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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Talks, dialogue, negotiations and GNU - Post June 2008 "elections" - Index of articles


  • The debate
    John Eppel
    October 27, 2008

    The discussions on a government of national unity (in a country near you) had become fatally deadlocked. The mediator, an eminent African (name supplied), came up with an idea, inspired by the current Presidential debates in USA, which, he believed, would result in a settlement.

    First he had to relocate the three antagonists and frog-march them, if necessary, back to the negotiating table. Mr Wynken was at home with his family, tucking into a copious supply of Kentucky Fried Chicken with chips, tomato sauce, and lashings of coca cola. They were in the lounge watching a re-run of the American soap, Dallas. Professor Blynken was visiting at one of his "small houses", a Tuscan-style mansion with columns made of asbestos sewage pipes, in the City of Kings, Bulawayo. Comrade Nod, with an entourage of sixty family members, cronies, and security guards, was spending the weekend at a luxury hotel in Mauritius.

    At last, the antagonists were reassembled at the table, the one made out of Rhodesian teak railway sleepers, and the mediator made this proposition: "Boys, let-s settle it with a debate! You know, like McCaine and Whatsisname! With the Americans, as with you people, the economy is the central issue, so let-s have a debate, on TV, boys, and let the electorate decide who gives the most convincing argument on restoring your economy. The winner will be allowed to dish out cabinet posts, including the newly established one, and most coveted, of Minister of Rural Beauty Pageants." The three antagonists licked their lips a few times and then decided to go for it.

    The people were duly informed of the live debate and its purposes. Each of the antagonists would have five minutes to explain his plan to revive the economy. The winner would be decided by the loudness of applause of an invited audience: a hundred citizens randomly selected from the general populace.

    The cameras rolled and the debate began. The mediator played the host. Mr Wynken elected to speak first. "When the paper runs out, all transactions should be carried out in this country-s most stable commodity: empties. I propose a currency of coke and fanta bottles in the soft drinks line, and wine and beer bottles in the hard drinks line. The scud, as long as it is carefully rinsed, could also be included." He went on to give numerical values to the various types and colours of bottles, so, for example, green beer bottles would be more valuable than brown beer bottles; and family size coke and fanta bottles would be more valuable than those of standard size. Professor Blynken pointed out that scuds, by any other name, could not be construed as bottles. Comrade Nod said that, in any case, Mr Wynken was too ugly to be a serious contender.

    After the applause died down, the next speaker commenced. It was Professor Blynken. "What I propose is a logical extension of the current system. Let anyone who has access to a photocopier and A4 bond paper, copy however much money he needs for that day-s expenses. To be fair to the majority who do not have access to modern technology, lower denominations may be traced or even sketched on any surface that will carry the image: flat stones, pieces of wood, even banana peels." Comrade Wynken undermined the argument by jokingly suggesting underwear, and Comrade Nod wondered if Professor Blynken was too intelligent to be a serious contender. Professor Blynken received about the same volume of applause as Mr Wynken.

    Finally, it was comrade Nod-s turn. "The West still negates our sovereignties by way of control of our resources, in the process making us mere chattels in out own lands, mere minders of its trans-national interests. In my own country and other sister states in Southern Africa, the most visible form of this control has been over land despoiled from us at the onset of British colonialism.

    "That control largely persists, although it stands firmly challenged in my country, thereby triggering the current stand-off between us and Britain, supported by her cousin states, most notably the United States and Australia. Mr Humpty, Mr Dumpty and now Mr Skippy's sense of human rights precludes our people's right to their God-given resources, which in their view must be controlled by their kith and kin. I am termed dictator because I have rejected this supremacist view and frustrated the neo-colonialists.

    "Let these sinister governments be told here and now that we will not allow a regime change authored by outsiders. Mr Humpty and Mr Dumpty have no role to play in our national affairs. They are mischievous outsiders and should therefore keep out! The colonial sun set a long time ago; in 1980 in the case of my dear country, and hence I...ooooooh...we will never be a colony again. Never!

    "We do not deserve sanctions. We are patriots and we know how to deal with our problems. We have done so in the past, well before Humpty and Dumpty were known politically. We have our own regional and continental organizations and communities.

    "Yes, for us post-colonials, we still have an aloof immigrant settler landed gentry, all-white, all-royal, all untouchable, all-western supported, pitted against a bitter, disinherited, landless, poverty-begrimed, right-less communal black majority we have vowed to empower...ooooooh... and in the cause of whom we continue to be vilified, in a country that is ours and very African and sovereign. Hence, in spite of the present global milieu of technological sophistication, we remain a modern world divided by old dichotomies and old asymmetries that make genuine calls for...er... digital solidarity sound hollow.

    "Er... this gathering is a re-enactment in my view of that togetherness, the partnership, the co-operation that has seen processes taking place here leading to a number of our countries attaining their independence. Ooooooh! I said I will never ever attack an African leader in public, never ever! In our forum we will tell each other about what we think of each other. I will get my day!

    "Yesterday as we of my country sought to liberate ourselves and the fight was between us, the people of my country, and the oppressors, it was the Front Line States who together with us shaped the struggle that led to our liberation and independence, therefore...er...pamberi the economy, pasi the drought, pasi sanctions, pamberi... er... me."

    Comrade Nod received about the same volume of applause as Mr Wynken and Professor Blynken, so the stalemate continues. Cold comfort for the antagonists and the mediator in the form of Chivas Regal on the rocks with a splash of fanta orange.

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