Using the past as political blackmail in the present

George Charamba Special Correspondent
One false argument which is peddled by the opposition and foreign interests mostly is that nothing has changed in Zimbabwe since November 2017 when the popular Operation Restore Legacy happened.

There is no difference, so the argument goes, between the First and the Second Republics; between former President Mugabe and current President Mnangagwa. The argument asserts that Operation Restore Legacy was a false start as nothing changed.

This fallacious reasoning is presented as a new realisation, and one arrived at after the recent opposition-led disturbances which rocked the country.

How untrue!

In point of fact, this is an old opposition argument which trended in the run-up to the July 2018 harmonised elections. MDC-Alliance president Nelson Chamisa fondly used it, employing different tropes as figurative props of persuasion. But the argument found no favour with the voting public, which is why the MDC-Alliance was trounced both in parliamentary and presidential elections.

Yet this historic defeat makes no impression on the un-mathematical MDC-Alliance and its media sympathisers, who still do not find it numerically odd that ZANU-PF, with more than two-thirds majority in Parliament, can possibly ever lose the Presidential vote.

Or how ridiculous it is to sustain the myth of a narrow lead for President Mnangagwa given a difference of more than 400 000 votes.

The only new factor in this worn-out argument is how trolls linked to the opposition have abused the social media’s multiplier effect in the hope of swaying public opinion. Whether as themselves or joined by well-known idle G-40 self-exiled fugitives, their propaganda output remains facile and tendentious.

Conceptually facile because the November 2017 operation was never a repudiation of ZANU-PF, or of its glorious past and legacy as a nationalist liberation movement aiming for total national independence founded on democratic majority rule and full sovereignty. The tag “Operation Restore Legacy” made this obvious. It was the ruling party, its organs and its processes, which sired the successor order after the operation. It is thus wilfully false and illogical to set the post-November 2017 order against the party which created it.

Carriers of Operation Restore Legacy are all ZANU-PF cadres to the bone.

They were largely motivated by the need to checkmate the alien G-40 element in order to rescue the party and its Government.

ZANU-PF itself was under threat, both by way of its liberation legacy and by way of its reproducibility as a continuing, governing proposition. The operation was thus restorative. The current leadership of the Second Republic thus cannot be incited or be blackmailed into betraying a legacy they made through blood, tears and sacrifice, indeed from ZANU-PF and its founding principles.

Facile because the fact of dubbing the current order the “Second Republic” is the fact of impliedly counting its antecedent, namely the First Republic, which was an exclusive ZANU-PF construct from 1980. And the count is not of empty or hollow time. Rather, it is time defined and loaded by an agenda for transformation in line with ZANU-PF ideals. There were many seminal achievements notched under the ZANU-PF First Republic, the foremost of which is the attainment and consolidation of our Independence. Then there is the historic recovery of our fixed heritage by way of the land, apart from key social gains made under the First Republic.

Needless to say, the Second Republic perforce recognises and builds on these gains notched under the First Republic, implying a fair amount of continuity, and certainly a continuity by way of the overriding worldview.

To say this of course is not to henpeck the Second Republic which can and should introduce reforms and shifts in order to transform ZANU-PF’s founding vision in order to suit changing times and societal expectations. But there is a clear continuum. Facile because the very forces which Operation Restore Legacy neutered came from the same interests which ZANU-PF battled against both before and after Independence. The political biographies of leading G-40 elements are well known, as indeed are their historical links with Western interests whose new tact was to subvert ZANU-PF from within. The Western origins of the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change are well known, and cannot be erased by the party’s opportunistic association with Operation Restore Legacy.

Let it be known that at critical moments, liberation movements do create broad national fronts to better tackle and resolve the national question. This is a key lesson from the Chinese Revolution. But such contrivances must never be at the expense of the party line. During the operation, enough safeguards were put in place to guard against any such infiltrations. That such safeguards were too subtly embedded to be visible to would-be infiltrators possibly explains why there was this mistaken expectation of a diluting power-sharing in the aftermath of the operation.

The opposition hoped to tap into the hugely popular Operation Restore Legacy to reposition itself in the national estimate, while at the same time buying time for itself and its ailing leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, then neither able to provide substantive leadership, nor ready to make way for a successor.

Little did the opposition know that ZANU-PF’s democratic traditions bade that the resultant order needed endorsement by the governed, which is why urgent elections were both inescapable and desirable. After all, ZANU-PF knew that G-40 elements had used their old links with the opposition, as well as the fact of common, shared Western sponsorship with the opposition to firmly embed themselves in opposition structures. Any power-sharing arrangements with the opposition  which was undesirable anyway  would have assured G-40 elements of a shadowy or ghostly presence at the second GNU dinner table.

