UNDER THE EAVES with Igomombe
I HOPE Chamisa’s simmering and smarting hordes are now settled, after what by now should be a long enough cooling period. He is himself showing signs of recovering from zealous political Pentecostalism, which is why he is now asking for authority from his Alliance’s National Council to reopen dialogue with Zanu-PF.
Those of us who are near enough knew much early on that matters would come to this happy state, which is why we kept advising the winning side that the young man’s posturing was nothing more than a time-honoured coping mechanism after the dizzying trauma of a double defeat. Having worked his constituency into a militant frenzy, one only appeasable by victory which he did not realise would elude him, it was only natural and responsible for him to help them unwind through acts of pseudo-bellicosity and confrontation he knew would not wash.
And as he made these necessary political performatives, his henchmen kept winners of the polls fully engaged and briefed, which is why nothing untoward happened, why nothing got unhinged, allowing the centre to hold. Thanks are also deserved by a group of ambassadors and churchmen who kept both sides in touch, not forgetting of course the many leaders within our neighbourhood who kept everyone similarly engaged and level-headed. It pays to have mature politics and politicians who never allow bile to repudiate their fatherly role. Which is why 40 must never be the age!
Pretty little, pretty little-lier
But there were also other factors, factors endogenous to the Alliance itself. The young man could not have held out for much longer, had the stand-off continued. Apart from the massive desertion he faced soon after the defeat, rumblings of a gathering storm within the belly of the Alliance were quite audible. Key figures in the Alliance found pretty little edifying in the way Chamisa ran the campaign; found pretty “little-lier” that was edifying in the way he handled the aftermath of his indubitable defeat.
Far from showing courage, Chamisa exhibited foolhardiness, including dragging the party through a constitutional challenge that left him and his party looking foolish and much degraded in the eyes of a censorious public. Today he and his party are butts of acerbic satire. As a leader, he should have foreseen the law of the unintended kicking in, should have seen beyond the false sanguineness of his lawyers who saw more green dollars than any V11s he needed to win the case.
The advice he also needs
Much more, this column had warned him of the dire aftermath of his whole political odyssey, both for himself personally, and for his makeshift alliance so loosely soldered. In clear signs of unhinging stress, he triggered so much ruckus at home, even gathering the temerity to challenge the likes of Mudzuri and Mwonzora to break away, leave and found their own party, for ever daring his impulsive leadership.
Except an appropriate retort would have been to politely ask him which “party” were they to leave, which party to found in a way that he himself did not also need to, given that they all went into the harmonised elections without a party and, much worse, came out of the same elections without an alliance.
Simba Makoni and Nkosana Moyo emerged from defeat far, far better than Chamisa and his lot. Such that he, too, merited the very good advice he delivered in a fit of anger, to the likes of Mwonzora and Mudzuri whose untested prospects in fact look brighter than his own. Unless he cuts deals with ED, his bete noire, he faces a violent ouster or retention at congress this coming February.
Unless of course he follows Jonathan Moyo’s advice and breaks away from the Alliance and what used to be MDC-T party. Of course this would be a departure from the thinking that made him stay on after the Tsvangirai-engineered defeat for the secretary-generalship of the party. Much worse, it would see him limping from one crisis to another, what with G-40 hounds breathing hard behind him. Whichever way, he would have been the best consumer of his own angry chastisement whose dummy objects are Mwonzora and Mudzuri, with the increasingly disenchanted Hwende not very far behind. As for Chibaya, well, he should never forget the organiser’s roots are in Zanu-PF. And the embittered Mukoyi? Not too happy a concoction given such forceful human faultlines.
Stumble or over-leap?
Looking in the crystal ball, much really depends on how soon and well the young man recovers his poise so he merits the regard and package that awaits him from his winning rival. Far more than all of us, he stands to gain a great deal in the impending Second Republic, until now a blank concept and cheque needing some ink, pen and a steady scrawling hand, if Zimbabwe is to enter a new and mature phase in its national politics.
The other side to the huge mandate ED secured and now enjoys is the stupendous responsibility he also carries, which now require him to write new rules with which to govern the Second Republic. Straightforwardly, the Second Republic cannot run on rules, ethos and temperament of the First Republic. And given our unique history and peculiar current circumstances, the wheel may have to be invented.
A key paradoxical assignment for ED is going to be one of drawing in and closer an immature and disloyal opposition, while not bringing them in by way of an inclusive Government which no one in Zanu-PF countenances at this stage. This needs great creativity, even greater courage, bearing in mind it is on this question that ED either stumbles or else over-leaps, the latter allowing him to lay an enduring basis for a lasting legacy.
