Sunday, February 20, 2011
Bankrupting Europe’s moral stock
by Nathaniel Manheru
"The . . . West is itself in a fiscal crisis. Suddenly, all Europe needs Zimbabwe as a trading partner, as a business partner, as an investment partner, as a customer and as a purchaser of European goods and services. Europe, as a result, will start doing business with Zanu PF in 2011."
Words of a Zanu PF clairvoyant? Wrong! Words of Stephen Chan, a professor of international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London.
I will let you in a bit. The professor is an establishment person who is occasionally dispatched to Zimbabwe under the guise of research and contacts visits. He is the British establishment's damage assessment officer.
How have the sanctions fared? How well is the economy coping? How has the MDC, itself Britain's political proxy, fared? How is Zanu PF hurting itself from within? What is the game in town and what opportunities does it offer?
And of course assessing the level of cohesion in the "international" front against Zimbabwe. Such and more such questions are what preoccupy the good professor on his countless trips to Zimbabwe.
The authorities here know the man very well, watch him closely even. They even allow him, nay, encourage him to make contacts here, including with and in Zanu PF itself. The same way John Simpson is tolerated when he "visits" the country - again surreptitiously - thinking his success owes to his impeccable credentials as an undercover "fireman".
Of course all this goes to show paradoxical moments in the life of interstate conflict: often hostile visits are allowed - suffered - so your enemy realises the futility of his endeavours. It's not war, war, war all the time. That is the name of the high game.
Rules of the game
Chan's piece does not hide that it issues from freshest contacts with the British establishment, arguably less to arrogate weight to Chan's opinion, but more to seduce Zimbabwe's executive reader, hopefully for some behavioural change in the Zimbabwean State.
And states do behave through policies and official attitudes, which is why political coquetry is perfectly permissible as they shadow box, as they swap cues, whether to lead, to coax, to cajole or to mislead, outfox or weigh down.
It is a world of deceptive moves, complex cues, moves and countermoves. And in all this, readability and predictability are fatal. Therein lies the value of Chan's effort. With what success, I certainly cannot say.
Cooperators or competitors?
He goes much further in his analysis and its worth calling him back. Noting Europe and Britain's parlous economic state in the wake of the meltdown in the Western world, the professor expresses Britain's worst nightmare: "The UK cannot be left alone in Europe with sanctions in place. That would give every other European country a clear run at reinvestment and trading opportunities. The UK wants to have a part in those opportunities, so finds itself on the horns of a dilemma."
He exposes the cutthroat competition beneath the pretentious dome of European unity. Self-interest soon rends that apart once the costs begin to mount, something well known to the Zimbabwean authorities. Hence this grand playing for time, this stretching which seems to be yielding its first rich dividend.
On the issue of sanctions against Zimbabwe, Britain today leads a coalition of the reluctant, of the soon to be unwilling. That means the 10 years of suffering have not been in vain, after all!
No cheers from Zimbabwe
Writing towards the end of January, Chan speculated on some concessions on the sanctions front which he says Europe is set to make, come the February review. We now know what Europe has decided and so can now assess Chan's speculation for accuracy.
The inclination is to dismiss him as off-tangent, as wrong, more so given the meaninglessness of the concessions made. He may very well be, depending on what one expected. To chafe over the quality of the concessions is to imply Zimbabwe was looking for concessions. From where I write, that does not seem so. No one is about to be grateful; no one will ever be grateful even for more. Not even for the removal of that whole odious package, and let no one - living or dead, in or out of Europe - expect a Zimbabwean round of applause should that ever happen.
These are illegal sanctions, hurtful sanctions born out of profound spite brewed in Christendom, served from and by the civilised world to a supposedly benighted nation, a benighted people who happen to be so right, so principled.
It is a terror attack, a savage war waged by a supposedly civilised race against "little black brutes, little black savages" who have simply asked for their little lair, little corner, their little cave, little habitat. Causa belli?
Tsvangirai's abject performance
Let us not dismiss the professor. Surely he cannot be inaccurate on how Britain views Tsvangirai and his MDC-T?
According to Chan, Europe and Britain are disappointed by Tsvangirai and his MDC's lackluster performance in seeing through the regime change programme of action. Tsvangirai and MDC performance have been "abject", according to Chan. They think or expected him to have had the means. Or did he strut about as having those means? They goaded him to deliver on the impossible, before, now and ever. He knows that.
But what Chan tells us means Europe and specifically Britain, have joined the list of the disappointed ones, a list led by US, if Wikileaks is anything to go by.
Equally, Chan cannot be inaccurate about Europe and Britain's assessment of how sanctions have fared in removing, or at the very least degrading Mugabe and his Zanu PF. According to him, both the sanctions and the MDC have not worked "in any way to curtail or reduce the dominating capacity of Zanu PF."
