Tuesday, March 25, 2014

(HERALD ZW) Zimbabwe: Myth-making and Myth-eating
December 7, 2013
Nathaniel Manheru

"David Cameron at Heathrow Airport with some of the delegation flying with him to China. – The Guardian"

My deep condolences to the Mandela family and South Africa on the passing on of Madiba. May his soul finally rest in eternal peace.

West call, Chinese curse

Zimbabwe has received many myths, repeated them, expanded them, fed on them, munched them to specter-thinness. Of course her hope was for an all-weather nourishment. For that very reason, Zimbabweans have been unable to clearly envision, unable to lay their hands firmly on reality.

Last week I gave you a slice of such myth-receiving, myth-making, myth-expansion and myth-eating. And the rich slice was that the West is Zimbabwe’s call, while China is Zimbabwe’s curse. Zimbabwe’s salvation would come from the West, so the myth goes. Native voices were conscripted to validate that myth in a chorus, a myth which is white to the pith. And to even elaborate on it and give it profound colour.

Best with received thoughts

The white boss wants us to remain tethered to him forever. He invents gorgons to frighten us from venturing beyond the oppressive circle he has enchanted, a circle that we can’t break. We wonder round and round, unable to break that spell of servitude. And when the white oppressor tells us how grateful we should be to be in that circle, how well we must behave as his slaves, we quickly pick up the lethal exhortation, elaborate on it, bedeck it with formidable statistics in order to make it unassailable, to make it perfect and enduring enough to blight our own children, their scions and many black generations to come.

We are always at our best with a received thought – a mis-thought! And it fires us into blind raillery: against ourselves, against our own, against our futures. Cry the accursed race.

Best across the Crocodile river

Last week’s statistically-backed argument attempted to perforate that blighting myth. It is yet to be thoughtfully challenged. Not the crass challenge it got from Muckraker, that white centurion by the gates of the myth-making chamber where vile thoughts are cooked. Dear reader, what you must grasp is that once imperialism loses state power, loses instruments of coercion, loses even the ballot, its recourse is mental games that allow it to retain its hegemony.

This is why any attempts at challenging that remaining zone of vestigial hegemony invites vicious rebuke. Such as I got from Muckraker for merely stating the obvious. We are all supposed to be unthinking when the white man hands down a nugget thought! Muckraker takes himself for the best editor north of the Crocodile River, regards himself the best authority and guardian of Rhodesian history.

Yet in spite of this claimed enormous knowledge and skills, he misses an elementary distinction: the difference between settlers and intruders. By giving us a smaller figure meant to capture white settlers who blighted our land by their permanent residence, he thinks he makes lighter the burden of oppression that the black Zimbabwean suffered for close on to a century, still suffers in politically post-colonial, economically colonial Zimbabwe.

The one who bear scars

But I am black and oppressed. I know the tongs of oppression that scarred my skin, the hard forced labor that caroused my hands, that gave me lasting scars. All that came from white oppressors who came into my life, into my country, whether or not they stayed temporarily or stayed to their grave or to now.

Only a fellow white man would know and count those who came to leave, distinguishing them from those who came and stayed. For he was the one to lose a friend, a neighbour, or gain either or both. What I saw with black-red eyes was an endless chain of white oppressors coming in, coming to me, terror in hand.

None ever left, many made way to each other as they took turns to abuse me. By way of their oppression, there was no distinction. And hey Mister Muckraker, the one who counts accurately is the one who is mounted, indeed the one who bear and suffers the harsh cut. Since Muckraker is an historian — and only last week I was reading a piece of research he published in one of the Rhodesian journals in the 1970s – let him tell us where exactly Rhodes’ men – his symbolic forebears — slaughtered Lobengula, indeed where they hid the poor King’s abused remains.

I am sure that is a more useful start to the story of white brutality and oppression here. Not this myth about two hundred thousand plus white settlers here. Or about King Lobengula committing suicide in his northward flight. Not this diversionary journey to “Tibet” as if we need to go that far to learn oppression, we who carry its scars. Why is he not talking about Wales, Scotland, Gibraltar and Malvinas?

Only facing East

But grant him ground. He says: “When Zimbabweans talk of zhingzhong, that is not something invented by whites”. He is right, dead right and we should listen to him, understand him and his kind. As I write, Cameron is just back from a long trip to China. The published image on that visit is a massive Virgin Airbus, overflowing with British businessmen who were part of Cameron’s delegation.

