BEYOND SALVAGE? By Godfrey 22 August 2013
PART ONE | Part two published 28 August 2013
All things come to an end. This optimistic resignation feels very irrelevant to Zimbabweans today. Once again Zimbabwe finds herself at the mercy of power, raw power. Thirty three years and still counting, the self congratulatory cacophony, “we liberated you from the British” continues. In other words, “Shut up, sit down, be eternally grateful and let us rule you, and whilst we are at it, no questions asked.” Without countenancing what the British did to Zimbabwe, the deliberate distortion of history by Mugabe et al is self evident.
In 1980 Zimbabwe was not ‘liberated’ from the British as Mugabe wants us to believe. She was ‘liberated’ from the Smith regime. This is a very important distinction which has been glossed over for obvious political purposes. Both Ian Douglas Smith, of British heritage, and Robert Gabriel Mugabe, heritage unknown to many, but probably of Malawian descent- a Mr. Matibili sired Robert Mugabe- were born in Southern Rhodesia, Smith in 1919 and Mugabe in 1924. Thus, although heritage is relevant to individuals personally, our laws then and now, even though the laws are now selectively applied, made anyone born in Zimbabwe, a citizen of Zimbabwe at birth. This makes logical and legal sense. No matter how omnipotent, it is a practical impossibility for a leader to take citizenship at birth from the beholder. A place of birth is indelible. Necessarily, Smith never ceased to be a citizen of Rhodesia cum Zimbabwe, in spite of his sixteen years of atrocious governance, just like Robert Mugabe, with his thirty three years of comparable atrocities.
I can almost begin to hear the same old tired racist vitriol on my person from Mugabe’s spin doctors. I will survive the rants.
To describe Ian Smith as British is just the same as describing Americans as British. In 1965 Smith, just like what the Americans did in 1776, unilaterally declared independence from Britain. Ironically, when America declared its independence it was to form a union whilst Ian Smith helped to dissolve one. At the declaration of their independence, thirteen colonies assumed the name United States of America. Smith dropped Southern from an ill fated federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and Southern Rhodesia became a de facto independent state, Rhodesia now Zimbabwe.
Lost to many is the fact that; the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith (UDI) was necessitated by the British stance of not allowing its colonies to gain independence before majority rule (NIBAR). The British did not want Ian Smith to declare independence without full participation of the majority black people; whites formed 5% of the population compared to 94.5% of blacks. The reason why the British wanted the majority to participate in governing their states may be debatable, probably self serving, but the fact still remains, they were no longer the governing authority when Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence from Britain.
Ian Smith argued that the will of the majority was fully declared at the indaba he held with the traditional chiefs and headman in Domboshawa in 1964, a disingenuous disputation. Empirically this goes to prove that political manipulation of chiefs is not new, nor is it a preserve of Robert Mugabe alone. Chiefs are always manipulated, and they are a rare species those who still hold on to their true traditional values, their office of trust. Although the indaba proved to be purely academic, because the British boycotted the meeting, the chiefs and headmen in attendance reportedly approved the UDI, “unanimously”.
After Smith declared his independence from the British the United Nations, including Britain and America, imposed a trade embargo on Smith’s Rhodesia which remained throughout his reign. Whether the imposition of sanctions was all the British could have done to speed up majority rule is debatable. However, it is worth noting that the British were not the governing authority in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe when the war of independence earnestly started in 1974 or when Mugabe ascended to the helm of ZANU, by default in 1975.
Leopold Takawira, who could have succeeded Ndabaningi Sithole as the president of ZANU died in detention and Herbert Chitepo was killed by a car bomb. Edgar Tekere absolves Mugabe of wrestling power from Ndabaningi Sithole, Mugabe’s former boss. Sithole, Enos Nkala, Herbert Chitepo and Edgar Tekere and Mugabe were the founding fathers of ZANU. Sithole was the president of ZANU and Mugabe was Sithole’s secretary general. Tekere writes in his book, A Lifetime of Struggle, that it was him who orchestrated and tabled the motion to sack Sithole from ZANU because of policy differences.
