columnBy Nathaniel Manheru
The Other Side
Zimbabwe is now amenable!
That is the impression we have created and cultivated since Zanu-PF's landslide victory in July last year. I hope that is the wish-image, not the unintended image arising from our lack of messaging discipline which has been our bane since that resounding electoral victory. Of course if this is our wish-image, all Zimbabweans will be baffled. I mean ALL. What may only vary is the fraction of those baffled for better, as opposed to the fraction of those baffled for worse. But all would be baffled.
Tractable when it governs
Those baffled for better would, by and largely be those always ensconced in our cosy conservative corner. Post-July, they find themselves face to face with powerful paradox, a fascinating schizophrenia in Zanu-PF: that the best way to defeat Zanu-PF is to let it win! I mean we are living through a puzzling phase where Zanu-PF is daily expressing regret about the very stance -- not policy please! -- the very electoral stance that gave it a landslide victory in July last year, a landslide victory barely a year ago.
And those from the conservative corner who rooted for MDC formations as a desperate bulwark against Zanu-PF's economic nationalism are realising quite astoundingly that they did not need to waste time and resources on the un-prop-able Tsvangirai; that all they needed was to clear obstacles for a Zanu-PF landslide, after which all they desired for the economy and themselves would follow, effortlessly.
Zanu-PF, they have since discovered, wins on fiery rhetoric but governs on a deeply conservative, pruned pro-business bundle of policy values which upset no one, which upset nothing! That means in any electoral season, you don't have to watch its lips in order to get to its governing heart. You only have to wipe out its opponents so the friendly heart shows and glows! Much more, Zanu-PF is at its most tractable when it governs. Hark, there is jubilation in boardrooms wailing cymbals in missions aged by anxieties not too long ago.
Weary, wary victors
For worse in respect of those who expected the old world to be remade anew. Those who expected warriors in place of weary, wary victors. Sorry guys, Zanu-PF is not about to incinerate the hated ancient regime of the historical, deeply disempowered blacks. That is not gonna happen folks! All the ruling Party did was to smoke the gammon of the old order, to give it a rich darkish tincture before a generous serve.
The great questions of the day shall be raised and answered by dollarised and buttoned coxcombs from Europe and America, never by angry natives baying for the blood of foreign looters. We will be lucky to have our representatives in those determining boardrooms! The ground has shifted tremendously and we now speak of attracting investments as during the ESAP days! And Biti, much like an over-trained British bulldog, ceaselessly speaks about the return of the Zimdollar he knows will not come back, more to banish the idea forever. To make it most execrable! Art of pre-emption.
One glimmer in darkness
Of course not all is lost. The ruling Party has made good its hopes on agriculture and hey, there is a promise of abundance in the countryside, in the country, therefore. You can't afford to miss the delightful feeling: that for once, we are about to slough off this offensive pot-boiler of from-bread-basket-to-basket-case.
The offensive tag keeps darting off incorrigible lips, landing on you, bespattering you even as you stand in your own household which bears no misery of granaries that hoot and echo with emptiness. For far too long we have been tagged a country on an empty stomach, a nation of etched ribs and a fading heart, both hardly attributes for unleashing national energy, for building self-worth.
And a year into such a de-esteeming judgment, we emerge demographically bigger and better, as if we are one people to whose numbers hunger uniquely multiplies! Year in, year out, they pronounce us dying or dead, but each new year finds us still standing, in bigger multitudes. So, where is the hunger that must finish us, perish us? Of course the assault has always targeted the national spirit and, give it to them, they have been very effective.
To be a Zimbabwean is to ward off low self-esteem. Or to be ready always to detonate when charges of the same are hurled at you. Now, to have a party whose policy wipes off that dogged tag, a mere three months down the inauguration line, is to have a Party of real promise, of real action.
And given that agriculture is the mainstay, it means Zanu-PF is more than half-way towards fulfilling its manifesto. So, weep not child! But the fact remains that the Party's staunchest supporters are feeling at crossroads, feeling really buffeted by gales of crosswinds, post July 2013. My dear governors, post-July 2013 Zimbabwe faces a crisis of direction.
We ran on empty
And here is the saddest part. Except in 1980, never before did Zanu-PF give Zimbabweans a clearer manifesto as it did in the 2013 plebiscite. Even the opposition concede this point, which is why the winning campaign image for the 2013 election was that of the MDC-T hierarchy glued to the ruling Party's manifesto, admiration hardly disguised.
That was about all that united them, that made them smile, before which came fractious defeat, and the great split! Simply Zanu-PF was just clear in terms of where it sought to take Zimbabwe. And I am not debating the feasibility of that destination, or the journey to it. I am merely talking about the clear roadmap it gave the voter, on the basis of which the voter was galvanized as never before. So why this volte face? Not from treachery, if you ask me.
Today's volte face, today's image of an amenable Zanu-PF has arisen not from lack of commitment to indigenisation -- itself the centrepiece of the Zanu-PF manifesto -- but from the shock of realising upon winning and wanting to implement it that it does not exist as a bundle of policies, as a well-mapped governing proposition.
Never has loud campaign politics belied the absence of policy as happened in 2013! I doubt whether it shall ever happen again in the politics of this country. Speaking strictly from a policy point of view, political traction arose from a nullity we had proclaimed as law in 2008. And it speaks of opposition emptiness that Zanu-PF got away with it.
Lack of policy or clarity?
