By Joram Nyathi
THERE is precious little to be done for those who live in denial, those who are obsessed with Zimbabwe’s “chaotic land grab”. Others, though, are beginning to see, doing so belatedly, begrudgingly.
Last week, Britain’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper carried a story headlined, ‘Chinese take over former white owned farms’. It turns out they have been allocated a mere five farms in Mashonaland Central province to produce tobacco.
Then came this: “While Zimbabwe’s land reform process has empowered around 60,000 small scale black tobacco farmers, who grow lower grades of tobacco, many of the bigger farms distributed among Mugabe’s cronies haven’t fared so well.”
Of course they can’t miss an opportunity to aim a jab at President Robert Mugabe. But I note that Zimbabwe’s land reform programme has being acknowledged as a “process”, not chaos. It is being acknowledged that the process “has empowered” people – even if it’s reduced to 60,000 plus Mugabe’s cronies against less than 6,000 white farmers.
It’s easy to appreciate the sanctions and anger against President Mugabe and his evil regime. Opportunists can gorge themselves mad on that anger.
The national flag
Let’s just say someone slept on duty. That allowed dark and sinister forces to seize our national flag which was then used to denigrate the name of Zimbabwe. The hope is that such sacrilege shall not be repeated without bitter consequences.
This is the point. Evan Mawarire and his #ThisFlag movement did not launch themselves from some cave where they could not be seen. They did not start in a foreign land. It all began here in the land of our ancestors, the land of our liberation heroes who gave us the flag as a solemn symbol of our nationhood. We use the national flag on solemn occasions to remind us of where we came from, how this independence came about and to remind ourselves of who we are.
Sometimes citizens are permitted to don the national flag in patriotic spirit – in support of national teams or as a form of identity among nations. We say Kirsty Coventry flew the national flag high at the Olympics because out there, she is a Zimbabwean ambassador; she is doing the nation great honour. We say the same of Charles Manyuchi, the boxer. They don’t have to lift the flag, but when they engage in an activity which brings honour to the nation we say proudly that they are flying high the national flag.
But we are a nation that quickly forgets its roots, the pangs of birth, the sacrifices thousands of our sons and daughters made before we could pull down the Union Jack and hoist the Zimbabwean flag in April 1980. We are a nation given to worshipping and honouring dubious foreign gods.
So, when Evan Mawarire – a little known pastor hired at events to imitate President Mugabe – draped himself in the national flag as a clock to mask his nefarious designs, people flocked to him like the promised messiah. He was called pastor, is stilled referred to as such. A pastor from hell abusing the national flag for pecuniary gain and cheap popularity.
We self-hating Zimbabweans found in this daylight charlatan something worth of celebration. Soon, cheap imitations of the national flag sprouted like weed, sold at street corners for a few American coins. And the Americans rewarded Evan Mawarire with a visa and a dream, all expenses paid one-way ticket to America where he could continue his pastoral attacks on Zimbabwe. Overnight, the phrase “police brutality” became a bestseller of biblical verses which local media instantly amplified to heaven (Never mind that as you read this America is smouldering in South Carolina where white police officers shot and killed an unarmed, disabled black man and are tear gassing sympathetic protesting fellow blacks. Here, after months of so-called deadly protests, media are struggling to locate a single person shot, let alone killed, by police. In paradisiac America you don’t require a searchlight to find a dead black body). Strange as it might seem, it took African Americans in the US, not native Zimbabweans, to deflate Mawarire’s balloon and bring him crashing down to earth.
Pretending that his life in Zimbabwe was terminally endangered, Mawarire went to the US intending to organise the mother of all demonstrations which would put Zimbabwe under the UN spotlight, if supine SADC couldn’t do it in Mbabane. He wanted to achieve, singlehanded, what the MDCs in their variegated shades and permutations have failed to achieve since 2000 – bringing Zimbabwe under UN sanctions and possibly manufacturing an alibi for a US-led military invasion of the country.
The venue and occasion of course was the UN General Assembly in New York last week, in the full glare of America’s globalised media arsenal. There was a lot of anticipation and gloating back home – Mawarire’s star was at its zenith.
Enter the December Movement
As he was being serenaded by his white hosts, one doubts that Mawarire ever imagined that a majority of blacks were disgusted by his antics, that whites themselves regard people like him with haughty contempt, for such can be used and dumped afterwards. When the moment arrived for his star to shine, Mawarire found he only had a straw of 19 equally contemptible black souls. In brutal Zimbabwe, he would have easily blamed the police for blocking his followers; in free America democracy was at his full service. Massed against them was a multitude of African Americans. Their bold placards said it loudly: “Mugabe is right. Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.”
The holy pastor draped in a Zimbabwean flag was pleading for his country to be recolonised by white America but was being openly rebuked, and told that would never happen. Mawarire couldn’t find a manhole to dive into, that is if he has any sense of shame (But then he must persevere. He has eaten the white man’s money and he must know that there is no free lunch in the white world, especially for a misguided black man trying to sell his own birth right).
And persevering he is, to justify the filthy lucre he is getting. Mawarire boasted that he met Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote, the man exploring various investment opportunities in Zimbabwe. For a man who laments about the state of his country’s economy, normal people would expect him to try and persuade the Nigerian businessman to put a fraction of his fortune into our economy.
Not the holy pastor. He told Dangote to keep away from Zimbabwe because there, government ministers have an uncanny talent for looting investors’ money. Dangote must have been surprised, but then in a democracy everyone is allowed to expose themselves, which is how Mawarire got himself noticed by the Americans.
Ever so diligent, Mawarire visited the World Bank on a similar mission, as if that institution needs persuading.
But there is logic to the pastor’s madness. He has a family to feed. If he can eat on the people’s behalf, the better. Mawarire is being sponsored to denigrate his country and has no qualms receiving money for it. What he resents is anybody or institution with money giving it to Zimbabwe. That reduces the size of the cake for the pastor.
Mawarire is, however, walking a familiar path. It has become the business of opposition leaders to campaign against foreign investment in Zimbabwe while they are ready to receive foreign cash into their pockets. They will fight land reform and other black economic empowerment policies so long as they can get money to fund their political projects.
But Mawarire’s failed demonstration in New York has an important lesson. Zimbabweans are a gullible people ready to be taken for a ride by even the shallowest pretenders. To think that for more than a week the nation saw a phenomenon in Evan Mawarire and the media swallowed his humbug hook, line and sinker without anybody taking a step back to say we have been here before: Baba Jukwa! And this is worth repeating for the benefit of the opposition. Elections are not won on social media. So long as they continue to believe Zanu PF is rigging elections by mobilising its supporters to register in readiness to vote in the next elections, they are doomed. Mawarire went to America riding on a crest of media worship, believing he would get a hero’s welcome. He fell like Humpty Dumpty in the middle New York.