Sithole secured his release from prison by denouncing hostilities against the Smith regime. His fellow prisoners of conscience Maurice Nyagumbo, Enos Nkala and Edgar Tekere felt betrayed. They voted to oust Sithole. Tekere makes it a point to mention that Mugabe did not want to rebel against Sithole. Mugabe was arm twisted, Tekere reports, to abstain from voting for Sithole, leading to a 3 to 1 defeat and the ouster of Ndabaningi from the very party he helped to form. Motin Malianga, who shared a prison cell with Mugabe and Sithole, could not vote because he chaired the meeting. If Tekere’s allegations are true, and there is no reason to think otherwise, the militancy in Robert Mugabe maybe a late development and a tool he has artistically learned to effectively exploit.
Mugabe has and will order the brutalization of unarmed citizens. He however, embellishes his military record to instill fear. Mugabe has been reported to have declared that he had a degree in fighting. He is on record as saying, if indigenization makes him Hitler he is a Hitler tenfold. Brutal as he may be, Mugabe is no Hitler neither does he have a degree in military fighting, seven academic degrees notwithstanding. Without dismissing the invaluable role he played in the struggle against the Smith regime, Mugabe was not the most relevant factor in the war proper.
The war of liberation was very instrumental to the attainment of Zimbabwean independence. But to suggest that independence was won through the barrel of the gun without disclosing that Mugabe became Prime Minister as a result of a negotiated settlement is erroneous and misleading, a deliberate omission of relevant facts, just to boost Mugabe’s resume. If Zimbabwe had been liberated from Smith solely through the barrel of the gun, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, as the country was briefly known in 1979, would not have reverted to British authority, a step which was taken to necessitate a smooth transition to self determination. Mugabe would not have retained the likes of Ken Flower and Peter Walls within his security agents and the defense forces.
Lord Soames would not have been appointed as a transitional governor of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and there would not have been a Lancaster House Constitution which among other things reserved 20 parliamentary seats for white citizens. The reason why Lord Soames became a governor is because Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister at the time, refused to be hoodwinked by Smith’s adroit puppetry. In an attempt to gain recognition and to outwit Mugabe and Nkomo, Smith conjured an internal settlement and declared an election which was won by Bishop Abel Muzorewa. Muzorewa became the Prime Minister, Josiah Zion Gumede the President and Ian Smith became a minister without portfolio. Yet, all important portfolios; the economy, judiciary, police and armed forces remained under the control of Rhodesian Front, Smith’s political party. Compare this with the 2008 Government of National Unity (GNU) and ZANU PF’s hold on important ministerial portfolios. Mugabe hated Smith, but he sure learns from history.
Could the war have been won decisively, by ZIPRA and ZANLA, the military wings of ZAPU and ZANU respectively? Probably, but the fact is it was not decisively won. The combatants should be commended for ceasing fire when they did because they averted further brutalization and unnecessary killings of civilians by both sides.
Mugabe’s policy decisions are engineered by real or perceived disrespect of his person. The British are a good example of such. Remember, the Robert Mugabe of the 80s and 90s, the derisively cartooned Vasco da Gama? The one who would stopover in London for tea with the queen on his way to Gweru from Harare? Remember Sir Robert Mugabe who was knighted as the Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1994 by Queen Elizabeth? The point is, Mugabe is very fond of Britain and everything British, the tea, the assumed accent with an exaggerated drawl. All the vitriol he now heaps on his erstwhile and favorite destination is really because he cannot visit anymore. Yes, the British Labour Party reneged on an agreement entered by its predecessor to sponsor the land reform, but Mugabe is not without blame. Mugabe is not a slave to principles. He conveniently dresses his policies from a wardrobe of personal emotions which suits him fine, as long as his power remains intact.
