OUTSIDE LOOKING IN – A letter from the diaspora

What sort of grip does the old man hold over his countrythey just cannot conceive of life without him.

My attention was immediately caught; how often we have asked that question about our own Old Man but it was not Robert Mugabe who was the subject of this article in the UK Independent but Sylvio Berlusconi, the 74 year old Prime Minister of Italy. Despite the many scandals surrounding him, Berlusconi had just narrowly won a vote of confidence in the lower house of the Italian parliament.

The comparison between Robert Mugabe and the flamboyant Sylvio Berlusconi seems on the face of it totally inappropriate. It is the comment that they just cannot conceive of life without him that got me thinking. Having known no other ruler for over thirty years, it could be argued that, despite all the suffering he has imposed on Zimbabweans, Robert Mugabe is the devil we know and, as such, is preferable to the devil we dont know. Zimbabweans are by nature conservative; Mugabe knows that very well and he has cleverly exploited it to his advantage. By constantly repeating the mantra that Zanu PF won the Liberation struggle and as such are the only party fit to rule the country and profit from its huge natural resources, he has enabled his supporters, including the traditional chiefs, to acquire wealth beyond their wildest dreams and now there are diamonds.

It was diamonds that were the subject of the latest WikiLeak as reported in the Standard. WikiLeaks reported that Grace Mugabe and Gideon Gono had reaped tremendous profits from Chiadzwa diamonds. Grace Mugabe is now suing the Standard for $15 million for defamation. She is claiming that the story has lowered the respect in which she is held as the mother of the nation a claim which might cause a few wry smiles in Zimbabwe! No doubt her husband had more than a little to do with her decision to sue. He is, or so he told the South African President, a lawyer, though he has never practised law. Possession of a law degree does not make one a lawyer and it will not be easy as any lawyer would know to fight a charge of defamation based on an unsubstantiated leak which was after all no more than the cabled opinion of the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe back in 2008. Threats to prosecute Morgan Tsvangirai for treason on the basis of a WikiLeak are on similarly doubtful legal grounds, much as Jonathan Moyo may rant and rave.

Perhaps what the WikiLeaks issue has revealed above all is that whatever opinions governments may express in public, their interactions with other states are often in direct contrast. Vociferous condemnation of a countrys human rights record, for example, is not necessarily accompanied by cutting off trade relations with that country; commercial self-interest is the real determinant of morality when it comes to international relations. One example proves the point: on the very day Oslo was awarding the Nobel Prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, leading the Chinese authorities to describe the Nobel Committee as clowns, Norway was awarding the Chinese a contract to drill for oil in the North Sea. The message here is very clear: nothing should be taken at face value and that includes even the wild utterances of Zanu PF ministers. While they take every opportunity to hurl abuse at the British and the Americans, who knows whats going on behind the scenes and who is talking to who? The truth is that governments the world over are unwilling to let the general public to know whats really going on; thats why the British, possibly under pressure from the US, locked Julian Assange up for nine days in solitary confinement. But the Leaks went on! The likes of Grace Mugabe may sue for all shes worth but the truth will out and she wont be a First Lady forever! Even if Robert Mugabe succeeds- as he certainly will having ensured that only his supporters are allowed to attend the Congress and all the delegates back him to stand again as the partys candidate, he will still be 92 when his term expires in 2016. Who knows where information technology will be by then!

This is my last Letter for 2010. I will be away for the next three weeks. If you need something to read over the long break, may I recommend my latest book, Samis Story available on www.lulu.com. Its the story of one young boy caught up in Murambatsvina, hardly a cheerful Christmas story but one that all Zimbabweans will recognise.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.aka Pauline Henson.

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