And once this puzzle is resolved, the challenges on the economy will be an easy run down the hill.
A new governing matrix
Much more, against that background of re-engineered governing rules and institutions, 2023 will most certainly redefine our competitive politics in ways sure to put our Nation on a stable keel. The beauty about it is that a weakened and sobered Chamisa pass for a third landslide victory for ED, only this time on the plane of nation-building.
It would consolidate his image as a father-figure of a successive ethos, post-liberation. This, much more than anything else, is what the Second Republic means. Our so-called political scientists, Ibbo Mandaza among them, would not foresee this, choosing instead to dabble in the inane, even instigating a certain obdurate political attitude calculated to delay if not forestall the advent of the Second Republic through violence and their “transitional authority” nonsense.
Thank God reality bears down heavily and harshly on dreamers and false soothsayers. Ibbo and his Reeler stand reeling in the quagmire of own mistaken postulates and scenarios. Mis-knowledge and incurable bitterness, much more than colour, makes one a perennial outsider. If one starts from the axiom that politics stay on solid political structures, one didn’t need rocket science to know that a massacred Alliance led by a fairly well-patronised leader, and both pitted against a solid party of liberation would, quite inevitably, yield a new governing code and ethos, complemented by a new institutional arrangement, all to yield a governing format quite sui generis, vis-a-vis that which we have experienced since 1980.
Indeed an outcome which never fitted the available box of past experiences. A shift, not a change, to draw from the parlance of basic microeconomics. One expected social scientists to know that such outcomes always presage and prescribe massive social re-engineering. And to map the process for us.
Reading Churchill’s Empire
I have been reading Richard Toye’s “Churchill’s Empire”. It is a massive read by any measure. For our a-historical generation of readers, nothing should be taken for granted. Winston Churchill was a British politician and Prime Minister whose career spanned Britain’s colonial imperial days, right through to the Second World War and after, until his retirement in the mid-1950s.
To bring him closer to home politics, his daughter married late Lord Soames, famed as Britain’s last governor of our country just before our independence in 1980. Much more, his father, Randolph, visited this country soon after its occupation by Rhodes, to hunt big game and relax in Britain’s newest jewel in her imperial crown! Winston Churchill himself was quite close to Cecil John Rhodes, the man who conquered and colonised our country.
In fact, he was among the cabal of journalists and much later, politicians who actively canvassed for Rhodes and his Rhodesian project in its early, tender and fragile days. A strong believer in the British Empire, he actually resigned from the Conservative Party in bitter protest when the then government of the Conservatives in Britain mulled the idea of lowering the Union Jack in India.
Although I am not sure that Winston ever visited Rhodesia, I am quite certain that he was among the early riders of the newly introduced trans-British East Africa train from Kenya’s coast right through to Uganda, soon after the two countries became British colonies. He would write a fascinating account of that rattling odyssey, one so eventfully interlarded with hunting detours and escapades between and at every rail siding, whenever big game came into view. More than a haughty celebration of Britain’s “civilising mission” to a “benighted” continent, Churchill’s published account is spiced with painful racial jabs and slurs which nevertheless captured the zeitgeist of his Victorian age. About that some other time.
Happy, naked, charming people!
Toye’s book is prologued by a December 10, 1954 encounter between the about-to-retire Churchill and a Kenyan-based, British landed nabob by the name Michael Blundell, which took place in the hallway of 10 Downing Street. Number 10 Downing Street is where British Prime Ministers govern from. In the prologue, Toye claims that Churchill fondly recalled his own visit to Kenya in 1907 when the new British East African rail had just been completed, itself a mooing symbol of British-induced progress on the once-wild Savannah.
Then, he had found the Kikuyu ethnic group, from which most of the Mau-Mau rebels would be drawn, to be a “happy, naked and charming people”, adding he was quite “astonished at the change which had come over their minds”. Even more despairingly astonishing for him was how the power of a modern, industrial nation-state like the United Kingdom whose affairs he presided over, was now being used “to kill savages” in that savage war of resistance whose reverberations persist to this day.
Civilised, educated black fellow
Led by Dedan Kimathi, these Kenyan Mau-Mau freedom fighters had managed to mobilise greater Kenya for a spirited and heroic war for their land, and for the independence of their motherland. This was a far cry from the dominant but self-deluding stereotype of a cowardly and supine race by which the British colonials had known them.
Given such a dramatic turn of events, Churchill was left with no choice but to admit that far from being primitive, stupid and cowardly, the Kikuyus were “persons of considerable fibre and ability and steel, who could [only] be brought to our side by just and wise treatment”.
