via Old stories – current message | The Zimbabwean 17 September 2014 by Magari Mandebvu
You must have heard the story about the smart operators who offered a vain emperor a unique suit of clothes. The cloth was so light, you could hardly feel it. More important, only people above a certain intelligence level could see it at all. They measured him carefully, cut, snipped and stitched, adjusted the fit here and the style of collar there, until the masterpiece of the tailor’s art was finished.
The emperor had to stage a solemn procession to show off his new suit. Everybody had heard about the marvellous properties of the cloth, so none of them wanted to admit they couldn’t see that the emperor wasn’t wearing anything at all. They all cheered loudly, clapped and made loud complimentary remarks about the cut of the marvellous suit, its subtle blend of colours and the way it enhanced the innate dignity of His Imperial Majesty.
That was until one small boy, who may not have heard about the magical cloth, or maybe he enjoyed causing mischief, cried out: “Mummy, why is the Emperor walking around naked?”
The name of that emperor is not recorded, but there have been many Great Leaders in the course of history who have been tricked into showing off their political or intellectual nakedness.
Lobengula’s naivety could perhaps be excused. Very few of his people had ever seen pale hairy people without knees before. They knew these people had magical weapons that could even kill an elephant from far away, but they hadn’t worked out all the implications of these strange facts.
The settlers came asking to meet the Great King of all the lands between the Limpopo and the Zambezi. They surely knew that was an exaggeration, but any confidence trickster can tell you that if you lay on the flattery thick enough, your victim’s critical faculty goes to sleep. All they wanted was his permission to dig for some rocks he had never found a use for, mostly in the remoter part of his realm. If they wanted to give him gifts before they did their digging in territory he didn’t claim, he wasn’t going to correct their mistake, Would you if you had been in his place?
So they built their forts in places he didn’t control, started making more demands – and the rest is history.
That emperor was fooled by tricksters who claimed to have a superior technology. The crooks who deceived Lobengula deliberately hid facts about how powerful their weapons were, how much of the world they and their business associates or rivals controlled and what the agreement really meant. Some others have less excuse for their gullibility.
Our emperor knew a lot about the evil British and the diabolical, if rather stupid, Americans. He’s not quite so smart about the other European ex-(?)colonialists and he’s downright naive in his dealings with people who are neither white nor western. No politician is Santa Claus, and even Santa is reported to give presents only to good children.
The Chinese are his friends because they gave him weapons during the war. He only needed to sound moderately sincere when he quoted from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. What was in that for them? They knew he wasn’t a whole-hearted Marxist revolutionary, but needed allies against the villainous West. Now they want to strengthen their businesses, not spread ideology. How can we help them there? A bankrupt failed state like ours is not an ideal place for anyone to do business, and our Chinese friends are certainly sharp businessmen. They know better than to rely on our morally and financially bankrupt government or on the shaking ruins of our economy. They don’t take stupid risks.
If they agree to anything, it must guarantee them a big and quick profit and tight control is the only guarantee.
Leave negotiation to our emperor and we could all end up walking naked to display our lovely new Chinese clothes.