The Herald (Harare)

22 March 2014

Zimbabwe: The Numerate Nation That Can't Count

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The Other Side

Matters are hurtling to a head in the MDC-T, are they not? But I must correct myself. I was rather hard on Biti and Mangoma last week. Or is it Mangoma and Biti? Just who is who? And what is the hierarchical sequence? I wonder. Last week I suggested the duo is doing nothing on the ground, nothing to challenge Tsvangirai organisationally. I was wrong. There is lots of activity going on, activities calculated to challenge Morgan Tsvangirai organisationally, while tethering him to endless, distracting court battles, themselves the real chink in Tsvangirai's knuckle-in-place-of-head armor! There was some activity in Matabeleland North last week, and possibly in Bulawayo, activity sizeable enough to cause a rumble in Tsvangirai's insides.

The calculating keeper

A worse rumble in Chamisa who appears to punch on the side of Tsvangirai when in reality he is clearing ground for his own ambition, a vaulting one if you ask me. Get it from me: Chamisa is not fighting to keep Tsvangirai. He is fighting to depose him soonest, which is why the likes of Mangoma and Biti have to be stumped out, all in the name of saving Tsvangirai, "the face of the struggle".

Of course not many asked what it is that is behind that much vaunted face of struggle. Let me favour you with indicative titbits. Of course you have Chamisa whose bid seems pre-empted by claims that he is eyeing for Biti's secretary generalship. He denies, correctly too, for his aim is much higher and, when Biti's name is mentioned, Macbeth-like, Chamisa quips: "Thane of Cawdor!/That's a step/ On which I must stumble, or else overleap,/ For in my way it lies./ Stars, hide your fires,/ Let not light see my black and deep desires;"

Vacuum or vortex?

It will be a real setback if Chamisa has to vie for secretary generalship, as that would mean he would have stumbled and "failed to overleap", failed to neutralise Biti beforehand. This is what all this bembera around Biti is all about: to rattle him and goad him into punishable excesses, in order to be rid of him, kangaroo style. But many outside and inside "the tent" have the same ambition, the same target.

There are many originally associated with this British political project who sense a vacuum, while incorrectly reading a vortex for an opportunity. Put the likes of Sikhala in that category. He is not positioning himself close to Tsvangirai in order to take the sacrificial bullet; he is there in order to be near enough to push Tsvangirai over when the tipping hour arrives.

But you also have Simba Makoni with his naive thinking that joining the MDC-T places him close enough for a similar takeover, without the burden of history, of '99. Interestingly that threatening prospect of a Makoni's ahistorical rise in the run-up to July 31 united the likes of Chamisa, Biti, Mudzuri and Mangoma against Tsvangirai who was suspiciously viewed as seeking an unofficial handover to a non-member. And donors liked the idea too, which is what made it so menacingly real to other MDC-T's aspirants, across factions.

I hope this clarifies why Makoni, all along a Presidential candidate, chose to run for a mere provincial constituency in Manicaland, in the process earning himself the political jab of a proverbial god aspiring to be mere man. And failing in that lowly ambition too! The bigger idea was to get his butt in, in the hope of a tackling elbow.

Shattered shirtfront

And then you have your Mudzuri. A very brave man indeed, but he made a big mistake of showing that bravery too early. Made a big mistake not against himself but for his rivals in the MDC-T, and these are Biti and Mangoma. He was misread as about to announce a pre-emptive power-bid, well ahead of the maturation of the Biti-Mangoma leadership-change strategy.

That triggered panic, precipitating a premature declaration of intent by way of Mangoma's fatal advisory, the writing of which triggered consequences so dramatically represented by his shattered shirtfront. I am not so sure whether Mudzuri has been pre-empted, or spared to fight another day. He has this habit of being absent when you want to read him. Initially I thought it was a strategy, until I got convinced that far from being an actor, he merely exacerbates actions of others. Between his dropping from Government and from organising secretaryship, he could have done many things. He didn't.

Aura of calculated mystery

As for Tsvangirai, well, Harare, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Bulawayo, Manicaland and of course Mashonaland East remain fundamentally unsettling propositions. This is why Chamisa is battling to seal suspension or cause preordained restructuring in those same provinces, a move which Biti hopes to abort through a reading of the party's statutes.

And the threats to charge any MDC-T MP who does not attend "the president's" rallies does not suggest a winning team. The Biti faction's decision to speak to the world through Mafume, Mangoma's lawyer, is not only a way of building some aura of mystery and inscrutability over their real thoughts and intentions; it is a presentiment of a legal accent in leadership battles ahead.

And the upshot? Well, a clear indication that the hive of activity around MDC-T is analogous to brisk movements ahead of a clearance rummage sale: many throng the business site not to show its market pull, but to pick bits and pieces. See you in November!

When the hyena hires a lawyer for the lamb

The other day I had a discussion with a western diplomat who shall remain nameless. We discussed lots of things, including the Chinese role on the continent, and the continent's readiness for a new, entrepreneurial China with its gargantuan appetite for raw materials so abundant on the continent. Smugly, she lamented Africa's lack of capacity to do deals on the economy and resources.

Pretending to be polite to me, she added that Zimbabwe is in a much better position, what with its educated populace. "You know what, a few years back one of our leading energy companies engaged an African country for the exploitation of huge offshore gas deposits. The company would not make progress, much to our frustration as a mission. And what arrested progress was not tough bargaining on the part of the African owners of the resource. It was stonewalling based on raw ignorance.

