|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
WHEN it comes to Southern Africa, relations between Britain and France have always been vexed -- perhaps we remind them of that socially disastrous braaivleis with Joan of Arc to celebrate the end of the 100 Years' War.
Way back in the 1880s they clashed over French annexation of Madagascar. Many believed world war was inevitable between the British and the allied French and Czarist Russians.
The latter were convinced the war in South Africa 1899-1902 was the precursor of a much greater conflict that would start in Aghanistan and spread west to Persia and Sudan, east to China. That was why the likes of Joseph Chamberlain and Cecil Rhodes, with his Oxford scholarships, looked to a "Great Brotherhood of Teutonic Nations" embracing the USA and Imperial Germany.
For generations, the French have got away with what, to Anglo-Saxon ears, sounds like cynical and hypocritical double-speak about Africa.
The only part they sought to fill with a French-speaking population was Algeria. They gave the rest of their African possessions independence with hardly a murmur, for 40 years supporting their currency, the CFA franc.
French philosophers said the Africanist concept of "Negritude" dovetailed with ideals of "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" behind the revolution of 1789, and the world-wide French "civilising mission". Yet France has a long, bloody tradition of centrally-organised slaughter of minority groups such as the Albigenses, the Knights Templar and the Huguenots: this carries over into the neo-Nazi writings of Frantz Fanon, Robert Mugabe's sacred texts, and is much closer to his mind than the Anglo-Saxon "chapel" way of self-upliftment and gradual reform.
Some of the statesmen of newly-independent Francophone Africa were previously deputies for their territories in the metropolitan French parliament, under a representation arrangement that was the exact reverse of the British one. When Pakistanis and Jamaicans acquired United Kingdom citizenship they were embraced by "The New multi-cultural Britain", but even British-born whites were deprived of their vote in Westminister elections as soon as they ceased to be resident in UK constituencies: Whitehall was determined to have neither "settler colonials" nor their black subjects postal voting from Africa.
Paris maintained French Foreign Legion bases and did what the British found unthinkable: signed agreements to prop up friendly regimes menaced by revolt. Whitehall said once the Union Jack had been hauled down, what happened was the UN security council's business.
The terrible irony in Mugabe's current effort to cosy up to France, as a Trojan horse or bridgehead for him within the European Union (to mix metaphors), is that, were this ex-French territory, Les Paras in their natty kepis would have given him and his young wife the "coup de grace" at least three years ago.
Then there is the French attitude to farm subsidies: the late Francois Mitterrand insisted "France must grow food for the world's starving masses", but his cherished European Union payouts to inefficient French farmers undermined the economics of African crop production through dumped exports.
While boasting of France's great colour-blind culture, and closing their consulate here in 1970, the French almost outdid the Portuguese and South Africans as breakers of United Nations mandatory sanctions during the 1965-1979 Rhodesian dispute. Congo Brazzaville and Gabon were major entrepots for exported Rhodesian produce.
Frenchmen from Mauritius and Madagascar settled in Rhodesia, bringing special expertise in sugar production. Some were killed on their farms by guerillas. French veterans of the Algerian and Vietnam Wars joined the Rhodesian Army.
French Alouette 111 helicopters, continually re-supplied with spares through shady middlemen, were the mainstay of Rhodesian anti-insurgency operations and Rhodesian pilots trained on supersonic Dassault Mirage jets in South Africa.
Citroens and Renaults, assembled in Rhodesia, suddenly appeared on our streets in place of British makes. Ian Smith rode around in an unobtrusive convoy of two Peugeot 404s, escorted by four white bodyguards, while the same model replaced Austin Westministers as police squad cars.
French fabrics were on sale in the expensive department stores. In the late 1960s, new season Beaujolais wine cost 18 shillings a bottle -- about R2.
The telephone book advertised "official agents for the French aircraft industry", headed by Wing Commander Roy Simmonds, an ultra right-wing Rhodesian Front MP.
Despite every pious denial from nominally left-leaning French politicians, it was clear a powerful element in the French establishment was seeking to transfer Rhodesia to its economic sphere of influence from that of Britain. French "pragmatism" over Mugabe's breach of democratic norms gives the impression a similar policy is in force as he tries to line up with Francophone Africa.
