Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

Archive for July, 2007

Tanonoka Joseph Whande spittin’ fire

Posted by CM on July 30, 2007

There are two sizzling-hot must-reads from Joseph Whande, both at Zim Online.

The more analytical article of the two is “Mugabe cannot retire, even if he wants to,” but the gossipy, name-dropping  “Your time is up, Mr. President” is torrid!

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What is a “tribal healer?”

Posted by CM on July 22, 2007

The International Herald Tribune really liked the story about somebody who tried to claim some role in the mysterious appearance in a cave of what some said was diesel, creating a frenzy of anticipation in crisis-filled and fuel-starved Zimbabwe :

Their headline on the story :

“Police seek tribal healer, arrest followers, over gasoline deposits hoax in Zimbabwe”

I felt moved to write the IHT the following letter, knowing fully well it will never see the light of day, but feeling happy that I had done my tiny little bit to to fight the “exotic-isation” of Africans that one so frequently encounters in the Western media…article moved to

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Investors waiting for political change to rush in

Posted by CM on July 21, 2007

Amidst the depressing deluge of negative news from and about Zimbabwe, there are also the occasional signs to give one hope about the country’s future should positive change take place before it is completely ruined.

Some hard nosed international investors who acknowledge how bad things are now but also recognise the things that it has going for it are waiting in the wings to pick up good deals cheap and benefit from an expected post-Mugabe recover period. Some foreign companies who already have a presence try as much as possible to keep at least a nominal presence to make building up their portfolios again easier than starting from scratch.

One recent report : Edgars, a leading South African clothing retailer with stores in neighbouring Zimbabwe, saw its chief executive in Zimbabwe arrested for “tardiness in changing prices” as the government ordered last month. He was released, and while Edgars’s management says times are difficult, it is not pulling out of Zimbabwe.

In fact, analysts predict that those who can afford to wait – even if it takes years – will see good returns on investments.

“Zimbabwe’s difficulties are a reality,” said Goolam Ballim, chief economist for Standard Bank, one of South Africa’s leading banks with interests in Zimbabwe. “But any rebound will benefit entrepreneurs,” he added, saying he was confident in the ability of the southern African country rich in minerals to generate wealth.

Some analysts believe that for entrepreneurs with deep pockets and strong nerves, this is the time to invest in Zimbabwe, saying tobacco farms and mineral rights can be picked up dirt cheap. They point to the examples of the mineral and oil rich Congo and Angola, where the first hint of political stability saw investments reap massive returns.

“As prices fall you are able to buy more assets with incredible potential,” said Tony Twine, senior economist at Econometrix, an economic consulting firm.

The downside of this vote of confidence by investment analysts in a Mugabe-less future :

(Political analyst Brian) Raftopolous warned that the economic collapse presents a threat to Zimbabwe’s sovereignty — especially with the massive reconstruction that a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe would need. “Mugabe has been shouting about the imperialist influence over Zimbabwe but he has run the economy down so badly that the country is so dependent on foreign aid,” he said.

He also cautioned against letting Zimbabwe become a “bonanza” for foreign investors eager to take advantage of the desperate situation.

A separate analysis says much the same thing, that while some will steer clear of Zimbabwe for a long time no matter what happens politically, there are those who believe it will be a very good place to do business again :

Foreign investors tend to avoid imploding African economies. But a small crew are bucking the trend in Zimbabwe, lured by plunging asset prices and a belief that once 83-year-old President Robert Mugabe goes, recovery could be swift.

Leading the charge is Lonrho, the conglomerate that has been seeking to rebuild the African empire created by the late Tiny Rowland. It announced that it had raised an initial £32.3m ($66.4m, €48m) from shareholders towards a new subsidiary – Lonzim – to buy up assets in Zimbabwe with a “significant opportunity for future growth.”

David Lenigas, Lonrho’s executive chairman, looking beyond current figures for Zimbabwe – 15,000 per cent inflation and an economy shrinking by 12 per cent a year – said the country’s infrastructure, skilled workforce and farming potential provided the basis for a solid recovery.

Kola Karim, chief executive of Shoreline Energy International, a Nigerian group, says he hopes to seal two deals in Zimbabwe in the next month – both with European companies who have had enough there. “We are not going to asset-strip. We can buy big international names for cheap and stay in partnership with locals to drive the business,” he said. In one case he hoped to acquire a company for roughly a tenth of its 1997 value.

