Britain: A Tribute to a Resurging Coloniser
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Fidel Castro of Cuba. The two nations have a long record of solidarity and mutual cooperation.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Fidel Castro of Cuba. The two nations have a long record of solidarity and mutual cooperation.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald
I have just completed reading a book by Eduardo Galeano, a book titled "We Say No". It brings out the anguish of solitude, the raw anger of an angry Latino abortively pelting a seemingly impregnable and indifferent Empire with mere words. With a bit of history, it is not difficult to imagine why. Galeano — something of a radical nationalist, if not a leftist — watched helplessly as momentous setbacks suffered between 1963 and 1991 savaged and crumbled his dearly held worldview.
In 1967 in Bolivia, the radical Che had been slain, seemingly fighting a hopeless war against an insuperable enemy. In the 1970s, more, greater setbacks, arguably best personified by Chile’s Allende whose violent end paved the way for a brutally successful, hard-to-fade American-backed dictator, Augusto Pinochet. In the 1980s, Maurice Bishop is slain in Grenada, alongside Cuban internationalists. Galeano’s late 1980s and early 1990s saw the spectacular collapse of Communism, to deafening applause from the triumphal West. Within that epochal setback, place the fall of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, themselves Galeano’s first love. Place pressure on Castro’s Cuba, seemingly fated to collapse now that the Soviet Empire had succumbed. The verities of Galeano’s worldview seemed to give in all around him, one after another, in rapid, vertiginous succession. He sought to cope variously, and often by way of abortive denials that today read comical.
When peace is aggression
Yet history always owes for its gems to such seismic shifts. A time of great crisis, of great unbelief, is always a time of thought fermentation, of great genius, great writings, as man in turbulence seeks new and steadying ground rules. Surely Galeano would have written from personal anguish when he discovered that creativity is "an age-old response to human anguish and the certainty of death".
He agonised a lot on the seemingly ineluctable fate of the Sandinistas facing severe pressure from imperial America and her murderous contras, seemingly with little or no solidarity -- or even a modicum of understanding -- from the rest of Latin America. As the bold political experiment in Nicaragua writhed and reeled from repeated blows from Reaganite America, more aggression came by way of models, experiments and well-spoken emissaries for dubious peace, mostly from within Latin America, spawned and sponsored by the aggressor, America.
For a small nation fighting a very big bully with means, even peace missions become some form of aggression. Zimbabweans appear to grasp that with amazing slowness.
Sandinistas’ crime against the empire
From those agonies of Galeano emerged a gem which I proudly recall for you, my readers. Galeano noted: "Democracy and social justice have gotten divorced. Whoever would marry them lets loose the storm." The Sandinistas had made the grave mistake of seeking to take huge tracts of unutilised, speculative land, to give it to landless Nicaraguans, freshly freed from the clutches of an American-backed dictatorship. They had cleaned slums, brought in water, sent children of the poor to school, brought in medicines, cured the poor, among other good things expected of governments.
Little did they realise they were committing the heinous crime of re-wedding two lovers whose divorce imperialism had long decreed: democracy on the one hand, social justice on the other. That won them a bloody, protracted war which eventually precipitated their downfall.
When to be born is a crime
Zimbabwe, on the one hand, is an incredibly small country of about 13 million inhabitants. It wants to be born, to be born a country, a nation. That appears to be its main aspiration, which has turned out to be its comparably heinous crime against powerful, oppressor nations of the West. Britain, on the other hand, is an incredibly powerful nation whose might and right is rooted in the malpractices and mores (read vices) of Victorian colonialism. Britain does not sanction that birth, which it treats as filial rebellion of the worst type. Therein lies the fight: one pitting spasms for rebirth, on the one hand, against ever tightening, clamping rigor mortis of a dying colonialism. And because the colonial epoch had many "mother countries", Britain has been able to enlist the support of Europe and America, both disconcerted by what this refractory behaviour by an ex-colony likely portents for rest of hitherto pliant and governable post-colonials.
