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April 2008

THE BEST SEED MUST ROT

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There’s something I liked about Robert Mugabe. I believed that his defiance against the world’s powerful was just.

I believed — and still do — that it was unfair for the British to renege on their word to compensate white commercial farmers for the land they would lose when their hectares in the millions were redistributed.

I believe that it is immoral for 4,500 white farmers out of a population of over 11 million to control 80 per cent of the best land in Zimbabwe, leaving patches of rocky barrenness for black people to live off. It’s untenable. It’s indefensible. It’s not right. It’s unjust. It’s an insult.

I liked the passion with which Mugabe spoke for his people. “This is my land; this is where I was born, and this is where I shall die. And so Mr. Blair, keep your Brrritain, and let me keep my Zim-ba-bwe!” (For effect, don’t just read the quote; you have to take it slowly and with the measured tones of an enchanted preacher addressing an enthralled audience of thousands).

Sometimes, the protestations against Blair went overboard, though. I once saw an anti-British placard bobbing up and down at a rally with Mr. Mugabe as lead speaker: “Blair The Toilet!” the placard proclaimed.

I believe that the state of the Zimbabwean economy is largely the logical outcome of the British and US policy of targeted sanctions rather than poor domestic economic choices.  Sanctions are a signal for international divestment. Divestment leads to economic contraction leads to unemployment leads to poverty leads to social implosion leads to regime change without a gun fired. That’s the essence of sanctions, targeted or spread.

But Uncle Bob didn’t learn from Nkrumah when he felt threatened by the West. Clobbering your opponents doesn’t diminish them even if they cower in the short term; instead, it nurtures and strengthens them in the long haul.

His decision to contest this election was ill-advised. Sometimes, to win, you must withdraw. A different ZANU-PF candidate might have yielded better returns. Even if ZANU-PF lost, Uncle Bob wouldn’t have been confronted with humble sadza (that’s what they eat in Zimbabwe, as against pie).

I believe that Uncle Bob lost the presidential election. Having state television show cartoons and replays of the 1974 World Cup when election results were expected was a tacit announcement of that fact. Even he doesn’t believe he won; otherwise, he would have been furious, rather than passive, over the ZEC’s delay in releasing the results.

Look, I share Uncle Bob’s strategic ends of a Zimbabwe where there’s social equity. But his tactical means are emotive and flawed.

I believe that ordinary Zimbabweans share his dream. But there’s a limit to the hardship even his supporters are prepared to, or can, endure, or the impunity his opponents will put up with.

Having contested the elections and lost, Uncle Bob has worked himself into a blind alley. It’s the end of the path. Yet, turning around to face Morgan and conceding is mortifying.

At this point Uncle Bob should be delighted to have a gentle heart attack.

He gets a state funeral. Burial is at Heroes’ Acre.  Even Morgan attends. And lays a wreath.

In the absence of Uncle Bob’s breath over their shoulder, the remaining marbles on his side, along with those across the board, will re-align to negotiate a better future for that beautiful country.

Before a new crop can germinate, even the best seed must rot.

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