There is concern among some Zimbabwean businessmen that properties will be sold off at rock-bottom prices.

“But the investors are not seen as vultures,” said the chief executive of a Bulawayo-based small manufacturing firm. “It gives us hope for the future that people from the outside are interested.”

At a Bulawayo business forum this week, many members seemed determined to batten down the hatches and not to sell.

Dianna Games, director of Africa@Work, a southern African business consultancy, expressed caution. “There is a lot of talk around dinner party tables [in South Africa and Zimbabwe]” about opportunities, she said. But it was far from clear that
the situation would be transformed when Mr Mugabe finally left power. “Everyone seems to think that when he goes, all kinds of doors may open . . . but we don’t know.”

These debates remind us of some of what makes Zimbabwe special, and why its troubles have garnered such widespread attention. Raftopolous’ makes a good point in pointing out the irony of a despot who shouts “sovereignty” every chance he gets, but will leave behind a weakened economy on its knees that may be less “sovereign” than ever as international creditors and investors dictate their terms of engagement.

Apart from the inevitable painful compromises that will have to be made by a post-Mugabe dispensation of any flavour, if either or both factions of the MDC are in the drivers’ seat of such a dispensation, then we may see a real rape of the economy in the name of attracting foreign investment! That worry reflects my worry about and my lack of confidence in the MDC.

But aside from the speculative games about what will or will not happen, the various sentiments expressed by investors and analysts with no sentimental attachment to the country are a reminder to us the citizens that we should not get so despondent about the present that we fail to plan for and be hopeful about the future.

Posted in Economy | Leave a Comment »

About the adultery allegations against Pius Ncube

Posted by CM on July 19, 2007

Even if true, the way Mugabe and the government media have crowed about them and splashed salacious images makes them seem amazingly cheap.

Even if true, there seems little doubt that Ncube was set-up in a way the many known adulterers that are part of the Mugabe system would never have and have not been.

Trying to discredit Ncube on the basis of adultery seems bizarre given Mugabe’s own history in this regard.

For Mugabe to crow about the allegations against Ncube at a state funeral, and one in which he calls attention to his own Catholicism without any sense of irony or sacrilege, is an indication of just how much he has lost his own moral compass.

If the allegations are even half-way true, it shows an amazing carelessness on the part of Ncube, who for years has said he was being trailed. Given the increased recent pitch and frequency of his criticism of the Mugabe regime and his knowledge of what it is capable of of, he should at least have been a lot more discrete!

The published pictures claiming to be of Ncube and his paramour(s) are striking in one respect : the joylessness of the claimed encounters. The pictures are of poor quality but clear enough to show that there is no hint of pleasure, excitement or even affection between the two people depicted. To me the pictures and the couple in them seem more sad and miserable, individually and together, than anything else.

Ncube’s ambiguous answers to whether he has indeed been screwing around will do him more damage than a definitive “no,” or even a definitive “yes” with genuine expressions of regret (assuming he was regretful!) Hiding behind “I can’t say because I might be in contempt of court” is disingenuous, the kind of answer one would expect from a slippery politician, not a contrite archbishop.

The woman’s suggestion that she was forced by economic circumstances to be Ncube’s bed-mate is a sad commentary on many levels.

Regardless of Ncube’s “sins,” his criticisms of the Mugabe regime are as valid now as they were before this alleged scandal came to light.

Posted in People | Leave a Comment »

When all are forced into short term self-preservation mode

Posted by CM on July 11, 2007

In the Mail and Guardian, July 11 2007 :

Zim businesses strike conciliatory tone

At a conference organised by the Harare Chamber of Commerce to discuss the impact of a recent government order to slash prices across the board, Zimbabwe business leaders struck a markedly conciliatory tone to the government over its controversial price controls, pledging to make goods more affordable and accepting there would be no let-up of a crackdown that has seen hundreds of retailers arrested.

“There is no doubt that business have been affected by this directive… it is also important to recognise that business has an obligation to produce goods and services to satisfy demand at affordable prices,” Ozwel Bimha, chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce, told delegates. “In order to achieve this it is important for business to acknowledge that there was need for some intervention to avert this crisis.”

Andy Hodges, head of treasury for the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group, said the business sector had played into Mugabe’s hands with their price increases. “In essence we set the stage for intervention as the government perceived prices increases as a third force,” Hodges told delegates. He said the price increases over the past two months were as a result of manufacturers and retailers who were basing the price of their products on future inflation forecasts.