Unity from Berlin days
That Britain has been able to broker such solidarity among oppressor nations is nothing of a wonder, one little deserving of accolades. Faced with the spectre of a new nation led by militant ex-slaves — black in colour — in rebellious Haiti of the 18th Century, France, the reluctantly outgoing coloniser, appealed to and triggered similar solidarity within the slave-owning world. It is this reflex born out of the Berlin conference of the 1884/85, perfected in the subsequent century of colonisation which ensured Haiti remained and remains a colony of swapping masters, right up to this day.
Charles Talleyrand, the then French Foreign Minister, in 1805 wrote to the then US Secretary of State, James Madison, to say: "The existence of a Negro people in arms, occupying a country it has soiled by the most criminal acts (successfully rebelling against the French slaver government) is a horrible spectacle for all white nations."
Needless to say, Madison agreed, supported France in reversing Haiti’s independence, thereby ensuring Haiti was a colony and the neo-colony it remains to this day. It matters little that in place of the original French slavers, Haiti is now under the American colonial jackboot. I say an embattled coloniser nation appealing for solidarity from sister coloniser nations of Europe and America surely hardly suggests fine war diplomacy. It is a call that is expected, indeed one reflexively heeded by all ex-colonials. This provides a clue to the unison there is with Britain in Europe and across America, all against Zimbabwe demanding national rights. It sounds a very obvious point to make.
Pedagogy of the oppressor
What for me deserves recognition, indeed tribute, is how Britain has been able to cultivate, then mobilise, then deploy, similar reflexes from amongst the oppressed of Africa, themselves natural warriors for her cause. More devastatingly, Britain appears to have made a compelling case to literate Africa, itself the supposed bedrock of highly developed national and continental consciousness. Voices which today question the legitimacy of Zimbabwe’s struggle against Britain are, quite ironically, coming from African State Houses and Foreign Offices. Infamy drops from on high. To this enlightened stratum, Zimbabwe is having to strain to make its case against Britain.
Not so with the common peoples of Africa whose solidarity with Zimbabwe seems instinctively instant. Which raises my question for the week: Why has the coloniser been able to successfully sow an argument against Zimbabwe within Zimbabwe’s own soil and that of its African hinterland? Why has the quest for justice and sovereignty seemingly turned so unappealing, so unmotivating, so unrighteous to enlightened sections of Zimbabwe and the African sub-region, and yet resonating so deeply within the continent’s flotsam and jetsam? Why is the ladder and graph of consciousness appearing so inversely proportional? Has pedagogy failed the enlightened sections of the oppressed, to yield the present hefty pall of false consciousness that seems to drive and unite debate on the so-called Zimbabwean crisis?
Each day that passes breeds a new and endless generation of interpreters radiating infectious smiles, fawning profound love for us the occupied, the sanctioned, the dying. Such deep, compelling love as does not hesitate to blame we, the victims of the crime of aggression, while rewarding Britain, the perpetrator of the whole question. So, so far into the conflict, so, so deep into the fight, why does the basic grievance appear less and less evident, less and less central, more and more tedious to state and proclaim, too much to defend within Africa’s leading classes? How have we been so wearied out of so central a struggle at whose heart rests a fundamental grievance that social justice and sovereignty is?
Against time, against Mugabe
Let me illustrate. Brown’s ratings continue to plummet, seemingly defiant of the little recovery he had secured from appearing to lead the Western world out of the deep recession it slid into almost a year ago. His political career hurtles to an undignified screech. He is pressed for both time and drama. On the other side of the Atlantic, George Bush is all but gone, ending an inglorious career of dismal wars and adrenalin leadership. America cannot wait for a false dawn which is so inviting. Because both men are fighting oblivion, there is a frantic effort to oust President Mugabe, to reverse the Zimbabwe revolution. Amidst these two angry, little under-achievers, Zimbabwe faces a grave threat of considerable proportion.
But it is one badly in need of legitimation. Against little goodwill capital, both men need to appear to be obeying a higher ideal, to build enough consent for any hostile action against Zimbabwe. How these two men are seeking to achieve this badly needed legitimacy is what pushes one’s heart to despair.