So far-reaching was this moment of epiphany for Churchill that he capped his conversation with Blundell by confessing that although he was old fashioned enough to think “that black people were [not] as capable or as efficient as white people”, he was now ready to revise his views on the dark race: “If I meet a black man and he’s a civilised educated fellow,” he said, “ I have no feelings about him at all.”
Savages armed with ideas
Toye’s book recalls a moment of exceptional emotional intensity between these two men of vast imperial power. Discussing where rebellious natives of Kenya stood in the estimate of “civilised nations” -foremost among them Britain – Blundell insisted natives were incorrigible savages. To which Churchill reportedly responded: “Savages, savages? Not savages. They’re savages armed with ideas – much more difficult to deal with.” This sea-change on the part of Sir Winston Churchill is better appreciated when read against the views he held and expressed to Lord Lugard in the early part of the 20th century as Lugard battled to pacify Nigeria’s warring tribes at the onset of British colonialism.
Eating each other without restraint
Decrying the anaemic drain on imperial coffers which such pacification wars inflicted on Britain, Churchill, then as Secretary of State in charge of Overseas Territories, bitterly counseled: “I am inclined to the opinion that we should withdraw from a very large portion of the territories which we now occupy nominally, but really disturb without governing; and that we should concentrate our resources upon the railway and economic development of the more settled and accessible riparian or maritime regions . . .
“I see no reason why our occupation should be made immediately effective up to the French frontier line; or why these savage tribes should not be allowed to eat each other without restraint, until some much more suitable opportunity than the present shall arise for ‘pacifying’ them. At present we are simply drifting along upon the current of military enterprise and administrative ambition.”
It was this reticence which got many of Churchill’s contemporaries to mischaracterise him as a “little Englander”, itself a derisive term used to describe liberals who didn’t believe in, or support, Britain’s empire-building enterprise and all it entailed. The change from “savages . . . who must be . . . allowed to eat each other without restraint”, to “savages armed with ideas”, was nothing short of seismic.
Inquiry as Diplomacy
This week saw two lady leaders of Europe’s leading nations criss-crossing the continent: Lady Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Lady Angela Merkel of Reunited Germany. We in Zimbabwe felt the echoes of both sojourns, with Lady May (month of August is not very far from that of May) pronouncing herself quite charitably on developments in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of our harmonised elections and the subsequent Concourt challenge. She embraced ED whose decision to put together a Commission of Inquiry into August 1 post-electoral disturbances she hailed. And a public relations and foreign policy masterstroke this certainly was, given that a British barrister, an ex-Commonwealth Secretary-General and a former South African president are in the Commission, quite apart from a retired Tanzanian general, a local professor of law who was also presidential aspirant in the just-ended harmonised elections, an ex-president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, and a professor of political science at a local university.
New epoch, new requirements
German echoes on the other hand came by way of a visiting minister who pledged both financial and political support to the Second Republic, apart from delivering clear pointers from Chamisa and his Alliance group in the direction of tactically delayed rapprochement with Zanu-PF. Those percipient enough to see beneath shrill diplomacy associated with the now departed Van Damme, should by now realise that the symbolic broad front which Europe dramatised before, during and in the immediate aftermath of the harmonised elections, underlined the continent’s anxiety for conclusive settlement and a return to the much-awaited legitimacy, than a resurrection of old animosities which typified the Robert Mugabe days.
We owe both the British and the Germans substantially, both financially and politically. Their decision to turn over a new leaf, taking full and speedy advantage of the fig-leaf provided by the just-ended harmonized elections and the subsequent Concourt judgment, amounted to an irrevocable step towards re-engagement in spite of all. Arguably impelled by two compelling factors. Brexit means Britain has to re-trace borders of her old Empire for raw materials, trade and global influence.
Subalterns no longer
Except in doing so now, she must and does remember she now meets “savages armed with ideas – much more difficult to deal with.” Now armed with their Independence and their land, these “savages” have scaled up Maslow’s hierarchy, and can now confidently make demands which in Churchillian days would have been unthinkably tertiary. No longer are they content or accept to be called “savages”. Two, no longer are they keen to be part of the colonial imperial web. Rather, they now are “civilised educated fellows” who are just as capable and efficient as “white people”. Much more, they have either wrestled back their land or are about to do so, if Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia are anything to go by. In terms of trade, they wish for fair terms and, above all, shop for capital goods as would enable them to move beyond dealing in raw materials.
Packing bags for elsewhere
Diplomatically, it was both symbolic and significant that leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya whom Lady May visited, were packing their bags for a Summit in China, popularly known as FOCAC set to begin next week. The message was pointedly clear to both May and Merkel: there is a world elsewhere beyond the metropolis, and vast scope for better international relations than what colonial and commonwealth (read neo-colonial) histories conditioned and provide. The “savage” does not only have ideas; he now has vast options, wields better and more assertive courage with which to confront the imperial world and its baneful legacy than was possible to exercise and exorcise in the 1960s right through to the turn of the century.