As Zanu-PF is just realising, the real danger to indigenisation is when indigenisation seeks to become a little more than an aspiration. When it seeks to translate itself into a governing policy. And the threat does not come from the opposition which is clueless anyway. It comes from the ruling party's own elite which, like the opposition it trounced, is just as clueless! Zanu-PF's talk of "lack of policy clarity" amounts to utter dishonesty. Which policy is not clear?
How does unclarity become policy?
Which actor is unclear? Are we dealing with lack of policy clarity, or with the absence of policy, in turn creating unclarity? Are we dealing with the masses of Zimbabwe or we are looking at confusion in the governing deck? The striking feature about this whole so-called policy debate is how its debating club is exclusively made up of ministers. Ministers only! One minister says indigenisation is this; another one says it is not that; still another one comes to say it does not mean this, or that, or those! And that minister does not have the last word. Yet another one comes in, seemingly with the detachment of a referee, to declare a policy imbroglio, and then bowing out, but not before adding his own ounce to the piling confusion. Seeing all this, disgusted by all this, the President comes in to lay the policy line.
That intervention motivates a fresh round of ministerial claims and counterclaims, a competition for the most righteous echo of the President's mind.
But what does it mean?
As I sit here to write this piece, I am being told indigenisation does not mean seizure of banks; does not mean seizure of investor capital; does not relate to companies who invest here to beneficiate our raw materials; only relates to those persons who come in to exploit our raw materials -- resource companies, that is.
Fair and fine. I now know what it does not mean. But what does it mean? How can affirmative action flow from an un-affirmed policy? How do I understand indigenisation policy from a damning portrait of an intended female beneficiary who defeated it by asking for a mere US$10 000, in place of substantive company control? Or from the story of a defensive white man who paid the US$10 000? Where is the meat? Who secures it, cuts it into digestible pieces, roasts it, serves it for all of us to eat? And the debate is just between ministers, all of them members of the same Cabinet built from one winning Party. Why is the debate overflowing the cup of Cabinet, spilling into the public domain? How can an idea which won the polls, so divide the winner in this very public way? For Christ's sake this is not an altercation between winners acting en bloc on the one hand, and society in its disparateness united against a proposed would-be ruling idea on the other. And authors of policy cannot charge the rest of society with policy unclarity. Surely?
Face of an unresolved nation
And let's see how the outsider has been relating to this utter confusion in the ruling deck. Just last month, Britain's deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, one Chris Brown, had this to say about us: "If the Government doesn't soon articulate a really clear approach on achieving empowerment and respect property rights, Africa, I fear, will continue to rise without Zimbabwe."
Not only is the statement profound; it is directional. Here is a white Briton speaking as if of Africa, speaking as if he directs Africa. Here is a white Briton less urging us to be clear on empowerment, and more telling us what it shouldn't entail or offend against: property rights. Yet property rights are the essence of indigenisation! Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again. Really?
And this is where I feel most failed by our leadership. They have exposed the Republic simply through a thoughtless bicker over its foundational policy. Today the Briton knows there's a policy vacuum, and thus still an opportunity to influence, dissuade, even bully and threaten Zimbabwe from its chosen path. Much worse, the Briton now knows there is no consensus on the matter, which means there are still officials open to persuasion, up for taking! This does not suggest a resolved nation. No, it does not.
When appeal is better than ownership
And the western world has been lining up propaganda instruments and symbols to overwhelming that forlorn policy intention. They have just released a new report on Africa as a mining destination, with Zimbabwe ranking 91 out of 96. I don't know what that report means quite seriously, means to a country with its unique mineral endowments which no other on the continent, or even in the world, may ever have. It cannot be about positioning as if we are dealing with resource "commons".
It can only be about seeking to attack our confidence as an owning people, seeking to make us feel as if ownership of resources is not primary to national wealth; that international appeal is! And we have our bickering ministers to thank for that.
Stampeding for new fads
Lately, we have invented a "new" fad: Special Economic Zones? EPZs? In Zimbabwe, things are new not by when they became known to humankind, but by when we stumbled on them! In typical herd-fashion, the stampede has already begun. Special Economic Zone has become the phrase on every lip! Just how do these special zones relate to indigenisation?
Or is it the other way round: how does indigenisation relate to Special Economic Zones which the Finance Minister tells us will soon become the whole country? Very soon we shall be caught up in another sterile debate, before an old one is settled. It reminds one of Dickens' Bleak House! And nothing creates greater paralysis in a country than an unsettled question of direction. Worse if the direction takes the form of recanting from a common, understood electoral one on which massive votes were won.
In the meantime the country trudges on, each one finding a nook for themselves. Yes, we will get by, survive even. But we will never have a common, shared purpose or national goal. Much worse, we will end up being defined by outsiders who shall tell us where we should fear to tread, where to tread softly and of course where to walk with a thud if we are to gain the goodwill of the outsider.
As if sanctions are gone!
Already I notice we have become so pleased with the return of America to our Trade Fair grounds as if that means anything at all, or mark the softening of American animosity towards Zimbabwe. It is a false symbolism meant to tempt us from our chosen path, whatever we believed it to be, indeed a will-of-the-wisp so welcome to a man lost for direction in a desert. We even believe sanctions have gone. Or are going. There is a concerted attempt to overwrite the sanctions copy as if we have defeated them.
Meanwhile America will not allow us to buy coins for the financial sector here. Meanwhile America will not allow our mission, properly accredited in terms of the Geneva Convention, to open a bank account! Meanwhile America conveys goodwill by freeing our dead from the chains of sanctions, while chaining our living through more sanctions. Come August, Obama shall unfurl a new policy of destabilising Zimbabwe through expanded funding of subversive NGOs! Yes, Zimbabwe is now more amenable.