Much worse, the continent and the small great island see a tremendous collective moral slide as both Zanu PF and MDC parliamentarians slough off party differences, blur antagonistic party boundaries, in favour of "self-seeking demeanour".
That phrase is Chan's rather opaque way of describing corruption. He is a professor, remember! But it is a charge that allows Chan to attach high moral purpose to the whole sanctions project. It is as if sanctions were some kind of anodyne against venality, as if they were meant to isolate Zanu PF's already corrupted gene, to yield a flawless DNA for the desired MDC government!
It is also a charge that excuses Chan and the sanctions lobby from the discomfort of admitting that the inclusive politics have and can yield new perceptions, new alliances across the political divide, against imperialism. Instead of admitting to such an unhappy outturn, you then hide behind the notion of "inclusive looting", to use Biti's favourite derivative phrase.
More changes, more U-turns
Chan registers Europe and British defeat on Zimbabwe: "The concomitant is that, if isolation and sanctions have not worked, some form of engagement might."
Chan registers more changes on the European and British policy template. Both have decided to let go of the moral romanticism of Blair's New Labour, to take a more pragmatic posture.
Thanks to Europe's meltdown - initially economic, now moral too - both Europe and Britain now expect a "compromised" (pun?) government to emerge, and to take charge in Harare. That government which they now expect and even desire, may very well be both "incompetent" and "will become corrupt quite quickly".
Their only wish is a veneer of democratic rituals around its birth, "preferably (a government) fairly elected and, if not fully fairly elected, cleanly elected, i.e without violence and naked rigging."
Stability and the absence of war, argues Chan, have become "stronger emblems of acceptability than democracy". Chan is telling us it is no longer movement for democratic change (MDC) which Europe and Britain are looking for in Zimbabwe; rather, it is movement for stable change (MSC).
Reconstructing, not deconstructing
Chan records another even bigger concession. Europe, Britain no longer seek that Zanu PF be "deconstructed"; rather, its wish is that Zanu PF be "reconstructed"! Something like New Zanu PF?
In all this, Europe's ogre, Chan confides, is China. Who doubts him? Is his name not Chinese, never mind who he serves?
It is a fear the ogre itself sought to deepen simply by presenting itself on the doorstep of Munhumutapa, barely a week before the sanctions review. The Chinese Foreign Minister was here on the eve of Europe's decision on sanctions, was he not? Who in Europe would be so blind not to see such a well rounded threat?
Richer Mugabe, more stubborn Mugabe
Europe's Achilles heel, Chan adds, is her weakening solidarity on anti-Zimbabwe sanctions, on the changing attitude of some of its states to the by-now-diamond-rich Zimbabwe.
Decadal time has not just revealed Zimbabwe's stubborn resilience; it has also kicked to the surface her hidden treasures, her subsoil or subterranean assets. That makes her a difficult customer, does it not? Indeed reinforces that irritating streak of stubbornness she already had, making her quite truculent.
If a poor Mugabe was such a hard nut to crack, quipped a British Minister apparently without realising Manheru was within earshot, a diamond-rich Mugabe is sure to be much worse. He now is.
The novice witch who attracts a bark
There is much to show that Europe has already lost her cohesion, a lot to show that the pull of bilateralism has set in, wreaking havoc in all that Britain has laboured to build in the Union.
And those in Europe serving and obeying this self-interested bilateral pull, care much less about daybreak. They now come on clear sunny days to seek deals, to cut deals, much like an ill-trained witch whose reckless tread arouses sleeping dogs, invites raucous dog barks.
As the Shona saying goes, it is only a poor, ill-apprenticed witch upon whose hyena-mounted nakedness gentle dawn gains. Real witches know when dawn is breaking, know when to dismiss their hyenas, when to steal and slide back and beside their drowsy husbands. Greater Europe no longer cares; it wants business. Chan is thus dead right.
The Herald has already reported that the Germans appear not only to have broken ranks with the British, they have not hesitated to say so in public and to Zimbabwe. That is probably overly optimistic, even condescending on the part of the Germans.
Chan gave a hint at vicious competition within the so-called Union. That is probably the more helpful way of reading German actions here. Faced with a challenge from Britain by way of a London Stock Exchange (LSE) road-show, Germany, Europe's biggest economy, fully knows how to read threats to its dominance.
Besides, a few days later, was it not the Herald which again told us a Commerzbank delegation is in the country, dangling 500 million Euros by way of an infrastructural loan? All to be accessed over TWELVE years!
And there is lots of fanfare over such cheap, condescending tantalising from a country which has already cost us billions by way of sanctions, a country which is putting a flatulent miasma on the table, all in a bid to block the Chinese?