These are the new realities which old and archaic scholars suffering an acute time-warp, scholars like Ibbo Mandaza, are finding it difficult to fathom or factor. Europe has lost both the strength and cohesion to do much on the African continent politically, beyond of course dutiful expressions of maudlin political sentimentality meant to salve its own conscience and residual sense of imperial responsibility. It now stands riven by irreconcilable and competing economic interests, which have been aggravated by Brexit, China, India and protectionist America.
Pranks as tools of vilification diplomacy
Against this global background, Chamisa and Biti’s lack of leadership was minimally shown in mismanaging affairs and relations under their Alliance. It was maximally shown in their failure to read the intervening reality bearing down on Europe and the rest of the world, a reality which make engagement and re-engagement much more pressing and insistent than standing between “savages who must be allowed to eat each other without restraint.” For trade and raw materials, they don’t care a hoot how many die in the asphalt streets of Harare, Kampala or Kinshasa.
Nowhere was this more illustrated than in the provocations here on August 1 and, going backwards, in Biti’s little drama at Chirundu and in Zambia, both of which otherwise would have made an deep impression on Europe and the West in Tsvangirai’s days than now when returns can only be diminishing and evanescent. Pranks as tools of vilification diplomacy do work in an environment where superpower interests are secure and thus able to afford normative diplomacy. ED and his team of advisors correctly read the times, which is why July 30 for them was not about winning votes qua votes, but about securing re-engagement and the myriad benefits flowing therefrom.
What ED really needed
One would have to be very daft to judge ED by the votes he garnered in the recent elections. He did not need a dramatic win for himself; rather he needed a secure ZANU-PF which the two-thirds majority in Parliament secured at home, and an internationally acceptable electoral process abroad, which the harmonised elections and the remedial televised Concourt process delivered. With these two formidable resources, ED will build numbers for 2023, this time for his ego. Examples abound on the African continent and beyond. Inaugural polls only usher bigger wins which follow. Or where they register euphoric entries, such dramatic landslides only presage precipitous decline sure to visit and follow. Man, know thyself and thy politics!
Where on earth is Zimbabwe, asks Trump!
What of America and her Trump? The London Observer editorial put it so well, albeit without realising the boomerang yet to follow. Writing soon after August 1 and well before May’s Africa safari, the paper impulsively pushed for hard balls against ED, warning the “gullible” Boris Johnson had been made to believe ED was different from Robert Mugabe. But it correctly noted that US diplomacy would not count for much on Zimbabwe, what with a Trump who cannot point where Zimbabwe squats on the world map. What would make a difference, the paper added, would be Britain as the “former” colonial power in Zimbabwe. Well, the unobservant Observer didn’t observe the incongruity of the word “former” in what in effect was a call for a reassumption of colonial powers over old “savages”, what’s worse “without ideas”. As events would pan out, Lady May knew better than follow the allure of “Empress of Zimbabwe.”
Pennyworth advice to Mkwasha
The trouble with the local opposition and its phalanx of self-deluding keyboard warrior-supporters (who never vote!) is believing their own propaganda. I am not even talking about V11s and the Concourt challenge. Rather, I am talking about amendment of ZDERA which Chamisa, Biti and his people drafted for, and lobbied in, America. In typical American inattentiveness, the Trump signed the Bill on July 27, a good three days before our harmonised elections. Yet today, Chamisa and company self-deludingly present this pre-conceived act as triggered both by the poll and the tragic events of 1 August. Such a re-sequencing of linear time affords them an illusion of having superpower support, which they may have, only perfunctorily. Too perfunctory to move or shake events here at home.
Read the Logan Act for things to come!
I have one little tip for Chamisa, my mkwasha: You are a lawyer, at the very least a student of law. Have you heard about America’s Logan Act passed by the State of Pennsylvania in 1798-99 when America was under John Adams? Take time, Moyo, to acquaint yourself with that law so you may have some glimpse into the future. The Second Republic will have to build a loyal opposition, but one which is a sharer in structures of governance enough to belong, and to identify with the national interest. Not one which consorts and cavorts with hostile states. Now that your Council has given you the green light to engage, I propose and beseech that you do so while the hand is still outstretched. Not that the hand will ever recoil. Far from it. But that it could very well stretch out to persons who are other than yourself. Zimbabwe must and will move on, with or without you. Lots of love mkwasha. Gara zvakanaka nemhuri. Ngachirire!