They are using African State Houses, African pulpits, African justices, African courts, African doctors, African think-tanks and scholars, yes, African elders, all drawn from literate Africa. Of course, I do not forget that Albion’s imperial ship dropped anchor on our shores, docking in the MDC and its Tsvangirai.
Small justices from a tribunal
Until now, the white farmer’s battle against Zimbabwe’s land reforms was a fight of a colonial minority privileged by colour and history to lay claim on Zimbabwe. It has been a fight against a people’s rights, against a nation, against a country, indeed against a revolution. The dialectic has been clear-cut, one so simplified to make mobilisation of Africa both easy and just.
Until some little tribunal staffed by junior justices and functioning in the name of Sadc passed a hurried judgment between which and history stands a yawning abyss. The junior justices ruled in favour of the few white farmers against the overriding interests of a landless Nation and Country, interests pressed for through a whole war of liberation. That landless Nation and Country was not cited; would not be cited even against its own insistence. It stood to be affected in quite a major and direct way by the decision of the tribunal, and yet it could not be part of processes.
And the junior justices had the temerity to suggest the white farmers had been denied justice in their country, the same junior justices who were denying a whole Nation, a whole People, the right to be party to the case! How does Africa’s robed children end up robbing the continent’s foundational rights? Just how?
Feeling for the plumage
The same junior justices decide the "crime" of discrimination was much more harmful to Zimbabwe than a nation’s quest for social justice through a redress of white colonial injustices. In other words, the discrimination of a people for over a century is a crime and prejudice less deserving of righting than an evening discrimination against a resisting minority whose claim to land should be made in another country, in another continent! What jurisprudential direction are we headed for, oh learned judges? And claims of discrimination against a privileged minority are a greater offence than an unfulfilled social justice of a people? Why does the plumage seem more deserving of pity than the dying bird?
What is the role of history in law and its interpretation? Okay, if these justices are averse to history, what is the role of the prickly status quo in law? The land in question is occupied — has been — by Zimbabwe’s landless. Is it being suggested these new tenants who have settled on, and have been using this land, have nil claim, zero rights? It is a very strange judgment, one loudly abstracted from history and yet furiously reluctant to be guided by the instant by way of the reigning status quo. Does this not reveal a very disturbing inarticulate premise of law as practiced by these legal minors?
Damning land movements
And the junior judges become quite audacious. Their judgment must bind "insurgents", itself a pejorative characterisation of Zimbabwe’s land movement. Hau? Forget for a while the folly of a miserable group of judges who seek to bring "insurgents" into and under their judgment, and concentrate on the transposition of rights between the handful of white British claimants to our soil on the one hand, and real sons of the soil whose navels lie deep and buried in the same soil which they have liberated through enormous sacrifices. Do you see the horror of the whole judgment; how much of a fundamental assault on the whole ethos of African struggles and rights against ex-colonials it is? Would you not acknowledge — however grudgingly — that indeed Britain has won the war against Africans?
In one judgment by a court against whose judgment there is no appeal, a court with powers to dispense ex-territorial judgments, a court with powers to overrule national constitutions and national supreme courts, Britain has been able to wind a whole African clock back by a whole century. Indeed, she has been able to trash African struggles, African sacrifices without sending a single mercenary. She has used us, pure and simple. Which is exactly my main point. And the judgment sets a precedent which binds Namibia, South Africa and any other country asserting or defending whichever right or resource against ex-colonials. It is meant to be a judgement against all Africans — which means for colonialists — for all times. A dramatic foreclosure to social justice, indeed to wedding democracy and social justice in order to make our so-called independence less of rotting pies dangled from white ceilings by an uneven white hand of Europe. Today the fox can demand freedom of movement on a hen house!
Hasty tribunal, less speedy ministers
But there is more to the matter. Political more. The last ordinary summit of Sadc this year made a ruling on the whole tribunal when it became clear this thing originally meant for Sadc citizens, had been pawned to colonial Europe which apparently is meeting stipends for these junior justices. Ministers of Justice of Sadc were tasked to re-examine the articles under which this creature had been formed, as well as determining whether or not the thing was not chewing the objects of its creation.
