Monday, November 28, 2022

‘Locusts have no kings’ (a rejoinder to Philip Bulawa)

Fed up with the wholesale murder of innocent people and with his country subjected to disastrous inconsistencies, Julius Nyerere took the unprecedented move of invading Uganda in 1979, ending one of the world’s most barbaric governments.

Unorthodox maybe, but a man pushed to the precipice cannot afford allegiance to pristine ethics.
And so I was struck by the intolerably simplistic view of the Zimbabwean quagmire vis-à-vis docile SADC leaders as espoused by Philip Bulawa, (The Sunday Standard, April 29, 2007).

Bulawa tries to reconcile contradictions by pretending that they don’t exist.

Are SADC leaders stomaching Robert Mugabe’s unruly and homicidal behavior because of camaraderie cemented from pre-liberation collaborations or is it political and economic expediency?
I maintain that many countries benefit from the wretched situation in Zimbabwe (Mmegi, April 20, 2007).

“By the way,” Bulawa concedes, “an economically and politically stable Zimbabwe with its population of 12 million plus would certainly benefit Botswana’s economic prosperity…” Bulawa believes that “a ZANU government even without Mugabe would possibly punish Botswana economically for its previous utterances against its leader and party.”
Is he saying the nation of Botswana is willing to change its values because of fear?

Bulawa seems unaware that no one can rule Zimbabwe when Mugabe is alive and free on a farm or in exile somewhere. Whoever takes over, whether from within ZANU-PF’s ranks or from elsewhere, would want to put some distance between themselves and Mugabe’s modus operandi. That is why Mugabe has even had problems with his handpicked woman second vice president.

SADC leaders have allowed themselves to become totally irrelevant in the region by ignoring national security issues that affect them, their citizens and their national economies.

As the death toll climbs higher in Zimbabwe, as Zimbabweans commit more and more crimes in Botswana and South Africa, as regional economies continue to suffer and regional pacts fail to take root, all because of Mugabe, for how long shall these tired old men continue to ignore Mugabe?
Botswana finds itself being pulled back by what is happening in Zimbabwe. It’s not because of old liberation war allegiances because, as Bulawa correctly pointed out, Botswana has none with Zimbabwe.

And that is why I am hopeful about Ian Khama’s imminent presidency. I don’t purport to know his political philosophy. I am pinning my hopes on the simple fact that Ian Khama has an opportunity to redirect African political history because he has a clean slate in the arena.

Khama does not owe anything to the old despots of Africa.

I do not see him joining the discredited club of old African leaders. I see him being concerned about his image both at home and abroad. Whatever Khama owes, he owes it to Botswana.

As a Zimbabwean, I honestly have hopes that this might be to our advantage. And to Africa too. Khama is unfettered by the useless camaraderie from the liberation wars.

Can the old aggressive doctrine that my friend’s enemy is also my enemy really be taken seriously? If, in these days when everyone seeks unfettered personal freedoms, my friend makes enemies, does it mean that person, who never wronged or threatened me or my family, is my enemy? Forget George W Bush’s wrongly applied biblically-sourced threats that ‘you are either with us or against us.’ Why is my friend’s enemy my enemy when I can make a ‘positive difference’ between both?

SADC leaders picked Mugabe over the suffering abused masses and, in the process, might have adopted enemies who are not their own. SADC has been in existence for as long as Zimbabweans have been suffering but SADC chose not to side with Zimbabwe’s rank and file.

We got elated when Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal declared that he did not wish to belong to the ‘trade union of despots’. Wade is there somewhere; he ain’t talking no more. Mwai Kibaki’s foreign minister also fired a broadside at Mugabe. But the Kenyans also went cold.

Now there is John Agyekum KUFUOR of Ghana. The fact that Kufuor could stand on the steps of SA’s Union Building, with Mbeki by his side, and openly call for a closer examination of Mugabe’s errant governance was something we cherished, especially coming so soon after Levy Mwanawasa’s Titanic analogy.

Zimbabweans continue to hear SADC leaders shouting “Viva!” every time Mugabe urinates into SADC’s drinking well in total disregard of their citizens’ well-being.

I also say: “Viva, SADC!”

The camaraderie is not because they once trudged the forests together in search of freedom. For years, I felt sorry for Namibians under Sam Mujoma, a man who left the presidency still believing that every song in the hymn book was written for Mugabe. It’s just the old mentality.

The Zimbabwean army is no longer entirely made up of “those who fought in the liberation war.” The majority in the Zimbabwean army is what we refer to as ‘born frees’, i.e. those born on or after April 18, 1980, Zimbabwe’s independence. Our born-frees are 28 years old now and those who fought in the liberation war are well over 40, with most out of the army. But the old leadership, which includes Mugabe, is still there trying to teach new dogs old tricks.

Africa must move away from antiquated politics; we need a new generation of leaders, unfettered by worthless camaraderie of having fought colonialism. We fought and won. We should have started moving ahead a long time ago but we seem to have a stagnant mentality.

I thought those organizations, (FRELIMO, MPLA, ZANU/ZAPU, SWAPO, etc) fought colonialists for people’s freedom. The purpose of the war, I believed, was to give people the right to choose. That’s why we supported them.

Since these organizations collaborated in fighting for our freedom, I would like to believe that there was a common purpose, a shared belief towards a particular objective born out of a particular conviction.

Imagine if you will, I am at university with my mentor, one Philip Bulawa. A few years later, we find ourselves graduates and leading our nations. Then I start murdering people, diverting from all logic and hurling insults at anyone who dares admonish me. And Bulawa keeps quiet, refusing to comment, thus giving tacit approval to my wayward behavior.

Bulawa, like all apologists who don’t want to deal with a snake at their doorstep, repeats the discredited rubbish about “only Zimbabweans can bring Mugabe to his knees through the ballot box.”
Zimbabwe is not under normal circumstances.

Bulawa does not even ponder why people he refers to as ‘middle class’ left Zimbabwe or how. He conveniently ignores that Zimbabweans in and outside the country have no rights. To my understanding, Bulawa can vote in national elections from Australia, where he is. Botswana extends the right to vote to its citizens abroad.
Not so for Zimbabweans because for Mugabe, it’s more than elections. It is survival; that is why so many people cannot vote even inside Zimbabwe.
The state of the opposition in Zimbabwe is not entirely to blame. Churches have been trying to mediate and have always been conciliatory but Mugabe never reciprocated. Everyone has tried and the fiend just won’t yield.

Bulawa, we Zimbabweans need your help, my brother. You clearly blame the victims.
Granted, Botswana has its own interests at heart but it can also protect itself more by safeguarding its democracy even beyond its own borders.
I have anticipated faith in the new generation of African leaders, like Botswana’s Ian Khama. I cannot see them trying to keep in step with out-of-date ideologues. But, all things considered, we are never going to guarantee our safety if we ignore wrongs that are being perpetrated in our midst.

Mugabe is doing more than mudding the waters. Responsible people and governments must react.
Botswana, along with other nations of the world, should not continue to accept leaders who cause destruction of life with no explanations and no consequences. SADC leaders must salute Nyerere for the aide-memoire which has now proved that the past is the best predictor of the future.
To the SADC leaders I say even though locusts have no kings, they still advance together in ranks.
And, eh…Viva SADC!

*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Botswana-based Zimbabwean journalist.


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