We just have to brace ourselves as we watch Mr. Mugabe do what he wills to “his” country. Now that his political hands are unfettered, parliamentary opposition and leadership decimated; Mugabe may dragoon his diktats with never before seen zealotry. Mugabe and his generals own Zimbabwe, their cosa nostra. They may continue to run it as such. As a life president, he has outdone his hero, Hastings Kamuzu Banda. He may feel validated to do what he wants without any reservations. He has populated the judiciary with his puppets, the attorney general is unapologetically partisan, the police are crooks, the military is in control, and all the government institutions are hopelessly corrupt. Institutionalized corruption will crystallize. Impunity will run supreme. Promises made will once again be broken. There is going to be parceling out of rewards to “men of honor”, and the struggling economy will take a severe knock. China the new economic conqueror will tremendously benefit through the get rich quick cabinet Mugabe will assemble.
Yet there is real opportunity here, which Mugabe can exploit and redeem his legacy. He can start by putting in place pragmatic policies that will put Zimbabwe back on track and successfully compete on the world market.
Was MDC the answer? Doubtable, because the “now it’s our turn syndrome” was very real and apparent among the MDC officials. Power also got in their heads. The syndrome blinded MDC. They failed to act or strategize. The electoral landscape was heavily tilted against them. Stupidly, they participated and in the process they validating a rigged election. They were outsmarted. A chance to at least set Zimbabwe on a path to democracy may have been lost.
There is enough evidence to support that corruption had taken root among many MDC parliamentarians and cabinet members. Mugabe allowed the rot to take hold. It is part of his modus operandi and he has used it over and over again, even among his fellow ZANU PF cabinet members. Many of the MDC members who formed part of the GNU seriously and corruptly compromised themselves. Any one of them who now raises his voice to criticize the new Mugabe government will be investigated for the sins of the past and prosecuted. Even though the Attorney General may overzealously and selectively prosecute, many of these former opposition parliamentarians and cabinet members have legitimate cases to answer.
Tendai Biti’s future may be sealed by the multimillion dollar defamation suit Didymus Mutasa, one of Mugabe’s staunchest backers, timely filed against Biti. It was very ill advised for Biti to repeat a parliamentary speech outside parliamentary proceedings. But even if Mutasa was defamed as he claims, to sue Biti for US$5m, is laughable, only the suit was filed in the High Court of Zimbabwe. You guessed it; Mugabe has populated his courts with his own supporters who masquerading as justices. Biti will be found liable. Damages will be assessed and he will be financially ruined. He will appeal, but the judgment will be upheld. And whilst we are at it, just watch the rate of speed at which the case is going to be heard, concluded and executed. A carrot, to turn coat may be extended to Biti. Whether he will catch the bait remains an open question.
Unfortunately, those who supported MDC are now at the mercy of the vindictive and zombified ZANU PF supporters. Mugabe knows when to pounce and pounce he may. He wants to deliver a fatal blow to his and his party’s nemesis, the total destruction of MDC. He may probably co-opt some who showed political shrewdness from the opposition, teach them the ZANU PF way and allow them to join the gravy train. Others on the periphery, like Lovemore Madhuku, discredited leader of National Constitutional Assembly and a law professor, have already constructed a spring board to ingratiate himself with Robert Mugabe. Madhuku has lately made pronouncements laced with unmistakable, “I can be another Jonathan Moyo” innuendos.
The best that Tsvangirai and all his entourage can do now is to make sure that their supporters are not molested. If any competent leadership is to sprout from the MDC, they have to be bold enough to protect their very vulnerable supporters and smart enough to take pragmatic steps to avoid Zimbabwe from taking the plunge. The urge to abandon ship, now that power is currently beyond their reach, is very appealing, but that is not what worthy leaders are made of. Mugabe may be destructive, but his political fortunes were originally founded on genuine and strong conviction to fight and even to die for his own people. Who could have guessed?
To be continued.
Part one originally by email and via https://www.facebook.com/notes/zimbabwe-situation/beyond-salvage-by-godfrey-22-august-2013/368696649899346