Manufacturers say the government-set prices mean they cannot cover their costs and have stopped production, leading to widespread shortages of staples such as cooking oil and salt.

Brains Muchemwa, a leading Zimbabwean economist, told delegates it was important the business sector was not at odds with the government. Business and government have to walk in one direction “but in this case business seems to be trailing behind,” he said. Muchemwa also expressed concern oat the loss of value of the local currency, saying this has resulted in no one wishing to have the Zimbabwe dollar in large quantities “except if it is being used for speculative activities.”

The “conciliatory tone” of business is entirely understandable given that this the first time that the business elite has been targeted for mass arrests in light of the price wars of the last few weeks. The arrests have achieved the intended effect of shocking and intimidating business.

The “obligation for business to produce goods at affordable prices” rests to a large extent on the prevailing overall economic situation, and in government micro-managed Zimbabwe, that responsibility rests disproportionately on the state. The “obligation to produce at affordable prices” depends on business being able to compete “normally.” Instead, over the years we have had a situation in which many businesses have been driven under, creating effective monopolies in many sectors, especially in those producing many of the basic commodities.

Monopoly = price gouging, almost always, based on the science of human nature! Create an environment of lots of competition, and it is very difficult to sustain profiteering.

The government is quite correct to perceive “price increases as a third force,” as Hodges put it. But a “third force” created by the circumstances government bears more responsibility for than any other sector for creating, not one that can be laid at the doors of any nebulous “enemies of the people.” And Hodges explains the ‘human nature’ of the businessperson very well by pointing out that in a situation of the uncertainties about tomorrow created by the kind of inflation levels Zimbabwe is experiencing today, that businessperson must try to stay in business by guessing what the replacement costs of his stock will be tomorrow.

The only limiting factor in his pricing imagination in such a scenario, compounded by shortages, is what price the market will bear. The businessperson may just dream up a price figure, even far beyond what can be justified by fears of tomorrow’s replacement costs, and if the situation allows it, far more. If there are still people in the system able to afford his perhaps ridiculous price ( hard-currency paid NGO and private sector workers, embassy personnel, those supported by remittances from the diaspora, etc), he can get way with it because there are not many other places (and none with “reasonable prices”) that the able-to-pay customers can get it, even if this further sidelines the overwhelming majority who do not have such “protections.”

This is not an effort to justify high prices, just an attempt to explain the very obvious motivations of some of the actors in this tragic scenario. It is impossible to say which is the stronger hyper-inflation pressure between (1) plain old greed and (2) genuine business-survival caused anxiety. But in either case, they are only able to exist because the environment is so particularly suitable for them to do so. Anxiety-caused hyper-inflation continuous to feed on itself, worsening the inflation. And the anxiety is not strictly economic, but also as a result of lack of confidence about the short term political situation as well, so it is not easy to wipe it out by government decree or threats. If the prices are indeed “normalised” by force for a while, the multi-faceted problem will then mainly manifest itself in worse shortages of goods.

Putting aside issues of right or wrong, everyone in this chaotic scenario is acting on short-term self-preservation instinct : the government in lashing out physically rather thinking, consumers who are happy at slashed prices even if it means the producer will not be in operation tomorrow, the business person who raises prices several times daily knowing that this can not be sustainable.

Things have reached a stage where any “solution” that pleases one sector at the expense of the connected others simply will not work. The “conciliatory” statements by business leaders may keep some of them out of jail and from being abused by the authorities, but they will not change the underlying causes that have brought Zimbabwe this low.

Whether any of us are happy with this reality of the unavoidable need for an all-encompassing, “holistic” answer to the situation is really besides the point. Like it or not, we are all victims as well as agents of this invisible, so-called “third force” that comes in the form of market forces and human nature.

Chido Makunike

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An expensive populism

Posted by CM on July 7, 2007

From the Vibe Ghana website, featured on July 2, 2007 :

I am still a disciple of Nkrumah – Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe on Sunday aroused the spirit of Ghanaians when he said that he was still a disciple of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. Addressing a mini-rally at Old Polo Ground, now renamed the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, where Nkrumah delivered his famous independence speech in 1960, President Mugabe said it was the teachings of the late Pan-Africanist that fired him up to liberate Zimbabwe in 1980 from British colonial rule.

