Monday, November 15, 2010

So-Called "War Veterans".

Now these so-called "war veterans" of Zimbabwe are threatening Senator David Coltart, the Education Minister; a bad omen for race-relations in Zimbabwe. I do wish the real war veterans from Zimbabwe's war of liberation would stand up and have their voices heard. People like Wilfred Mhanda (aka Dzinashe Machingura) should make a stand and say that things cannot continue in this way. It's a shame that a psychopath like Jabulani Sibanda -- who never fired a single bullet in the Liberation war -- is leading campaigns of violence against ordinary civilians.

The other lunatic leader of these "war veterans", Joseph Chinotimba, arrived at an assembly point in 1979, only after the war had ended, and he too never fired a single bullet in the Liberation war. I'll leave you with the memory of my uncle, Arthur Magaya (aka Saul Sadza), a true war-hero. He was #4 in the ZANLA hierarchy, and #3 in the joint ZANLA/ZIPRA army of ZIPA. He was tragically killed in the North Eastern front in 1976. May his soul rest in peace.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mugabe's English Retirement Idyll

Writing in the New Statesman, Sholto Barnes has offered an English retirement for President Robert Mugabe as one way of getting him out of Zimbabwe's current political stalemate. This is not as far-fetched an idea as it seems. Economists use the term "Opportunity Cost" to refer to opportunities or incomes foregone when pursuing other activities. The opportunity cost of not having President Mugabe in an English retirement would be another five years of his rule in Zimbabwe. That would mean another 5 years of political strife and economic stagnation. A frightening prospect indeed.

Setting up a recalcitrant leader in luxurious retirement overseas is not without precedent. When Senegalese President Abdou Diouf lost the 2000 Presidential elections to Abdoulaye Wade, the French were quick to nip any potential trouble in the bud. Ex-President Diouf was given a luxury apt in one of Paris' swankiest arrondissements and fast-tracked to be the next Secretary-General of La Francophonie. Once out of the way, there was no way he could foment any trouble that would harm France's interests in Senegal

A similar deal to get President Robert Mugabe to retire to England just might be as worthy. It would also do wonders for Zimbabwe's putrid political-scene and tanking economy. Robert Mugabe (ever the anglophile) just might take up this offer and The Cotswolds would provide the perfect setting for an idyllic retirement estate.

Early mornings (he's an early riser) would be spent taking in the air, whilst afternoons would be the time for dictating his memoirs to an assistant. Late afternoons would be the time for High Tea (I told you, he's an Anglophile), the time to entertain a chorus-line of guests from the Diplomatic Service, to exiled despots, to nameless and shameless "Old Africa Hands".

Weekends would be reserved for watching Test Cricket at Lords (he follows cricket), in the Members Section (of course), as always, resplendent in his tie and blazer (he's a natty dresser). All of these activities would be happening whilst his shopaholic wife, Grace Mugabe, would be breaking the bank at Harrods. But enough of Grace, let's move on. Lashings of Test Cricket would be followed by yet more meetings with aged "Africa Hands" at various high-end London restaurants. I can almost see Mugabe wagging one hand of rebuke (against colonialism) at his English dinner-companions whilst using the other hand to nibble at a plate of roasted pheasant (he's a picky eater).

Sunday mornings would be reserved for Mass (he's an observant Catholic) followed in the afternoons by yet more meetings with aged "Africa Hands" over servings of tea-and-crumpet (that British thing, again). So there it is. I've painted an idyllic retirement scenario for an outcome (Mugabe's ouster and idyllic retirement) that would be beneficial for all. Why not give it a try.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Prof. George Ayittey on Zimbabwe

Here's a reply I received from the Ghanaian economist & African reformer, Professor George Ayittey. It's about the ongoing crisis in my native Zimbabwe. I had to post this piece to my blog (with his permission), since Prof. George Ayittey clearly expostulated what most rational Africans think in private, but are sometimes loathe to spout in public. Read below (his words).



These are dangerous times Zimbabwe faces. One thing I have consistently faulted Zimbabwean politicians for and which I have constantly railed at is their stubborn refusal to learn from the experiences of other African countries. They think theirs is the only country on the continent facing a political crisis. They should continue to ignore the experiences of other African countries – at their own peril.