He led a massive, all-manner British delegation of 131, all to help him plead for Chinese investments, Chinese money. Tactfully, the trip was framed as one seeking to persuade China to do business with Europe. In reality, the trip was for needy Britain seeking to escape the riotous fate of Spain, made more likely each day that passes.

The major economies of Europe are actually not pleased with him for inviting the dragon into the EU. But, as the editor of the British Guardian noted, there was something of mendicant in the trip! I am sure for Muckraker, Cameron did not “look East”. He merely “faced East”, with “zhingzhong” being a place he visited, never a description of Chinese wares, or their quality.

Incidentally, this is Cameron’s second visit to China.

Only an old European country

Cameron met a new China, a China way above its weak, dynastic past. Much soberer, stronger, certainly richer, this new China would no longer be coerced into taking opium by British gunboats. Not even into losing its Tibet. Or its politics. Not in a hurry to forgive Cameroon for an impulsive and populist tete-a-tete with the hugely-symbolic-in-the-West-but-politically-empty-at-home Dalai Lama, China, through one of its authoritative papers, foully reminded Cameron that Britain was nothing more than an historical relic in Chinese eyes.

Part of the editorial ran: “The Cameron administration should acknowledge that the UK is not a big power in the eyes of the Chinese. It is just an old European country apt for travel and study. This has gradually become the habitual thought of the Chinese people.” I am sure that hurt, wounded British pride, pierces Muckraker’s empire ego, leaving gushing scarlet.

It helps for Britain and all her children, whether at home and abroad, to know that this is in fact more than a Chinese view. The editorial summarised the world’s view of Britain, including that of her previous colonial subjects who now know that beneath the feathery horn of the proverbial owl is no gore!

When the wheel has turned

More hurt came. Among the key investments Britain hoped to attract from China was for its rail system, for a long time ailing, directionless since privatisation. History records that China’s maiden attempt at rail was done by the British, way way back in 1876, the age when Britain once mattered. No trains ever ran on that track.

Only the second attempt succeeded, prospered. It came in 1881, all under the supervision of an English engineer, Claude William Kinder. And the locomotives that followed the track puffed greater glory to Robert Stephenson, a British inventor! Today the land of Stephenson and Kinder seeks Chinese intervention for Britain to have fast moving trains.

Britain, the train-master, is now by the rail station, waiting, desperate to catch a lift from a Chinese bullet train. Not a very kind fate, if you ask me. And yes Mr Editor of the Guardian, the wheel has indeed turned!

Mad pig disease

As a write, reports are now taking stock of Cameron’s visit. One of his major breakthroughs during that visit reportedly is a £45million business proposal by which Great Britain will export hog semen and trotters of pigs that no longer grunt, export all that to China. Grunt, grunt, gruuuuunt!

At least it is far, far better than opium. One hopes China is not importing mad cow, sorry mad pig, disease. And receiving trotters that kill, not arouse Chinese desire. Real food for thought if you ask me.

Myth of junkets

But yes, all this is for Zimbabweans to note. Muckraker is right to say it is not whites who speak of zhingzhong. They cannot, for they are busy courting China, flooding its markets for succour. Those who speak of zhingzhong are “Zimbabweans” — you and me at the instigation of whites already aboard a plane to Beijing!

Wake up Zimbabwe, shake off the myth and then understand why it is in the interest of the West and Rhodesians to incite you against China, to cultivate an anti-Chinese sentiment designed to avert any strengthening partnership between us. Surely a whole old imperial country does not cart itself to China of junkets? This is the first myth we need to cast off.

The bogey of indigenisation

Tapiwa Nyandoro always writes quite boldly. His latest instalment advises the Zimbabwe Government to “suspend indefinitely its indigenisation policy and replace it with the “thin capitalization rule” to raise tax and broaden the tax base.” I don’t know what “thin capitalisation rule” means, or says.

I hope he does, which leaves one wondering why such a crucial part of his recommendation is not digested, but shoved down the reader so indigestibly. Whatever he means by that phrase, his recommendation betrays his image of Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans: we are a good-for-nothing-else-but-taxation bunch.

We must build our nation on taxes. Our role and fortunes must be viewed in terms of taxes, we the tax-collecting Nation. But beyond all this, there is a clear thesis to say indigenisation policy is the real problem foreign direct investment is shunning us, skirting around our country.

When capital proves less timid

Nyandoro throws in very succulent figures: $1,35 trillion as value of global FDI in 2012. Out of this $50billion went to Africa, led by Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, DRC and Ghana. Zimbabwe — our Zimbabwe — bagged a paltry $400million out of all that. Poor Zimbabwe, opines Nyandoro, plaintively advising this wretch of a country to please “prioritize FDI-friendly policy measures for economic development”.

