restore this or that monument! Unfortunately for the beast, Zimbabwe is set for a bumper harvest, which means less of and for poor, and thus redundant American pity. But the real challenge is Zimbabwe herself. With its politics built around an anti-sanctions rhetoric, a new rhetoric will soon be needed. I guess we are already witnessing the beginnings of it. We will need to engage, engage on new, non-political parameters. We will need to engage on the basis of full agency, to borrow Bruce's term. Above all, we will need to keep our soul - the only resource which sanctions cannot destroy.

Keep our soul which inhabit in our pro-poor, empowerment policies. Not for us to seek ingratiation that include hawking our pillar policies. To do so makes us victims of Stockholm syndrome, by which the victim begins to fall in love with his tormentor. We have crossed the Rubicon, so we must indigenise, empower, all in order to create employment.

Man, know thy history

And those who do so do not act corruptly. Or seek to lead without skills of the market, itself the locale for new, globalised politics. This is why no distractions must ever be allowed or entertained, in the current exposure and crackdown on corporate malfeasances. Then Bruce will not be able to abuse us through cheap potshots that seek to disguise his country's immoral, racist policies. By the way, did you know that among the so-called pioneers of conquest was a contingent of American nationals? Including one Frost, one M.B.Heany, a Virginian by birth, and a cousin of Edgar Allan Poe. Of course there was also the strange Burnam, the American who after executing a Ndebele warrior hidden in the fastness of Matopo, excitedly re-emerged, wielding a bleeding head. "I have killed 'Umlimo," he yelled triumphantly!

And of course not forgetting the naturalist by the name William "Curio" Harvey Brown, initially sent by the Smithsonian Institution to collect minerals, shells, birds, fishes, mammals, insects, reptiles and ethnological objects, giving Zimbabwe's invasion its zoological, botanical and ethnological dimensions, over and above the overarching politico-military one. To this day America displays artefacts from Zimbabwe. And of course a good many of these invading Americans never made it home, giving our country this haunted legacy of being a white, Caucasian cemetery. All this adds emotion to our relations with Europe and America. Man, don't expect Bruce to be rational; know thy history.



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