Post colonial African history shows clearly that if the politicians fail to resolve a political crisis for years, sooner or later, a Charles Taylor, a Foday Sankoh, a Mohammed Farar Aideed, a Laurent Kabila, or some rebel leader will emerge to resolve the crisis by force. And we all know the consequences of taking that route. As I write, I know or rebel training camps in Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa, operated by Zimbabwean exiles. Not something I would support or get involved in.

The problem as I see it revolves around the whites in the MDC. It is the only credible and largest opposition party in Zimbabwe. But its agenda, policies and strategies have been dominated, controlled or “hijacked” by whites and Morgan Tsvangirai is too weak to check this. He has become something like a “puppet.” As a result, the MDC has lost its “African touch” or character. I suspect this was one reason why Arthur Mutambara broke away, although personal ambition could have been a major motivating factor. It is also one reason why the regional leaders find it difficult to embrace the MDC because they don’t see it as “African.”

As you already know, there are two gnawing issues in Zimbabwe: the land issue and political tyranny. On these issues, the MDC waffled and was outfoxed by a wily old despot who insisted on making the land issue the sole, over-arching political issue.. Following the violent and forcible seizures of white commercial farmlands, the whites saw the MDC as a vehicle to stem those seizures and farm invasions. They acted rationally and I don’t blame them for that. But in so doing, they ended up “hijacking” the MDC and its primary message of DEMOCRATIC CHANGE got lost in the shuffle.

Second, the whites wanted to play it safe and I don’t fault them for that. For that reason, they preferred external pressure – in particular, from Britain -- to be brought to bear on Mugabe; hence, the near-exclusive reliance on external solutions, which flies in the face of recent African political history.

The third was a serious misjudgment on the part of the whites in the MDC. They misread southern African history. Southern Africa is not like West Africa, where the wounds from colonialism have nearly healed. They are still raw in southern Africa, which is yet to shed its liberation theology. For this reason, the whites should have played a less prominent, low-key role in the MDC. They should look at the travails of the Democratic Alliance party of South Africa. I could not for the life of understand why the MDC insisted on making Roy Bennett a deputy Agricultural Minister. Didn’t the MDC know that such an appointment played right into the hands of Mugabe and SADC leaders?

Mind you, I have nothing against Roy Bennett. I met him in Aspen, Colorado, and he is such a fine and intelligent person. But as deputy agric minister? Not at this time when memories are still too raw.

Fourth, because it is controlled by whites, the MDC never bothered to look at “African solutions” that have worked in other African countries such as Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Zambia and even South Africa. It preferred the “Westminster” or Western model (free and fair elections).

Nonetheless, there is still an ALTERNATIVE WAY to pull Zimbabwe back from the brink. Call it African diplomacy. Set up a body of eminent Zimbabweans. Not more than 10 people but they must be apolitical. Leave the politicians out of it. Include church leaders and retired military generals, if you will. They must be able to reach stalwarts in both the MDC and ZANU-PF. Call this group a Council of Elders or Eminent Elders, if you will, to give an African ring to it. Its main task will be to break the political impasse and come up with a solution acceptable to both sides. Pretoria or Johannesburg is not the place to do this; nor can SADC be such a “council.”

The destiny of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of its own people, not in the hands of South Africa or SADC.

George Ayittey,

Washington, DC

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

King Yahya Jammeh...and other tragedies.

I just got word that Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, now wants to crown himself King of Gambia. Just when I thought the news about our African Presidents couldn't get any worse, I was hit with this low blow. Earlier this year I saw a photo of French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, and the (now deceased)  Gabonese President Omar Bongo, standing together and both wearing  -- what appeared to be -- platform shoes. I almost fell of my chair with laughter. Are these "Les Affaires D'Etat" that African Presidents are engaged in? Then I heard that ex-President Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria, was actually considering running in the next Presidential elections. Now, I almost had a heart attack! This is a man who looted $8Billion from the Nigerian treasury, and yet still has the temerity, THE AUDACITY, to consider running -- again! -- for President.

And now this: not content with trying to find a cure for AIDS, The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, now wants to crown himself the king of his country. "Emperor" Jean-Bedel Bokassa must be turning in his grave! He must have thought that he was the only African leader who could crown himself as "Le Roi". Sometimes -- like a punch-drunk boxer -- I just want to give up and throw in the towel. These African leaders are just too much. What a bunch of fools, clowns they are!