The ministers never moved on the matter. What moved instead was the tribunal which, sensing its own mortality, chose to present Zimbabwe and Sadc with a fait accompli. And it did. Why was there so much lethargy in Sadc Ministers of Justice in respect of so pressing a matter? Again, Britain asks for acknowledgment. Of course, Britain and her kith and kin face a practical challenge of ensuring enforcement of the judgment which, in any case, has to be referred to full summit.
This is more apparent given that the Zimbabwe Government has already declared the tribunal’s judgment "an act in futility". But the hand-cap should not be exaggerated. What Britain sought through this seemingly futile legal exercise was a legal foothold for approaching bigger tribunals with better mechanisms for enforcement. What Britain sought was a "moral" score against the Zanu-PF Government in order to appear to be mobilising against an outlaw or rogue government. It is an identity the British propaganda machinery has been battling to make stick.
Moral dilemma for Africa
And this takes me to my central point. I said before then, the matter of white settler claims against Zimbabwe was clear-cut to Africa. Against this judgment it no longer is. Britain has used a Sadc institution to poke holes on the whole argument on which the land reform stood. It can no longer be a colonial issue when a Sadc institution founds against it. Is the Frontline States not Sadc’s precursor? How do you sustain an argument for continued land reforms when a creature of an evolved Frontline States founds against Zimbabwe? You can clearly see how English rights a finding pedestal and righteousness in our elites and elite-run institutions. Thank God revolutions are never governed by articles and chapters of statutes, but by blood and iron.
A season of gay rule, gay thoughts
Gentle reader, you can cite the case of Desmond Tutu — that gay bishop — to illustrate my central thesis. He wants Zimbabwe invaded, alongside the murderous Raila Odinga who continues to bark from the safety of Nairobi. You can cite Ian Khama — another gay — again to illustrate my point. He has been to Britain. Apart from meeting with Gordon Brown against Zimbabwe, he had a meeting with Britain’s defence minister, asking for assistance against Zimbabwe. He says Botswana envisages an influx of refugees from Zimbabwe in the coming years and would thus need assistance from the British military! He adds to the outrage. Botswana is ready to fund a re-rerun of presidential polls in Zimbabwe, he adds, waving diamond pulas.
The man has not gone to the people for his own mandate but he poses as a net exporter of democracy his junta will not give to the Tswanas! Read about a protectorate called Bechuanaland? Read about fake democracies where the citizenry is allowed to vote but never to elect?
Will Tsvangirai come back?
Today Tsvangirai gallivants from State House to State House, thanks to Khama’s support which is threatening to go beyond pulas and planes. He hops to Morocco (recall that Morocco was the only other African country which supported Rhodesia and later Abel Mozorewa), to Tanzania, hops to Senegal and will go back to Europe to meet with EU Foreign Ministers ahead of another round of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Family comfortably ensconced in a newly acquired property in South Africa, Tsvangirai is far away from cholera, shortages and other manifestations of the ruin he has spawned, which he seeks to accentuate. Given the evidence which Zimbabwe has led against his insurgency project with Khama, it is highly unlikely that he will come back. Which is why Pandu Skelemani was preparing everyone for an MDC government in exile, leading a "democratic resistance" against Zimbabwe. What is that? There is a whole psychosis for war which is being built for Britain and America, through bended African lips. Has a case already been made for the British SAS? We shall see how the merchants of war use askari Presidents to secure war.
What a beautiful, pleasant war it shall be. I choose to close with Galeano who draws a very useful conclusion to the amazing consciousness that make the oppressed break ranks to bicker for the seat closest to the oppressor, but without feeling guilty about it.
"The best way to colonise consciousness," says Galeano, "is to suppress it." It does not matter whether it is Tutu, Graca, Annan, Odinga or Tsvangirai: the argument against Zimbabwe’s present struggle is uniform and borrowed. Zimbabwe suffers from "a man-made crisis". You are almost tempted to agree, until you realise the culpable man is the oppressed, never the oppressor. Albion must be relishing this fine hour.