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Zimbabwe and the weapons of 'mass distraction'
February 09, 2009
SO much of what we understand
depends on who advances the story. The story, for instance, of the
Bush Administration toppling Iran was most often told as a victory
for George W. Bush-s politics of confrontation, superior technology
and a readiness to confront the "Axis of Evil" with all
weapons at their disposal.
The language used talked
of getting tough, of war against terror, no negotiation with terrorists,
us against them. Those who advanced another discourse were called
In retrospect, one is
curious what traction this version gained, given that every journalist,
every participant and every witness to the televised embedded journalists-
reports of the "War on Terror" in Iraq and Afghanistan
was perfectly clear in what he or she saw: that ordinary people,
especially women and children, died in the offensive and the weapons
of mass distraction were never found.
of mass distraction" were uncovered.
Yet so much traction
was gained in peaceful initiatives during the same period: for instance
in Northern Ireland, where on 9 May 2007 the power-sharing government
at last began its business of governing. It took a gruesome thirty
years to achieve that feat and Tony Blair today has an affirmative
tick on his 'Premiership Report Card- courtesy of the
Irish power-sharing agreement.
Yet many people fail
to realize that Ireland brought peace to itself, of course with
a lot of help from friends. Unity building is very hard work, but
it requires internal commitment.
Those of us who are away
from the effects of conflict, sometimes intractable conflict, benefit
from other people-s tragedies and grow frustrated, hopeless
and indignant by proxy.
tragedy and irk out a living out of it. We take comfort in our luxury
of alternatives and urge others to toil "a little bit further"
on the hope that "change is imminent". We sometimes
allow actions that we know to be pointless to roll on, ashamed of
the ineffectiveness of our own frustration.
Hope is too complicated
to comprehend, especially when threats to our basic existence are
clear and present.
As we celebrate the power-sharing
agreement and the formation of the inclusive Government (and the
accompanying efforts at tackling the economic challenges), we should
not forget the social tragedy confronting us — the broken
down families and communities, heightening crime rate, the political
and social polarization and the widening gap between the rich and
Reading the political
and social commentaries coming out of Zimbabwe, and Zimbabweans,
the widespread disillusion with politics in general and our leaders
should find a remedy for this and re-engage citizens to take part
in civic activity, without which development remains a mirage.
This is possible only
insofar as it is possible to restore a sense of community to the
nation. That, in turn, requires a belief in the common good.
In the face of grotesque
inequality, governmental and corporate sleaze, and generalized anomie,
we need, as Barack Obama once remarked, "to affirm our bonds
with one another".
We should also accept
that history has played a large part in defining the structure of
our current struggles. Proper narratives are needed to explain the
age-old tensions and how consent was manufactured against the government
Those narratives should
guide our discourse on race and economic relations in the country
and chart a clear path to development and the restoration of the
sense of community.
Democracy is not an event,
but a "conversation to be had" and if that conversation
is not promoted democracy will remain utopian. After so many years
of political acrimony, the democratic project sounds easy and blissful;
but it is not.
It is still as challenging
today as it was yesterday. Our expectations should be restrained
and controlled and realistic. But our hope should be maintained.
The more I have listened
to, and read, some of the alternatives to our economic development
being proffered, the greater my sense of opacity. That shows how
difficult the journey is going to be for the ordinary citizen and
the political decision-maker.
Many alternatives have
mixed real issues with opinion and have been devoid of the appreciation
of the present. Some of it has been horror vacui, trying to suck
in everything to cover the emptiness.
Sometimes in our desperation
we identify with these ecstasies, but they are ecstasies nevertheless.
We need real talk about the challenges confronting our nations,
not cosmetic patchwork.
Peace-building, and the
accompanying value shift, is exacting, unglamorous, long-term work.
It requires patience and virtue.
Having treaded the hard
road of peace up to this point, the political parties in Zimbabwe
must now do the needful to ensure peace. It will take time and effort
to bury their hatchets. All the parties sharing portfolios in the
government need to be tamed so that they do not go around sending
the wrong message to the people.
They should hold meetings
with their activist wings and convince them not to be involved in
cudgels marring the overall march towards peace and prosperity.
As the National Security
Council Bill is being tabled, we should remember that there is no
such thing as 'national security- if it fails to bring
security to every citizen.
G.W. Bush was heralded
as a success in the war against terror by a section of America.
But, when Obama came on the scene with the alternative, he was embraced
with appreciation showing that American citizens never really felt
safe and secure.
A nation that is at peace
with itself, is at peace with others. To be at peace with itself,
that nation has to appreciate the nature of the challenges facing
it and come up with proper social and political narratives to extricate
itself from those challenges.
The weapons of 'mass
distraction' are in full force. Our conflicts are made more intractable
if we do not begin to think as a nation.
Mauchaza is a Zimbabwean social worker based in Leeds, UK
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