They really did not know what to defend, what to wring out of the deal. They chose the safety of stonewalling. We really were frustrated, I tell you! And hey, you know what we ended up doing?" Of course I did not. "We got a very good lawyer from my country for the energy firm, and another good lawyer, again from my country, to help the African country!" We had a laugh, a good, hearty one for her, a tragic one for me.

For this was an African country, African intellect, an African resource, African ownership, African fate and African destiny, all of it shaped by this western country, from both sides of demand and supply. Not even the-Zimbabwe-are-much-better pamper would mollify me. It was depressing to hear this pontificated sympathy, in reality this brag of power. And are we better, any better, I was left wondering.

But the books are in

Chinese, Sir?

Another anecdote is appropriate, one nearer the bone. Not too long ago, I had a discussion with Minister Walter Chidhakwa, the young Minister of Mines. He gave me a dolorous tale on the goings-on in the mining sector, in its diamond sub-sector specifically. Recently he went on a tour of the diamond fields, a fact-finding tour.

He visited the first diamond company, the second, the third, all the time getting some coherent story, however suspicious. When it came to the fourth mine -- a joint venture with the Chinese -- he met the chief there: a man wearing my complexion, wielding a surname that is decidedly Zimbabwean. "So, what is happening here", asked the Minister, tall ears ready. "A hmm, a hmmm I don't know, Cde Minister."

"But you are our representative in the joint venture?" "Ahmmm, yes Minister, but the Chinese brought in their own people." "Yes, they were minding their own interests, you were minding ours?" "Yes Sir, but all the papers on the mining activity are in Chinese", added the Blackman, penitentially. Another laughter, but this time pregnant with nervousness, so full of shame and a shared sense of national mortification, national tragedy. That's sample us.

Sleeping to fruity bubble

We have a problem, a big one too. We sought the political kingdom. Sought and got tools for securing that political kingdom. It was a good fight, a very good fight which cut us above much of Africa, cut us above as an heroic people. We died. We killed; we suffered setbacks, we won, in the end, securing the political kingdom ever so firmly.

We are happy, have been from 1980. But soon after, we slid into a deep slumber, enjoyed the deep sleep of an accomplished people, an achieving nation. In that sweet sleep, the outsider tiptoed in, armed with a sweet ditty with which to serenade us into uxoriousness, a lullaby that got us to sleep from one market day to another, to another and to yet another. In West Africa I am told, sleep that goes beyond one market day becomes something else.

We are still asleep, at the very least drowsy and recumbent, thanks to the outsider's soporific song, gentle stroke and pat. It is sweet sleep, the kind that loosens all the bolts, hind ones included. Kusunungura mbambo dzese zvadzo, leaving us in fruity bubble, the type that adds smelly warmth to the sleep.

Forbears who forearmed us

Goodness me, the warrior people, the warrior nation defeated by mere sleep. A warrior people who can't catch, can't eat, can't own, can't trade to advantage! We have a saying in Shona: chidyamatovo wakadzipwa neganda remhuru. Roughly translated: the legendary eater of raw, hard hides, choked on a piece of veal. You want another, just to show you that dutifully, our forebears have been our fore-armers? Garoziva kuroya wakahukurwa nembwa.

Again roughly translated: on that fateful day, the master-witch drew an alerting bark from a sleepy puppy. She was caught red-handed, and a dry nail was driven right down her fontanelle. Today she walks with a limp, and no one dares disclose the cause of it. Such things are never repeated in the village. The rains will not fall.

Why are so heroic a people so ill-equipped for the economic battle they knew was fated to follow the political war? The battle they knew was the only way to make real the political kingdom just won, just so dearly won with so much blood shed?

Owning what we can't keep

We got the land, wrestled it from the Boers in fact. Today we own the land. But what we have won, what we now own, we can't keep. We can't use. We are leasing it. We are leasing it, often back to the very white man we ejected at such horrendous cost to ourselves and those we sire. As we all know, the arm of the white man is long, his pale heart unforgiving. In remembers all hurts, forgiving none. In 2000, we started a fight set to last across generations, until we succumb, or succeed emphatically.

Now, that which we have wrestled through so much, for so much, today we lease back to the despoiler. What are we saying about our Independence, our sovereignty? It is up for lease? It has a buyback value? It is something we own sentimentally yet are prepared to lose in usufruct terms? Is that the disposition of keepers, of owners, of an economic people? Are we deserving owners of the biblical vineyard? Are Zimbabweans ever "homo economicus", ever economic beings? Or we seek the political kingdom only?

But the war had economic goals?

The issue of indigenisation. The political goals are remarkably clear, well beyond faulting. We must own our resources, benefit from them, be controlling sharers in their exploitation. They are non-renewable, finite. Who quarrels with that speckless argument? Who? Yet a people who fought and won a vicious war today cannot translate that laudable wish into a simple, workable policy? We have policies to keep the 400-plus British companies here, all alive, comfortable. We have beautiful policies for a perfect neo-colony, even intellectual warriors to defend and press for it. But we have no policy, not even an iota, with which to assume ownership of what is ours, and to turn that which is ours into a performing asset able to feed our children. Or to fashion partnerships that ensure we have a substantive presence in that equation.

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