Tuesday, June 7, 2016
The 'useful idiot' has gone too far this time
By Prof Jonathan Moyo
IS PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe an ethnic bigot masquerading as a nationalist?
This admittedly very unhappy and most uncomfortable question is raised not out of any petulant disrespect or mischief but out of grave national concern given the persistence of inflammatory tribal bigotry by George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson, in his weekly column “The Other Side” which he writes under the cover of the poison pen of Nathaniel Manheru in the Herald on Saturdays.
Charamba’s inflammatory tribalism would ordinarily go unnoticed but for the fact that he is Mugabe’s trusted and loyal personal spokesperson with no track record of ever holding independent opinions that are his alone. Charamba speaks for Mugabe. Put differently, Mugabe speaks through Charamba.
This is consistent with the fact that Charamba is a civil servant appointed as a government bureaucrat who should serve everyone without regard to their political affiliation, ethnicity or any other social or natural condition or division. Charamba is not a politician, elected or otherwise, and he thus does not represent anybody in government, not even himself. He only represents Mugabe as his spokesperson or mouthpiece.
Therefore, the views expressed in the column in question by Charamba are supposed and certainly are intended to project, articulate and defend Mugabe’s thinking and policies on major issues of national interest. I know this as someone directly familiar with the origins and purpose of the Nathaniel Manheru column in the Herald which was started under my watch when I was minister of information.
Against this backdrop, there is a feature of Charamba’s pro-Mugabe column which has been recurring over the last 12 or so months to the point of forming a disturbing if not alarming pattern. This has to do with the column’s crude tribal bigotry sometimes coupled with equally crude gender bigotry presented by Charamba in Mugabe’s name.
The latest example of this tribal bigotry is in Charamba’s current installment of his column published by the Herald last Saturday (July 8, 2006) and targeted at this writer.
Apparently stung by the real issues against Mugabe in an article I wrote last Friday (July 7, 2006) in the Zimbabwe Independent unraveling Mugabe’s ideological and policy contradictions behind the so-called mediation between Zimbabwe and Britain by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, Charamba yet again used inflammatory tribal bigotry in Mugabe’s defence.
In essence, Charamba’s response to my article is to assert that I have no right to criticize or challenge Mugabe from the “anthills of Mazowe” where my family is doing agriculture on 627 hectares we are currently developing from previously derelict land last used for grazing purposes, because I am from Matabeleland and thus belong to a clan “whose lineage never dreamt of having land in the heartland of Mashonaland of Zimbabwe”.
This is tribal bigotry at its worst.
But where is this tribal bigotry coming from? Do Charamba and President Mugabe whom he represents really imagine that they can ever get away with this kind of scandalous and unacceptable tribal intimidation?
This kind of crude tribal bigotry coming from Mugabe’s office at this juncture in Zimbabwe’s troubled history after the evils of Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina may explain why Mugabe and his cronies like Charamba remain liable to being held accountable for committing crimes against humanity. Tribal bigotry is a crime against humanity.
For anyone to boldly assert that it takes some “cheek” for a Zimbabwean from Matabeleland to criticize Mugabe from the “anthills of Mazowe” in the heartland of Mashonaland is crudely tribal and very inflammatory. Assertions of this nature can incite tribal hatred and violence.
In fact, you cannot get a better indication or expression of Mugabe’s Bantustan ideology than this. And when Mugabe’s pretences to nationalism are questioned, the same cronies like Charamba who peddle Mugabe’s Bantustan ideology cry foul. Yet Zimbabweans who worry about Mugabe’s tribal nationalism or ethnonationalism know only too well that it is this same Bantustan ideology that bred the Gukurahundi atrocities between 1980 and 1987 and the Murambatsvina atrocities in 2005.
These atrocities were a product of hallucinations of ethnic challenges to Mugabe’s power. In the case of Gukurahundi, Mugabe’s tribal hallucination led to the massacre of over 20,000 people in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces and the destruction of homes and livelihood of many more. On July 1, 2000 Mugabe described Gukurahundi as madness at the first anniversary of Joshua Nkomo’s death in Bulawayo. Indeed, it was ethnic madness. But six years later Mugabe has done nothing to deal with the visible scars and still bleeding open wounds of that ethnic madness. Why this inaction for so long? Does Charamba’s shocking tribal rant in the Herald last Saturday give a clue to what Mugabe thinks about people from Matabeleland and their rights as Zimbabweans?
There are similar questions around the evil Operation Murambatsvina founded on Mugabe’s ethnic hallucination that some urban Zimbabweans he has previously ethnically insulted as “totemless” were about to use Ukrainian style orange revolution tactics to rise up against his government after the March 2005 parliamentary elections. Like in the case of Gukurahundi, the response was to ethnically uproot these Zimbabweans from their homes and sources of their livelihood with the result that 18% of the population was rendered destitute by Murambatsvina.