Mugabe, who received a rousing welcome on Saturday at Kotoka International Airport in Accra on his arrival for the ninth ordinary session of heads of state and government summit which opened in Accra on Sunday, recounted his experience when he came to Ghana as a teacher to be trained as a freedom fighter by his late mentor.

He said he taught at Apowa Secondary School in Sekondi-Takoradi where he met and married his late Ghanaian wife, Sally. He also said his ZANU PF party cadres were trained in Ghana. Mugabe aroused the crowd when he said he was personally taught by the late Nkrumah at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute then located in the central city of Winneba.

“Nkrumah was a great African personality whose ideology must be preached to Africans irrespective of one’s political ideology,” he said amid cheers.

President Mugabe took time to explain to the crowd the controversial land reforms in his country, and he again blamed Tony Blair for lack of political will to implement the 1979 Lancaster Accord which required Britain to fund the compensations for land acquisition.

He said it was high time Africa united and pulled its resources together for the betterment of the continent. “After 44 years when Nkrumah called for a united government, some African leaders are still calling for a gradual approach. The time for a union government is now,” he said.

President Mugabe and Muammar Al Gadhafi of Libya are the only two African leaders who have received rousing welcome from Ghanaians among the leaders attending the AU Summit, probably because of their radicalism against western powers.

Well, one can certainly understand how someone who is inundated with negative reports and images about himself in much of the world media would warm to the rarely encountered appreciative audience.

And unlike some others, I do not find it hard to understand why Mugabe stirs the hearts of many Africans due to the deeply felt, still unresolved feeling of grievance over the humiliations of colonialism. These have been compounded by the dissapointments and disillusionments of the post-colonial era felt by many Africans. Agree with these feelings or not, it has been a gap in the understanding of African dynamics, particularly but not only amongst westerners, to ignore this significant psychological factor. It helps to explain phenomena like African attitudes towards land reform in Zimbabwe that by all objective criteria up to this point would seem to have done the opposite of its claimed aims to improve the lot of the majority.

It’s all very well to work up a crowd in distant Accra, Ghana by telling them what you know they want to hear and massaging their sense of national pride by heaping praise on their national icon. But the important audience to sway is the home crowd back in Harare; and not just by “back in Nkrumah’s day” nostalgia, but by results!

Putting aside the controversial legacy of Nkrumah, the point is that forty years after his hey day, the African leaders of today are required to do so much more than just invoke his name, speeches and memory. Whereas his thoughts on African independence, economic empowerment and unity were inspiring partly because they were so radical and inspiring for their day, now the needs for these values is taken for granted. What is lacking are African leaders with the radicalism, boldness, ideas and seriousness of purpose to implement them!

Whereas Nkrumah could in his time achieve mythic status by just thinking and expressing these thoughts to an appreciative, long-battered African psyche that needed lifting up, now that still battered African psyche requires more to repair and inspire it : examples of success. No matter how effective a spokesman Mugabe and people like him might be to the cheering Accra audience, the shambolic state of his country after close to 30 years under his tutelage is hardly a good model of “pulling resources together for the betterment of the continent!”

Those among the audience who knew the current state of Zimbabwe probably did not care as they do not have to live under its shockingly and shamefully deteriorating conditions. They can afford to separate the speaker’s rhetoric from the examples of his failures to positively implement that rhetoric at home, in a way Zimbabweans do not have the luxury to do.

As sad as the situation is, there is also something cynically sad about Mugabe speechifying as if he still the scrappy, youthful, revolutionary outsider trying to bash his way into the system of power to radically change it for the benefit of “the masses.” Instead he is an old, long-reigning, bourgeoise ruler; the consumate “insider” as president for 27 years, in which his people’s lot has declined in dramatic fashion! How diabolically ironic to still be trying to grab the mantle of “man of the people” under these circumstances, and how sad that even in distant-from-Harare Accra, there should still be people who are willing to fall for it.

If you have failed to thwart the various “plots” against you that you allege, in order to still show examples of national success (a là Cuba with regards to agriculture, health and social welfare despite decades of declared sanctions by the US) , what really is it then that you have to offer? If anything, the dilapidation of your country is a constant mockery of your rhetoric!

