By Luke Tamborinyoka
As Zimbabwe flares up in flames in the latest repressive rendition of the country’s multi-layered political crisis, the regime in Harare has ostrich-style decided to firmly bury its head in the sand.
In the week that soldiers mutineering over low pay hounded out Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and forced his resignation, the government in Harare is soldiering on under the pretence that there is no crisis in the country.
Wanton arrests, unmitigated corruption, disgruntled civil servants, human rights abuses, massive starvation, huge unemployment, murder and abductions are all in the milieu of the monumental crisis currently engulfing the country.
SADC leaders, the AU, the United Nations, the church, business, political parties–at least the credible ones, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and war veterans have all spoken out against the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe.
Yet the government in its wisdom–or more aptly lack of it–claims everyone speaking about the crisis in Zimbabwe is captured.
It really appears those who the gods want to destroy, they first make mad!
The regime has typically reacted to the church’s reaction, with Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa firing an acerbic, tribally-tinged salvo at only one of seven Catholic bishops who had collectively expressed outrage on behalf of the Catholic Church regarding the brutal repression of citizen rights in Zimbabwe. It was clear Monica’s statement was written while she was firmly tucked in on the matrimonial bed as the high verbiage in her statement was the typical handiwork of her husband Chris.
Now the world’s reaction to the government’s reaction to the world’s reaction has engendered a vicious merry-go round of condemnation, with the regime in Harare blaming everyone else for all its problems, for which it should solely take the blame.
But perhaps this week’s prize for lunacy should go to Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo. After the AU issued a damming statement on the situation in Zimbabwe, the soldier-turned-top-diplomat claimed the regional body was captured by the British.
Let it be said that it has always been embarrassing for all well-meaning African citizens that Beijing built the headquarters of the AU in Addis Ababa because we are one regional body whose members so much harp about pride and sovereignty.
Hell No. Mnangagwa was not saying the AU is captured by the Chinese, who built the headquarters of a sovereign continental body and whose member States are now mortgaging their resources for a song to Beijing.
Not only that, the Chinese have a poor labour rights record in almost all the African countries where their companies are operating. The nationals of these presumed all-weather friends of Africa can even afford the luxury of shooting their workers when they demand more pay, as they recently did in Zimbabwe.
But Sibusiso was not talking about Chinese capture of the AU. He claimed the AU is captured by the British, a favourite propaganda line for the regime in Harare in describing anyone and everyone who dares criticise them.
Yet the only capture we know is that of Kuda Tagwireyi, who has the entire ruling elite— including the First Family— all firmly tucked inside his undergarment. For a man with wide tentacles that have spread to fuel procurement, the Zupco buses procurement, Command Agriculture and various other creamy parts of the national pie, it was not surprising that SB Moyo fully understands capture and seeks to universalise it to all scenarios, including the simple and innocuous act of condemning repression.
Sibusiso Moyo was the face of the November 2017 coup that toppled Robert Mugabe. This week he became the face of yet another coup on decency and common sense. The agenda of SADC meetings has always shaped and determined the full summit resolutions.
As part of the Foreign Affairs ministers who had determined the agenda of the full summit, SB Moyo had ensured Zimbabwe was not an agenda item at the recent SADC summit which meant there could be no resolution on it if it had not been discussed . Indeed, SB Moyo was the face of yet another coup as he had ensured the full overthrow of Zimbabwe from the matters to be discussed at the summit.
In the week that the AU chair President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed his emissaries to engage various groups so as to fully appreciate the crisis in Harare, Sibusiso Moyo was claiming the AU is captured. He may have made the capture claim only in relation to the AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, but where do you draw the line between the chair of the Commission and the chair of the member States? How does one say the AU is captured only in relation to its Commission chair and not the AU chair?
By claiming that the AU was captured because it had condemned the human rights situation shortly after a visit to the AU headquarters by the British Minister for Africa, Sibusiso may also have inadvertently been attacking the AU chair President Ramaphosa, who had deployed his envoys to Harare in the same week that the Commission issued its damning statement.
So the regime in Harare was not captured when the British Minister for Africa was making those frequent trips to Zimbabwe and giving Mnangagwa the benefit of the doubt in the aftermath of the coup in 2017? The British capture claim is so laughable, especially if it is being made by a government so keen and so desperate to rejoin that vast labyrinth of British control called the Commonwealth!
The warped Zanu PF logic is that all those who have condemned the rampant human rights abuses are captured by the British. This means that the church’s statement issued by the Catholic bishops reflects that they are equally under the clutches of London. If the church represents the very conscience of God, the regime is making the claim that even even God is under the firm clutches of the British! This is just blasphemous gibberish.
Maybe it is understandable that the word capture could so easily come from the lips of this inept regime. This is the same government that has captured the courts, ZEC, Parliament and even some pliable political surrogates to whom they have now donated the MDC Alliance headquarters, its government grant and its MPs. Indeed, the Dzepfunde choir that is POLAD represents the captured opposition, especially the outfit fronted by one Thoko-Zanu Khupe.
The point remains that Zimbabwe is mired in a serious human rights crisis and that’s an undeniable fact. No amount of papering over that glaring reality will change the honest truth that the despondent and repressed citizens of this country can’t breathe.
#ZimbabweanLivesMatter is trending and once again, Zimbabwe is under international spotlight, which in itself is very important for the oppressed and suffering citizens of this country.
There is no smoke without fire and the high decibels about a crisis in Harare is unto itself a reflection of the crisis in Zimbabwe, despite the shrill denials by a regime that blocked the AU chair from engaging other stakeholders in the country. If there was nothing to hide, Mr Mnangagwa would not have allowed President Ramaphosa’s envoys to hear only one side of the story.
This laughable habit of claiming an external hand whenever citizens clamour for an end to repression is just clap-trap.
Maybe when the poorly paid soldiers in this country decide to send their own Commander-in-Chief packing, as they have just done in Bamako, Mnangagwa will fully appreciate the magnitude of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Experience is the best teacher. Remember in Zimbabwe, they now have experience on how to effectively put their own Commanders-in-Chief under house arrest and hound them out of office.
It was renowned African playwright, Chinua Achebe, who reminded us of how we used to learn about remote and immediate causes of seismic political events during our History lessons in High School.
In his seminal work, Anthills of the Savannah (1987), the celebrated author said Africa’s unstinting fixation with the external hand as the only and sole cause of all her problems is like almost always looking at the remote causes at the expense of the internal and immediate causes that are often reflect themselves through our own inept, inefficient and avaricious leaders.
Achebe said always blaming the external factor or the remote cause sometimes allows the real internal culprits to go scot-free.
Achebe’s profound pronouncement was that to always blame the external hand—the remote cause—is akin to blaming the blacksmith every time a man hacks his fellow to death with an axe!
Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He is a multiple award-winning journalist who was once elected and served as the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.
Tamborinyoka served as spokesperson for almost 10 years to the country’s democracy icon, Morgan Tsvangirai until the latter’s death in 2018.
He is an ardent political scientist who won the Book Prize for Best Student when he graduated with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Political Science at the University of Zimbabwe.
You can interact with him on Facebook or on the twitter handle @luke_tambo.