What commentators have missed is that there is nothing new about Chamisa’s desperate call for dialogue, which the MDC begun well before Tsvangirai’s demise, and which MDC frenetically pushed for, especially after his demise.

Even Chamisa’s election strategy  if one it was at all  emphasising his candidature above the performance of his party as a whole, was aimed at softening both ZANU-PF and his party for a power-sharing arrangement where mixed results would compel political complementarity.

In calling for dialogue, the MDC-Alliance and its leader are thus stuck in an old argument which, already absurd then, is more absurd now after July 30, and certainly after the failed Constitutional Court challenge. The alliance is rocked by new fears. These arise from disheartening realisation that ZANU-PF is about to recover the economy without them, nay, in spite of them and their Western allies.

This is sure to seal their fate ahead of 2023. They have to disturb and destabilise the recovery efforts already underway.

It is neither fortuitous nor inexplicable that the recent violent disturbances were timed to coincide with the President’s Eurasian trip, and to run ahead of the European Union’s February review of sanctions.

Facile because imperialism’s script against Zimbabwe has barely changed, except of course in respect of nuances.

Whilst Britain and her European allies may not agree with the Americans on who best to help into power in order to secure their interests here should their hopes of creating a client, neo-colonial state succeed in Zimbabwe, there is broad agreement on both sides of the Atlantic that ZANU-PF is no good for the West’s neo-colonial project here. This key point is often missed even within the ranks of ZANU-PF, which is why notions of “old” and “new” have been used loosely and selfishly to de-legitimise and victimise genuine cadres, or to dignify treacherous associations and liaisons with the West in the name of pushing the so-called reform agenda, mostly to the detriment of the party and the Republic.

The debate in the West is over tactics of removing ZANU-PF, and over who to install once ZANU-PF is toppled. It is not over the future of ZANU-PF in Zimbabwean and Southern African politics. That issue is long settled, in fact was settled in the 1970s when both Kissinger and Vorster agreed that political power in Zimbabwe had to be denied to “people with guns”, a reference to the two liberation movements of ZANU and ZAPU. The troubling factor is our collective amnesia which borders the suicidal.

Hopewell Chin’ono

So, when naive pawns of the West, exemplified by young and gullible Hopewell Chin’ono, argue for the overthrow of ZANU-PF as a system, they are merely restating an age-old goal of imperialism, which to their simple, impressionable minds, belatedly strikes them as epiphanic.

It says a lot about the “new times” we live in that such shameless pawns find pride in disclosing how “hard” they have worked with key regime-change protagonists within the American establishment to seek to amend ZDERA!

Ironically, they find no contradiction in demanding for a complete overhaul of constitutionally tested national laws here, while pleading for the reform of foreign laws which are definitionally illegal, and operationally meant to challenge the legislative sovereignty of their own country, and to punish them and their compatriots for ever daring to repossess their heritage. Frankly if POSA, AIPPA, BSA  all of which are national laws which have been tested in our courts; and all of which have been repeatedly amended at the behest of the opposition  deserve to be discarded on false arguments of non-compliance with the 2013 Zimbabwean Constitution, surely ZDERA, which was made in America, which was made against Zimbabwe, and which was made for the furtherance of illegal American interests here, deserves a much worse fate than prettifying it using a black make-over artist-superpatriot?

And the conspiracy went deeper. It included using foreign money and expertise to attempt to re-write Zimbabwean laws, something hardly unseemly to minds which have acquiesced and submitted to a foreign-drafted ZDERA already.

Curious that this American-led package comes hard on the heels of the Chinese-led digitilisation programme which is still underway and has modernised ZBC technically, and long after the then American Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton’s hysterical testimony that America was losing global media hegemony to the Sino-Russian media thrust. After that call, America set aside money for regaining propaganda initiatives globally, which fund simpletons like Chin’ono, who think it came their way as a special favour from Uncle Sam! Add to all this the latest American policy for Africa announced in December last year and you then understand what is going on behind the scenes, all in the name of “modernisation” and “professionalisation” of the public media. This Bolton policy assumes building some global consent ahead of the operationalisation of Trump’s “America First” policy. A quiescent global media thus becomes key.

The post-Operation Restore Legacy political order was meant to be made amenable to Western interests. Benchmarks for that re-orientation included legislative reforms meant to soften the Zimbabwean State; the reversal of the Land Reform Programme and a new foreign policy thrust which looks away from the East.