I said we are notorious for receiving myths, regurgitating them after munching them. Here is a case of square figures being forced into round conclusions. The countries that grabbed much of the $50bn that came to Africa are no different, no better, no more righteous than poor Zimbabwe.

Quite the contrary, they leave one wondering why timid FDI regained boldness to venture into them. Three of them have conflicts. Or rumours of them. Two are quiet but facing social threats arising from acute inequities, acute marginalisation of their indigenes. Some of these social conflicts have forebodingly spilled blood.

But all are natural-resource rich, covering a whole gamut of mineral resources including that dark, dank liquid, oil. Or its more refined, airy twin — natural gas. All this apart from a whole range of minerals they richly have. Is that not the key consideration, which by the way also account for the destination of the paltry $400million which came our way in spite of sanctions and our odious indigenisation and land policies?

They still put in $400million, in spite of our policies which Nyandoro says block investments. He thinks we should not indigenise as that amounts to seeking more instead of being content to collect tax, thinly collect tax.

Where are the billions from minerals?

I just hope Nyandoro read a business story in yesterday’s Herald. I will summarise it for him in case he didn’t. Headlined “Mining firms bank 3pc of revenue”, the story revealed that a mere 3 percent out of about $2billion which foreign mining firms get from our resources find its way into our banks!

The rest goes overseas. Meanwhile the country reels from illiquidity, blaming itself, its politics, its politicians and its policies for this bad situation. It does worse. It hopes from continent to continent to seek more debts, including from those economies which receive fabulous receipts from our minerals.

Frigidly, these economies will not give us anything, not even loans from money that came from us! I really wish vaChidhakwa could share with the Nation what came to us by way of royalties and taxes from the same mining sector this year, against what miners took away, all read against our requirements “for economic development” which Nyandoro so sorely wishes us.

That way the second, dual faced myth of taxation versus indigenisation, could, hopefully, get finally exploded.

Beggaring a noble policy

I have sat in many investment-related meetings, here and abroad. To the meeting, the message coming through is that no one, none in this whole world, has any problems with the policy of indigenisation as we visualise it here. None at all. Quite the contrary, they find our policy quite mild-mannered, weakly and often corruptly implemented.

What is more, all that has been done since its inception has been words, voluminous words remarkably matched by absolutely no action on the ground. Spare me this nonsense about community share ownership. That is not indigenisation. It is only social responsibility which is an image-making exercise for serious corporates.

We have just made that corporate responsibility compulsory, poorly so too! Spare me this nonsense about chasing little African and Chinese retail outlet owners from messy Kaguvi road, before going to bed contentedly and heroically saying to our wives, we have indigenised! Bull . . . silly.

Far from doing anything for anyone, such stupid calls simply leave a noble policy in tatters, its proponents not just morally bankrupted, but sounding ridiculously mean and xenophobic. It’s coming across as a poor man’s desperate hard asset grabbing, sinking a big sharp dagger in the cornered back of Pan Africanism, the very spirit and impulse which has saved us and won us African support.

Why cheapen, beggar a noble policy, while looking away from where real wealth is being made and lost?
Speaking too much, at cross purposes

Botswana has harder policies on indigenisation than we do. Yet it gains fabulous FDI. Nigeria is beginning to give us man and women of real means, native investors who are beginning to go abroad, Strive-like. In relative terms, Nigeria calls for partnerships between locals and investors simply because it now has a dashing middle class.

Here the middle class is Government, for everyone else is either a manager or worse, a fawning fraud seeking to happen. What investors and investing nations have been complaining about is our lack of clarity and consistency on indigenisation, the lack of clarity on our policy on indigenisation.

We speak too much, speak at cross purposes. What is worse, we exploit an honourable, well-grounded and quite accepted and acceptable policy to feed our venality. And we seek to ingratiate ourselves with the white investor, we take a dig at that policy so as to look better, wiser, more reasonable than bad Africans.

All that, not indigenisation, has been the bane. Once we speak with one voice resolutely, once we make a real clear policy out of our aspiration to indigenise, the whole world will engage us, engage us on our terms. See what is beginning to happen in the chrome industry, once Government made it clear raw chrome exportation would attract punishing taxes.

Of course Biti hoped to spite the Chinese, upset them to poison their relations with Zanu-PF. But he has advanced Zimbabwe’s interests like he never intended. Many more myths abound and encrust us. I hope I can lay them bare for you so we begin to tackle the issue of our vision for the future.

Icho!

nathaniel.manheru@zimpapers.co.zw

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