Even the so-called Tsholotsho saga of November 18, 2004, was a direct result of Mugabe’s ethnic hallucination when members of his party from at least six provinces who thought they had a right to freely and democratically choose the party’s leadership in terms of the Zanu PF constitution were accused of and punished for allegedly plotting a tribal coup against Mugabe and his ethnic cronies.
What the above three examples show is that tribal bigotry runs so deep in Mugabe’s politics that thoughtless cronies like Charamba cannot free themselves from it. That bigotry is now rearing its ugly head over the already controversial land reform program with shocking calls, exemplified by Charamba’s column in the Herald last Saturday, that people from Matabeleland with land in Mashonaland should not have the tribal cheek to criticize or challenge Mugabe. This is pure Bantustan politics with no national content whatsoever.
It is very clear from Charamba’s regurgitation of Mugabe’s Bantustan ideology that there are just too many things that are very wrong with Zanu PF’s patronage driven land reform program, including that it is apparently tribal. The fact that Charamba has the idiotic courage to blurt out this tribal bigotry in the Herald means that he gets his confidence from his knowledge that the Bantustan ideology he peddles under the pretext of nationalism and sovereignty which breeds tribal bigotry comes from his boss whom he speaks and writes for.
Do Mugabe’s cronies like Charamba really believe that Zimbabweans from Matabeleland should not have land in Mashonaland and that if they should have it they should not criticize or challenge Mugabe to whom they must be grateful? If they believe this tribal bigotry, what are its implications on Zimbabweans from Mashonaland who have land in Matabeleland?
And there are many Zimbabweans from Mashonaland with prime land in the choicest parts of Matabeleland. Go to Umguza in Matabeleland North around the very fertile Nyamandlovu Aquifer farming area, and you will find many Zimbabweans from Mashonaland there. You will also find them in very large numbers if you look at who controls the best hunting and tourist safaris in places like Hwange, Binga and Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In Matabeleland South you will find many Zimbabweans from Mashonaland with huge stakes in gold mining.
Should people in Matabeleland follow Charamba’s idiocy coming from Mugabe’s office and ask whether the lineage of those Zimbabweans from Mashonaland who are farming, mining gold or operating hunting and tourist safaris in the choicest parts of Matabeleland ever dreamt of having land there?
What is even of greater national concern about Charamba’s tribal bigotry in his Herald column in defence of Mugabe’s failed policies and false nationalism is that it now has a tribal pattern with many shocking examples which include the following.
If you take a careful look at the installments of the column published over the last 12 months in the Herald on Saturdays, you will be shocked to notice that Charamba has been systematically using the column to inflame tribal emotions for Mugabe’s political purposes. He has over the time preposterously claimed that Matabeleland region is not geographically, culturally or tribally synonymous with the Ndebele whom he has referred to in disparaging colonial terms as the “clicking people”.
In one of his many tribal attacks on Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda in the same column over the last 12 months, Charamba has challenged the two opposition politicians from Matabeleland to prove that they are Nguni and therefore Ndebele in a vain attempt to prove his own stupid view that Matabeleland region is not synonymous with the Ndebele people whom he considers to be foreign to Zimbabwe. One need not wonder how Charamba and his boss would react if Mugabe were challenged to prove that he is a Zezuru let alone a Shona or a Zimbabwean.
As if this is not bad enough, reading through a number of installments of Charamba’s column over the last 12 months, readers would be shocked to find his scandalous tribal references to Ndebele women as mere sexual objects.
Other women who are not Ndebele but who have strong roots in Matabeleland have not been spared either from Charamba’s bigotry. At one time he dismissed Edna Machirori as a “menopausal” columnist after she criticized President Thabo Mbeki for not acting decisively against Mugabe. Machirori is the former editor of the Sunday News and Chronicle in Bulawayo who now writes a regular column under the pen name of Mavis Makuni in the Financial Gazette.
The question must be asked again, where does Charamba get the courage and confidence to use his Herald column on Saturdays to fan tribal and gender hatred in the manner he has done over the last 12 months?
One thing for sure is that Charamba does not get that courage and confidence from himself. Apart from being a coward who can only say the bigotry he has written only under the cover of a pen name, he is not a man of ideas by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he does not have any ideas. He has words, yes, and he thinks those words are ideas.
This is because Charamba is a poorly schooled wordsmith who suffers from the folly of thinking that words are synonymous with ideas. That is why he cannot tell the difference between expressing himself through ideas and impressing readers through words.
Because he does not know the difference between words and ideas, Charamba is typically thoughtless and is prone to debating individuals and their personal lives and social identities through the use of what he imagines are fancy words ironically uplifted from Victorian literature. Charamba’s information about individuals is always based on the gossip of and rumors from state security agents and never on direct knowledge. This is why his information is often unreliable.