All these have not happened, which is why there is this frustration and name-calling. On foreign policy, the current Zimbabwean political order has in fact broadened its Look East policy to cover Russian-dominated Eurasia. That cannot be music for the West which is now convinced more than ever before that ZANU-PF is no good. Yet this broadening of engagement and foreign relations by Zimbabwe is not motivated by gratuitous desire to spite the West; rather, it is founded on the fact that the West remains stuck in old politics of regime change and sanctions, by which it organised against the First Republic, and by which it still seeks a ZANU-PF ouster under the Second Republic. The West’s insistence on the “pari-passu” principle when it comes to settling World Bank debt is meant to perpetuate a debt overhang on Zimbabwe in order both to foreclose Zimbabwe’s debt settlement plan, and to defeat Zimbabwe’s argument against hurtful, illegal Western sanctions. No wonder America’s ideologues like Harry Thomas, himself former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, can plausibly argue that the real issue is not about US sanctions, but about Zimbabwe’s continued indebtedness to IFIs. A highly indebted Zimbabwe is thought desperately pliable, and susceptible to undue influence. Much more, it allows the West’s political protégé, the MDC-Alliance, to argue for some role and relevance as the West’s favoured interlocutor on international debt resolution. This is why Tendai Biti is not only key to the Americans, but actually a decisive factor in how America views and assesses the Second Republic.

Apart from Venezuela, whose politics we must all watch closely, Zimbabwe is the only other country whose fate hangs on the little life of its supposed citizen-suspect. The idea is to package Biti  himself America’s favoured horse  as the saviour of Zimbabwe.

The upshot of all this is not how the Second Republic is any different from the First or, if we were to personalise, how President Mnangagwa is different from former President Mugabe. Rather, the issue is how both dispensations are confronted by the same old foes, forces and interests.

When the likes of MDC-Alliance’s Innocent Gonese glibly talk about a ZANU-PF stuck in old politics and old models, they do so to proffer an argument meant to blackmail the powers-that-be, hoping to incite ZANU-PF into a suicidal mode where it legislates itself out of power, or abdicates to hooligans seeking to overturn electoral results in order to create a client government from the streets. Yet in all this, the opposition gives a backhanded tribute to President Mnangagwa under whose presidency civil liberties which have flowered and flourished, the same liberties which the opposition now seeks to weaponise against him and his Government.

Surely old age cannot be a prerogative of, let alone a rhetorical question only reserved for ZANU-PF alone? Old age needs to be checked on all actors in Zimbabwe’s rather unusually congested drama cast.

When Chamisa threatens to spoil a vote which goes against him, threatens to spoil it through violent protests, among other acts of destabilisation, is he any different from the old MDC which announced its birth and political advent through violent riots in the late 1990s?

When Chamisa proclaims a “kairos” moment ripened through violent protests, is he being any different, any new, or any younger, than the old politics of his predecessor  Morgan Tsvangirai who called on Mugabe to “go peacefully” or else be “removed violently”?

When Biti rushes to America to lobby Senators in charge of the American Foreign Relations Committee, rushes to lobby establishment think-tanks and foundations like Cato for more, tighter sanctions and isolation against Zimbabwe, is his MDC-Alliance breaking new ground, or breaking with its traitorous past?

When the MDC-Alliance’s programme of violence finds sturdy defenders in old proponents of regime change like Kate Hoey and Peter Hain, has the opposition entered a New Dispensation it so glibly invokes to judge and excoriate ZANU-PF? With such old bed-mates?

And when some hoary British Lord plaintively calls on Her Majesty’s Government to please consider recolonising Zimbabwe, are we in 21st Century or we have slid back to the Victorian era?

Who finds political succour from such a call? Why has the opposition here not denounced such an archaic nostalgia which, nevertheless, prises open the British sub-conscious?

Surely a Chamisa who still insists he won after an internationally supervised and observed poll, and after a losing in a globally televised court hearing, cannot be newer, better, than MDC-T and the late Tsvangirai in 2013? If anything, he is actually worse and made worst by his aligning with G-40 renegades whose standing in Zimbabwe’s politics invites total revilement. Can such an alliance give him and his party the moral stature to describe anyone or anything in our political environment as “old”, or as “from the past”?

ZANU-PF has a proud past, which in fact sired Zimbabwe as an independent Republic. It does not need to apologise for it. True, ZANU-PF must constantly transform or reinvent itself, but within set norms and traditions as behoves all systems that endure. Those who are threatened by, or seek the repudiations of, ZANU-PF’s past  with all its shortcomings  cannot pretend to defend a free and independent Zimbabwe.

What is worse, those who pretend not to have a chequered past of their own; those who falsely think time began with them  began today  are fake, false and deceitfully hiding a shameful past for which they are yet and ready to atone.

For the past is only superseded and overcome when all who have lived in it, acted in it, and thought about it in a certain limited way, or even inherited it as a deadweight from their erring predecessors, have bravely rethought and re-wrought it to create a new past in the present.

George Charamba is the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet

Source : The Herald

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