Could the presence of this delegation with nothing to offer basically be what prompted this belated German candour on sanctions, a candid comment which the German ambassador now says he never made? Could this high-sounding charade reflect what Germany measures to be the depth of our intellect here - or the obverse - of our gullibility and desperation?
Is not the 50million RMBs we got from the Chinese a better headline, a better talking point, a better ceremony than this very highly flatulent and stinking German pie?
Whatever attitude the Germans are exhibiting, they remember that until sanctions came, they were Zimbabwe's second largest trading partner, after South Africa. They are not about to lose that pole position to the British, let alone to the Chinese. Hence this empty symbolism which the media has completely misread.
France under brittle helmsman
But all this merely underlines Europe's desperation to singly re-engage Zimbabwe. This does not dismiss Chan's main point.
The French appear to be inching back to days of Mitterand, only led by a less suave man at the helm. His name is Sarkozy. The good thing about brittle characters is that just as they are brazen to go, they are also brazen to retreat from a collective position.
The Belgians too are angry that Europe and America's fastidiousness, all in the name of the KPCS, is eroding Antwerp, shifting world diamond power to Surat. Very soon global power will shift to Indian nabobs, something anathema.
I will not talk about other Southern European states. Or some Nordic countries who all along have been very shrill against Zimbabwe, but are now telling Britain something else, and not in hushed tones too, as befits a brawl between two white nkosis, all in the presence of natives.
Guilty, not guilty again!
Another pointer to the correctness of Chan's basic thrust that Europe today pursues a sanctions policy it no longer believes in, comes by way of the 30-plus names it has now removed from the sanctions list. What great moral lesson comes from that mighty European act?
I read in some anti-Zanu PF website a bitter complaint that EU left the journalists to interpret and draw lessons from this stupendous act by themselves. The same point through the Zimbabwe Independent, itself an unconditional admirer of America, Britain and sanctions. But for it, this was just too much! No European wanted and wants to be drawn on the matter. Who would? The burden these diplomats carry for England!
Just plain stupid
Expectedly and, for me fascinatingly, no journalist has ventured beyond reproducing the list of names of those removed, or much worse, reprinting names of those still on the list. They appear to have missed the fact that this is complex Europe's way of communicating division within the EU, at Britain's expense of course. The matter against Zimbabwe has just become untenable. To save a friend and a superior race, they have given the world this severely "compromised" nonsensical decision on which no moral sticks.
For example, if Bonyongwe, Charamba, Chihuri or Gono's wives were vicariously guilty only yesterday, what does their transfer to the "not guilty" slot suggest about the culpability of their husbands from whose alleged actions they got their own portion of Europe's guilt? Have fresh facts emerged to warrant a review? Is the original sin well expiated? Or does it no longer exist, persist? Or it never did?
It's plain stupid, and I think it is meant to come across as such, so Britain, Netherlands and their Nordic supporters really look foolish and absurd, as indeed they are and do. It is a dramatic way of undermining that compendium of foreign policy, both by bankrupting it morally, and by pruning its less important side which can be tinkered with to appease the unwilling, but without taking away the spiteful sting in the raft of measures.
No personalised sanctions, EU
The EU statement unwittingly draws attention to the real nub and thrust of sanctions. The nub cannot be the encumbered persons on the sanctions list. If they were, Britain would not have wanted that side tampered with, would never have conceded. If they were, they would have been that golden concession Europe would only grant for "sufficient progress to justify a more substantial change of its policy towards Zimbabwe."
Equally, the visa ban cannot be the nub. Some if not most of the persons go in and out of Europe, facilitated by all-too-easy-to-get Schengen Visa. It cannot also be about assets "frozen". If there were any frozen, any worth noting, Europe would have gone to town about it, the same way it sought to recently over Egypt. Europe has been hunting for those assets for more than a decade. We hear no news from it.
Arms embargo, uu-uuh, maybe, although one senses a certain frustration that the embargo has handed Zimbabwe's arms market to alternative supplies who are never short in supply. The real issue is what the release calls "other measures, taken within the context of Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement." What are these too sacred to be mentioned, too sacred to be traded for "grand symbolism" which Britain wants, which Zimbabwe demands?
If ever there was anyone who ever doubted that the personal dimension of sanctions was the least important one to the whole equation, here is the evidence. The "other measures" relate to development aid, what in EU parlance is called "Envelop A". The "other measures" relate to trade concessions. The "other measures" relate to the movement of capital. The "other measures" relate to international loans from international bodies which Zimbabwe is entitled to.
Britain would not compromise on sanctioned corporate bodies. All these "other measures" pass for what we call country sanctions. There is nothing personal about them. Let the debate move on please, unimpeded by lying ambassadors and their equally lying minions.