Regardless of how thunderously the Accra crowd cheered Mugabe, it is when the general populace in Africa insist on the delivery of results, rather than just rhetoric contradicted by the legacy of its deliverer, that perhaps African rulers will begin to feel some pressure to actually be seen to be performing, or at least trying. It is hard to concede even this little bit for Zimbabwe’s present rulers when you look at where the country is now, compared to where it has been and where it could and should be today.

Chido Makunike

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Fascism in 10 easy steps

Posted by CM on July 6, 2007

I found the following a fascinating read :

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms, argues Naomi Wolf.

Last year there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down : the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy – but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy : Creating a terrifying threat – hydra-like, secretive, evil – is an old trick. It can, like Hitler’s invocation of a communist threat to the nation’s security, be based on actual events. Or the terrifying threat can be based on myth.

2. Create a gulag : The next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law where torture takes place. At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders : troublemakers, spies, “enemies of the people” or “criminals.” Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders – opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists – are arrested and sent there as well.

3. Develop a thug caste : When leaders who seek what I call a “fascist shift” want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens.

4. Set up an internal surveillance system : In Mussolini’s Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China – in every closed society – secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. This surveillance is cast as being about “national security”; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

5. Harass citizens’ groups :The fifth thing you do is related to step four – you infiltrate and harass citizens’ groups. It can be trivial or serious. The definition of “terrorist” slowly expands to include the opposition.

6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release : This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. In a closing or closed society there is a “list” of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list. It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the
list, you can’t get off.

7. Target key individuals : Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don’t toe the line. Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not “coordinate,” in Goebbels’ term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically “coordinate” early on.

8. Control the press : All dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.

9. Dissent equals treason : Cast dissent as “treason” and criticism as “espionage.’ Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of “spy” and “traitor.” In Stalin’s Soviet Union, dissidents were “enemies of the people.” National Socialists (Nazis) called those who supported democracy “November traitors.”

10. Suspend the rule of law

I have listed the points as they appeared but have drastically edited the examples and explanations in the excellent but rather long original article.

For the many citizens of the world in general who can see a lot of their societies described by these ten points, actually Naomi Wolf is worried that the United States is rapidly moving in this direction, frightened and spurred on by “the war on terror.”

But I also know a certain southern African country that much more evidently has a lot, if not all of these characteristics! Dear clever reader, can you figure out which country it is?!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Fighting an invisible economic foe

Posted by CM on July 5, 2007

One of the many reports about Mugabe’s reaction to the pricing chaos taking place in Zimbabwe, causing further shortages, business closures, misery and confusion :

Speaking at the poorly attended burial of the late commander of the 1 Infantry battalion, Brigadier General Paul Gunda at the Heroes acre, President Mugabe said his government is going to be tough with industries and businesses that effect unnecessary price increases.

“We are now getting tough. There is not going to be play, this nonsense of escalating prices must come to an end. Whether you are bakers, construction industry and suppliers take note.”

“It’s going to be a rough game. We will seize the mines and industries if they continue with their dirty tricks”, Mugabe said. He also criticized and warned his corrupt colleagues in the mining sector that his government will soon arrest those found externalizing minerals.

Well, certainly playing “a rough game” is something that Mr. Mugabe has proven himself to be a ruthless master at. Already the various extra-judicial militias have began the roughness in earnest, with shocking reports of abductions and physical abuse of shop owners who are trying to desperately cling on to business.

But the nature of the forces that Mugabe feels so threatened by now is a little different from those he can physically point to and identify as individuals who are “agents of imperialism.” Now he is fighting against more nebulous, more elusive, much tougher foes: human nature and market forces.

Let’s put all the ideological and economic jargon aside and get to the basics. The incomes of everybody buy less every day because of hyper-inflation, so everyone can identify with resentment against the constantly rising prices. Under these conditions the shop owner is not a popular person. But that shop owner must not just try to make a profit, he must try and guess what the new, higher price will be when he goes to re-order his goods and attempt to make provisions for that in his pricing. Add shortages and their separate effects on prices, greed, speculation and general lack of confidence in the sustainability of the country’s present path to the mix, and you have even worse inflation.

The whole mess is puzzling and stressful to everyone and the different social sectors turn on each other, as they do on the government, which is even harsher in lashing out against everyone indiscriminately.

There is simply no way that decrees and threats by Mugabe or anyone else can tame this situation, whose causes have been building up over years. Rather than a coordinated “conspiracy” against his regime, this latest manifestation of economic chaos is from disjointed forces that are finding common ground from the situation they find themselves in. So no amount of enraged thundering against such spontaneous, unplanned and informal coalitions will do any good. The more there are reports of brutality against businesspeople and orders to price goods below the cost of production or procurement, the more businesses will simply not find it worthwhile to keep their doors open.

