Lack of diplomacy

SOFTLY, SOFTLY . . . catchee monkey, says the Chinese proverb.

If our leaders had dealt more gently and intelligently with the outside world, even the hated British, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today.

They lack diplomacy, defined by a wise man as "the art of telling someone to go to hell in a way that makes him look forward to the trip". Women know more about that than men. They need to if they want to survive in a man's world. That or karate, and diplomacy is more effective. Consider the example of two famously beautiful film stars of the 1950s.

Marilyn Monroe let the film industry and a lot of men exploit and abuse her. She's still remembered for posing nude for a calendar, for her broken marriages and her tragic suicide. She didn't know how to tell a man to go to hell and didn't know much about karate either.

Grace Kelly was a better actress, but she must have owed her success in films partly to her looks, because her acting didn't put her in the same class as Meryl Streep or Whoopi Goldberg. But she did cultivate her skills in acting and in diplomacy, so when she married Prince Rainier, ruler of Monaco, she retired from films. When she died some 40 years later, she was sincerely mourned by his people, so much revered that some of them tried to ask the Pope to declare her a saint. And she achieved all that without karate.

Our guys would probably prefer karate, but that is a subtle art and they lack subtlety. Anyway, although a small man with a black belt in karate will beat a big man who doesn't know the tricks, even that is only true if the other guy isn't armed.

Even if ZANU hadn't reached black belt standard, our commercial farmers were not formidable opponents after independence, but our Karate Kid made unnecessary enemies for the way he treated them. Taking land back that they or their fathers had stolen is OK.

Taking it after freely giving a written promise that you would not do that isn't karate; it's cheating, and cheating in a way that makes people reluctant to do business with you. You might break your contract with them just as easily.

But the Karate Kid went on from there to threaten the mining companies; some of them are formidable opponents. His attacks on other businesses made some serious enemies and drove away others who couldn't hit him back.

His behaviour with the EU over the Europe-Africa meeting this year was like spitting in their faces. He shouldn’t blame anyone but himself if he can’t find friends there. He’s almost as bad with the USA; they have more and nastier weapons, so they are not people to offend unless you can gain some compensating advantage from the exchange.

But look again at Botswana; they used diplomacy with De Beers, who are not philanthropists, and got 50-50 shares in their diamond mines. That situation is like arm wrestling; they have to be clever and constantly alert to prevent the other guy taking advantage, but isn’t that better than insisting on 51% and driving investors away because they know ZANU will ignore the 49%.

If our bosses are happy to enjoy owning 51% of nothing, that's what they'll get: nothing. If they want a share in a working operation, they'll need to compromise, like the Batswana and, also like them, remain constantly vigilant to ensure their “partners” are not pulling a fast one. But then, anything worth having is worth working for.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis
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