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Mr President . . .
April 12, 2007
It-s time to test
the sincerity of the so-called neo-liberals of the Western world,
writes Brian Chikwava in an open letter to Comrade Thabo Mbeki
There are clamours from
all corners of the Earth asking you to do their bidding on the Zimbabwean
question. I do not agree with that on principle. Although I am not
in the habit of writing letters, I am worried that events north
of the Limpopo may soon leave you with few comrades to count on.
own path to democracy is instructive. Today, from the Republic of
South Africa we have witnessed the birth of the African Renaissance,
which now roars up in the sky like the sun, sending freedom and
great tidings to the weary bones of the inhabitants of the continent
I agree that Zimbabwe-s
problems should be solved by the people of Zimbabwe. A cursory glance
at history will reveal that, in their struggle for democracy, South
Africans went about their business quietly. They never bawled for
outside help in the way Zimbabweans are doing. They never moralised
to the world about the conditions in their country. They did it
all by themselves.
I am with you wholeheartedly,
although I have my doubts about the path chosen by the SADC summit
in Dar es Salaam last month. From my small desk, you appear to be
struggling to find the words to confront, decisively, the busy bodies
in the Western world. I humbly suggest that it would be far easier
for us to lay our case before them in plain language.
We have a strong case
for what they like to call our dithering, complicity, lack of urgency
(the terms are inexhaustible). If we were to take on these people
on their own turf, we could knock the socks off them. Why not invite
them to look at Zimbabwe in a genuine spirit of rational enquiry?
The entire population
of Zimbabwe was liberated by Comrade Robert Mugabe, a great son
of Africa. But since then they have forgotten themselves. On close
examination, we can see Zimbabweans misbehaving, throwing their
tails about, employing all the force of their ballot boxes to evict
the great liberator from office.
Look where this kind
of thing has landed them today! The entire population has been imprisoned.
The Dar es Salaam summit made it abundantly clear that SADC will
never support their lawless behaviour. There is hardly a human being
left in the country who deserves the human rights set down in the
It-s time to test
the sincerity of these so-called neo-liberals. If they are so sure
of what should be done in Zimbabwe, why don-t they give the
populations of their own prisons the right to run amok in jails
carrying placards and demanding freedom and all those other fanciful
Over the past weeks,
I have heard countless bizarre accounts of Zimbabwe from the foreign
media. It is suggested that Comrade Mugabe may have lost control,
that things could hurtle towards a gory end. We need pay no attention.
These are the rantings of pundits with no appreciation of alien
You will remember Ryszard
Kapuscinski, that Polish journalist who tried to pinpoint the exact
moment during the Iranian revolution when the game was finally up
for the Shah. The crucial moment was, he claimed, an incident in
a square in Tehran. I think the story bears repeating.
A policeman had approached
a crowd of demonstrators and ordered them to go away. Someone in
the crowd shouted back: "No, we won-t go. You go away!"
The policeman, looking rather perplexed, turned and shuffled away.
Kapuscinski claims this was the point when figures of authority,
imperceptibly, ceded their power to the people. A moment six months
before the Shah chose to retire! How preposterous.
Recently I spoke to a
great auntie of mine over the phone. She is one of those common
criminals swelling the lower ranks of the great jail for breaking
the law of the land in broad daylight. She told me, excitedly, about
an incident that occurred in Bulawayo a few weeks ago.
Apparently, a crowd of
demonstrators came face to face with a gang of soldiers sent to
break up their misguided meeting. As the people began to disperse
in fear, one of the soldiers broke away from his comrades and crept
towards the demonstrators. Casually, he let slip a remark that I
regard as profoundly irresponsible: "Lingethuselwa lapha,
kasila nhlamvu [Don-t let yourselves be intimidated, we have
I did not want my auntie
to read too much into this. "Take it easy, woman," I
told her, "a jailer encouraging prisoners to riot is no matter
about which we should be dancing up a cloud of dust. You had a duty
to punch that soldier on his mouth and you failed." Zimbabweans-
guilt is incontrovertible. The only way out is for them to start
thinking straight and plead for a presidential pardon.
Allow me to conclude
with a word of caution. We have to take particular care that some
misguided elements of the military in Zimbabwe do not end up grabbing
State House and having a rowdy, beer-sodden party while the big
man lies crumpled inside the broom cupboard. It might be prudent
to send in some hard men, like the Angolans, to help. Zimbabwe is
too big a jail to be adequately manned by a single government.
With that, dear comrade,
I humbly submit these suggestions, hoping to assist you.
Your comrade in arms
PS: Fancy that at the
very moment when the Western world is in uproar because prisoner
Morgan Tsvangirai was given a deservedly good hiding, an elephant
in Zimbabwe-s western district of Hwange should choose to
snuff out two Brits. Even the beasts of the land are rising against
is a Zimbabwean writer and winner of the 2004 Caine Prize for African
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