This is not to deny that there are probably are many businesspeople in the present chaos who are indeed “profiteering” by affixing outrageously unjustifiable prices to their products. But even then, it is the situation of shortages that allows them to get away with this. Were there plenty of whatever it is they are selling, the customer would have the option to simply go and buy from a merchant with a better price.

I mentioned putting aside ideological jargon because it really doesn’t matter in this instance whether one agrees with the concept or rightness of market forces or not. The business person , or for that matter the suffering consumer who is delighted at the short-term prospect of being able to buy goods that have suddenly been decreed to be priced at 50% less, are operating at and motivated by survival imperatives, not complicated ideological theories.

Instead of being signs of strength and control, Mugabe’s enraged rantings this time are more indicative of confusion at a situation that has slipped out of control and that his usual tactics will not easily bring under control.

Posted in Economy | Leave a Comment »

Pius Ncube plays to the gallery

Posted by CM on July 1, 2007

Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, is a brave man. An apologetic critic of Mugabe’s, he has used the protection that being a prominent cleric still provides brilliantly, to say things that needed to be said and that many others would have been arrested, harmed or silenced for. Mugabe, being a nominal Catholic, has so far failed to cow Ncube into silence, despite itching to do so and clearly being enraged by the cleric’s sharp criticisms.

A voice like Ncube’s that so fearlessly speaks to power is an asset to any society, and is particularly so in the Zimbabwe of today. He is a great voice for the suffering in Zimbabwe and I have great admiration and respect for him.

I was therefore saddened to hear his attention-grabbing call for Britain “to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe.” It is most unfortunate.

Whether as a deliberately thought out statement or one that came out in the heat of an interview moment, it is not only a sad sentiment for him to hold, but stating it will compromise and come back to haunt him. Obviously Ncube knows nothing would make Mugabe “see red” more than the call for the intervention of his hated enemy Britain, and perhaps goading Mugabe this way was part of the motivation in what he said.

Even amongst the many Zimbabweans who don’t share Mugabe’s Britain-hatred, I don’t believe there is any significant number who, despite the disapointment at how the post-independent era under Mugabe has turned out, want anything that would smack of a colonizer-colonized relationship with any country, least of all Britain. I suspect the British establishment itself is only too painfully aware how their country’s messy record in Rhodesia and in Zimbabwe currently binds their hands from being in the frontlines of helping to resolving its former colony’s woes.

The desperation of Ncube and of many Zimbabweans that someone, anyone, come in and magically, instantly solve our problems is understandable given the great and increasing hardships Ncube would see every day. But that is not likely to happen, and in any case, with regards to Zimbabwe, Britain would hardly have the clean hands and moral authority to be an effective knight in shining armour.

Ncube’s ill-considered, careless statement adds nothing to the discussion or resolution of Zimbabwe’s problems, while reducing his stature among the Zimbabweans who want Mugabe to go, but are not enamored of a new type of colonization from any quarter. Not only was the invasion statement silly, but his further stating, “we should do it (remove Mugabe)ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready,” smacks of grandstanding. An ordinarily humble, modest man, this statement comes across as from a man stroking his own ego.

And I reject the now tired “too much” fear argument. Zimbabweans are no more brave or fearful than any other people. Why there has not yet been a mass uprising is a legitimate question, but anywhere in the world and through-out history, a people’s snapping point is influenced by a complicated confluence of factors that evidently have not arrived yet, for whatever reason. Mocking his “flock,” who do not have the protections that Ncube’s position and prominence give him, as being too chicken to follow his heroically gallant and brave lead is a cheap shot, and unlikely to raise his stature among them.

It has long been the practice of Mugabe’s regime to accuse opponents of being agents of Britain and the West. While elements of the opposition certainly do seem to cozy up uncomfortably closely to Western powers whose actions in Zimbabwe over the decades have not always been honorable, most have heard the regime’s cry of “wolf” often enough to dismiss it with the contempt it deserves.

How unfortunate that an important, necessary voice like Ncube’s in today’s Zimbabwe should so readily give the regime an excuse to paint him with that old worn out brush and have some of the tar stick because of his own carelessness.

Chido Makunike

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