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Dear Mr President . . .
Brian Chikwava
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.

South Africa-s 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 of Africa.

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 statute books.

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 ideals?

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 cultures.

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 no bullets]."

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
Brian Chikwava

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 our enemy.

*Brian Chikwava is a Zimbabwean writer and winner of the 2004 Caine Prize for African Writing

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