The day Shingi Mutasa led the pack
Interestingly, views in the country on sanctions appear to be changing. Business is now prepared to acknowledge that indeed sanctions do exist, country sanctions, and seems now ready to speak against them. After years and years of denial, CZI has now owned up, thanks of Kanyekanye. It is much more than speaking out. Individual players are coming forward with specific, concrete experiences, the latest one being Shingi Mutasa of Masawara fame.
Gentle reader, you know that this column has not been friendly to corporate Shingi Mutasa, which is what matters to me, never personal Shingi Mutasa. It has roundly denounced him, and will most probably do so again, as long as he pursues anti-nation business decisions, all for illusory global fame. But give it to him, he is the first ever black businessman to deliver a sturdy punch into the rib cage of sanctions, in a way that cannot be gainsaid by our lying European and American ambassadors.
"The sanctions issue is very real. It's not a fake issue, it is real . . I personally think that the issue of sanctions is wrong. We shouldn't be having sanctions in this country. It's something that is an issue."
Beyond this, he used his own experiences to prove that sanctions were hurting capital raising initiatives for capital-short firms seeking offshore financing. Mutasa is not on the sanctions list. His Masawara is not on the sanctions list. Yet he was affected, nearly prejudiced.
And ZUJ too!
Another surprise has come from the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists which has now joined in the denunciation of sanctions. Of course this comes too late, considering that some of its members have been on the sanctions list for quite some time. But better late than never.
What makes this gesture from ZUJ so important is that these sanctions imposing countries tell us that the sanctions are meant to free the Press. How they do so by shackling journalists, only European and American wisdom knows. Political parties have also been stridently rejecting these sanctions and what Europe has done with them. Zanu PF has said and done as expected. MDC has done the same, again consistent with its position since the formation of the Inclusive Government.
Bah bah black sheep . . .
The black sheep has been MDC-T and its leader. The party will not say anything, what with what Wikileaks has revealed. Its president had an elaborate event dubbed "New Zimbabwe lecture series." Not a word dropped off his swirled lips, against sanctions. Not a word. Just how "new" Zimbabwe comes from old racist sanctions, only he and his European benefactors can only say. He proved a true chip off the European and American block.
Let elections and history condemn this man from Buhera. As for his secretary-general Biti, himself fingered by the Wikileaks for playing secretarial to Anglo-American sanctions, well, well he is busy telling us how "good" America generously offers to sell to us its coins! We shall take millions of US dollars we cannot give to civil servants to buy and cart American pennies! What ignominy!
He is busy telling us how he will not pay civil servants what they deserve, all in order to balance books to secure an IMF smirk and pat.
The super minister
Much worse, he hectors, threatens other ministers and ministries hoping to intimidate them into disclosing who buys our diamonds and how revenue from diamond sales is getting into this country. I am sure you know who his customer is, once he gets this information. But a bit of memory. In his last midterm budget review statement, Biti made it plain his sympathies were with ACR, itself a rival claimant to the Chiadzwa deposit, itself a beneficiary of fugitive De Beers.
He used a policy statement to pronounce himself on a matter which was before the courts, on a matter which involved the same government he swore to serve. That statement did not arise from a decision of Cabinet or any one of its committees. It was not policy. It was a personal conviction. If government had succumbed, ACR would have been the miner of the very diamonds the control of whose revenue he now seeks to control. For that goal, he is ready to trash ministerial boundaries, ready to go to war, this man Mukonoweshuro, his own political soul-mate once described as a "super-minister". Does anyone remember this?
The beast, the best
The burden of enlarging and defending the government control of national resources is a Zanu PF's. But the glory of receiving and auditing revenue from those resource which MDC-T does not mind to cede to whites, is Tendai Biti's! The beast must fall first. The best must come to them at all cost.
It was the same thing with the audit report on Zimplats, that one done by an international audit firm at the invitation of the Reserve Bank. That report revealed and quantified prejudice to Government, to this nation. MDC formations fought hard to protect Zimplats. They came out in defence of Zimplats, all guns blazing. That Zimplats ended up paying only owed to Zanu PF persistence. But once the payment was done, Biti hastily re-established charge, even denying funding to the RBZ which had caused the money to come in the first place.
Just what is wrong with these people, this party? Why is it so anti-nation? Why is it such a servitor of white interests, so fastidious on what has reverted to blacks through bitter struggle? Does Biti want to take the money from diamonds to European banks, all in the name of building reserves? He has already done that with SDRs, amidst crying need here.
In his associational economics, does he know something called demand-led recovery? Why suppress the demand for goods and services through inordinate wage control? And all that against wide open gates to imports? Is this what Biti terms statecraft? The President is right. Let elections come, soonest too, so Zimbabwe pursues a more certain path.