All of Charamba’s installments in the Herald on Saturdays are unique for their consistent failure to engage those he lampoons in a sustained debate of ideas, issues, facts, policies or ideologies. He invariably takes pot shots at individuals in very personally intrusive terms and always abusively so. He uses his Manheru disguise to invent things and peddle outright falsehoods about the individuals that have been the focus of his demonization over the last 12 months.
For example, in his tribal attack on me last Saturday, he found it necessarily to drag my wife into his bigotry. Does he dream that anyone is afraid of him or his boss? The fact that some of us who know better have not said anything about how abusive Charamba is of his vulnerable wife does not mean we are fools. We come from communities that know something about common decency.
But if Charamba continues to throw dirty mud at people’s families and insulting their ethnicity to fan tribal hatred, then he must prepare himself and his boss for real disclosures on the way. Zimbabweans would be told many things about everything including how Charamba has attempted to murder his wife in cold blood and how that attempted murder has been covered up. And the disgusting bloody evidence would be given because it is available. This is not a threat but a promise.
Last Saturday Charamba wrote in the Herald as Nathaniel Manheru that I should not lecture Mkapa on Zimbabwean politics allegedly because I was a “petty refugee” in Tanzania when Mkapa was that country’s foreign minister during the Lancaster talks. He also charged that I should defer to Mkapa because he was president of his country when I was a mere government minister in Zimbabwe! This demonstrates how thoroughly thoughtless and shallow Charamba. It also demonstrates how Mugabe has failed to groom his mouthpieces and why he has failed to groom a successor.
Charamba is so empty headed that he cannot understand the simple fact that every ordinary Zimbabwean has an absolute right to lecture Benjamin Mkapa or any other foreigner on Zimbabwean politics. The same absolute right is enjoyed by Zimbabweans who were not yet born when Mkapa was Tanzania’s foreign minister in 1979, let alone me who supposedly was a refugee in Tanzania at the time when in fact I was studying in America. Indeed, regardless of their background, Zimbabweans also have an absolute right to lecture Mugabe himself on national politics.
Another example of Charamba’s thoughtlessness displayed in his column last Saturday is his defence of Mugabe’s desperation for settlement talks with Britain through Mkapa’s mediation under the self-serving but false argument that “…we have been and still are dealing with an outstanding colonial question, namely that of land…”.
The fact of the matter is that there is a world of difference between the colonial question and the neocolonial question. Zimbabwe’s hard won independence addressed the colonial question which led to the liberation struggle. The discharge of that hard won independence through sovereignty and democratic governance along with dynamic and sound economic policies should address the neocolonial question. It does not make any sense for the postcolonial state to address the neocolonial question by going back to the colonial question as if Zimbabwe is not an independent country. This is because the colonial and neocolonial questions are structurally different. It may very well be asking too much to expect Charamba and his boss to understand or grasp this.
Despite the foregoing, Charamba’s tribally inflammatory Manheru column in the Herald on Saturdays is not altogether useless. In fact it has been a gold mine as a media and diplomatic source of juicy state secrets and other information about goings on in government. This is because there have been numerous occasions when Charamba has thoughtlessly used his column to leak juicy tit bits he overhears at the Monday briefing meetings and other encounters with Mugabe which he attends with state securocrats and other key bureaucrats.
That’s how Charamba got to hear for example that the CIO hatched the Murambatsvina plot with Mugabe without the input of key government decision making processes such as cabinet. Charamba leaked that to New African magazine and in his Manheru column. He also used the same column to leak the information that Zimbabwe had found a mediator outside the UN’s Kofi Annan and he named Benjamin Mkapa as that mediator long before the Banjul meeting between Annan and Mugabe.
There are many other examples of Charamba’s juicy leaks which have been so useful that some media circles in Zimbabwe have acknowledged Charamba’s help in filling them in on what’s happening in government by nicknaming him as “the useful idiot” because he gives hostage to fortune.
But others in the Zanu PF politburo and yet some in government, especially in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have not been amused by Charamba’s reckless leaks in the Manheru column. They view Charamba as a double agent with dubious British links made during his days as a graduate student in Britain when he was on study leave from the president’s office sponsored by the British government whose hysterical dislike he now simulates with reckless abandon. The strong and growing feeling in these government and Zanu PF circles is that Charamba makes juicy leaks of state secrets in his Herald column on Saturdays to deliberately harm the Zanu PF government by cleverly forearming Mugabe’s detractors.
Only time will tell which is which. Meanwhile Charamba must wise up to the fact that his use of tribal bigotry and inflammatory intrusion into people’s families and personal matters has gone too far and will not be tolerated further. He should convey the same to his boss who stands to lose the most.