“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones” – William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Act 3, scene II.
Readers who have followed my work over the last quarter century know how much I love George Orwell’s famous words: “He who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the future, controls the present.” For me, this must be the greatest 16 words ever written by the man whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair.
Thank God he was so different from the other Blair who went and bombed Iraq on a lie. A huge lie! That Blair is the cause of the humiliation that Prime Minister David Cameron and his foreign secretary, William Hague, recently suffered at the hands of the House of Commons, when, despite the gung-ho attitude adopted by Hague on Syria, the House still voted to stop British military action in Syria. If all parliaments could have that sense of history! But don’t tell President Barack Obama. He might divert his cruise missiles and drones to your village.
In fact, I pity those who don’t want to learn from history, who think all that matters is the here and now. But how can the here and now matter most when everyone has a yesterday, a today, and a tomorrow? Yes, there is no today without a yesterday, and unless one dies today, there can be no tomorrow without a today. There is an organic link holding the three together? In fact, it is the natural order of things and we subvert the order at our great peril.
That is why George Orwell’s most famous (to me) 16 words fascinate me no end. He starts with “the past” and jumps to “the future”, following the organic link between the two, which, he infers, impacts favourably on “the present” only when the natural order between “the past” and “the future” has been harmoniously observed.
For Africa, from whatever angle one looks at it, Orwell’s words speak to the core of the continent’s current condition. We, on the richest continent by natural resources but the poorest by bank balance, tend not to study our past and use it to determine our future. As a result, our present is messed up.
This is why once again, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s former prime minister and losing presidential candidate, has rejected his country’s election results, claiming that they were not free, fair and credible despite the best efforts and words of every credible election observer mission that came to observe the elections. In rejecting the results, Tsvangirai has given comforting support to his Western allies (notably Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia and the European Union) to continue with the economic and other sanctions they imposed on Zimbabwe 13 years ago.
I find it quite amazing that Tsvangirai lives in Harare and yet still behaves as if he is the only stranger in Jerusalem – sorry, Harare! The core of Tsvangirai’s problem is that he has a history; and that history does not sit well with his country’s and people’s interests!
In fact, Tsvangirai’s sense of history is poor, very poor! Else he would have seen, right from September 1999 when his opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was formed by the grace of foreign direction and funding, that his “future” would be what it is today, and therefore he should not, in the least, be surprised at his messed-up “present”. After all, according to the Gospel of George Orwell, “the past” and “the future” determine “the present”.
Four historical landmarks
I know most people have forgotten them, but let me remind readers of the following four historical landmarks that have an uncomfortable bearing on Tsvangirai’s “present”.
Landmark No. 1: In 2001, the Westminster Foundation, the British establishment’s front organisation that manages funds put together by the country’s three main parties, the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats, published on its website a breakdown of money that it had spent nurturing, repeat, nurturing, and holding the hands of Tsvangirai’s MDC – all with the expressed aim of regime change in Zimbabwe.
When President Robert Mugabe’s government made a fuss about it, the Westminster Foundation, now realising the monumental mistake it had made, quickly took down the pages from its website. But the cat was already out of the bag – Tsvangirai’s MDC had been exposed by none other than the Westminster Foundation as a British project! And in the Zimbabwean firmament, that was a big kiss of death!
Landmark No. 2: On 2 September 2002, at the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development held in South Africa, President Mugabe, then under heavy attack by Britain and its Western allies (who had imposed economic and other sanctions on Zimbabwe), made a poignant point in his speech to the Summit:
“Let [allow] no-one who is negative,” Mugabe said, “who wants to spoil what we are doing for ourselves in order to unite Africa. We belong to this continent. We don’t mind having and bearing sanctions banning us from Europe. We are not Europeans! We have not asked for any inch of Europe, any square inch of that territory. So Blair, keep your England, and let me keep my Zimbabwe!”
The applause Mugabe got nearly brought the house down, showing where the sympathy of the ordinary people of the world lay, and Tsvangirai’s misalignment with that opinion.
Landmark No. 3: Before Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off in June 2008, Tsvangirai announced that he was boycotting the run-off because of political violence in the country. His supporters’ lives were in danger, he said.
A few days later, Tsvangirai proceeded to take refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare, supposedly because his life too was in mortal danger. The Western media had a field day, gorging themselves on sensational headlines. Then, five or so days into his refuge, Tsvangirai went back to his home in the Harare suburb of Strathaven where he called a press conference.
Tsvangirai sat at the high table flanked by his MDC top brass. After making his initial remarks, he offered to take questions. One female journalist asked him if he would go back to the Dutch embassy. Tsvangirai told her: “You journalists like to sensationalise everything. People are hungry, people are dying, thousands are dying in this country, and that is not news. My going to the Dutch embassy rather becomes the news!” This was the man who had inferred that his life was in so mortal a danger that he needed the protection of a European embassy in Harare.
Now that same man comes out of his sanctuary only to reprimand the very media houses running the “sensational” stories on his behalf! Which meant his life was not in any danger. With the support of his Western handlers, he had merely manufactured an artificial situation to impugn the reputation of Mugabe’s government, all in the name of regime change.
Landmark No. 4: In February 2009, days after the inauguration of Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government, which brought together the three main parties in the country (Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC-M), Prof Arthur Mutambara, the then leader of the MDC-M, was interviewed by the Ghanaian-British filmmaker, Roy Agyemang, for his film, Mugabe: Villain or Hero? The discussion centered on the formation of the government, which now offered the possibility of getting the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West removed.
Mutambara told Agyemang, on camera: “We, in our wisdom or lack of it, have decided to bury the hatchet and put Zimbabwe first. We are saying to everyone in Europe, in America, those who put sanctions on our people, on our country, please, Zimbabweans have decided to work together. The sanctions don’t make sense any more. The sanctions were put to support me. I don’t want them any more. So who are you to impose them on me? The sanctions were put to support Tsvangirai. He does not want them any more. So why do you patronise me? How can you know better than me what is good for my country?”
Those words were profound! “The sanctions were put to support me… The sanctions were put to support Tsvangirai.” Dear readers, that is the history I am talking about. It is Tsvangirai’s history, his “past” that informed his “future” and now his “present” in the form of the electoral defeat of 31 July 2013.