Paris has invited him to the pending summit in February, when we must expect a massive propaganda offensive as he struts his stuff before the Great Nation. To some, it will be reminiscent of those old newsreel clips of Hitler striding triumphantly down the Champs d'Elysee in May 1940. The French have forgotten the way statesmen such as Joseph Kennedy and Eamonn de Valera irrevocably tarnished themselves in the eyes of history by backing the Nazis to win. The ghost of Marshal Petain and his collaborationist Vichy regime lives on in the Quai d'Orsay, headquarters of the French Foreign Ministry.
The French message to the Third World -- including countries such as Iraq and Burma -- is unmistakable: favour our businessmen and your human rights record will get the response of that detestable one-eyed English admiral who humiliated us at Trafalgar in 1805.
Apart from "Le Shopping", always a favourite activity, Mugabe will use his Paris trip to ram down the throats of his people the message that the world has now accepted as a fait accompli his stolen 2002 presidential election, his seizure of the white farms, his terror tactics against opponents.
This has been the theme of the official media during the past week with the visits of the Nigerian foreign minister, Sule Lamido, and South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and even James Morris of the World Food Programme.
Morris's call for assistance to African farmers was distorted into "accepting the irreversibility of land reform" (ie ethnic cleansing of whites).
In public, Lamido and Zuma merely said that relations were cordial and they brought confidential messages from presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki.
Lamido said Obasanjo would come here next month ahead of the review of Zimbabwe's year-long suspension from Commonwealth councils. The "troika" consists of Obasanjo, Mbeki and Australian prime minister John Howard, but the supreme confidence with which Mugabe awaits the outcome of their review was demonstrated in Lusaka on January 14 when he said Howard was "the product of genetically modified criminals bent on eliminating Aborigines". In other words, it does not matter what racist abuse he employs -- Mugabe trusts his friends will always chortle behind their hands and back him up.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, warned that France, South Africa and Nigeria bore a heavy responsibility for buttressing Mugabe's regime -- "the people being starved to death are not white; the majority of victims of the killing machine are not white; those who languish in gaol and are subjected to daily torture and inhuman conditions are not white; those in the rural areas are not white."
This is a small town and while Lamido and Zuma may have guarded their tongues before the media, both were seen being feted, on successive nights, at Amanzi, the most expensive restaurant in Highlands. Diners saw them exuberantly enjoying the company of Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made and Mugabe's egregious information supremo, Jonathan Moyo.
For Zuma to appear in public with Moyo was a gross diplomatic indiscretion after his remarks that South Africa was not a safe tourist destination and its people "filthy and uncouth", unfit to lead Nepad.
There were about 10 people in each dining party. We don't know who paid.
Amanzi bills usually come to at least Z$10 000 a cover -- which represents 400kg of mealie meal at the controlled price or about 60kg on the black market operated by ruling party fat cats who receive preferential supplies.
Let us hope the wine was not French at prices running into five figures.
A small bottle of Vichy water would have been fitting.
|Geldof bid to avert 'absurd' Zimbabwe match|
Sir Bob Geldof is backing a bid to help the England team to pull out of their controversial World Cup game in Zimbabwe.
Geldof has teamed up with human rights organisation the Aegis Trust in a bid to raise £1million to meet any financial penalties incurred by England should they withdraw from their game against Zimbabwe in Harare on February 13.
The Trust have established a Zimbabwe Fund and are asking members of the public to pledge £1 in a Comic Relief-style telethon.
"On a day in which perhaps thousands will die of state-sponsored famine, the English nation as represented by their cricket team will be guests of their perpetrator Robert Mugabe," Geldof told the Evening Standard.
"Against these facts a game of cricket is wholly absurd. We must withdraw. I wholly endorse this appeal for you to pick up the telephone and buy this game off."
England's players this week pleaded with the England and Wales Cricket Board to pull out of the match - but the governing body have decided to wait for a meeting of the International Cricket Council on Thursday for guidance.
Without financial help from the Government to fund compensation the ECB refused to pull out of the match, but the Trust's offer of support could change their stance.
A spokesman for the Trust said: "We are hopeful of raising the money if we can get our message across.
"We believe the public doesn't want the English cricket team to play in Harare because it cares about the Zimbabwean people.
"It's not fair to leave the England team to shoulder a moral obligation all of us should share."
Story filed: 14:40 Tuesday 28th January 2003